Inflatable vs. Hard Shell Kayak

I am looking to buy a sit on top kayak. The two I have narrowed it down to are below.

SeaEagle 300x Explorer Kayak (Inflatable)
(Rated for up to class 5 rapids)

Pelican Bandit NXT 100 Kayak (Hard Sit On Top)

Which of these would be better to use on rivers with class II or class III rapids?

Would they both be pretty stable? Or would one of these be more likely to tip more easily than the other?

Do you plan to take lessons? Paddle with a group?

There is cause to be concerned about someone who says they want to do Class II or III rapids in the same breath as they are asking how easily either would tip over.


Paddle with a group. I’m wondering which one would be more stable. Which one is less likely to tip over?

Worrying about class three feels like me worrying about becoming a millionaire this year.

Work on fundamentals. Learn how to paddle well and safely. Chances are, you may want a different kayak altogether when you get good enough to do class 3 safely.


I am not worried about class 3 rapids. Just want to know which kayak from these 2 options would be the most stable.

Stability is extremely subjective. No one is going to be able to tell you how stable each of those kayaks feels to you. What is stable to one person can be tippy to someone else. Not trying to be evasive, it’s just how it is. Neither of them should be anywhere near a class II or class III rapid. They are not whitewater kayaks.


OP, why not look for a used whitewater kayak? They’ll be less expensive than either of these and better suited to the waters you want to paddle. Also, if you’re going with a group, is it possible any of the others have a spare boat they could lend you, so you can get an idea of what you like best before buying?

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The SeaEagle kayak is rated for class 5 rapids. So there is no problem for using it on class 2/3. I am not sure what the Pelican kayak can handle.

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How that inflatable is rated for Class V is beyond me. Some slick marketing there!

I checked and it’s not. I just looked at their website and “Whitewater Rating Suitable up to Class IV.” A class rating on an inflatable (or a hardshell) is a weird concept to me anyway. A beginner in a great WW kayak can get thrashed on a Class III, and I’ve had buddies run Class III/IV on pool floats and in an Igloo 150 qt cooler. Heck, I’ve run dicey Class III’s on a Thermarest (maybe not the smartest thing to do, but it was nice being young and bulletproof). It’s a dangerous notion to rate such things, as it obviously leads to a false sense of security that we see here time and time again - “My boat is rated for Class V, so I should be good for at least Class III, if not IV.”

That being said, back to the OP’s original question…the Sea Eagle should be much more stable (and forgiving), with a width of 39" compared to 30" of the Pelican.

Thank you ptickner! I didn’t think to consider the width of these 2 kayaks. I have been looking into the Pelican kayak, and it seems that it is more for flat water, or very light rapids (nothing more than class 1). So I am thinking between these 2 options, the SeaEagle would be best. But I am going to keep looking to see what else is out there as well before I decide what to buy.

If you’re going to be paddling with a group of hopefully experienced white water kayakers who are familiar with where you will be paddling, it would be best to ask them what they are paddling and ask their opinion of the boats you want to buy.

If the boat you buy is significantly different from what they are using, it might not be a good match as far as capabilities and safety.

The reason people aren’t answering your question is because you are asking the wrong question.

Stability from width is really a function one cares about on flat water. On moving water, you have current shears at eddylines, waves, rocks, etc., which would make a boat which is super stable in flat water flip faster than a boat which people would not think of as stable.

The inflatable is rater for higher class rivers not so much because it would allow the paddler to handle them better, but because the boat itself would survive better going through a higher class river. The Pelican likely would break apart if it goes down a high class river.

White water, even easy class IIs, will flip people. Everyone. The way people in white water specific boats handle this is to learn to roll very early in their career, so a flip is just a matter of popping yourself back up. Not rolling means swimming to shore and then collecting gear from whereever it lands. Tiring.

I have a better suggestion. You didn’t really say where you plan to paddle. It is not uncommon for newer paddlers to look at specs of types of water to paddle and tick off everything, where the reality could be that 90%+ of their paddling is in one type of water. If you let us know the places you will primarily be paddling, we could give you some advice on which of these boats (if either) would be appropriate.

A couple of articles available online you may want to read, both from California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information. Issue #10 has an article on basic classes of kayaks. Issue #9 has an article on kayaks and small living places, which talks about the difference between hard shells and inflatables (among others).

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The boat that would be far better in ww would be the sea eagle. Be sure to take off the detachable skeg and open up all the scupper holes (glad to see they made the boat faster draining than previous early models). I will warn you that if you tie in a cooler that you will find the boat very difficult to tip back over. Self rescue in ww requires being able to flip the boat right side up while in the water, putting your paddle in the far end of the boat and climbing into the middle of the boat from the water. A skill I suggest you practice in calm water before going out in ww. The pelican is not suitable for ww.

Thank you Peter! I will check out that article

Thank you tdaniel!

Had the guy in this video lecture me about being safe paddling on Six Mile Creek. I’m a sea kayaker and know enough to keep my ass off that creek.

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Which guy? the Victim? Yeah, and don’t do that creek in a rec kayak.

Yes the victim. He is married to a friend of my wife. There was a festival going on and he was gung ho to try and join. Tried to warn him. Driving back from a weekend in Seward, saw an ambulance pass us. I joked that it was Daniel. Needed a round of CPR once they got him ashore.

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Looks like he made the mistake of putting his feet down. It’s an instinctive reaction, but leads to entrapment.

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