Need a little help buying a kayak

Hello all,

I’m new around here but have found a lot of helpful info. I have a question though that I’m hoping someone here can help with. I am a semi-beginner to kayaking, and primarily plan on paddling lakes and rivers… nothing too crazy. For example we took an 8 mile trip down the Shenendoah river last summer which was a mix of flat water and rapids with nothing much more than a foot or so ledges at times.

I am looking to purchase two single person Kayaks for myself and my fiance. I don’t have a lot of money so cost is an issue, but I would like something that would last a couple years (2-3) with occasional use. I had seen three particular kayaks that caught my eye:

Coleman Sport 1-person


Challenger K1



Would any of these be worth my time and money? I understand that they are not top-of the line. Also, would these (or any inflatable) hold up to salt water? Not so much the waves, but the PVC/Rubber deteriorating.

Thanks for helping a noob, I appreciate it.


K1 challenger
I have had this boat folded up in my garage for over a year now.

The problem with lower cost inflatables is that they do not normally track well, meaning go in a straight line, and they tend to act as sails in windy conditions. This lack of directional control is going to make you very strong in a very short time or you will get fed up and just not use the things. I also found that blowing the thing up and letting all the air out was a total PITA.

It took me two days to be dissapointed in the boat and to start looking for a hard shell boat.

Do you have room concerns? I don’t know your budget, but you can find lots of used sit on tops or sit insides by checking the local papers and other sources.

I can’t tell you how many times people have written that they don’t plan on using their kayaks much so don’t want to spend a lot of money. this of course is relative, but what I have found is that with some research and demoing, you actually spend less by being an informed buyer than going the really inexpensive route and then slowly upgrading.


Re: help me buy a kayak
Thanks for the insight, my main reasoning for going with the smaller inflatable Kayaks right now is mainly space. I drive a Scion xA (slightly bigger than your toaster) and I have been pricing out roof racks, and while they do have Kayak holders available the crossbars are only 48" which I doubt is enough for two kayaks… and it has a max capacity of 168lbs.

It also isn’t so much that we aren’t sure if we’ll like it or anything, but more of a usage issue. We unfortunately won’t be able to get out more than one or two times a month for a couple months in the summer. We do a lot of other activities and this is more just something we can toss in the car and go and have a good time for a day. Also, we go camping a fair bit so it would be nice to toss them in with the other gear and go.

I look at it this way, it only costs about $25 to rent a kayak and get dropped off for a trip. so at a couple times a month it would be quite some years before any expensive kayak would pay off, and with a rental I don’t have to do any of the hauling and upkeep. At around $100 each it would make sense, but much more wouldn’t. At some point if we really got into it heavily I have plenty of people I could give the inflatables to and not be upset at the purchase one bit.

Hope that helps clear up my situation, could you maybe tell my why the K1 is the best of those three choices? It is the least expensive at like $40 each and considerably less than I expected to pay. As far as tracking and wind… I kinda figured that would be the case with most inflatables. But I have to make some sacrifice for the space savings.

  • Dominic

I’ll try to be as objective as possible
Hi Dominic,

As long as there have been logs with which to build crude rafts, or inner tubes and air mattresses, people have ventured out onto slow rivers and lakes (sometimes they survive, and sometimes they don’t). In this sense, the three floating objects you’ve mentioned here are not such a stretch; unless, of course, you feel that they would necessarily be much safer and/or more seaworthy than those other floating objects mentioned above. Just as with a crude raft, inner tube, or air mattress, I certainly wouldn’t venture offsore any further than I could easily swim to get back to shore once I found that my vessel was no longer a viable floating object.

While I do try my best to not be a “kayak snob”, I suppose I must draw the line somewhere, and so I do not always accept the idea that any floating object meant to be “sat it”, and propelled with a double bladed paddle is worthy of the name “kayak”. These $40-$100 inflatable floating objects are little more than swimming pool toys, and I would feel irresponsible to allow someone to think that they are anything more.

Though I know the song, I haven’t met the Shenandoah river, so I don’t know how you would feel it compares to a heated swimming pool. I might imagine that it can be a bit less forgiving at certain moments.

Now to the good news…

If you really do intend to paddle so infrequently as you mentioned, though it might be a bit more convenient if you had your own floating objects available to just throw in the trunk and be on your way, I would still recommend continuing to rent “real boats” for the time being. In the meanwhile, if the urge to have your own boats continues to grow, save your money to the point where you can afford some “real” boats that wouldn’t cause your life insurance agent to want to sue you. Purchasing used boats is a great way to get “more boat for the money”.

Now, on to even better news…

If you someday really catch the paddling bug (not so difficult to succumb to), in addition to finding good used boats, you can even build your own very seaworthy boats for a fraction of the cost of a decent used boat. Perhaps the “ultimate” in this sense would be to build your own custom fit Skin-On-Frame (SOF) boats. I’ve been paddling sea kayaks on the ocean for almost nine years now, and I’ve come to feel that my idea of the “ultimate day tripper” is a SOF boat that I can build for under $200 in materials (many have built such boats for even lower material costs than that!). SOF boats are also very light, so carrying two of these on your small car shouldn’t be much of a bother.

Please forgive me if my comments about these inflatable boats you’re considering seemed a bit harsh, but while I’m all for people getting out on the water in any way they can, I can’t help but be concerned with the very real safety issues we have to consider whenever we venture out onto the water.

Good luck!


heres another option
Those inflatables you listed are cheap…and…cheap…i’ve seen a guy paddle one of those. and at first was confused as to why every one of his strokes sends boat sideways forward instead of gliding, then i felt sorry when i caught up to him. and i wouldn’t put those to river use because the material is pretty much junk. If you want to get an inflatable, buy one made of good heavy duty material, like Innova inflatables. haven’t paddled one but looked/felt the material at a store and it seems tough.

Another option for you would be to get a pair of used old school(read-LONG by today’s standards-10-12 ft) river runner style whitewater kayaks. i picked up a near mint Dagger Crossfire for 200$canadian with pretty decent for general recreational use and i’m planning to learn rolling in it. and at 11 ft and under 40 lbs, dont take up much space at all and you’d fit two of them on your scion just fine as these boats arent near as wide and bulky as recreational bathtubs,while still very stable.

Re: well that was what I expected.
No offense, but I kinda figured I’d get these typical responses. I did my best to explain the situation but in return I’ve only received standard “online” responses and whatnot.

I will gracefully bow out of this message board I guess, because this was precisely what I was hoping to avoid.

Instead of explaining why I’ll be “wasting” my money, give me some tips or insight to the LEAST expensive inflatable or folding kayak you deem worthy. I’m not poor, and my decision to pursue inexpensive inflatables was already covered. I’ll give them to my niece and nephew if they are worthless and they will enjoy them as toys. No big deal.

I could use some real help and advice, if my selections were poor, then fill me in on something low priced but good. Unless I was mistaken this very site was what turned up during my searches for inflatable kayak info, and there are a number of articles written speaking highly of some inflatables.



K1 challenger
You asked me why the K1 and I don’t have any better answer than to respond that I bought it for the same reasons as you…cheap foldable and I didn’t plan on being on the water much.

I think the analogies you are hearing are from people like me who had the exact same thought processes as you and feel (and in the majority of cases this is true) that you will quickly outgrow the inflatable.

Your comment about giving the boats to nephews is alarming also as it conjures up images of youngsters heading out into rivers and lakes with equipment that would not allow them to get back safely in strong winds etc. I just saw a couple of kids in cotton clothes, in a coleman inflatable on my lake made for one person with a canoe paddle. The boat had sprung a leak and the wind was taking them to the other side of the lake. I made sure they were ok and on shore but didn’t want to tow as I figured the lesson was a good one for them.

One of the things Inoted about the K1 (don’t know about the other ones) is that the sides are very high and this causes you to have to hold your arms up and with the heavy paddle that came with it, I got real tired real fast. The sides are also very thick due to the air chambers and you do not hold the paddle well as you are compensating for the thick walled sides.

Your but sits on an air mattress and there is very little rigidity. You have nothing to use as support when trying to turn, as you can’t lock yourself into anything as it all moves with you. I suspect this is the same with most inflatables.

Pool toy? absolutely. But if you have visions of you and your SO paddling serenely down a slow moving creek or a lake, please bear in mind that there is no wind in a picture. Most of the time you will be compensating on one side or the other, your partner will become very tired very quickly, you will feel that you should be sitting up at least another foot in the boat to be able to paddle well and this will of course alter the stability and make the boat even more squirrely. If you carry any gear at all you have significantly altered the bottom (won’t bother to call it a hull) of the boat and this will also affect how it moves.

I guess those of us that have been there just don’t want to see you have the same set of dissapointments we have had. it is not elitist or snobbery talking here. I haven’t found a p-netter yet who won’t do just about anything to get you out on the water…just that they want it to be enjoyable and most of all safe.

Regards, and good luck


OK, let me try to re-approach this. I was NOT planning on giving them to children to go in lakes or rivers, but as pool toys/swimming hole toys. I’m not stupid or without common sense here, if they weren’t cutting it for me they surely would not be for kids for serious use.

Second, the conventional wisdom in getting into anything is to buy the best you can afford instead of buying cheap and working up. This applies to every hobby, it is understood clearly by me. What I stated was that I wanted some info or advice on a pair of inflatables that would set me back $200-300 for the pair for portable very occasional use. Once I get my roof rack set-up and have exact dimensions I most likely plan on buying a decent pair of rigid kayaks in a year or so. All I want is some basic usage for a year or two out of an inflatable… no massive rapids, etc. Purely recreational use for the inflatables, nothing serious or potentially dangerous.

On top of all of that the reasoning basically boggles my mind. White water rafts are inflatable, they are commercially used daily through very tough rapids and have been used forever. Inflatables have come a long way from pool toys, and one of the writers on this site mentioned he personally only used inflatables in an article I read. With my weight in it, and light winds I’m not going to be blowing about like a leaf. Sure it isn’t going to track perfectly and paddling may be a bit more strenuous, but as I stated that was to be expected.

I’m not coming into this with lofty expectations, as most of the responses have seemed to think… quite the opposite, so all I’m asking is for you to break out of your comfort zones and give a person some advice or direction. OK, we’ve established the three options I listed were crap, how about a few links to something better that is inflatable/foldable?

Here’s My Take
I had two low end Seylors way back when that I used for mostly for fishing. They both blew out pretty much within two years. One blew out when several of us were swimming and tried to climb on at the same time. Good thing we were just in the middle of a pond in the middle of summer.

Take it for it’s worth.


I’m sorry if you do not feel that the feedback you are receiving is helpful. You asked if the choices you listed would be worth your time and money, and unfortunately the answer folks are giving you, is “probably not.” Might not be the answer you were hoping for, but it’s these folks’ honest opinion. Yes, inflatables ARE used in serious whitewater. However, those inflatables also come with a serious price tag. Here’s a selection of quality inflatables through NRS:

As you can see, these will actually run you more money than many hard sided kayaks. All folks are trying to do is answer your question from their own experience, which is to say, if they had to do it over they would have skipped the cheap inflatable and gone straight to a hard kayak.

You might be able to get some older yaks for a couple hundred each, but not total. BTW, two kayaks, even two rec kayaks, will fit on your vehicle if you stack them rather than sit them side by side. Both Thule and Yakima (maybe others?) sell “kayak stackers” that let you carry kayaks on their side on your rack.

It’s not clear if you want ideas right now for hard sided kayaks. If you do, I’m sure folks would be happy to offer some ideas in that direction (I think at least one person above already has).

Good luck…


another thought
Right after I folded up the K1 I got an Old Town Rush which is basically an Otter but with footpegs and better seat. what I ended up doing is tying the K1 to the back of the otter and towing my kids and my wife around on the lake because even in very calm conditions, a slight breeze would cause the K1 to not track and they would get very tired. Can’t imagine having to do that with two K1’s or similiar inflatables.

Have you thought about getting one double hardsided rec boat? I know there are some out there with large cockpits that would allow you and your SO to paddle together but wouldn’t be insurmountable for you to paddle by yourself. These could fall into the price range you are looking to spend if you go used, and frankly, a couple of foam blocks and some strapping would serve as an oiccasional roof rack.

Just a thought.


What to Buy
I really must agree, inflatables are a wasted investment.

Rent first, and find out what its about, what you like, and what king of kayaking do you want to do.

I have ended up with 4 boats, all different types.

Find away to try out different boats, you will not be sorry. Good Luck

RE: feedback…
I’m sorry to say but the majority up until my last post was not very helpful. But now the replies have been very solid and useful. I understand the reasoning and all, I’m a member of a tea newsgroup, guitars, and bonsai trees… all of these groups have trouble coming down a couple levels and talking to a newcomer on basic terms. I understand that to many of you paddling is everything and worthy of every cent and moment you sepnd on it… for me, right now, it is a fun diversion every once in a blue moon and good excercise.

I don’t have delusions of rolling, or class 5’s in a $100 inflatable. Just some small rivers in PA that many people innertube down with no trouble.

I will look into the kayak stacker solution and now that I know I can fit two on my car, but that is still more than a year off. So for this upcoming summer I just want something basic. Anyone who could still direct me to a basic 1-person inflatable would be greatly appreciated. I know that you personally wouldn’t be caught dead in it, but even if I continue to rent rigid kayaks I would like two nice small compact inflatables for this coming summer. That Coleman one has multiple air chambers, 30 mil PVC bottom and 23 on the top. That seems fairly safe to me. I have even seen a couple low priced inflatables that offer a rudder attachment to help them track better. That is the kind of basic thing I’m looking for.

I know it is hard to get into such basic conversation, and you would rather be talking shop about your personal favorite craft or new innovative product… but sometimes us newcomers just need a little guidance without bias or judgement. I appreciate everyone coming back to this thread and replying in a more helpful manner after I clarified things a bit more.

  • Dominic

How about this one?

A Stearns Spree. It seems a step or two up from my first suggestions and still portable and affordable. Any thoughts?

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’re still…
…not quite “getting it”.

In your second post (your first “clarification” post), after “clarifying” your rental versus purchase price calculations, you wrote:

“At around $100 each it would make sense, but much more wouldn’t.”

As “paddle_lupe” pointed out, you’re simply not going to find a “decent” inflatable for anywhere near $100. Probably the very least expensive “decent” inflatable will cost you around $500-$600 (each). The very next level of “decent” inflatables will easily double and triple in price from there. Foldables are even more expensive. When it comes to both inflatables and foldables, the price you’ll pay for both “decent quality” and “convenience” will just about always exceed the price you’ll pay for an even better performing hard shell boat (plastic or composite). In general, you’re going to pay more for the “convenience” of a decent inflatable or foldable, and then, on top of that, you’ll pay an even greater premium for performance in those categories.

Now, looking back at all of your posts so far, and considering the “cost effective parameters” you continue to stick to, can you begin to see how what you might wish to hear from us is just a pipe dream? If you only want the answers you’ve already decided would make you happy, only ask for advice from those who know as little as you do about the subject.

It seems that something both Gary and I already recommended is beginning to emerge as consensus; continue renting the safer, better performing hard shell boats for those very few times you actually decide to paddle, and then, if the paddling bug really does catch you, you’ll not only be more well informed by that time, but you’ll also have had the time to put away some money so that you can take advantage of your evolving knowledge and experience when you finally do purchase your first boats.

Good luck,


A new Advanced Elements
I saw it in my paddler’s buyer’s guide, And it’s a new Advanced Elements Advanced Frame AE1009. It’s a 13 foot inflatible that is like a rigid kayak and gives you good performance.

It just came out so it’s very hard to get a picture. I’ll try to get one for you.

I found it !!!
A picture and a link to the AE1009 :

roofing the boat
Don’t get too bogged down on not being able to roof a couple of rigid boats. You can get simple foam blocks from any paddling store that will work for short trips to the river.

check out*&cat=9647564&vcat=REI_SEARCH:C

or go to and type in kayak racks

I’ll probably be labeled an SA, but
as a soon-to-be grandfather, I’m considering learning to play guitar. Should I buy the one by the checkout lanes in Wal-Mart, or save my money to buy the one on TV?

Here is a review of $ome options.

You might be able to find something like a used Pakboat Puffin Sport or 12, but it would probably be at the high end of you $ range. Finding two would be even more difficult.

Haven’t tried them, but local dealer carries them and they look like they would be OK for your purpose.