Who Owns/has Paddled Inflatable Kayaks?

I just want to get some collective info on the inflatable market.

  1. Do you own or have paddled an inflatable kayak?
  2. What model?
  3. What do you like or dislike?
  4. Have you paddled other inflatable models?
  5. If so, what models.
  6. How do they compare?
  7. If you have had issues with your inflatable kayak, have you contacted the manufacturer for advice or a solution?

Owned a couple
A Sevylor SOT that was an ok 9 ft boat. I purchased it when I was in the IO from REI for $75. I ended up leaving it with some kids in Thailand. Also had an Innova Helios 2 for a short while. Decent enough for a 12 ft boat. I prefer longer and sleeker boats with less windage so I sold it.

See my review of the Java


– Last Updated: Nov-13-07 6:40 PM EST –

Can't help too much, as I only demoed one once.

But I did see a guy using one to do a multi-day paddle trip making a full circle of Lake Tahoe

Hey, tsunamichuck is from the Tahoe area... Maybe that was him?!?

I own a few.
From the low end to the very high end, both dollar and quality wise. Four different manufacturers. Like every other type of boating, YOU have to know what activities you mainly want an IK for. Although many are quite versatile multipurpose crafts, as with hardshells, you will not find one boat that can do all things well (no matter what the manufacturer’s hype might tell you.) If stability is what you’re looking for, then with most inflatables and their wider beams, you can’t go wrong. Just make sure whatever you get in the way of a “durable ducky” (over $350) has good seams made with reinforced material that is welded (and not solely glued). The price is more, but with a little care, they will last many many more years than your average unreinforced vinyl pool toy.

re inflatable canoe
I owned two sevylot rio 305,s for a couple of years,done some good scottish trips with a long in the tooth friend of mine,mostly around Scottish lochs,best being Loch maree,we loaded the inflatables up so much it was looking like we were going to swim behind them,then my buddy broke out the bungie hooks, it never ceased to amaze me just how much gear you can get in/on these things,we stayed on a nice sandy beech checking the mountain routes out facing before we make our way up,the lake was like glass for three days from arriving ,then came the change in weather, so we packed up and started back,the waves were three footers and a strong cross wind from our left, hmmm! more than once i was getting ready to sling some gear overboard,but this would probably have made the boat too light,it was a real scrap,we got blown about pretty bad but it wasnt life threatening in any way,maybe a makeshift sail and rudder,??? but it was an experience untill we landed, at the car park, we got mauled by midges, yep, the wind dropped ,we were sweaty midge bait. ,The boats cost £250 ish pound,you cant put a price on the fun you can have with these craft, lots of storage,comfy seat,can hook up a small electric motor,no storage is needed ,you can get two in a small car boot,the canvass type coating makes them pretty tough too,just be aware they are holding air .

I have two

– Last Updated: Nov-14-07 12:44 AM EST –

I've got two, as I've probably mentioned elsewhere on the board :) Both Stearns, a Spree 1 and a Cordova. I've checked out the Advanced Elements boats and Innovas, but have not paddled them. I don't consider inflatables to be "real" kayaks but I do consider them seaworthy and fun boats. If you want to get on the water and your choice is between not having a kayak (for storage, transport or other reasons) and an inflatable, don't hesitate. Buy the inflatable.

What I like about them first and foremost is the convenience. The best boat is the one you use most often and if nothing else a good inflatable will get you on the water with a minimum of fuss. Secondly I appreciate the safety factor, although it wasn't until I started paddling with the Spree that I realized how safe inflatables are. In most respects both the Spree and Cordova perform well for a recreational boat of their length, but if bad weather kicks up I'd rather be in an inflatable.

The downside is trying to dry them out, especially after they've been in salt water. Plus the fact that you are pretty much guaranteed to get water in and be sitting in a pool of water by trips end. Speed is another downfall. With these boats I have not noticed any real problems with wind, but that's another downside.

I was toying with buying a hardshell for next season, and trying some expeditions, but I think I'll stick with the inflatables and try an Innova Sunny for my next boat.

Innova Sunny,
paddled for about 6 years, in a variety of “flatwater” conditions. As you may know, it is designed as a “touring” rec boat. It is tremendously well-made and durable. I have only paddled the cheaper “ducky” IKs - the Sunny is vastly superior. Compared with similar sized Plastic boats, it will keep up with most. I definetely prefer it to the rental SOTs I’ve paddled. It will never be quite as efficient as a transitional tourer, like a Manitou or the old OT Castine.

Positives: packability, quick set-up (10-15 minutes), flexibility (especially the solo/tandem setups with the Sunny), safety (ease if re-entry, natural boyancy).

Negatives: the aforementioned lack of touring efficiency, wet ride when chop picks up.

Compared with traditional watercraft, I think most inflatable kayaks are really more like pack canoes than traditional kayaks. They are tremendously sea-worthy, and probably safer for relative beginners like me. As another poster noted above, you really have to look at the intended use. For me, the flexibility of being able to to multi-day trips and family beach fun with the same boat is hard to beat.

Consider A Self Bailer/ Sit On Top IKs
The following (reasonably priced) IKs are both “wet” and “dry” boats (meaning: they all have adjustable self-bailing floor valves of one kind or another). They are all Sit On Tops (open boats) and they are all practically unsinkable (without a direct physical puncture). If say, you get swamped in a nasty hole on some rapids, these boats will raise you up to the surface pronto. Then they’ll empty most of the water out by themselves in relatively short order (no having to stop paddling to go turn the boat upside down on shore) And you can easily climb back into them after a voluntary/involuntary swim (no bothering to learn a bomb proof Eskimo Roll, no squeezing a wet re-entry into a too small cockpit). They’re just about fun, with a few D rings for carrying things. And the smaller IKs can be a real blast surfing on an ocean beach: The Sea Eagle Explorer kayak series (340/380/420 but not the lower priced 330(cheap glue job)…the Sevylor River Runner X…the Advance Elements StraitEdge…And just about everything listed by Aire or NRS is self-bailing (mostly tough whitewater boats and a lot more pricey.) www.theboatpeople.com is a good place to get the honest skinny on many “non-Aleutian” style IK’s. Although they are somewhat snobily prejudicial when it comes to the cheaper boats mentioned above. The Stearns Cordova/Advanced Element boats are excellent for lite touring/while traveling. But I would not expect to keep any of these very long if I tried using them on rocky whitewater above a Class I. Get a boat that can be fitted with a screw-on accessory skeg if you want to do a little bit of both flat and whitewater. Also, stick with two solo boats over any tandem inflatable models if you want to avoid excess fatique or a potential divorce.

Nice pic.
It is the pic marked “Crazy European”? He is paddling an Advanced Elements, Advanced Frame kayak.

Crazy European
I’m amazed that he got that much stuff onboard that kayak!

My paddling partners talked to him…

– Last Updated: Nov-14-07 4:34 PM EST –

...and said he had a European accent. He had just launched as I was landing to meet my friends for a paddle down to Emerald Bay (I launched from a different area).

Add to this the bags (I especially like the suitcase) strapped to the deck, and I decided that "Crazy European" was the right name.

IK woes
I just want to get some collective info on the inflatable market.

  1. Do you own or have paddled an inflatable kayak? yes
  2. What model? Sterns- their first self bailing WW model.

  3. What do you like or dislike? - Important zipper broke. It must be rinsed to get off the salt and then dried for a whole day before you can store it again. Does not work well at all for a large (250#) person.
  4. Have you paddled other inflatable models?

    Yes I,ve had better results with inflatable rafts.
  5. If so, what models. Selor and several others, I think inflatable rafts are really not slower than IK of the same length.

  6. How do they compare? I’ve yet to find any inflatable that compares to a real boat. But I keep buying and trying them for trips. New baggage restrictions make most folding Kayaks unusable for airline travel.

  7. If you have had issues with your inflatable kayak, have you contacted the manufacturer for advice or a solution? Yes I contacted Sterns and they were very sorry that it was out of warrantee. I could ship it to them and they’d ship it back at great expense and I could pay for the repair. Also the kayak was supposed to weigh 25 pounds but it actually weighs over 40 pounds.

Innova Solar ll
Great boat. Inflatables handle rough water well. They are slow but stable and fun.

Look up inceptmarine and see an inflatable that could be somewhat harshell like.

J, I have two AdvancedElements:
the Advanced Frame (solo 10.5’) and the 13’ Expedition. I’m 6-2/215 and while I can fit in both pretty well, I love the Expedition for it’s size and performance. Tracking: very good, Stability: excellent, Speed: good. I am a big fan of the AE boats with their excellent quality materials, fit and finish is great, and top notch customer service. These kayaks are really rugged and have taken the 13’ down Class II and III rivers, got hung up on rocks, slid across shallow/fast water, and I can BARELY see any scratches! Fill time is 10-15 minutes and another nice thing is packing out when finished…no need for two cars with roof racks like a hard boat. I also have a SOT 14.5’ Bic Scapa which I love for it’s speed, but the AE are my go anywhere on pretty much any water kayaks. Both can haul a lot of gear…the 10.5 is rated at 300/350 and the Expedition has a 450lbs rating.

Sevylor: I paddled the K1 and while a good kayak, not made with as heavy duty as the AE boats. BTW, I’m taking my Expedition to Mexico in Jan. and will stuff it in a roller bag, at 48lbs total, I’m still under the airline 50lb. limit (over that and you pay $$). All good.


I had what I believe was the first Stearns tandem. That’s the only one I ever paddled.

PROS: Economical for a tandem; easy to stow in the back of a car or even on a sail or power boat; easy to get in and out of; family friendly- lack of conventional seats meant flexible placement of kids, also it was cushy for napping; it could double as a swim platform.

CONS: Every place there was a butt there was a low spot to collect water so I was always sitting in water; it was slow & wind was an issue but this could be an issue in a rigid boat of similar configuration; the fact that it was flexible made it difficult to carry because of the flop issue so had to use a dolly to move it when inflated; it was heavy when wet & had to be reinflated at home to dry. All in all, I never regretted buying the boat and it was great for a young family. We’re into long skinny boats now & I don’t see going back to an inflatable in the near future.

Still Have a Few
I used an IK back in my whitewater days. I still have it, but it hasn’t been in the water in years, now.

I also have a little 9’ Mad Dog camouflage IK made by Sterns. I used to use it for packing into the back country in the Sierras. It wasn’t used for a long time, but lately it has been resurrected to go in the van, which doesn’t have kayak racks.

IK’s have their limitations, but much better than not having a boat at all, and sometimes its the only other option

inflatable canoe
sevylor rio, lots of fun, carried tons of gear,didnt know about skegs at the time ,would have savet hours of windswept paddling. the kids loved it as much as i did, ,

Bic Yakka 80