Guide to Inflatable Kayaks

Need a fishing boat that pulls triple duty as a Class IV river running boat and serves as a long-distance river boat, capable of carrying hundreds of pounds of gear? Well, if that is what you need, look no further as an inflatable kayak might just be what's needed.

Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayak
The Sea Eagle 380 Explorer Kayak

Inflatable kayaks provide, in my own humble opinion, the most bang for your dollar of any boat. Inflatable kayaks are very good fishing boats, excellent river running boats (even in Class IV whitewater, depending on the design o the kayak) and are just incredibly fun to float in on a beautiful Montana river. Plus, the ability to load up the kayak with hundreds of pounds of gear make inflatable kayaks the ideal boat for people contemplating long river voyages, either here in Montana or elsewhere. Oh, did I mention these inflatable kayaks are very affordable, too?

And should you decide to purchase an inflatable kayak, beware of the cheap inflatable kayaks found at big box stores. And if you are unsure if an inflatable kayak is the right boat for you, be sure to read the Comparison of Inflatable Kayaks & Inflatable Rafts article.

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Reviews & Info about Recommended Inflatable Kayaks

There’s a multitude of different types of inflatable boats available today. These boats come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes and prices. Because of this, boat shopping is often a confusing and sometimes frustrating experience.

To learn more about the different types of boats, click on any of the categories below.

Sea Eagle 380 Explorer Kayak Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayak - I own this kayak and love it. Designed for Class IV whitewater the boat is self-bailing and has a huge capacity, too. More Info
Sea Eagle 420 Explorer Kayak Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak - This is the "longer brother" of the 380 kayak listed above. Same design, just a bit larger and designed for three people. It also has a higher weight capacity, allowing for more gear to be carried. More Info
Sea Eagle 330 Kayak Sea Eagle 330 Kayak - This is an excellent all-around kayak for most uses. Not for cold weather use or Class IV whitewater. But if you need an inexpensive inflatable kayak, this is the one to get. More Info

Good Inflatable Kayaks vs. Bad Inflatable Kayaks

There are two types of inflatable kayaks in this world today, good ones and bad ones. What is the difference between the two? Simple, really - construction. Good inflatable kayaks are boats that, with proper care, will easily last a decade or more, even with extensive use. Meanwhile, a bad inflatable kayak will be lucky to last the summer, often requiring numerous patch jobs.

So, how bad are "bad inflatable kayaks?" Real bad. I know. I've had several. These types of inflatable kayaks are generally purchased at mass marketers, like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, etc..They look nice out of the box. And they are cheap, around $150 or so. Yet, like a horror movie that doesn't reveal the plot until the end of the movie, these inflatable kayaks will rear up and show their ugly side at times when you least expect or desire it.

See, poor quality inflatable kayaks are prone to rips in the seams of the boat. This is a very bad thing, since rips in the seams can not be adequately repaired. Additionally, the thin fabric on these boats will constantly get punctures. While these punctures are relatively easy to fix, it is still a pain trying to track them all down.

All said and done, save yourself some grief and get a good inflatable kayak, one that will last and that won't require constant tender-loving-care. If you just need a inflatable kayak for the kids to paddle around on a small pond or something, well, these cheap inflatable kayaks may be just the ticket. But for any serious fishing or river floating use, especially uses that lead into remote areas, don't even think of using a cheap inflatable kayak.

Where to Buy Inflatable Kayaks

Offline, inflatable kayaks are widely found at big box stores, such as Wal-Mart. However, fair warning here. The kayaks sold at big box stores simply don't last. While ok for the kids of tinker around with, most people soon discover that these kayaks are more problems then they are worth. Better quality kayaks are found at dedicated water sports stores, as well as high quality outdoor gear stores such as REI (although selection tends to be quite limited).

Due to the lack of places to buy quality inflatable kayaks, I generally suggest buying them online. And happily, there's plenty of stores online that sell quality inflatable kayaks.

  • Sea Eagle - Manufacturer of a wide variety of high quality yet affordable inflatable kayaks. The Explorer series is the high end kayak while the Sea Eagle 330/370 are ideal for simple recreational floating.
  • NRS - NRS is the premiere outfitter for adventures that happen "on the water." NRS has its own line of expedition quality kayaks. They also sell the excellent kayaks made by Aire, too.
  • Innova Kayaks - Innova manufacturers their own specialty line of inflatable kayaks. They have models of kayaks for sea kayaking, solo paddlers, whitewater and simple flatwater paddling. Very high quality at surprisingly affordable prices.
  • REI - REI sells a wide variety of quality inflatable kayaks not found elsewhere. Quality brands sold at REI include Aire, Advanced Elements & AquaGlide.
  • Water Outfitters - Water Outfitters sells a wide variety of on-the-water products. For kayaks, they sell a mixture of hard-shell recreational kayaks and some inflatable kayaks from Hobie.
  • Inflatable Kayaks at Amazon - Amazon carries a quite a few varities of inflatable kayaks. Unfortunately, most (although not all) tend to fall in the "less than ideal quality" category. Still, if you need a kayak for the kids to play with at the local pond, the kayaks at Amazon might work well enough. Still, I encourage anyone reading this to spend a bit more money to buy a long-lasting and trouble-free kayak. For kids to play with, the Sea Eagle 330 is a tough kayak to beat in terms of price and functionality, and is generally less than $100 more then the "crappy kayaks" found at Wal-Mart and other big box stores.

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