Back in the day, if you saw an inflatable kayak or any type of inflatable boat that wasn’t solely meant for a swimming pool, you’d probably scoff and turn your head the other way. After all, who wants to trust their life on a wide-open lake, river, or even the ocean to what is essentially a balloon?
Now, you see inflatable kayaks everywhere. They’re heralded for their portability, cost, and reliability, but do they really live up to the hype? Is it worth it to get an inflatable kayak, or should you save up a little more cash for a hard kayak just to play it safe? Well, let’s look at the two.
Inflatable kayaks are booming in popularity for a few reasons.
First, they do tend to be a lot cheaper than a traditional kayak of the same quality level. So, your pocketbook will appreciate your purchasing decision.
However, price isn’t everything.
Because inflatables work the same way as innertubes or balloons, they’re extremely easy to store and transport. If you’re in a sedan, you probably don’t have room for a kayak, and strapping it to the top is a problem, too. With an inflatable, that’s not a concern. You can just leave it packed away in your trunk, and when you get to the water, use a portable compressor to inflate it.
However, reliability is what a lot of people really worry about. After all, popping a hole in your kayak in the middle of a large body of water is dangerous.
Luckily, modern inflatable kayaks are a lot more robust than they used to be. Most have protective pieces that make even fishing in your inflatable a fairly safe endeavor. That doesn’t mean the risk of popping it isn’t there, though. You have to pay attention and take extra care not to get sharp objects in between the protective parts of the kayak, or you can easily end up puncturing it. These punctures don’t ruin the kayak, though. You can repair them.
Also, because inflatables are simply filled with air, they tend to have lower weight capacities. Some larger kayakers will simply be unable to use an inflatable.
Hard kayaks are traditional, and they’re definitely rigid. You shouldn’t have to worry about breaking your kayak unless you move at high speeds around rocks and other hazards. Similar to boats, you may need to perform regular checks and maintenance for your hard kayaks. It may be necessary to check for cracks inside the kayak that may result in water accumulation. For the repair, you can choose various options like flex seals, plastic welding, and copper nails (if interested, click here for decorative copper nails).
However, that’s the only thing they beat inflatables on. These are more expensive, you can’t simply deflate them and pop them in your trunk, and they don’t handle any better than inflatables. In fact, the added weight can make them even more difficult to navigate if you’re inexperienced.
Other than that, hard kayaks are on par with inflatables. They come in the same shapes, sizes, and general designs, and they function the same way.
Which is Better?
Both types of kayaks have their own target audience. If you really need a rigid kayak for something such as whitewater rafting, or you do a lot of fishing and want to use techniques that might get a hook stuck in your kayak, then paying more for a hard option is better. However, the vast majority of kayakers will appreciate the portability and savings they get from an inflatable, and most kayaking activities don’t pose a risk to inflatable kayaks.