Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews 2020
In this Guide
Inflatable kayaks offer a great compromise of performance and portability. Gone are the days when they were considered simple pool toys for little children. The modern inflatable kayak is made with high performance material that can survive the rigors of most waters such as sharp rocks.
The main attraction of the inflatable kayak is of course its promise of portability. Most inflatable kayaks can be broken down and stored into a backpack, the trunk of a small car and so on. They are a great option for people who don’t have the means to transport a heavy and cumbersome hard-shell kayak.
There are a great number of inflatable kayaks on the market to choose from. However, not all inflatable kayaks are created equal. They vary greatly in terms of quality, ruggedness and performance. There are hundreds of inflatable kayak reviews online. For this inflatable kayak guide, we’ve taken the step to go through user reviews and expert ratings to find out which inflatable kayaks stand out. Read on and find out more in our best inflatable kayak reviews.
Top 3 Inflatable Kayak Reviews 2019
- Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame
- Advanced Elements FireFly
- Sea Eagle
Review : 4.4
Review : 4.0
Review : 4.3
Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame
|Easy to setup & move||Not much space for tall paddlers|
|Inflates and deflates in 10 minutes||Not for paddlers above 235 lbs|
|Strong Material||Can’t be packed when wet|
A major drawback of the inflatable kayak is its structural rigidity, or lack thereof. This leads to a lack of control and maneuvering capabilities which can be troublesome in fast-flowing water. The Advanced Elements AE1012-R aims to solve this by including rigid aluminum ribs in the bow and stern.
The aluminum ribs do not compromise the portability aspect of the AE1012-R, rather they allow it to have a more rigid frame which allows for better maneuvering performance and control. It’s not exactly on the same level of performance as a hard-shell kayak, but it does offer some of the benefits of a rigid chassis without the inherent cumbersome nature of carrying around a hard-shell kayak.
This kayak doesn’t take a long time to setup. Actual owners of the kayak report that it takes 10 minutes to both set it up and break it down.
The hull of the kayak is made of three layers of a very durable material including heavy duty PVC Tarpaulin. This gives it an extremely puncture-resistant body that is able to withstand sharp rocks.
The AE1012-R AdvancedFrame comes in both solo and “convertible” (AE1007-R) versions. The solo version weighs 36 pounds and measures 10 feet 5 inches long and 32 inches wide. The solo version is rated for up to 300 pounds in carrying capacity.
The AE1012-R offers the best of both worlds. Thanks to the inclusion of aluminum ribs in its bow and stern, it is able to track and maneuver with almost the same prowess as a comparably priced hard-shell kayak. But at the same it is extremely portable and when packed isn’t much larger than a traditional luggage back.
Many users report that it really punches above its weight. It handles and performs very well and far beyond what its price would suggest. In fact, some even go as far as saying that it performs the same as a hard-shell.
Hard-shell kayaks tend to be quite expensive and certainly those available at the price of the AE1012-R simply do not perform as well. So not only do you get the performance of a more expensive fiberglass kayak, but you also get the inherent portability that comes with an inflatable kayak.
The AE1012-R is also built to a very high rugged standard. The high-quality PVC material used for the construction allows this inflatable kayak to be very reliable against ripping or puncturing, a common weakness of kayaks that have a fabric construction. This can prove to be very useful generally in the long term for those who are looking to use their kayak often and not just as a once in a while hobby activity. Owners say that the kayak is solidly constructed and every component is of a very high quality.
Quite fortunately, the AE1012-R secures high marks in the customer support department as well. Amazon buyers are all very satisfied with the quality of support they received from the Advanced Elements customer care. The customer care was prompt in responding to customer worries, queries or complaints, with most issues being resolved in time.
As good as the AE1012-R is at tracking and maneuvering in water, it doesn’t really shine until it is equipped with Advanced Elements’ ‘backbone’ package for this inflatable kayak. The backbone is really just a metal bar that is placed along the floor of the kayak to make it more rigid which leads to better speed and tracking. Although this really shouldn’t be considered as a negative, the fact that you have to go an extra mile (and make an extra purchase) to achieve what this kayak is really capable of doing is a bit of a letdown.
Another thing that users noted was that this kayak cannot be packed if it’s wet. You must make sure that the fabric is completely dry before you decide to store this kayak, otherwise it will catch mold. This is cause for concern because drying a kayak isn’t really the easiest task in the world. So, for example on a camping holiday this means you will need to plan in advance on whether you’ll have the time to dry the kayak completely and that means additional hassle.
Despite its concerning shortcomings, the AE1012-R is an excellent choice for those looking for a portable kayak that has excellent performance in water. The tracking and speed is comparable to a hard-shell model and its durable nature means that it will serve its owners for the time to come. The fact that it is highly affordable means that this is an excellent option for those looking for portability and performance in a single package.
Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak
|Good tracking & speed||Not for paddlers above 250 lbs|
|Easy to setup & move||Less space for items|
|Calm water kayak|
The Advanced Elements FireFly inflatable kayak is an extremely affordable option for beginners and veterans alike. Its price simply cannot be compared to what you’d normally pay for a traditional hard-shell kayak made from hard wood, fiber glass or of course carbon fiber components. Do not be fooled by its affordability however as this portable kayak packs quite a punch.
Its affordable nature means that it is an ideal starter kayak for people who just want a taste of kayaking without investing too much into it. But its positive qualities also lend it credibility for veteran kayakers as well. The FireFly features rigid panels that are built into the bow and stern. This improves tracking and speed in water greatly and fixes one of the main gripes people have with inflatable kayaks, and that is inconsistent tracking and padding. The kayak itself is made from very durable material that makes it resistant to scrapes with rocks, gravel floors and such. The material used in the construction is also very light weight which makes it a highly portable kayak that is easy to carry around.
On the maneuvering front the FireFly has a few other tricks up its sleeve. The kayak comes with a built-in fin and landing plate. The fin improves tracking performance and handling stability in water.
The FireFly is an incredibly beginner-friendly kayak. There are no technicalities on how to operate it or even on how to assemble it. It is very easy to setup, so you can focus more on learning the art of kayaking rather than worrying on how to get the proper equipment to get started with it. Besides that, it is also a very light weight kayak which makes it highly portable. With a weight of just 16lbs anyone can carry it around easily. But that does not mean it is a child’s plaything. It can handle a payload (or person) of up to 250 lbs so an average sized adult can use it easily.
The FireFly is not only very portable but has great performance in water as well. The inclusion of rigid panels in the stern and bow, the tracking fin and the landing plane mean that this a very competitive performer in water. Given its economical nature it is hard to believe that it comes with all of these performance-oriented features. The FireFly is also built to a high standard and while similar inflatable kayaks can only handle Class I rapids, the FireFly can endure collisions on Class II rapids.
The FireFly is a very compact kayak. While that means that it has superb tracking and maneuvering in water, it also reveals a shortcoming. Many kayaks have additional space for you to store some fishing gear, additional clothes and so on. The FireFly has no additional space so if you’re looking to carry extra equipment this kayak might not be for you.
The FireFly is also strictly a calm water kayak. While it can withstand the rigors of Class II rapids with the occasional encounter with rocks and sharp edges, it will not and cannot withstand anything above Class II rapids. If you’re looking for some serious adventure, the FireFly will not prove to be a good choice.
The Advanced Elements FireFly is an excellent choice for people looking to kayak in calmer waters. This is a highly portable kayak that is easy to carry around and store. Its affordable nature makes it easy for beginner to get into the sport of kayaking and its performance is enough for veterans who just want to enjoy an easy day in water.
Sea Eagle 330
|Accomdates 500 lbs.||Average seat support|
|High build quality||Less leg room|
The Sea Eagle 330 is an affordable and durable kayak built to accommodate two persons. It is a high-quality product, earning praise from people who have bought it and use it on a routine basis.
Although the Sea Eagle 330 is a highly portable kayak, weighing in at just 26 pounds, it has an impressive carrying capacity. Rated at 500 pounds, it can easily accommodate two adults yet is light enough to be carried around by just one.
The Sea Eagle 330 is a rugged kayak, a trait not commonly associated with inflatable kayak. In fact, it is made from a very durable and puncture resistant material called K-80 polykrylar. Thanks to its sturdy construction, its hull can withstand the tests of Class III whitewater rapids. The kayak is a very spacious model with storage space for your camping gear. This really is a model built with enthusiasts in mind.
The enthusiast-minded features of this kayak might make it seem expensive. But it is not expensive, in fact it is quite affordable, making it a great choice for first timers or for couples looking to spend some pleasant and relaxing time in water.
The Sea Eagle 330 might be economical to purchase but that does not mean you have to put up with poor build quality. This kayak uses high quality material that will save you from the worry of those unavoidable encounters with sharp rocks and the like. The durable nature of this kayak also means that it will be able to stand the test of time and will serve you for the time to come. The kayak features a tough hull which enables it to deal with up to Class III rapids with ease.
Its Class III rating points to it being a serious adventurer’s tool, but that might be slightly misleading as that is not the main purpose of this kayak. The main draw of this kayak is its affordable nature and high build quality. It is more suited to calmer waters and that is where it truly shines. It can deal with Class III rapids but you need a lot more than durability in those conditions like exceptional tracking and maneuvering performance.
The most commonly noted issue by the owners of this kayak is the lack of support from its inflatable seats. Most find them to be lacking in height and as such cannot fully support the weight of the back, which puts more stress on the neck muscles. Hence users with back problems might find it physically exhausting to use this kayak for extended periods of time. A common remedy suggested for this problem is the Deluxe Inflatable Seats product which is also sold by Sea Eagle separately.
The Sea Eagle 330 is also quite unsuitable for taller adults, with users feeling cramped with the available leg room. This can also lead to exhaustion and possibly muscle tension. The problem can be avoided by going for the bigger version of this kayak called the 370.
The Sea Eagle 330 might not be the fastest or most maneuverable kayak around, but it extremely affordable and portable. And those are its main selling points. Coupled with its durable construction this is a fool-proof way of getting into the sport of kayaking without breaking the bank.
The best inflatable kayak for you
The best inflatable kayak available depends on what qualities you are looking for in a kayak. The kayaks listed above all have their own sets of pros and cons. They’re all great buys, but the one that will be best for you depends on you. The Advanced Elements AE1012-R is a great all-rounder. Not the cheapest inflatable kayak around, it still punches above its weight thanks to its hard shell-rivaling tracking and maneuvering performance. It is an excellent kayak for both beginners and experts alike. It’s the best choice if you’re looking for an enthusiast inflatable kayak at a budget.
If you just want a no-nonsense beginner-friendly kayak, the Advance Elements FireFly is an excellent choice. It is very light weight yet made out of a durable material, making it highly portable yet rugged. It requires no expert knowledge to setup and due to its durable nature, it can be forgiving to rookie mistakes such as rock or gravel scrapes.
The AE1012-R and FireFly are both excellent choices, but they lack the ability to carry an additional person. The AE1012-R can in theory carry an additional person but with a carrying capacity of just 150 pounds, that will most likely not be realized. This where the Sea Eagle 330 comes in. It is an affordable kayak that can seat two persons in relative comfort. It is not a particularly high-performance kayak, but it is extremely portable and easy to use with high customer satisfaction rates.
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