Are Inflatable Kayaks Worth It? A Solar Kayak Owner’s View

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Are Inflatable Kayaks Worth It - post topFascinated with all things solar, I looked for a suitable kayak or canoe to motorize and load up with solar panels.

I know batteries are heavy and I’ve seen more than one rigid kayak flounder under the weight of a trolling motor and 90Ah 30kg battery, so I need something sturdy that can carry weight safely!

I knew of inflatable kayaks but always thought of them as toys – are they worth the price and would they suit my needs?

Inflatable kayaks are worth it if purchased with the following list of requirements in mind:

  • Quality construction
  • Safe
  • Light and easy to inflate
  • Adequate weight-carrying capacity

Most of the reputable brands market inflatable kayaks in 3 broad ranges – lower quality products for fun and still waters, medium range with a mix of features and a high range, which are very tough and expensive.

The trick is to find a kayak between the medium and high range – a compromise between price and quality that will give you the best of both worlds. It’s important to know what you want out of an inflatable kayak – will it do the job?

Content

Are Inflatable Kayaks Any Good?

Are Inflatable Kayaks Any Good - itiwit 3-man modelInflatable kayaks are worth it if you purchase wisely, understand what you are getting and if it suits the purpose you intend to use it for. Inflatable kayaks are good for fishing, exploring and just having fun! It’s good for you if it does what you want it to do – how you choose is vital.

Inflatable boat sales have grown enormously over the past 5 years and for the serious water-sports enthusiasts 4 or 5 brands dominate the market-place:

  • Sea Eagle
  • Advanced Element
  • Sevylor
  • Aqua Xtreme
  • Gumotex boats
  • Aquaglide
  • TRAK Kayaks

Perhaps the biggest surge in growth is by Sea Eagle – they also manufacture inflatable rescue boats so you know their standards are high. To date they’ve sold over 500 000 inflatables!

A great place to start your research is to ask questions on fishing or boating forums. There is usually an inflatable boat thread and the advice given is based on real experience. Many sites simple post product information that can be found anywhere and just direct visitors to their Amazon affiliate link.

Back in 2013 some 36000 personal inflatable craft were sold and that year represented the beginning of an impressive growth curve. Sales are set to grow at over 5% per year into the foreseeable future.  Masses of people are seeing that inflatables are a good option and worth the price if you purchase carefully and the kayak suits the purpose for which you intend it.

Are inflatable kayaks safe?

How safe are inflatable kayaksHow safe are inflatable kayaks?

There’s a world of difference between rigid kayak and inflatable kayak safety. Boating safety reports  give a good indication of where the danger lies when engaged in recreational activities on the water, and it isn’t with inflatables!

Inflatable kayaks are safe if used for the purpose for which they are intended and safety rules are followed. Accident statistics show that most injuries occur due to ignorance of the boat’s capabilities, lack of attention and poor training.

The statistics from Iowa for the past 3 years give a good idea:

  • Rigid kayaks are involved in only 10% of water-borne accidents, but …
  • Rigid kayaks account for 37% of all deaths (due to tipping)

Investigators found that kayakers didn’t observe safety rules, such as wearing life-vests, did not know their craft and navigated dangerous waters without proper training. It seems tipping over in rough water is a major cause of death or serious injury.

Safety reports also indicate that inflatable kayaks have nowhere near the same risk of accident and are much safer.

Do Inflatable kayaks flip over easily?

The first time I climbed into an inflatable boat (an Itiwit 3-man model) my first impression was extreme stability – nice for an older guy!

 

Most inflatable kayaks have a wide beam of around 1 meter and they are just about impossible to flip over easily. The best boats have 3 or more compartments in case 1 gets punctured, which further enhances their safety.

This is a great feature – even if you get a puncture, you’ll be able to limp to dry ground by hook or by crook (albeit slowly!

I have it in mind to purchase a battery operated or simple 12 volt pump on board. In this way it can be replenishing any air lost by puncture and give more time to get to safety. Battery operated air pump for inflatables ( I’m not an affiliate.)

Carrying an electric pump on board is a no-brainer for me, as I built a solar powered inflatable kayak – I always have plenty of power! It can be a little disconcerting when a large swell arrives, from a passing boat for example, but I have never felt any danger from capsizing.

Inflatable kayak tip: If a swell arrives from a fast or large boat passing close by the rocking can be quite substantial if you let the wave hit the kayak broadside-on. Simply turn the bow into the approaching swell and enjoy the ride!

What are inflatable kayaks made of?

what are inflatable kayaks made ofA variety of materials are used to fabricate inflatable kayaks and quality can vary wildly. Entry-level boats typically in the price range 50 to 200 dollars are often single-skin PVC, sometimes with only one compartment.

Obviously a puncture with these kinds of inflatable is a big deal. This type of kayak are mostly toys to be used in calm inland water such as lakes or sheltered bays. PVC also degrades over time and becomes brittle under UV radiation (sunlight).

The best inflatable kayaks are made of Hypalon or Nitrylon, often coating polyester or nylon fabric with and inside coating of neoprene. Hylalon inflatable boats are used by the U.S. Coastguard and military.

Hypalon characteristics:

  • Very long lasting – 5 to 10 year warranty common.
  • High UV resistance
  • Used by national rescue and military services
  • Tough and abrasive resistant

Nitrylon characteristics:

  • Very resistant to puncture and abrasion damage
  • Stronger than PVC
  • Easier to patch
  • Stays flexible in cold weather

How tough are inflatable kayaks?

The best quality inflatable kayaks are very tough. One measure of inflatable quality and toughness is by comparing the decitex measure of the fabric. This value is the weight in grams of a 10,000 meter long piece of the fabric’s yarn. Basically it’s a measure of toughness.

The best inflatables have a decitex value of between 900 to 1300, but the highest value craft can be heavy. Strangely enough, life-rafts are only made with 400 to 600 decitex fabric, as they are not used too often (hopefully.)

My preferred inflatable kayaks, the Sea Eagle range, are made from 1100 decitex yarn, so right in the mid-range giving a balance between weight, long-life and price.

Sea Eagle 380x

Can one person use a 2 person inflatable kayak?

One person can use a 2 person inflatable kayak without a problem, if the boat is correctly inflated and the load is balanced. Seats are adjustable and can be placed almost anywhere along the length of the kayak.

How long do inflatable kayaks last?

Most reputable manufacturers give a warranty of between 1 to 10 years. This figure is largely determined by the toughness of the material used and the way it’s put together.

My neighbor has a Sevylor 3-man model which stays outside fully inflated all summer and it’s still going strong after 9 years. It still looks in great shape and I can’t detect much wear and tear at all.

Sea Eagle have a 3 year warranty period on manufacturing quality.

Who makes the best inflatable kayaks?

The best inflatable kayak makers have found that balance between usability, quality, toughness and price. Sea Eagle is a great choice for all levels of kayaking, from pleasure cruising to white-water white-knuckle rides!

1100 decitex fabric ensures trouble-free operation and refinements such as detachable drop-stitched floor sections make it them hard to beat.

What is drop-stitching?  Thousands of tiny stitches hold the fabric together in layers from many directions. Compartments made in this way can be inflated to a higher pressure than a simple PVC envelope.

Can you put a motor on an inflatable kayak?

DIY solar kayak Option 1 Rear Motor Mount with solar panels

 See here

Worthwhile Inflatable Kayak Mods

All enthusiasts like to modify their craft to some extent. In my case I wanted fit an electric trolling motor so needed to have a sturdy structure for the transom mount.

In fact, while searching for the solution to that problem I realized I could also do some kayak seat mods at the same time, killing two birds with one stone.

The answer was to snugly fit a rigid plywood floor over the existing floor compartment and use that as a basis for the construction. Once this was done, it was easy to attach a back-rest for extra comfort – see below:

Essential Mods - Fitting a hard floor into an inflatable kayak

What should I look for in an inflatable kayak?

Desirable characteristics of an inflatable kayak:

  • Durable with long warranty
  • Lightweight
  • Good weight-carrying capacity
  • High Decitex fabric rating
  • Drop-stitched envelopes
  • Easy seat adjustment
  • Back-rests
  • Adequate storage space
  • Fast inflation/deflation
  • Removeable skegs for tracking stability
  • Wide beam for stability
  • Removable floor section

How heavy is an inflatable kayak?

How much weight can an inflatable kayak carry?

Kayak

Length
(cms)

Width
(cms)

Weight
(kg)

Max. Weight Can Carry (kg)

380

99

18

340

Itiwit 3 man

382

108

17

230

Sevylor 2 man Canadian

382

98

17

210

Intex Excursion Pro

383

94

17

180

Sevylor Colorado

320

99

14

200

 

Related Questions

Are inflatable kayaks slower?

Inflatable kayaks are slower than rigid kayaks due to their construction and design. They are broader in the beam and the fabric offers more resistance to pass water than a smooth rigid surface.

Are inflatable kayaks good for beginners?

Inflatable canoes are ideal for beginners. the extra stability inherent in these craft give an enhanced sense of security, making beginners more confident in learning how to paddle and handle kayaks.

 


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