Inflatable Kayaks: Pros and Cons for Paddlers

Inflatable Kayaks: Pros and Cons for Paddlers

Thinking about buying your first inflatable kayak? You’ll notice there’s quite a few on the market with varying price ranges and quality assurances too. This really simple, quick guide is designed to give you an overview of the three main types of inflatable kayaks and some things to consider when looking for your new toy.

Single layer vinyl inflatable kayaks

Single layer vinyl inflatable kayaks are often the most affordable option on the market, ranging from £40 to £150. These kayaks are suitable for light recreational use within a very sheltered water environment. Also where you’ll be paddling for not too long. A single layer vinyl kayak may be your best bet on a tighter budget.

Multi-layer inflatable kayaks

Multi-layer inflatable kayaks are far more versatile compared to single layer kayaks. They offer much more protection from abrasion, punctures and UV light by having the inflated vinyl encased in a protective outer fabric.

This makes them a good choice for more moderate recreational use within a sheltered water environment where you’ll be paddling for more than a couple of hours. You will also find models that are great for kayak fishing, river paddling (up to grade 2) and expeditions.

Multi-layer inflatable kayaks can range from £150 to £400.

Heavy duty inflatable kayaks

Heavy duty inflatable kayaks are made of thick materials. PVC, rubbers or drop stitch technology rather than vinyl makes them the most durable category of inflatable kayak. Their ability to withstand quite a bit of abuse without the fear of puncturing means they are suited to more heavy recreational use with moderate water environments.

Heavy duty inflatable kayaks come with more of a premium price, varying from £400 to well over a thousand.

inflatable kayaks paddling

Whilst there are a number of reasons why you might decide to purchase an inflatable kayak, there are some things to consider before parting with your money…


Inflatable kayaks, especially those more affordable single layer vinyl kayaks, often sit higher up out of the water. This means they are more affected by the wind. If you are looking to explore beyond sheltered water environments, such as bays, canals, gentle moving rivers then we would recommend you look at investing something a bit more heavy duty.

Another performance consideration is keeping your inflatable kayak going straight. To avoid continually going round in circles look at getting an inflatable kayak with a skeg. This is a tracking fin similar to what you would find on a Stand Up Paddle board. A few lessons, or at least practice close to the bank, is well worth it before heading off on bigger adventures.


Many of these inflatable kayaks have inflatable seats that don’t seem so bad at first, but can become quite irritating and uncomfortable. Your bum and back will be thanking you when you invest in firmer kayak seats. Alternatively, you can replace the seating with some more robust kayak seats once you know you’ll be paddling more regularly.

inflatable kayak seat


One area most people buying any form of inflatable kayak overlook is how long it will take to clean, dry and pack away. With single layer and heavy duty inflatable kayaks the process is relatively quick and easy…simply drain, wipe down, deflate and pack. Whereas, with multilayer kayaks the process is much longer as the water often seeps through the protective outer fabric. If you do not clean these chambers and leave them damp then they can get quite slimy, smelly and cause damage to the inner inflated vinyl chambers.

Please remember that checking, cleaning and drying your inflatable kayak between uses is a vital part in helping us to prevent the spread of invasive species between different water sources. Click here to learn more about the impact of invasive and non native species.

Paddle & pump quality

You’ll often see package deals where you will receive a paddle and pump too. These are often very poor quality and while the pump might make do in the short term. For longer paddles, we would highly recommend you invest in a stronger paddle for your safety.


When not in use, single layer, multilayer and drop stitch inflatable kayaks won’t hog all the room in your home. So if you have limited storage options then these kayaks may be a good option to consider.

inflatable kayak storage

Don’t forget many of England’s inland waterways require you to have a waterways licence. By taking out a Paddle UK ‘On the Water’ membership you’ll receive a waterways licence enabling you to discover and explore over 4,500km of managed waterways in England.

And there you have it…
A quick guide to understanding the three broad types of inflatable kayaks and things to consider when buying your first inflatable kayak. Helpful? We hope so!