Things to look out for when buying your first inflatable kayak

Things to look out for when buying your first inflatable kayak

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 ideal for light recreational use within a very sheltered water environment where you’ll be paddling for an hour or two. If you are unsure how often you will actually use a kayak then perhaps a single layer vinyl kayak is for you.

Multi-layer inflatable kayaks

Multi-layer inflatable kayaks are far more versatile compared to single layer kayaks because 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 the ideal 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 range from £150 to £400.

Heavy duty inflatable kayaks

Heavy duty inflatable kayaks are made of thick materials like PVC, rubbers or drop stitch technology rather than vinyl making them by far 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.

  1. 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 and are therefore 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 in a heavy duty inflatable kayak or even consider a hard shell kayak.

Another performance consideration is keeping your inflatable kayak going straight. To avoid continually going round in circles and wasting precious energy trying to keep an inflatable kayak going straight make sure you purchase an inflatable kayak with a skeg, which is a tracking fin similar to what you would find on a Stand Up Paddle board.


Many of these inflatable kayaks have inflatable seats that don’t seem so bad at first, yet they are often actually quite irritating and uncomfortable. Your bum and back will be thanking you when you spend a little more on an inflatable kayak with firmer kayak seats. Alternatively, you can replace the seating with some more robust kayak seats once you know you’ll be paddling more regularly.


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 undried 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 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 and don’t feel you will be using the kayak regularly then these kayaks may be a good option to consider.

Don’t forget many of England’s inland waterways require you to have a waterways licence. By taking out a British Canoeing ‘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!