The 5 Best Inflatable Kayaks Under $500 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Kayaking is a perfect way to get some exercise while also enjoying the scenery. Nothing beats a day on the beach, whether fishing, rafting, or simply spending time with family and friends. You’re not alone if you’ve avoided this sport so far due to the difficulty of storing a hard-shell kayak. Traditional kayaks are large and take up a lot of room in your garage or shed, even if they are small. You’ll also need a vehicle that can transport it. Many people can find kayaking to be an inaccessible hobby due to these requirements. Not to worry, we’ve curated this article featuring the best inflatable kayaks for you; to help you out to choose the right inflatable kayak that best fits you. 


Our Top 3 Picks


9Expert Score
Bestway Hydro-Force Inflatable Kayak

This sit-on style inflatable kayak is perfect for getting out and exploring some gentle rivers, but it can also cope with more challenging waters if required.

PROS
  • Plenty of room for two people
  • Comfortable inflatable seats
  • Reasonable price for a two-person inflatable kayak
CONS
  • The construction is not as durable as some others

9Expert Score
Sevylor Quikpak K5 Inflatable Kayak

Taking only five minutes to set up, the Quikpak K5 gives you more time on the water and less time onshore. The Sevylor Quikpak K5 is extraordinarily durable and gives excellent protection from punctures.

PROS
  • Solid construction
  • Packs down into a rucksack for easy carrying
  • Built-in D-rings
  • Storage areas
  • Multiple air chambers and Airtight System for safety
  • Supplied with a pump
CONS
  • Badly designed paddle
  • Seat comfort compromised by doubling as a bag
  • Doesn’t drain very well

8Expert Score
Intex Dakota K2 Inflatable Kayak

Constructed from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl, has three separate air chambers, and an I-beam in the floor panel for added rigidity. There is room for two paddlers, with adjustable seats and storage areas, both front and rear.

PROS
  • Strong construction
  • Carrying capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Carry bag and two dry bags included
  • Large and small skegs supplied
  • Paddles breakdown for carrying
CONS
  • Expensive

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Do Inflatable Kayaks have Storage Space?

Bungee hooks or D-rings are usually built into the side of your kayak, and some also have bungee straps. You should buy D-rings and glue them on if there aren’t any. The spray decks are typically good for storing objects, and some kayaks have storage areas as well. Also, check out the Best Life Jackets for Boating

What are Inflatable Kayaks made of?

There are generally three materials used for inflatable kayaks, PVC, Pennel Orca, and Nitrylon. In most cases, a mixture of the three and other materials will be used. 

PVC is the most popular material, and the majority of inflatable kayaks currently use this material. Pennel Orca is often used as an outer coating but is more expensive. Nitrylon is heavy and only used by a limited number of companies at the moment. Have queries regarding How to Choose Boat Propellers? Check out our guide on Boat Propellers to know more about how to choose the right boat propeller with all the necessary info.

Is it Easy to Damage an Inflatable Kayak?

No. The materials used are very tough and hard-wearing. Of course, the strength of the kayak is dependant on the materials used, and as the price decreases, so the thickness of the material will decrease. Taking a little care, such as not dragging your kayak over rough stony ground, and being careful when approaching a dock, and you won’t have any issues.

More susceptible to leaks are the seams. These usually are heat-sealed, but inevitably they are a weak point. As inflatable kayaks are made from plastic materials, the kayaks can suffer damage by UV light from the sun. Protective coatings are available to prevent this.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

Yes, they are very safe. Probably the most critical safety feature is that all inflatable kayaks contain separate air compartments. This means that if one chamber deflates, you won’t sink, and will be able to continue back to safety. Besides kayak safety, there are standard safety precautions to take when setting out on the water.

  • Always wear a personal flotation device.
  • Check the weather forecast before setting out.
  • Make sure you know about any tides.
  • Keep an eye on the wind. Paddling into a strong headwind is hard work.

Following these simple rules, and perhaps taking some training will give you years of safe fun on the water.


Top 5 Best Selling Inflatable Kayaks Under $500

Our review of the five best inflatable kayaks will help you find the perfect boat for your next adventure on the water. Below take an in-depth look at each of the inflatable kayaks under $500:


Bestway Hydro-Force 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

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The Bestway Hydro-Force kayak is designed for two people and can carry a maximum weight of 400 lbs. The Hydro-Force is part of Bestway’s premium range and features a durable vinyl construction resistant to ultraviolet light, oil, and salt-water.

Featuring a quick inflate/deflate valve, you’ll soon be out on the water with the Hydro-Force. Inflation takes only around five minutes, and once deflated, the kayak folds to a small size for easy storage and transportation. You’ll find D-rings on both sides of the kayak near the front and back, perfect for packing your camping gear and setting off on an expedition. 

The streamlined and hydrodynamic design of the hull allows the Bestway to cut smoothly through the water. Along the center of the hull is a removable keel fin to aid directional stability. Supplied with two lightweight aluminum reinforced paddles, you have all you need for a great adventure on the water. This sit-on style inflatable kayak is perfect for getting out and exploring some gentle rivers, but it can also cope with more challenging waters if required.

Pros:

  • Plenty of room for two people
  • Comfortable inflatable seats
  • Reasonable price for a two-person inflatable kayak

Cons:

  • The construction is not as durable as some others

Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Inflatable Kayak

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The Sevylor Quikpak K5 is a one-person sit-in style inflatable kayak that is packed with great features. Taking only five minutes to set up, the Quikpak K5 gives you more time on the water and less time onshore. If you enjoy hiking and getting out on the river, the K5 could be just right. 

When packed down, it converts into a rucksack for carrying, and when you want to start paddling, the backpack becomes the seat. The paddles break down and attach to the backpack’s side, and there’s also room for the pump. On the water, you stow the pump in one of the convenient storage areas.

Constructed in tough 24-gauge PVC, the underside also has a tarpaulin cover, and there is a separate polyester cover for the top. All this makes the Sevylor Quikpak K5 extraordinarily durable and gives excellent protection from punctures.

Pros: 

  • Solid construction
  • Packs down into a rucksack for easy carrying
  • Built-in D-rings
  • Storage areas
  • Multiple air chambers and Airtight System for safety
  • Supplied with a pump

Cons:

  • Badly designed paddle
  • Seat comfort compromised by doubling as a bag
  • Doesn’t drain very well

Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe 3 Person Inflatable Kayak

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Although there is room for three people, there are actually only two seats on the Sea Eagle 370 inflatable kayak. The space is great for carrying extra equipment or maybe your dog, though. The Sea Eagle is particularly safe during use, thanks to the multiple air compartments. The only slight downside to this is that it takes a little longer to inflate. The floor alone has five compartments that create grooves running the full length of the kayak for improved tracking. Also, keeping the Sea Eagle heading in the right direction are two skegs at the rear of the kayak.

While the Sea Eagle 370 has plenty of room for gentle paddling and carrying camping gear, it’s also been designed for more exciting water. It’s been tested on class I, II, and III rapids, and it’s perfectly capable of taking two people and their gear for an exciting adventure.

Overall, the Sea Eagle 370 inflatable kayak offers a great way of getting on the water quickly and exploring even some of the roughest waters you can find. A dependable kayak at a reasonable price.

Pros:

  • Includes foot pump, paddles and carry bag
  • Paddles breakdown into four parts for carrying
  • 650 lbs carrying capacity
  • Two skegs for improved tracking
  • Multiple air compartments for added safety

Cons:

  • Seats not very comfortable

Solstice by Swimline Durango Inflatable Kayak

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Built from 22-gauge K-80 PVC, with an 840 Denier nylon top cover and 1000 Denier nylon bottom, the Solstice is a sturdy inflatable kayak. It is supplied with two seats but can be adapted to just one position with massive carrying capacity. Great for long solo expeditions. The bucket seats are nylon covered, and their location is easily adjusted within the kayak.

Storage areas are provided on both the front and back, with built-in bungees. There is also undercover storage front and rear, plus plenty of room behind the rear paddler’s seat. Underneath, the bottom of the kayak is V-shaped to assist with directional stability, plus there is a detachable skeg at the rear.

Pros:

  • Plenty of storage for camping gear
  • Durable construction
  • An electric trolling motor can be attached
  • Sturdy base, suitable for dogs

Cons:

  • Does not include a pump
  • Does not include paddles
  • Poorly designed seats

Also Read: Ultimate Pontoon Boat Seats – Buying Guide


Intex 68310VM Dakota K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

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The Intex is the most expensive in our review but justifies the price through added features and the brand name of Intex. It’s constructed from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl, has three separate air chambers, and an I-beam in the floor panel for added rigidity.

There is room for two paddlers, with adjustable seats and storage areas, both front and rear. Grab handles on the front and rear make portaging easy, especially as the Dakota K2 only weighs 31 lbs. There are grab ropes along both sides at the front and back, should you end up in the water. Two skegs are supplied, a long one for straight-line stability on smooth waters, and a short skeg for quick turns in more challenging waters. 

The total carrying capacity of the Dakota K2 is 400 lbs, so even with two paddlers board, there is plenty of spare capacity for your camping gear. Included in the price is everything you need, right down to two dry bags for your equipment. However, at around $450, it is the most expensive here, so you would expect everything to be included.

Pros:

  • Strong construction
  • Carrying capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Carry bag and two dry bags included
  • Large and small skegs supplied
  • Paddles breakdown for carrying

Cons:

  • Price

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Benefits of Inflatable Kayaks:

1. Small Size – 

Inflatable kayaks are easy to carry and store, thanks to their small size. Unlike traditional hard-shelled kayaks, an inflatable will pack down to the size of a large suitcase. This means that you don’t need a roof rack to transport the kayak, you can simply throw it in the back of your car. Some are even small enough to take backpacking. When not in use, it only takes a small space in your garage.

2. Light Weight – 

Compared to a hardshell kayak, inflatables are much lighter. If you intend to go on more extended expeditions, you may need to portage your kayak, which could help you decide on an inflatable against a hardshell.

3. Stability –

Thanks to their design, inflatable kayaks tend to be a little broader and more stable than hard-shelled kayaks. This is great for nervous first-time paddlers!

4. Tracking fin (skeg) –

Flat bottomed boats like kayaks can be difficult to paddle in a straight line. Tracking fins attached to the underside of the hull helps prevent drift and keep the nose of the kayak pointing the right direction.

Types of Inflatable Kayaks:

1. Self-bailing kayaks

These are aimed at more experienced paddlers, that want to tackle fast-moving whitewater. Ports located along the bottom of the kayak allow water to escape as you progress through the whitewater area.

On a flat, slow-moving water surface, the ports will allow water to enter the kayak. If you don’t intend to do much whitewater paddling and want to stay dry, don’t buy a self-bailing kayak.

2. Sit-on Kayaks

Traditional hardshell kayaks are all sit-in, and typically have a spray deck to cover the canoe opening, keeping water out. Some sit-on kayaks are almost like a stand-up paddleboard, where you sit on the top deck. Others have a wide opening, which allows easier access and allows more water to splash into the kayak.

3. Sit-in Kayaks

These are more like traditional hardshell kayaks, where your legs are inside the boat, and a spray deck can be attached. These are great during cold or wet weather, keeping you dry and warm compared to the sit-on style.

4. Canoe-Style

Like the sit-in style, the sides of the canoe-style kayak are higher, and the seats tend to be larger. Because of the high sides, you tend to use single blade paddles in the canoe-style kayak.


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Buyer’s Guide: Softshell vs Hardshell Kayaks – Which to Choose?

You’ll sometimes hear an inflatable kayak referred to as “soft-shell.” Traditional kayaks often are called “hard-shell” kayaks. We’ve compiled some of the differences between the two types of kayaks.

1. Bulkiness –  Some people find carrying a hard-shell kayak difficult, as you often must lift it over your head to carry it. The ability to slightly bend the soft-shell kayak simplifies moving it.

2. Weight – A hard-shell kayak often will weigh 30% to 50% more than an inflatable kayak. This becomes a significant difference if you’re solo kayaking and must carry the gear all by yourself.

3. Performance – The hard-shell kayak works better for use on the water, as the sturdiness of the hull glides well. That doesn’t mean a modern, inflatable kayak performs poorly. Newer soft-shell kayaks work perfectly well; they just don’t quite match up to hard-shell kayaks.

4. Preparation – When using an inflatable kayak, you’ll have to take time to inflate it upon reaching your launch site. A hard-shell kayak will be ready to use as soon as you arrive.

5. Transportation – Often, a hard-shell kayak must be attached to a rack on top of a vehicle for transportation. Some may fit in a large van or truck. Meanwhile, an inflatable kayak can be folded down and squeezed into a carrying bag or backpack. This means you can place the soft-shell kayak into a car trunk, or even carry it while riding a bicycle or motorcycle.

6. Storage – An inflatable kayak folds down to fit in a bag after use, allowing for storage in a closet. Hard-shell kayaks occupy significant storage space in a garage or basement.


Features to look for in Inflatable Kayaks:

Although an inflatable kayak appears rather simple in design, you actually have quite a few features from which to pick. You may have to pay a bit more for some of these features, but they’ll help with your enjoyment of the hobby.

1. Closed design –

A closed-design kayak has an enclosed cockpit, where you slide your feet and legs inside the body of the kayak. When paddling during cold weather, this design works great to keep cold water off your legs.

2. Hybrid design –

An inflatable kayak with a hybrid design combines elements of a traditional kayak and a canoe. This type of kayak features a long and narrow design, with seats attached to the bottom of the boat. It includes high walls that prevent water from splashing into the boat. Such hybrid designs often have two or more seating areas.

3. Open design –

An inflatable kayak design that’s open means your entire body fits on the top part of the kayak. People can climb in and out of an open design kayak easily, but splashing will soak your legs. Some open kayaks include a skin you can use to cover your legs.

4. Sealed kayak –

A sealed kayak does not allow water to automatically exit the boat. You’ll have to bail this type of kayak by hand. Use sealed kayaks on calm, open water, such as lakes, where big waves and splashing don’t occur often.

5. Self-bailing –

A self-bailing, inflatable kayak allows any water that enters the boat to automatically release. The sides of the kayak contain ports that open whenever the boat has water in the bottom. These ports may allow some water into the boat, too. This type of kayak is most often used in rough rivers, and for whitewater kayaking, where you’re going to be wet anyway. Self-bailing kayaks don’t tend to glide as well as sealed kayaks on large bodies of open water.


Which length will be suitable for you? 

Inflatable kayaks are available in many different lengths. They’re measured from front to back. Rather than list the dozens of exact lengths, we’ve simplified things, comparing long and short kayaks. Think about how you plan to use the kayak, as we’ve outlined below, and you’ll have better success picking the right length for your needs.

1. Long kayak

Select a long inflatable kayak if you want a model that glides easily through the water. Longer kayaks are best used on a large body of water, such as a lake or the ocean. A longer kayak easily accommodates two or more people, as well as allowing you to carry gear for overnight trips.

2. Short kayak

Pick a shorter kayak if you’re primarily planning to use it on rivers and in whitewater. A shorter kayak may only offer one seat, although you should be able to fit your dog in with you. You don’t have to work as hard to propel a short kayak as you would a long kayak.


FAQs

Q. Do I have to worry about punctures with my inflatable kayak?

A. Inflatable kayaks are made from strong PVC fabric, sometimes military-grade materials. Manufacturers design these materials to be flexible, but also extremely tough. They usually build multiple layers into the inflatable kayaks, meaning you’d have to puncture more than one layer of material to create a hole. Consequently, puncturing the kayak during normal usage doesn’t occur easily, but could happen if you’re not careful.

Q. How difficult is it to fold up the kayak for transportation?

A. As long as you remove all of the air from the kayak, it will fold easily. Some people will squeeze all of the air out manually, using the valves. Others may reverse an electric air pump and suck the air out of the kayak. Either way, completely removing the air is the key step.

Q. What parts of an inflatable kayak tend to show wear first?

A. Closely watch the areas around the kayak’s valves for leaks. You might see leaks near seams in the material, too. These represent weak areas of the kayak. Avoid dragging the kayak on the ground, whether inflated or deflated. This can cause wear on the materials, and that could lead to a leak.

Q. If I believe my inflatable kayak has a leak, how can I check for one?

A. Look for a leak in an inflatable kayak using the same technique you’d use to find a leak in a bicycle tire. Prepare a mixture of water and dish soap in a spray bottle. Inflate the kayak fully. Then spray the soapy liquid over the kayak, starting with the areas where you suspect the leak. If you see bubbles forming through the soapy material, you have a leak. You can use patches or glue to fix leaks in inflatable kayaks.


Final thoughts:

Inflatable kayaks have come a long way in recent years. Boats that were once thought to be only ideal for gentle river paddling are now equipped and can carry you down challenging rapids if desired.

From this review, we have two favourites. If you’re paddling alone, go with the Sevylor Quikpak K5, and if you’re paddling with a friend, go with the Intex Dakota K2. Both are designed to last, have a lot of features, and should provide you with years of trouble-free kayaking.


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