You may know that the debate between inflatable kayaks and traditional hard-shelled kayaks is a hot one. A burning question that nearly every paddler may have raised at one time or another is: Hard-shell kayak vs. inflatable kayak – which is the better option? Note that you will find traditional hardliners on one corner who claim that an inflatable kayak is weaker and does not allow users great control and handling over the boat. However, an equally large group thinks that many inflatable kayaks can deliver the same excellent performance as traditional solid kayaks because of advancements in technology.
So, are inflatable kayaks any good? The answer is a resounding, yes! Modern inflatable kayaks are top-quality, lightweight, comfortable, yet durable, and highly stable watercraft. You will be happy to know that an inflatable kayak is designed and made for hassle-free transportation. All you have to do is deflate your kayak and stuff it easily inside your duffle bag for transport. Note that such a straightforward and convenient routine means that you can easily take your inflatable kayak anywhere, such as your vacation or a favorite hiking spot.
There is no doubt that kayaking is a fun and exhilarating experience, whether you’re maneuvering through windy rivers, still lakes, or a sea filled with huge waves. Besides being a fun and thrilling activity, keep in mind that kayaking is also an excellent exercise with incredible health benefits.
However, we know that purchasing a kayak can be a confusing and daunting experience for the first time. There is a puzzling and overwhelming range of options, which can make it hard to decide. Note that the first and most important thing you will have to consider is whether a solid or inflatable kayak would be best suited to your needs.
What is an Inflatable Kayak?
As its name suggests, you have to inflate and deflate this kayak before and after each use. Did you know that inflatable kayaks are carefully designed to handle the requirements of modern kayaking? It is worth noting that inflatable kayaks are also known as blow-up kayaks.
You will be happy to know that an inflatable kayak is portable, comfortable, cost-effective, and simple to transport, making it an ideal beginner kayak. Isn’t that great! One of the most important advantages of inflatable kayaks is their considerably lower price tag. It is no secret that thanks to advancements in technology, inflatable models are nearly similar in performance and durability compared to hardshell kayaks.
What is a Solid Hulled Kayak?
Solid kayaks, also called rigid or hard-shelled kayaks, are conventional kayaks and are usually made from fiberglass, wood, or composite material. In many cases, solid kayaks often perform better on rough waters than inflatable kayaks.
Many people claim that solid-hulled kayaks are better than inflatables as they offer superior maneuverability. However, this opinion is changing as inflatable kayaks are improving. Solid kayaks weigh more since they are constructed from hard material. Also, it is worth noting that hard kayaks are usually more expensive than inflatable kayaks. So, you may not be able to afford one if you are on a tight budget.
Inflatable Kayaks – The Pros
It is no secret that inflatable kayaks are often cheaper than hard-shelled kayaks. And, it is usually the first thing that you’ll notice when comparing the two. As most inflatable kayaks are generally more affordable, an inflatable is your best choice, especially if you are on a tight budget. Did you know that the price difference can be astonishing in some cases? However, some high-end inflatable kayaks can cost you a pretty penny, as well.
Do you have frequent back problems? If yes, you should always go for an inflatable kayak rather than a solid kayak. You will be happy to know that an inflatable kayak has a soft floor. This means that you can easily paddle the kayak for hours without feeling any numbness in the feet. These kayaks also have reclinable seats, which are excellent for relaxing and comfortable paddling.
Portable and Lightweight
There is no doubt that inflatable kayaks are much lighter than solid kayaks. You can easily store inflatable kayaks as you just have to deflate them and then pack them away into the storage bag. You can easily transport them to a lake or sea in the trunk or back of your car. Also, there is no need for extra trailers or roof-racks.
If you are knocked on the head or shoulders with a solid kayak, it will likely leave a mark. On the other hand, inflatable kayaks are considerably more forgiving and will not cause a severe impact injury.
Note that contrary to what many people think, an inflatable kayak is quite long-lasting. Some of the fears that most kayakers have include:
- What happens if an inflatable kayak hits a rock?
- Can the impact severely damage it or create a hole?
You will be happy to know that inflatable kayaks can usually withstand bumps and impacts. It is also worth noting that the better-built and sturdier inflatable kayaks, such as Sea Eagle’s 370, are made with very durable materials. These materials are abrasion-resistant and can bounce off of twigs and rocks.
Easy to Store
You can easily store an inflatable kayak. The best thing is that you do not need rails, racks, or any specialized or expensive shelving hardware.
The kayak will not take up much space in your home. Isn’t that amazing! You can simply stick your inflatable kayak behind your couch, in the closet, or under your bed. So, are inflatable kayaks any good? They certainly are in this respect.
Did you know that one of the key benefits of inflatable kayaks is that they offer more stability? Keep in mind that if you’re paddling for the first time, you should look for stability in a kayak. The added stability comes from the extra width of the inflatable tubes.
Inflatable Kayaks – The Cons
Deflating and Inflating
Keep in mind that initially inflating or deflating your kayak might not feel like much of a hassle or inconvenience. However, it will likely make you feel more impatient later on. Waiting for your inflatable kayak can be an annoying experience – particularly if your buddies with the solid kayaks have set off without you.
Also, note that inflating your kayak with a pump may take you up to ten minutes. And without a pump, it would take you more time.
Speed and Tracking
The inflatable hull’s extra width that provides additional stability also creates more drag. It’s this that makes them slightly slower than a traditional solid-hulled kayak.
Tracking is the ability of a kayak to stay travel in a straight line without correction. Inflatable kayaks often won’t perform as well as hard-shelled ones due to their shallower draft. That isn’t to say that they are slow or hard to handle, just that there is a trade-off in making them much more portable.
Solid Hulled kayaks – The Pros
Overall, a solid-hulled kayak will offer better performance compared to an inflatable model. However, keep in mind that costlier inflatable kayaks will likely outperform lower-end solid kayaks with ease. Usually, it is hard to beat a top-quality solid kayak when it comes to maneuverability and tracking.
Easy to Set Up
Traditional solid-hulled kayaks do not need any setup. You do not have to pump air in these kayaks. They are always ready to hit the water. You only need to unload your kayak from a car, truck, or trailer, and you are good to go.
Solid-Hulled kayaks – The Cons
Heavy and Bulky
While some performance kayaks might be lighter than others, they are usually heavier and bulkier than inflatable kayaks. This is why if you would like to carry a kayak into a remote river, lake, or coastal area, you will be better off with an inflatable kayak.
There is no doubt that hard kayaks cost more than inflatable models of similar quality. This is simply because wood and fiberglass cost considerably more than various composite materials used in manufacturing inflatable kayaks. For some people, this may be a deal-breaker.
Unlike an inflatable kayak, you cannot just sling a solid kayak in the back or trunk of your car. You will likely end up breaking your windows. Sometimes, getting a solid kayak to the river or lake can be a mission in itself. It is worth noting that you will need either a kayak rack or a trailer for the vehicle. Keep in mind that those things are not cheap, either.
Some cheap hard kayaks provide little to nothing in order to keep you comfortable during the journey. For example, there’s almost no support for the back. The edges of solid kayaks are hard, which means that they might not be an ideal choice for people with back issues. You have to keep this in mind before making the decision.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?
While some inflatable models are more challenging to control in rough waters as they are much lighter, they are now safer than in the past, thanks to technology improvements. Also, there is a misconception that an inflatable kayak can puncture easily and is therefore unsafe. However, this is not true.
You will be happy to know that modern inflatable kayaks are rugged, durable, and safe. Being inflatable, they are very shock absorbent. You might be surprised to learn that significant impacts do not affect them as much as rigid kayaks.
Whether you are exploring calm bays and lakes, cruising down a slow river, or taking on wild and choppy seas, you can find a great inflatable kayak model because of the advancements in inflatable technology. If you are a beginner or have limited space, you must buy an inflatable kayak. Note that inflatable kayaks are durable yet lightweight and stable watercraft that you can easily carry or transport in a duffel bag to your favorite kayaking spot.