Inflatable Kayak – Everything You Need to Know About IKs

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Inflatable Kayaks are the easiest way to get on the water.

From their portability to their on water capability IK’s are a great way to get out there. Designed for everything from fishing your local pond to kayaking the Grand Canyon, inflatable kayaks are everywhere.

You’ve got inflatable kayak questions and Paddling Life has answers. Let Paddling Life’s Staff share their years of experience working in retail kayak shops, giving kayak tours, being ACA kayak instructors, and of course being paddlers ourselves.  We will start with the most common questions we get:

Are Inflatable Kayaks Good?

Better than good. Inflatable Kayaks are so much fun and capable. They have a low barrier of entry when it comes to skill level.  That is to say just about anyone can hop into an IK and within just a few minutes gain basic paddling skills to start exploring.

inflatable kayaksAre Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

All water sports come with a certain implied level of risk. With the proper “safety equipment” and education these risks can be mitigated. That said, inflatable kayaks are quite sturdy and capable water crafts. It’s the person paddling that has the most influence on how “safe” an IK is or is not.

Some basic kayak safety tips to keep in mind while you’re paddling:

    1. Wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) otherwise known as a lifejacket
    2. Paddle with a partner. Unexpected things happen and having help with you can make the difference.
    3. Be a competent swimmer
    4. Dress for the water temperature
    5. Have an understanding of the terrain
    6. Know your role – take a safety course

For more safety tips and resources, please visit the Coast Guard’s website.

Person paddling inflatable kayak Advanced Elements Airvolution
Inflatable kayak Airvolution by Advanced Elements

Do Inflatable Kayaks Pop Easily?

This is a fair question. Inflatable Kayaks are surprisingly durable. Especially if you stick with the reputable brands that use the same materials that are used in today’s whitewater rafts.

PRO TIP: Stay away from the cheap versions made with vinyl. They are not durable and will not stand up to repeated use. 

 

Caj Koskinen Grand Canyon Alpacka Gnarwhal
Caj Koskinen paddling the Grand Canyon in the Alpacka Gnarwhal

Inflatable vs. Hardshell Kayaks

The biggest advantage of the inflatable is its portability. They can be deflated, rolled up, and stored without taking over the entire garage. Some are small enough to take backpacking.

Another advantage when it comes to running rivers is there is no eskimo roll to learn. Of course this means if you tip over you are going for a swim but depending on the weather and the river that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What we are really trying to highlight is that with an IK you can get out on a class II river and start to have fun right away.  There are plenty of river outfitter companies that will rent IK’s to anyone walking off the street, give them some basic instruction and send them off for fun on the river.

Where Can I Paddle an Inflatable Kayak?

Anywhere. Today’s inflatable kayak design and technology really has no limit. From paddling flat water to the biggest whitewater, there is an IK outthere built to handle the adventure.

We have some great resources for you to discover where to use your inflatable kayak:

BAKRaft Moen
A section of calm before the cascading storm on the Little Kern.
(Photos courtesy Tom Horn/AIRE)

Where to Buy an Inflatable Kayak?

Inflatable kayaks are big business these days and are more readily available than ever before.  We recommend steering clear of your big box bargain stores if you want a quality craft that is going to last and be up for your adventuring.

*This post contains affiliate links that help keep the lights on here at Paddling Life*

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