The sturdiest inflatable canoes and inflatable kayaks to brave the wildest waters
After all my reviews about SUP boards it is time to also start taking a look at other watersports. Another very appealing sport is kayaking or canoeing. These two sports are very often mixed up, so let me start by explaining the difference between them.
The difference between a canoe and a kayak
What’s the difference between a canoe and a kayak? Well, the difference is relatively simple; it has to do with the position of the athlete in the boat and the type of paddle used to move forward with the vessel.
In a kayak there is a paddle and a double kayak paddle with a blade on both sides. In a canoe the driver is on his knees and a normal paddle with only one blade is used.
So canoeing is very similar to SUP-boarding, only it is done sitting down on the knees and the vessel has higher edges on the sides. So the difference between the two is quite easy to spot.
What I often see is that even shops or “specialists” mis-name the vessel. Does it have a seat and a footrest? Then by definition it is a kayak, it is meant to sit on, while when canoeing you sit on your knees and don’t need a seat.
However, there are also canoes with a seat, but these are not fine chairs, but straight beams on which you could possibly sit. You do, however, have the option of sitting in them on your knees, which is not the case with a kayak.
In reality you will mainly encounter kayaks, because they are simply more comfortable and easier to use. If you’re really looking for an inflatable canoe then this can take a lot of searching and you’ll have to browse through a lot of inflatable kayaks along the way.
When I look at Decathlon’s assortment for example, I see that they call the vessels haphazard canoe / kayak, while they actually only have inflatable kayaks in their assortment. All these vessels have seats and emphasize it by the action pictures with a double kayak paddle, rather misleading for people who don’t know the difference.
What is an inflatable canoe?
A canoe is a boat driven by one or more seated or kneeling paddlers in the direction of travel and using a single blade paddle. Originally, canoes were used by North American Indians as a means of transportation and today they are known all over the world for recreation.
Inflatable canoes consist of several air chambers that are inflated with a high pressure pump to obtain the right shape and rigidity. Although inflatable canoes never reach the same stiffness as solid-body canoes, they offer other advantages due to their easy transport and lower weight.
Canoes are usually used by two people at the same time. The person in the front is the motor and the person in the back supports with paddling and is responsible for steering the canoe. Canoeing on your own is also possible, but requires more practice. Inflatable canoes consist of tear-resistant material with a rubber coating.
Inflatable canoes are equipped with two or more benches on which the paddlers are either seated, or they sit on their knees on the floor of the boat. Canoes are spacious and perfect for longer trips where you take your camping equipment with you.
Canoes are especially suitable for camping or family outings, expeditions or whitewater adventures. Canoes especially attract paddlers who like to paddle in company and explore nature on longer trips. But canoes are also very suitable for adrenaline junkies who are prepared to paddle on wilder water, although kayaks are a little more suitable for that.
Inflatable canoes are very stable due to their wide hull and thick inner tubes. Compared to the hard canoes, the material of the inflatable canoes is more elastic and can get over obstacles more easily.
Inflatable canoes for wilder water
If you want to paddle on wilder waters with an inflatable canoe, only do so with a high quality canoe. These are made of sturdier material and better suited for such rides. Most of these canoes are equipped with thigh straps, often with safety clasps, so that you stay in place in wilder waters. Practice putting on and taking off these thigh straps in advance, so you can get them off immediately if necessary.
Inflatable canoes with a raised rectangular bow and stern are made for difficult whitewater sports and inflatable canoes with a pointed bow and stern are better for longer trips on rivers and lakes. They reach a higher speed due to the pointed hull.
Inflatable canoes for recreation
Inflatable canoes offer plenty of inner space for your stuff on camping trips and expeditions. Paddlers sit on benches and there is no cockpit to cover the boat, as is the case with kayaks. For these reasons there is more space for your camping gear.
That is why a canoe is better suited for multi-day trips. Because an inflatable canoe is easy to transport, you can also bring your own canoe on holiday and explore the wide surroundings. The focus of a canoe is not speed, but exploring nature and making longer trips on the water.
You paddle quietly and relaxed through the water and look at the surroundings and look for a suitable place to moor. Inflatable canoes are easy to inflate and you can easily get in and out and load and unload your stuff.
Inflatable canoes are very stable and therefore ideal for family outings. You have to put a lot of effort into flipping over your canoe. The inflatable canoes also have high side walls that keep children safe in the boat. Children can even sit on the floor of the canoe so you can be sure they won’t fall into the water.
Advantages and disadvantages of an inflatable canoe
Just like with an inflatable SUP board you will immediately notice that an inflatable canoe is very practical. After all, a hard canoe is a gigantic vessel that is difficult to transport, unless you have a large rack on the roof of your car or drive around in an American pick-up truck.
An inflatable canoe is easy to take with you and also easy to store when not in use. If you have a big car and plenty of storage space you can consider a hard canoe, otherwise an inflatable canoe is always the better choice.
It’s also easier to take your inflatable canoe with you on holiday, just try to get a hard canoe on the plane! Foldable canoes are also available, but they weigh quite a lot and take a lot of time to assemble.
Fixed and foldable canoes, however, perform better in terms of speed, but have less buoyancy than an inflatable canoe. In addition, an inflatable canoe requires less maintenance. Simply rinsing and drying is sufficient.
The main disadvantage of inflatable canoes is their greater sensitivity to the wind. If there is a strong wind you want to paddle against, it will take more effort than with a hard canoe. Another point is that compared to a kayak, a canoe is a lot harder to find and often more expensive.
Frequently Asked Questions about Inflatable Canoes
How long does it take to inflate an inflatable canoe?
An inflatable canoe takes about 5-10 minutes to inflate, depending on the pace and size of the canoe.
Can you use an electric pump for an inflatable canoe?
Yes, this is definitely possible. Set the pump to the correct pressure for the inflatable canoe and it will automatically stop pumping when the pressure is high enough.
Can you take a dog on your inflatable canoe?
This is certainly possible, but pay attention, however, that your dog doesn’t have very sharp nails with which the canoe can be damaged. Possibly use a towel on the bottom for extra protection.
What is an inflatable canoe made of?
Most inflatable canoes are made out of a PVC construction. This material is durable, cheap and very sturdy. By using multiple layers of PVC, an inflatable canoe can be rock hard.
What is an inflatable kayak?
Now that we’ve read all about the inflatable canoe, I’ll continue with the kayak. Luckily a lot easier to obtain than an inflatable canoe and also a lot cheaper. Did you know that more people are looking for an inflatable canoe than for a kayak, but in the end almost all of them mean a kayak?
A kayak is a vessel in which one or more seated paddlers are seated and move the kayak forward in the water by means of paddles with two blades. Kayaks often have comfortable seats and a footrest, so you have good support and can put a lot of power and row quickly.
Like inflatable canoes, inflatable kayaks almost always consist of multiple air chambers that are inflated with a high-pressure pump to obtain the right shape and rigidity. They are easy to inflate and carry and store, where a hard kayak is difficult to transport and requires a lot of storage space.
Kayaks that are inflatable are made of very strong material that will certainly not leak easily when paddling. However, pay attention to the material of which it is made, cheap inflatable kayaks are more likely to leak than the more expensive high quality models.
Of course you have to watch out for sharp objects in the water, after all, an accident is always bound to happen. However, because a kayak consists of several air chambers, it does not mean that you will sink immediately. Suppose one of the three air chambers leaks, then you can still get home safely with the air in the two full air chambers.
Damages are also fairly easy to repair, as if you are fixing a bicycle tire. Many inflatable kayaks come with a repair kit so you can fix it quickly.
Inflatable kayaks for wilder water
Inflatable kayaks for wilder water are often smaller in size, giving you more maneuverability. However, this also means that the maximum payload is lower, so these kayaks are not suitable for the biggest people.
One of the most important characteristics to consider when buying an inflatable whitewater kayak is whether it is self-draining. This allows any water that has splashed into the kayak to leave the vessel again.
Inflatable kayaks for recreation
Recreational kayaks are usually less than 3.5 meters long, are wider for more stability and are easy to paddle in a quiet environment. Inflatable reaction kayaks are easy to moor and get in and out. Many of these kayaks can also handle normal rapids, but are not suitable for the wildest waters.
Inflatable kayaks usually come in versions for one or two persons, but I have also seen versions for 3, 4 or more persons. This is a top sport that you can practice with a group of friends, for example on your men’s weekend in the Ardennes. Excitement and sensation guaranteed!
Advantages and disadvantages of an inflatable kayak
An inflatable kayak, like all inflatable objects, is easy to carry and store. If you go on a holiday a solid kayak will be hard to transport, where you can easily carry your kayak along on the plane as extra luggage.
However, the performance in terms of speed is better for a hard kayak, because there is less resistance due to the smaller size and you cut through the water easier and faster. The buoyancy of an inflatable kayak is much higher, so you sink less quickly into the water and can carry more people or stuff with you.
As with inflatable canoes, inflatable kayaks are more sensitive to the wind, so you will have to make a little more effort to keep control of the vessel.
The material of which good inflatable kayaks are made is very sturdy and will certainly not tear or break easily unless you buy a really cheap kayak. They are therefore also cheap to maintain, unlike a hard kayak.
If you collide with a hard kayak it will damage it, where an inflatable kayak is often bumped away. Repairing an inflatable kayak is easy with some glue and a piece of plastic, which is often supplied with the kayak.
Unlike inflatable canoes, inflatable kayaks can be found almost everywhere and there is a wide variety of options to choose from. I will elaborate on that when choosing my three favorite inflatable kayaks.
Frequently Asked Questions about Inflatable Kayaks
How long does it take to inflate an inflatable kayak?
An inflatable kayak takes about 5-10 minutes to inflate, depending on the pace and size of the kayak.
Can you use an electric pump for an inflatable kayak?
Yes, this is definitely possible. Set the pump to the correct pressure for the inflatable kayak and it will automatically stop pumping when the pressure is high enough.
Can you take a dog on your inflatable kayak?
This is certainly possible, but pay attention, however, that your dog doesn’t have very sharp nails with which the kayak can be damaged. Possibly use a towel on the bottom for extra protection.
What’s an inflatable kayak made of?
Most inflatable kayaks are made out of a PVC construction. This material is durable, cheap and very sturdy. By using multiple layers of PVC this kayak can be rock hard.
The 3 best inflatable kayaks
As I pointed out it is very difficult to find an inflatable canoe, you really have to search hard to find a suitable one. That’s why I make here a top 3 of the best inflatable kayaks and a separate top 3 for the best inflatable canoes (with seat). You can hardly find a real traditional shape canoe in inflatable form, so I won’t bring one here either.
Advanced Elements AirFusion Evo
✓ 32 lbs
✓ 13′ x 24″
✓ Max. capacity 235 lbs
✓ Incl. backpack, seat
Sea Eagle 370 Pro
✓ 33 lbs
✓ 12′ x 2’6″
✓ Max. capacity 650 lbs
✓ Incl. seats, paddles, pump, bag
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
✓ 30.6 lbs
✓ 10’3″ x 3′
✓ Max. capacity 400 lbs
✓ Incl. seats, pump, paddles, bag
The Advanced Elements AirFusion Evo Kayak is a beautiful kayak of high quality. The kayak is made of high quality dropstitch material and will not break easily. It is easy to take with you in the included backpack and take it to any location.
With the sporty design you can reach a reasonable speed and under the handy luggage elastic you can take everything you need for traveling or camping (do this in a dry bag!). At the back there is another space to carry extra luggage in the kayak, for a big camping trip!
The dimensions of this kayak are 13′ x 24″. This makes this kayak suitable for people up to 6’3″ in length and a maximum weight of 235 lbs in total (so including luggage!). With a weight of 32 lbs the kayak is relatively easy to carry (heavier than my normal SUP boards though ;-)).
If you see the high quality and sturdiness you would hardly say it is an inflatable model. The foam seat offers a lot of comfort and the kayak can easily be cleaned and stored for the next time. The board can be inflated up to 10 PSI, which is quite hard for an inflatable kayak!
The Sea Eagle 370 Pro is a very nice kayak for two persons, with comfortable seats and luggage space under the sail at the front and rear to carry all necessary stuff. The Sea Eagle has a beautiful and striking design and you can sit comfortably on the inflatable seats.
Unlike foam seats, these inflatable seats of the Sea Eagle don’t get permanently wet, which is nice when the kayak unexpectedly ends up upside down. Just like the Advanced Elements AirFusion Evo kayak, this high quality inflatable kayak is made of dropstitch material for extra strength. Because this kayak is quite open I would advise you not to use it on the wildest waters.
The great thing about it is that it’s a very nice inflatable kayak for two or even three persons, with comfortable seats and is that it comes with two kayak paddles and a foot pump, so you immediately have everything you need to get on the water together. The Sea Eagle kayak is quite large with a size of 12′ x 2’6″ and has a maximum weight of 650 lbs.
As always in my top lists a budget option, this time the Intex Explorer K2 inflatable kayak to tour with. The fact that it can be used alone or by two persons is also a big plus. This kayak has over 8.000 reviews on Amazon, with a score of 4.4 out of 5. So you can be sure you get quality for your money!
This version is 10’3″ long and 3′ wide, so especially made for stability and longer journeys. In total, the board weighs 30.6 lbs, which is certainly reasonable to carry. The maximum weight of this inflatable kayak is 400 lbs, which is often enough to use this kayak in pairs. With a maximum pressure of 1 PSI this is a lot softer than the earlier mentioned inflatable kayaks.
The 3 best inflatable canoes
Now that you have some examples of good inflatable kayaks for sale, I will continue with inflatable canoes. As said before these are rather hard to find and there are no inflatable canoes without seats. However, you can leave them out yourself, so you still have a real canoe experience.
Because there are so few good inflatable canoes that are not too expensive I only use the famous canoe brand Sevylor in my top 3. These are of high quality and relatively inexpensive.
Sevylor Colorado Canoe
✓ 33 lbs
✓ 10’9″ x 2.9′
✓ Max. capacity 440 lbs
✓ Incl. seats, paddles, foot pump, bag
Sevylor Adventure Inflatable Canoe
✓ 32 lbs
✓ 12’1″ x 33.9″
✓ Max. capacity 441 lbs
✓ Incl. seats, bag, pressure gauge
Sevylor Tahiti Plus Inflatable Canoe
✓ 24.9 lbs
✓ 11’9″ x 34.6″
✓ Max. capacity 441 lbs
✓ Incl. seats, repair kit
The Sevylor Colorado is a fine and stable canoe, with a size of 10’9″ x 2.9′ and a maximum weight of 441 lbs. The canoe itself weighs 33 lbs and has comfortable seats that can be adjusted by means of the cords on the sides.
At the front and the back luggage can be put, at the bottom the canoe has a detachable fin for better control. This canoe also consists of three air chambers which are inflated separately. A fine kayak to go out with the family, ideally two adults and a child, as 441 lbs is often not enough for three adults.
The Sevylor Adventure Plus Canoe is a bigger model, very sturdy and very suitable to go out together with up to 3 people. The maximum carrying weight is 441 lbs, so depending on the size of the persons stepping in it, two or three persons can paddle in it at the same time.
Furthermore, the Adventure is similar to the Colorado in many ways: the seats are easily adjustable and the canoe has a fin on the bottom for easier steering. The Sevylor Adventure has a luggage net at both the front and the back and the dimensions of this inflatable canoe are 12’1″ x 33.9″.
Weighing 33 lbs, this inflatable canoe has the same weight as the previously seen Sevylor Colorado and is also easy to carry to the water.
And there’s the budget option, the Sevylor Tahiti Plus canoe. For a low price this is a very solid canoe. This canoe has comfortable inflatable seats that can also be adjusted on the side.
With a size of 11’9″ x 34.6″ and a maximum capacity of 441 lbs, this is a nice stable canoe for two adults or two adults and a child. Three adults will in most cases be too heavy for this inexpensive canoe.
Weighing 24.9 lbs, this is the lightest canoe. Instead of drop stitch material, this canoe is made of thick PVC, which makes it feel less hard than the previously mentioned kayaks and canoes.
Conclusion inflatable canoe and inflatable kayak guide
There’s a lot of confusion about what a kayak or a canoe is, but one thing’s for sure: as long as you enjoy yourself on the water! Take a look at the different canoes and kayaks, think about what you’re looking for and choose the vessel that suits you best.
Are you going out on the water alone or together? Do you want to tour in peace or are you looking for a challenge in wild rivers and fast waters? Would you like a paddle with two blades or rather a paddle with one blade? If you can answer these questions, you have already come a long way in making your choice.
Especially when it comes to inflatable kayaks, there are many choices you can make. Make sure you go for quality and not for the cheapest inflatable kayak that can be thrown in the trash after just one use.
Hopefully I was able to help you find a suitable inflatable canoe or inflatable kayak with this guide!
Have you been in an (inflatable) kayak or canoe before? What is your experience with that and do you have a favorite model? I am curious about your kayak or canoe experience, as this is not the most familiar terrain for me (except kayaking on my SUP board ;-)). Let me know in the comments!