Are you thinking about plans for your summer vacation? Why not go kayak camping? Kayaking is a fun way to explore the waterways around America and Canada. Spend your days paddling along and fishing in the flats. Enjoy the scenery and the weather, and marvel and the spectacular sunsets.
Whether you decide to go camping or just for a paddle around the lake during the afternoon, Kayaking is a great way to get out onto the water. Enjoy nature at her finest and sit in wonderment as you take in your surroundings.
Kayaks are expensive. Hard-shell fiberglass models can fetch thousands of dollars. That’s a heavy price tag if you only want to use the kayak from time to time. Fortunately, there are inflatable kayaks available at a fraction of the cost of a hard shell fiberglass model.
We know what you’re thinking, but inflatable kayaks aren’t just for kids anymore. Inflatable technology made impressive leaps and bounds over eh least ten years, and today’s inflatable models are the ideal choice for beginner kayakers of all ages.
But aren’t inflatable kayaks for the pool? Aren’t they going to pop as soon as they encounter something sharp? What if I sink in the middle of the lake? It might surprise you to learn that the new generation of inflatable kayaks is more durable than you think.
- What Defines a Safe Kayak? – Design, Construction, Durability Of Materials, Puncture-Resistance
- Are Inflatable Kayaks a Good choice Good for Beginner Paddlers?
- Top Inflatable Kayaking Safety Tips
- Can You Carry a Dog in an Inflatable Kayak?
- Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? – The Verdict
What Defines a Safe Kayak? – Design, Construction, Durability Of Materials, Puncture-Resistance
So, what defines safety in kayaking when it comes to the boat design? Is it anti-sinking prevention? Hard-shell hulls in fiberglass and carbon fiber kayaks provide excellent durability against bumps and knocks. They aren’t going to pop and deflate when they encounter a sharp stick underwater.
However, they aren’t invincible. A hard enough knock to the hull of a fiberglass kayak, and you could crack it, causing water to enter and the deck to flood. If you’re in a sit-in model, this presents a sinking risk, and the boat will sink to the bottom in a matter of minutes, leaving you reliant on your PFD.
Sure, inflatable kayaks have a plastic material design, and they’re not suitable for scuffling across beaver dams in rivers when sharp sticks might pop the floor of the kayak. However, they are ideal for use on lakes and slow-moving rivers, and surprisingly, they present less sinking risk than a hard-shell hull design.
Most inflatable models come with a tri-chamber hill design. This setup separates the pontoons on either side of the kayak and the floor. Each panel requires separate inflation when setting up the boat.
So, if you encounter a stick and it pops on the kayak’s floor. You’ll remain afloat because it won’t affect the pontoons on the boat’s sides. Asa result, you make it back to shore instead of having the boat sink to the bottom.
The materials used in modern inflatable kayaks are impressively strong. Here are some examples of top-quality materials and construction features. They provide excellent strength and puncture resistance to inflatable kayaks.
- High-Denier Nylon and plastic materials are used in shell designs.
- UV coatings for fade resistance and less perishing of seams.
- Drop stitch construction and welded seams for long service life.
- Multiple air chamber design with three to five separately-inflating air chambers.
Inflatables are a lot more durable than you think. Considering the price tag, they are a top choice for any newcomer to kayaking or recreational users that want to use the kayak occasionally throughout the summer season.
Inflatables are also easy to repair, and most models come with a repair kit included with your purchase. You can patch them up like you would an inner tube on a bike. The adhesive cures and is ready for use in a matter of hours.
Are Inflatable Kayaks a Good choice Good for Beginner Paddlers?
Yes, inflatable kayaks are a great choice for newbies to the sport.
Beginners need to practice the basic skills around paddling posture and performance, along with maneuvering and tracking the boat in different water conditions. An inflatable model provides the ideal platform for newcomers to learn home to handle the kayak.
When you have your skills down in the inflatable and looking to progress in the sport, you can think about going for a dedicated fiberglass design. When you’re starting in kayaking, you might think it’s great, but the novelty wears off after a few months. The last thing you want is your new $2,000 kayak going unused, sitting in the garage at home.
Inflatable Kayak – Intended Use and Water Conditions
The inflatable kayak is perfect for paddling on flat water and slow-moving rivers. If you’re heading to the lake or going kayaking camping, the inflatable is a great choice. However, it will not do well in open water out on the ocean.
While it’s inflatable and has excellent buoyancy, it will not handle and perform like an ocean kayak. Ocean-going kayaks have V-hull designs to cut through the waves and chop.
Inflatables feature a flat hull design and sit higher out of the water than hard hulls. As a result, the ocean waves toss you around. Think of it like driving a car on a tough road with faulty shock absorbers. You have less control, and there’s a chance you could be thrown from the kayak.
Inflatable Kayak – Capsizing
Inflatables have less capsizing risk. The flatter hull design means they have a bigger footprint on the water and a higher ride height with more buoyancy. As a result, it’s hard to dip the bow into the water when you lean to the side of the boat or forward.
While this might make the inflatable less responsive, it also makes it nearly impossible to capsize compared to a fiberglass model. Since capsizing is a huge problem for beginners with minimal confidence in the kayak, the inflatable helps newbies overcome these challenges.
Inflatable Kayak – Sinking Events
As mentioned, the multi-chamber design on the inflatable leads to less of a sinking risk for the kayak. If the fiberglass or carbon fiber hull cracks, water enters the boat. You must head to shore fast or risk a sinking event.
However, with an inflatable, it’s unlikely that a submerged object will pop all of the air chambers at once, leaving you with less of a sinking risk for the occupants. Even with one or two of the chambers popped, the inflatable remains afloat, thanks to the additional buoyancy in the air chambers.
Inflatable Kayak – Handling and Maneuverability
The inflatable kayak doesn’t handle as well as the hard-shell model. However, you get decent handling that’s good enough for beginners not to notice much of a difference. However, if you were a competitive racer, you would see a big difference between an inflatable and your racing kayak.
The inflatable flat hull makes tracking the kayak harder, especially in currents and faster-moving rivers. Fortunately, many inflatables overcome these tracking issues with a removable skeg fitted to the hells stern.
The skeg assists with tracking and provides a remarkable improvement to the handling of the kayak in rougher water conditions. However, you can expect an inflatable to give you the same performance as a hard shell. That said, there’s less chance of pulling off risky maneuvers that could end up with you in the water.
Inflatable Kayak – Rigidity and Stability
The inflatable is far superior in stability compared to the hard-shell kayak. The inflatable is usually wider than a hard shell, and the added buoyancy in the air chambers makes the kayak ride higher on the water. While this doesn’t do wonders for the handling, it provides a huge improvement to stability over hard-shell hulls.
However, it’s important to inflate the kayak to its correct pressure before heading onto the water. An underinflated kayak will sit lower in the water and increase the drag on the boat. It also creates soft sides where water might enter the kayak.
Look for inflation indicator lines near the Boston valves when inflating the kayak. These indicator lines will show you when the kayak is optimally inflated.
Inflatable Kayak – Entry and Exit
The inflatable kayak is easier to enter from the dock and the shore. You get a more stable platform for entry and less chance of tipping the kayak over when stepping inside.
However, they are harder to enter from the water than fiberglass kayaks. The elevated riding design means that you have to lift yourself further out of the water, requiring more strength in your upper body. If you’re tired from paddling and swimming, you might struggle to get back into the kayak.
Inflatable Kayaks – Service Life
Inflatable kayaks are affordable and a quarter to a third of the cost of a fiberglass model. While manufacturers build inflatables using the latest seam design and sealing technology, inflatables won’t last forever.
Sooner or later, the joints will fail on the boat and lose structural integrity. In most cases, these failures occur when inflating the kayak using the hand or electric pump, not on the water.
Top Inflatable Kayaking Safety Tips
If you want to stay safe in your inflatable kayak, you need to follow best practices. Knowing what to do and what to avoid with your kayak will determine the safety of your experience. Here are our top kayak safety tips for inflatables.
- Inspect your kayak before departure. Ensure no slow leaks or punctures and that the kayak retains air pressure. Pay attention to the seals, valves, and seams.
- Always ensure you’re wearing your kayak PFD. The PFD could save you in a capsizing event or if the boat deflates.
- Keep a small pump and repair kit on board the kayak.
- Carry a bilge pump to remove water from the cockpit. Look for kayak designs, including drain plugs to self-bail the cockpit.
- Dry the kayak before storing it. Storing it damp results in a moldy yak.
- Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll return.
- Keep your maps in a waterproof bag, or invest in a handheld marine GPS.
Avoid these common mistakes with your inflatable kayak.
- Don’t drag your kayak from the car to the water or portages. Something is likely to puncture it.
- Don’t over-inflate the kayak. Over-inflation damages the seams, resulting in less service life for the kayak. Check the manufacturer’s inflation rating and look for inflation indicators on the boat.
- Don’t carry anything sharp in the boat. Be careful with fishing knives and hooks.
Can You Carry a Dog in an Inflatable Kayak?
Yes, you can carry your dog in your inflatable kayak. Taking your furry friend along on a camping trip is a great way to have a companion while fishing and wandering through the woods. However, dogs have claws, and anything with paws and claws can puncture the plastic.
So, we recommend reinforcing the floor of your inflatable kayak with a thick, lightweight mat to prevent poochies’ paws from puncturing the kayak floor. Dogs like to stand up and move around in the boat when they try to get comfortable, and the mat will protect the floor.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? – The Verdict
Yes, inflatable kayaks are entirely safe for use. They don’t puncture as easily as you would expect, and they have safety built into the multi-chamber design of the kayak.
Sure, you can’t take them into whitewater rapids or the ocean, but if you’re looking for a recreational boat for the summer at the lake or river, an inflatable is perfect for loads of family fun.
Inflatables are affordable and easy to maintain. Despite their inflatable characteristic, they offer you a fantastic kayaking experience and close to a hard-shell kayak performance on the water.
Inflatables ride higher in the water, giving newbies more stability, and increasing their confidence. While they might not handle as well as a hard-hull design, they have excellent buoyancy and a rigid feel to the handling.
Overall, we have to say inflatables are very safe. They offer a great experience for a newcomer to kayaking. Just keep them away from areas with puncture risks, and you’ll be fine.