Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

Sure, inflatable kayaks are lightweight and easy to transport. But even with these benefits and many others, people still have doubts about inflatable kayaks. 

Some fear that they aren’t rigid enough. Others doubt the stability.

So, the question is: inflatable kayaks safe? We’ll address all your concerns about blow-up yaks here. 

How Good Are Inflatable Kayaks?

Let’s see how they compare to rigid or “traditional” kayaks.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe and Durable?

You should know that kayaking, whether using a rigid or inflatable boat, is not 100% safe. There is some degree of risk. So it’s important to make sure that you adhere to the necessary safety precautions.

That said, inflatable kayaks are safe and durable. Contrary to what many people think, they are not like your average inflatable pool toy.

Blow-up boats may not have been reliable when manufacturers first started making them. But they have come a long way.

They are available at different prices so you will most likely get what you pay for. However, most of them are extremely durable— more durable than many hardshell kayaks. 

Modern inflatable kayaks are mainly made using reinforced PVC and Dropstitch construction.

You don’t have to worry about them wearing out after a few months. As long as you buy a quality inflatable kayak.

What About Punctures?

This is one of the things that people are most concerned about.

As stated, you get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap boat made with a single thin layer of material, don’t expect much from it.

Quality inflatable kayaks from reputable companies are made with puncture-resistant materials. You can paddle areas with rocks and other obstacles and the boat will hold up just fine.

However, this is not to say that inflatable kayaks cannot be punctured. You can still damage it—the same way regular kayaks are not damage-proof. The good news is that blow-up boats are easy to repair. They come with a repair kit so you can patch it up if that happens.

If you are still doubting, check out this video.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Stable?

Inflatable kayaks are just as stable as rigid kayaks. 

Some inflatable angling kayaks—like the Saturn FK396—even allow you to stand and fish.

Usually, the stability of a kayak is determined by its length and width. If a boat is wide and moderately long, you will have a bigger and balanced platform. So this applies to inflatable kayaks as well. If you want a stable yak, get a wider one.

It also depends on what the kayak was designed for. Fishing kayaks, inflatable or regular, will be more stable than sea kayaks—as far as primary stability goes. The sea kayaks are long and narrow to facilitate tracking.

Other than size, the stability of an inflatable kayak will depend on how rigid it is.

And this brings us to the next question.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Rigid?

Many people imagine that inflatable kayaks flex a lot. This is not only annoying, but it also makes the boat unstable. Additionally, poor rigidity also translates to poor speed.

Unfortunately, it can happen with a few cheap kayaks.

But a well-made inflatable kayak is extremely rigid. You can barely say that it is an inflatable when you get in. It will feel as solid as a hardshell (but the material is more comfortable).

So how can you tell that a blow-up kayak will be rigid?

Look at the construction.

Kayaks made using single-layer cheap materials will not offer much rigidity. Many kayak manufacturers use heavy-duty PVC Dropstitch. The rigidity is exceptional and so is the lightness.

Another thing that adds to an inflatable kayak’s rigidity is a frame or some kind of support. This could be blow-up chambers or a metal framework.

Make sure you fully inflate your kayak as recommended by the manufacturer before taking it out on the water. Regardless of how well-made a boat is, if you don’t properly inflate it, it won’t be rigid.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Sluggish and Not Very Maneuverable?

Inflatable kayaks are maneuverable and the speed is impressive. Like traditional kayaks, it depends on what a specific blow-up kayak was designed for and its size.

Generally, however, inflatable kayaks cannot outperform rigid kayaks.

The speed and maneuverability of a kayak will be determined by its size, shape, and, of course, how rigid it is.

If it is rigid, it will glide better.

A super long kayak will not be very maneuverable, especially for beginners. Sea kayaks are long and narrow, built to be fast.

Shorter and wider inflatable kayaks, on the other hand, are quite maneuverable and stable. But the width will slow it down. This happens with rigid kayaks as well.

So it all comes down to what the kayak was made for. Long narrow ones will be fast, ideal for touring, but not easy to maneuver. Medium-sized ones are ideal for recreational purposes. 

Those on the smaller side are very responsive and suited for whitewater.

While on the subject…

Can Inflatable Kayaks Handle Whitewater?

You’d be surprised. Inflatable kayaks make such good whitewater boats for different reasons.

First, they are remarkably durable. They can take a lot of use and abuse as you have seen from the torture test above. You don’t have to worry about hitting rocks, branches, or anything else in the water. Those rough conditions can easily destroy a boat—but not a properly made inflatable kayak.

However, know that not every inflatable kayak is suited for whitewater. This is important to note. 

There are specific inflatable kayaks used for whitewater paddling. You wouldn’t run rapids with a hardshell recreational kayak, would you?

Kayaks made for whitewater are incredibly tough and shorter to help with maneuverability. 

They are also rated so you know where you can use them. Some are rated for up to class V rapids. Others are only good for up to class III or IV rapids.

Check out this video of whitewater kayakers having fun in inflatable kayaks.

What Safety Precautions Should You Take with Inflatable Kayaks?

Inflate your kayak properly and check for leaks: as already stated, a fully inflated kayak will be rigid and stable. Don’t underinflate or overinflate it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once you are done inflating, check for any leaks to avoid an unpleasant surprise while out in the water. Inflatable kayaks are tough but they can still get punctured. 

Always wear your life jacket: many of the deaths that occur in boating accidents are as a result of drowning. Never get on the water without a kayaking life jacket. Make it a personal rule to put on your PFD before getting on the kayak.

The weight of an inflatable kayak can be a downside: it’s a joy having a lightweight boat you can take anywhere. But sometimes that can be a disadvantage—like when the wind is too strong. It may sway your kayak, forcing you to use too much effort. So have that in mind as you choose a paddling area.

Bring snacks, drinking water, and sunscreen: this applies even when you are using a hardshell. Sunburns are not fun at all, neither is being hungry and thirsty under the hot sun.

Conclusion

Are inflatable kayaks safe? Yes, they are.

Modern inflatable kayaks are built using advanced technology and quality materials. That makes them tough and unbelievably rigid once fully inflated. They are stable and perform well in the conditions they are designed for. Just ensure that you pick a well-made inflatable kayak. Don’t forget to adhere to safety precautions. It’s for your own good.

Do you have any questions or comments about inflatable kayaks? Feel free to share them with us below. Happy kayaking!

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