The first boat should be as smooth as you hoped. There’s a lot to think about, beginning with the simplest basic & crucial decision: inflatable vs hard kayak. Back in the day when hard-shell kayaks dominated the market that couldn’t have been a point of discussion. But, now times have changed!
You’ll need to carefully consider your alternatives if you’re buying a kayak for the first time because today’s inflatables are just as remarkable and provide some fantastic benefits. Here is a complete guide for you to decide which kayak you should choose Inflatable kayak vs hard one.
Everything You Need to Know About Inflatable Kayaks
Inflatable Kayak Pros and Cons
Materials used to construct kayaks range widely. Plastic polymer and synthetic rubber are used to make the greatest inflatable kayaks on the market. There are two techniques to put together an inflatable kayak.
It is created in part by inserting air-filled tubes similar to those found in bicycle tires. The alternative, which resembles a tubeless tire, employs airtight material that is directly pumped with air.
It offers strength as well as the capacity to float on water. The weight of these kayaks is significantly less. They weigh about 25 pounds in total. In order to keep the kayak floating on the water, it is inflated with air.
Given that an inflatable kayak utilizes air to become inflated, it can support more weight. An inflatable kayak may weigh around 25 pounds by itself, but its threshold weight, or the most weight it can carry in water, may be as much as 500 pounds.
This lighter kayak gives its name another advantage by allowing one person to use it on the water. As opposed to heavy-material Kayaks, which often require 2 to 3 persons to transport them onto the water.
It also offers a suitable level of durability and is reasonably priced. Beginners who couldn’t buy the pricey ones have gotten to know it well. An inflatable kayak’s ability to be moved with ease is one of its key benefits. It may be simply taken anywhere once deflated.
Safety is one of the key concerns for individuals who utilize water. Although the material used to build an inflatable kayak is trustworthy, it is not as trustworthy in choppy waves as other hard material boats like Hardshell kayaks.
The inability of inflatable kayaks to turn as well as regular kayaks is another drawback. A major drawback of inflatable kayaks is that they wear out more quickly than harder-shell kayaks, which have a longer lifespan. Additionally, it might be challenging to get all the punctures revived, making repairs tough. On top of that, there is always a chance that an inflatable Kayak that has been fixed may get punctured once again.
Hard Shell Kayak
Isn’t that a hard-shell sit-inside, perhaps with a more classic appearance?
That makes sense because hard-shell kayaks have long been the industry standard. These kayaks are made of stiff materials like plastic, fiberglass, and wood.
Yes, they will be heavier and more expensive than inflatable versions; this is due to the stiff frame. In addition, they offer unmatched endurance, greater control, and a greater capacity to handle severe waves.
Hard shells are quite versatile in terms of form and intended usage, ranging from sit-on-top boats for leisure purposes to ocean-friendly sit-inside variants and whitewater kayaks. You’ll undoubtedly enjoy that as an experienced paddler in addition to the increased strength, durability, and control.
Hard-shell kayaks are thought to be somewhat safer. Because of their tough construction, they can withstand strong currents & rocky water.
It is preferable to utilize a hard-shell kayak whenever feasible since safety is thought to be of the highest importance. Because one must avoid suddenly erupting water currents and sharp rocks, rough waters also call for increased mobility.
A hard-shell kayak has a longer lifespan than an inflatable kayak, making it a wise long-term investment. Although it is a bit expensive, it offers the benefit of long-term use.
A hard-shell kayak has a lot of drawbacks as well. Most significantly, a hard shell kayak consumes more room and isn’t collapsible, making it difficult to transport from one location to another. Traveling to crowded areas, such as forests and lakes, is made more difficult.
Hard shell kayaks have the additional drawback of being more expensive than inflatable kayaks, which means more investment is needed.
It takes several persons to transport it to the water. Therefore, it is less interesting to singles. Another problem is how to store hard-shell kayaks. It may be quite difficult for those who go to enjoy lakes to keep their belongings secure when staying in motels. Finally, it can carry less weight in water than inflatable kayaks. The capacity to convey additional passengers has thus been decreased.
12 Differences Between Inflatable Kayak Vs Hardshell
The advancement of inflatables has allowed them to compete well with their hard-shell equivalents.
I’m not denying that the two have certain distinctions. If you alter the structure, everything else will alter as well—at least to some extent.
So let’s go through the 12 main distinctions between hard shells and inflatables in the next paragraphs!
1. Water Conditions, Use, and Purpose
Inflatable kayaks are appropriate for novices, which is the solution to your question: The natural buoyancy of air-filled chambers, light construction, enhanced stability provided by larger beams, and more affordable price tags make them suited for novice paddlers.
However, if you choose the correct one, hard-shell kayaks may be just as beginner-friendly.
Here’s something else to think about: Hard-shell kayaks are more adaptable than air-filled kayaks since there are fewer restrictions on the uses and aquatic habitats that they may be used in.
Class IV inflatables that can navigate ocean waves or whitewater rapids are harder to come by, and even when you do, they’ll be expensive.
2. Build & Materials
When it comes to the building materials used to manufacture hard-shell kayaks, the possibilities are nearly endless: thermoform ABS, polyethylene, carbon fiber, fiberglass, wood, and Kevlar.
Each offers a few extra benefits, too.
In contrast, inflatable kayaks are composed of Hypalon, PVC, and nylon. Compared to hard shells, that doesn’t seem all that amazing, do you think?
The inflatable kayak vs. hardshell kayak dispute has, however, reached a new level thanks to the introduction of a new class of high-quality inflatable kayaks to the market. The drop stitch technique used in upright paddle boards is also available in these hard-shell inflatable kayaks, enabling them to be filled to high pressures.
Inflatable kayaks are now actual rigid kayaks, competing favorably with their hardshell kayak counterparts rather than being pricey pool toys.
3. Weight: How Heavy Are They?
The weight of a kayak is directly influenced by the material used in its construction; this is true of both hard-shell and inflatable kayaks.
Again, weight differences between hard-shell kayaks will depend on the material, size, and kind of kayak. Additionally, not every inflatable kayak will be feather-light.
They’ll nearly always weigh more than a typical inflatable, frequently by at least 10 to 20 lbs:
A recreational hard-shell kayak typically weighs approximately 40 pounds, but an inflatable kayak typically weighs 25 to 30 pounds.
Undoubtedly, an inflatable kayak’s capacity differs significantly from a rigid kayak’s. However, inflatable kayaks do often have a modest advantage in this situation.
How much weight can an inflatable kayak hold? Well, while being lighter, they can frequently hold up to 500 pounds, which is more than the 300 pounds that a similar hard-shell kayak can typically support.
Inflatable kayaks offer the advantage in terms of capacity, which is why someone seeking a two-person boat would commonly select an inflatable tandem kayak.
The biggest weight capacity of the group will be found in fishing kayaks, both hard-shell and inflatable. It makes sense considering all the fishing equipment, accessories, and other items they are intended to tote.
Inflatable angling boats are a great high-capacity option for anyone on a tight budget, who have limited capacity, or who have restricted transportation capacity.
5. Performance: Speed and Maneuvrability
There will be some getting used to when you convert from a hard shell to an inflatable kayak, though I wouldn’t say they are difficult to paddle. They handle differently and frequently seem slow and challenging to maneuver since they are broader, lighter, and handle differently.
If you’re wondering, hard-shell kayaks are the best when it comes to performance on the water:
Hard-shell lies lower in the water, is heavier so it is less likely to be blown around even in poor weather, is narrower, and is made to cut through the ocean.
Simply said, hard-shell kayaks are designed for speed, maneuverability, tracking, and performance.
6. Onboard Comfort and Seating
More than anything else, comfort depends on personal choice. Giving one the advantage when it comes to this area wouldn’t be fair.
But there is one thing that everyone can agree on: staying on a hard surface for a long time may be difficult on your back. If you already suffer from a medical issue, the pain may be unbearable.
Because of this, it’s critical to select your kayak seat carefully, especially if you decide to go with a hard-shell kayak.
Although inflatable kayaks’ soft, air-filled bottoms appear more pleasant in contrast, inflated seats should be avoided. They won’t offer much, if any, back support.
7. Transport and Storage
There should be no question about this: In addition to weighing less, an inflatable kayak is simple to fold, fit in a duffel bag, and carry wherever you go. It embodies what a transportable, space-saving kayak should be.
However, a typical hard-shell will need a kayak trailer, and also at the absolute least, a roof rack, or a designated kayak storage area.
It’s difficult to argue against inflatable kayaks’ storage and transportation advantages over rigid, hard-shell kayaks.
Recommended reading: How to Store a Kayak
Your odds of capsizing in a hard-shell kayak have undoubtedly been thoroughly discussed. However, are inflatable kayaks also easily tippable?
The solution is right here, as inflatables often have a broader beam:
An inflatable kayak is more difficult to tip over because it has a broader beam, which often translates into greater on-the-water stability. This stability is increased by the many air-filled chambers.
Hard-shell kayaks can’t be claimed to have such a feature.
Overall, inflatable kayaks are frequently simpler to paddle for beginners than hard-shell kayaks, even though they have additional advantages in terms of on-the-water performance.
In terms of cost, I’d suggest inflatable kayaks are superior because they are frequently less expensive:
You’ll need to spend several thousand dollars on a top-notch hard shell. A heavy-duty, rigid-frame boat will likely cost more than an inflatable of comparable quality, even if it won’t be inexpensive.
But are inflatable kayaks worthwhile investments? The adage “you get what you spend for” is true to some extent. But regardless of whether the kayak is inflatable or not, it is typically the case.
But overall, inflated boats would be a lot better choice if you cannot afford to spend the money on a hard shell – pardon the horrible pun. At least, good ones.
Your dependable kayak will need some regular upkeep and care after usage, regardless of whether it is an inflatable or hardshell kayak.
Inflatables need to be fully cleaned, completely drained, and allowed to dry before being stored. A horrible mold & mildew development is inevitable if not.
Additionally, an inflatable kayak shouldn’t be left inflated. That can cause the seams undue stress and perhaps harm the valves.
Hard shells require some attention as well, such as routine waxing or a brief washing after kayaking in salt water. Your kayak could occasionally even require a fresh coat of paint.
11. Water Security
When you are on the water, Safety should always come first whether you’re kayaking solo or with a partner.
Due to the multi-chamber manufacturing process, an inflatable kayak floats higher than a rigid kayak. An inflatable boat is unsinkable even when submerged in water due to the air in its tubes.
Hardshell kayaks may be susceptible to sinking.
Only attempt to navigate difficult waves in kayaks designed specifically for the task. This is accurate for both rigid and inflatable kayaks. Inflatable kayaks that are rated for class 3–4 rapids have a durable construction that prevents them from being pierced by rocks and branches as well as tearing. An inflatable kayak just bounces off of a rock if it does so.
Hardshell kayaks designed for rapids are also secure.
Despite being inflexible when completely inflated, inflatable kayaks are significantly more forgiving than hardshell boats when it comes to hitting a person on the head.
12. A Comparison of Setup Times
Inflatable kayaks offer several advantages, like being portable and simple to store, but it also means that you must inflate them before using them and dry & deflate them afterward.
What is the setup time for an inflatable kayak? the good air pump will take 5-10 mins to set up.
The setup procedure is significantly simplified by them. It takes less time to stow the kayak away when using a superior pump since it can even remove the last drop of air while deflating.
Hardshell kayak setup takes significantly less time. It is removed from the roof rack and thrown into the water. But you’ll need to spend additional time to secure it to the roof rack because you have to be certain it is steady. Additionally, putting it onto the top could require assistance.
Q1. How Can I Fix An Inflatable Kayak?
Make repairs with a kit made for PVC or Hypalon inflatables. A repair kit for filling up tiny rips or dents is typically included with inflatable kayaks. In general, put adhesive sealant over the crack or hole, cover it with patching material, and allow it to cure.
Q2. How can a solid hardshell kayak be fixed?
The material the kayak is constructed of is basically what determines the answer. The most typical & challenging type of kayak is made of HDPE. To weld the crack closed, additional material must be melted into it.
Q3. How Can I Find an Inflatable Kayak Leak?
The simplest technique to locate a leak in a kayak is to inflate it, hold it underwater, and then search for areas where the air is seeping out. When a kayak is inflated on land and then placed in cold water, it will seem to lose air as it cools. Even when the air pressure in the kayak hasn’t changed, variations in water and air temperature might give the impression that it has throughout the course of the day.
Q4. Should you invest in an inflatable kayak?
If you wish to paddle but find it difficult to store or carry a hard shell kayak, inflatable kayaks are the solution. These kayaks operate well in the majority of situations thanks to modern building methods, which make them a dependable and lasting solution. In our opinion, inflatable kayaks are well worth the investment!
Q5. Are inflatable kayaks a decent choice for novices?
For novices, inflatable boats are a great pick. These kayaks are stiff when properly inflated, making for a solid craft that is very challenging to capsize—even when you try! They are therefore perfect for helping novices learn the fundamentals of paddling and gain confidence in a kayak.
Conclusion for Inflatable Kayak Vs Hard Shell Kayak
In overall, inflatable kayaks beat hardshell kayaks in terms of portability, ease of maintenance, & storage. Now, they are composed of stronger, more resilient materials that increase their safety compared to previous kayaks. It has one disadvantage is that they must be inflated & deflated every time before being used.
So, It depends on the individual’s personal choice that which kayak style he wants. because both inflatable and hard shell kayak has their own pros and cons. Both kayaks give you a joyful and comfortable experience according to different water conditions. In other words, one’s personal preference will determine which type of kayak they prefer—inflatable or hardshell.
- An inflatable boat from this list might be a better option for you if you’re a novice or intermediate kayaker who will be kayaking in calm seas or class I to II rapids.
- If you want to take your kayak trekking or camping, portability is a key consideration.
- Hardshell kayak models give superior control if you’re an experienced paddler venturing onto choppy waters.
- Just keep in mind that you’ll need storage space or a means of transportation if you choose a hardshell type.
No matter what, they both share the same quality: they are both incredibly safe when used correctly and an enjoyable experience.
Meet Bian, a passionate watersports enthusiast and founder of kayakwave.com
Brian has written guides extensively about kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, sharing surfing tips, techniques, and personal experiences with readers. Brian has also contributed to many publications and websites, sharing his expertise and love of the water with others.