The UK has the perfect coastal and inland waterways for exploring with an inflatable kayak. Kayaking has become an increasingly popular sport with outdoor enthusiasts for both adventure, exercise and relaxation. There is nothing quite as peaceful as gliding along the water with just the sounds of the paddle and nature to keep you company.
Kayaking has lots of benefits for both beginners as well as those who are more experienced. On top of the physical benefits such as building your core muscles, stability and coordination, you will find it a great outdoor activity to reduce stress. Being low impact, it is suitable for all ages and abilities. It can even help to reduce back pain according to a recent report by Go Paddling.
Paddling clubs are springing up all over the UK and they are a great way to connect with like-minded people or you can simply head off with friends and family or even by yourself for a perfect outdoor water experience.
The great news is that inflatable kayaks are more lightweight and easier to transport than hard shelled versions. No need for a roof rack as they fold away to the size of a backpack so you can pop it in your car boot or camper to explore your favourite stretch of water or maybe discover a new one.
As the activity has become more popular you will find that many inflatable kayaks are increasingly affordable with both entry-level and advanced styles.
Let’s take a look at the best inflatable kayaks available in the UK.
Table of Contents
Inflatable kayak reviews
Itiwit Inflatable Touring Kayak
Best for entry-level touring
From £299.99 (2 or 3 person) – View at Decathlon >
Itiwit takes its paddle sports seriously and produces kayaks exclusively for Decathlon. Its name “ITIWIT” is a contraction of “ITInerary” and “InuIT”, the inhabitants of the Arctic and Greenland, who first invented kayaking thousands of years ago. They aim to make kayaking and other paddle sports accessible to everyone.
This one is a two or three-seater that is an entry-level kayak. Suitable for complete beginners it is extra wide offering superior stability on the water for those who are more nervous. Despite its low price point it still offers comfortable seating and for this range, an impressive 10 minute inflate time.
Together with the good glide performance on the water, this kayak offers everything a beginner needs at a low-cost price.
Ideal for both recreational use and touring, the Touring kayak is both stable and reliable with side stoppers and a bow shape designed to improve the glide. The price does not include paddles or a pump.
- Entry-Level Price
- Extra wide for superior stability
- Extra Comfort
- Good Inflation time
- Bow shape for superior glide performance
View at Decathlon >
Shipwreck Arrowstream Dropstitch Kayak
A proper touring kayak at unbeatable value
From £649 – View on Shipwreck’s website >
Shipwreck is the only UK brand on this list, based in Essex. Their aim is to create a no-fuss, high-quality inflatable kayak that doesn’t cost a bomb.
This is a high-pressure dropstitch PVC kayak that is built to last. Being able to inflate the kayak to 10psi means the kayak feels stiff and rigid on the water, so when being faced with any kind of chop or wave the kayak can power on through, rather than wobble over the top.
The Shipwreck Arrowstream is most similar to the Aquamarina Tomahawk (£949) or Tahe Breeze which cost £1,119 but comes with no accessories. I can’t find another kayak on the market at this level that costs just £649, which also includes the paddle, seat, pump and carry bag.
This kayak isn’t for someone who just wants an inflatable to play on a sunny beach, it’s more of a touring kayak for anyone who wants to go on half or full-day adventures. The owner of Shipwreck, George, filmed himself paddling around the Isle of Wight, and is well worth a watch to see how the kayak performed.
The touring style design means the kayak is narrower than others on this list, which helps the boat cut through the water and glide nicely. I’m a novice kayaker but had no problems with stability and found the kayak really easy to use.
- Complete package
- Touring kayak design
- Easy to dry PVC material
- 1 year warranty
- Very well made with strong seams
- 3 separate air chambers
View on Shipwreck’s website >
Aqua Marina Laxo
Best for exploring rivers and lakes
Aqua Marina is a tried and tested brand in the paddle industry, established in 1991 and committed to providing trustworthy and reliable kayaks using innovative technology.
The Laxo is a well made and easily inflated two-person kayak that provides a rigidity comparable to hard shell models. With a strong floor, beginners will feel reassured as they step onboard. It is constructed with a heavy-duty polyester cover with PVC inner chambers making it both lightweight, durable and portable.
This model rewards kayakers with an easy ride for little effort thanks to its easy handling. This makes it great for exploring waters as it is easy to manoeuvre. One of its best features is its quick-drying properties that mean you can put it away in a faster time.
- Rigid and Durable
- Well-made wide bottom
- Easy to paddle and manoeuvre
- Mid-price and comes with a full package of paddles and pump
Sevylor Adventure Kit Inflatable Canoe
Best for stability on medium-sized bodies of water and moderate rivers
Sevylor has been around since 1949 producing inflatables for the water sport and recreation market. They have a global reputation for producing innovative trustworthy products made from PVC.
The Adventure kit is a one to two-person convertible kayak that features their signature easy inflation system. This means there are no multiple valves to battle over and makes it easy to set up for beginners.
Made from durable polyester with additional seam taping this kayak has improved strength and should remain air and watertight. You can set up the seats for one or two people but it can be hard to place the seat in the right position for one person with people complaining that the seat ends up too far back or forward.
Beginners will appreciate the high sided walls for stability and the bungee cords and spray decks to keep essentials secure.
- Converts between a one or two-person kayak.
- Weighs only 11.5kg but holds up to 165Kg.
- Inflated in under 10 minutes.
- Durable polyester cover.
- High sided walls for comfort and protection.
- Three independent chambers for extra safety.
- Convertible double paddle, pump, carry bag, manometer and fin are all included.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
A good value option for a fun day at the beach
Intex is a reliable brand with many years of experience in producing inflatables. Their kayaks have been designed with the same attention to durability and reliability that you would expect from such a well known brand.
The Explorer K2 is one of the most popular inflatable kayaks for two people. Its bright yellow design (let’s call it vibrant!) is hard to miss in the water. Inflating in just about eight minutes, you can be ready to get on the water in no time at all with very little effort.
As one of the more affordable inflatable kayaks, you might expect it to suffer in the performance stakes, but it handles well on the water with even more manoeuvrability when only one person is on board. The inflatable spray decks do a decent job of keeping the kayak from taking on water.
Although it packs down small into its own bag, some buyers recommend switching to something sturdier such as a suitcase on wheels as the bag is a little flimsy. Nevertheless, its compact size and light weight will appeal to backpackers who will be able to carry it easily.
This kayak comes with two aluminium oars and a pump making it a great purchase for beginners as a low-risk investment.
- Highly Visible in the water
- Comfortable with inflatable seats and backrests
- Lightweight and compact
- Holds two people up to a total of 180kg
- I-Beam floor for comfort and rigidity
- 2 Boston valves for easy inflation and deflation
Z Pro Tango 3 Inflatable Kayak
Best for staycations and a quality option for complete novices
From £419.99 – £450 – View on Wetsuit Outlet >
Z Pro have been producing inflatable kayaks for over 10 years and they have responded to customer feedback over the years to make tweaks and improvements in their designs.
The Tango 3 is one of the best models that Z Pro make, and it is a versatile kayak that can be modelled for between one and three people (preferably one child). This mid-range priced model has a great balance between affordability and durability with its 840-denier fabric, polyurethane coating top and 100-denier bottom. This gives it a protective layer from stones when you are tugging it out of the water.
The addition of directional fins makes it easy to manoeuvre and allows you to pick up more speed. Together with its stability, this makes the Tango 3 a standout kayak that has space to carry all your gear. One of the best features is its ability to stay fully inflated for up to three days meaning it is the perfect kayak for a short staycation, saving you time and effort of keeping it pumped up.
- Can take up to 3 adults
- Very durable with Nylon Oxford fabric, strong polyurethane coating and an extra strong bottom
- Comfortable high back seats with built in foam bolster for good back support and superior comfort.
- Carry handles at front and rear
- The V-shaped bottom floor provides extra stability even for complete novices
- Strong zips on the chambers and floor for useful easy access to the inner bladders for repair or replacement
Intex Challenger Kayak
Best budget option for beginners
Another model by Intex, the Challenger is a one-person kayak made from Intex extra strong vinyl, a high molecular PVC that is not affected by saltwater or oil. The material can hold more air pressure giving it extra rigidity that will cope with the sea as well as calmer waters. This makes it sit high in the water and makes paddling easy.
This model is a no-frills, straightforward kayak that is ideal for beginner kayakers. The underside fin will make steering a little easier for beginners and as it is easy to inflate, it makes a good convenient introduction into kayaking. It comes in a good-sized bag and is compact to transport. You can expect it to take about 20 minutes to unpack and inflate it and get on the water.
At the cheaper end of the market, it is a very affordable purchase for those just starting out.
- Extra rigid and highly resistant to damage
- Includes one aluminium oar and an efficient hand pump.
- The hard plastic fins on the underside of the kayak provide directional control to help you steer.
- It has an inflatable seat with a backrest for comfort.
- Extra features including inflatable I-beam floors, useful grab lines and a cargo net for extra storage and a repair patch.
- Takes up to 175 Kg in weight
- Budget price
Itiwit One-seater X500 Kayak
Best for all-day touring with speedy inflation and suitable up to intermediate level
From £699.99 – View on Decathlon >
Another Itiwit branded inflatable produced exclusively for Decathlon that has a great reputation.
The X500 was designed by naval architects to produce an intermediate level kayak that is capable of all-day touring. Built for a single person it only takes three minutes to inflate. It is so sturdy that once inflated it feels like a rigid kayak and it includes four inflation chambers that provide backup if one chamber fails. To be honest, this kayak is less likely to be damaged than others as its strength is enhanced with a drop-stitch giving it a stiffness that increases its durability.
Paddling is easy with this kayak. It has excellent tracking and when you have finished it packs away easily into its own backpack. It can carry up to 125 Kg including baggage.
- More like a rigid canoe.
- V-Shaped Hull for excellent glide performance
- Super fast inflation
- Comfortable seat for all-day touring
- Extra reinforcements to areas at risk from friction
Sevylor Tahiti Plus Kayak – 2 + 1
A great budget choice for the whole family
Another kayak from the longstanding Sevylor brand. This is a classic sturdy model for up to two adults and one child. Its broad design makes it easy to get into, even from a high pontoon. What makes the Tahiti plus stand out is the unique way it folds into its own backpack making it very portable.
Users often feel the need for an additional fin to help with tracking and this must be bought separately. However, the inflation system is easy to use with an integrated pressure gauge for accuracy and the seats are adjustable and can be removed for maximum versatility.
The Tahiti plus has been constructed with a durable PVC hull, two PVC side chambers, floor chamber with i-beam construction for high stability and extra safety on the water.
- Broad shape for extra stability on the water
- Integrated spray deck at bow and stern
- Unique backpack system for portability
- Comfortable inflatable seats
- Integral pressure gauge for easy inflation
- Durable PVC material with i-beam construction
- Entry-level Price
Best for more advanced kayaking on rough waters
From £1099 – View on Decathlon >
TAHE is a collaboration between BIC sport and Tahe outdoors, both famous for their years of dedication to water sports. Bringing together their manufacturing expertise with their understanding of the recreation market has led to high-performance crafts designed to improve kayakers’ experiences on the water.
You do get what you pay for in terms of durability as the Breeze is a top of the range kayak with three high-pressure chambers constructed from sturdy drop stitch material. It has preformed nose and tail sections that create a rigid kayak available for one, two or three people and can carry a load up to 250 Kg.
If you are prepared to spend more money than on other models you will benefit from the superior level of glide and superior rigidity that means this model is built to cope with both flat and rough waters. An investment kayak for those people or families who want to upgrade from an entry-level model and make kayaking a regular hobby but don’t forget that on top of the hefty asking price you will also need to buy paddles and a pump.
- Superior construction with drop-stitch material and three high-pressure chambers
- Preformed nose and tail sections for extra rigidity
- Suitable for one, two or three people
- Can cope with rougher water
- Top Priced model
You might also like to read our reviews of the best inflatable paddle boards.
Inflatable kayak Buyers Guide
If you have decided that exploring the big outdoors is the right hobby for you but want the portability and convenience of an inflatable kayak, then you will want to know more about how to choose the right one. You can check out independent reviews online, buyers guides as well as manufacturer descriptions to help you decide.
What to consider when buying an inflatable kayak?
There are a few things to think about before making your purchase. Inflatable kayaks vary enormously in quality with different designs that suit different purposes. Whether you are wanting to tour, fish, go on short paddles or explore on more adventurous trips, you will need the right kayak for the job.
What you will be doing?
The first thing to consider is what you will be doing with your kayak. Short recreational paddles near to the shore of a lake, touring down a river or an adventure on the sea. You will require a specially designed kayak to cope with waves or white waters. If you plan on taking your kayak away for trips, then you might want to look out for a model that does not need reinflating very often.
If stability is important to you then you should consider one of the wider versions of inflatable kayak. They are all built to be stable but broader bottoms will make you feel more secure especially if you have difficulty getting in and out.
Take a look at the inflation time. There is a big variety, between 3 and 20 minutes to inflate a kayak. The majority of inflatable kayaks only hold 3 or 4 PSI of air pressure, so they are much easier to inflate than an inflatable paddle board that holds up to 15 PSI of air. You also need to read reviews that talk about how long a kayak takes to deflate, dry and put away.
This is the key to the quality of an inflatable kayak. Most are built from either PVC, Pennel Orca or Nitrylon.
PVC is the most common material used on inflatables as it is the cheapest material yet is known for being durable. It can be patched easily and is often used as a coating on other materials. It is not resistant to UV rays or chemicals so you will need to protect the surface.
Pennel Orca is a synthetic rubber material that is resistant to abrasions, UV rays and chemicals. It can be used as an exterior coating on a kayak. It will cost more but the kayak will be suitable for more extreme use and have a longer warranty.
Nitrylon is a material made of layers of nitrile synthetic rubber and natural rubber over polyester fabric. It is more environmentally friendly than PVC and is stronger than PVC but weighs more.
Quality of Manufacture
Look out for kayaks that have been constructed with drop stitch technology to allow for increased inflation to provide a rigid kayak. A woven drop stitch is preferable as it reduces the weight of the product while increasing its strength.
The thickness of the material and the different coatings will offer varying levels of protection. This is particularly important if you are likely to be dragging your inflatable across a stony surface or taking on more rugged waterways.
Weight and Size
Inflatable kayaks are built to hold between one and three people but you really need to check the total weight capacity to see if it will accommodate your needs. There is quite a big difference between models with some holding up to 250Kg while others only holding 125Kg. You may prefer models that have removable seats to provide versatility.
You also need to consider the weight of your kayak. The lightest ones are around 6 to 8 Kg but most weigh between 13 and 18Kg. Light kayaks are great to carry backpacking, but they will be more susceptible to being blown by the wind. If you intend to transport it in a vehicle then you may be able to cope with a heavier model although it might take two people to carry it safely to the water.
Since inflatables are susceptible to punctures you want to look for brands that offer good guarantees as this suggests that they have faith in the construction.
Manufacturer guarantees vary enormously from a limited 60 day guarantee on the Intex K2 Challenger Kayak to companies like Sevylor who offer a 12 month guarantee.
The more you are prepared to spend the better you want the guarantee to be to ensure that your investment is safe.
Prices of inflatable kayaks range between £150 to over £600. Obviously, your budget will be determined by how much you can afford but also think about how often you intend to use your kayak. You may be prepared to spend more on a serious hobby compared to something that is only for light occasional use.
How much should I spend on an inflatable kayak?
Prices vary and that usually relates to the robustness and quality of an inflatable kayak. Unless you have won the lottery you only need to spend the appropriate amount for your needs.
Light recreational use: £150 – £300
Heavy recreational use: £300 – £600
Best quality: £600+
Do you need a license for an inflatable kayak?
If you are kayaking on waterways in England or Wales it is best to get a waterway licence. Although some waters do not require a licence, if you are planning to travel about you will appreciate knowing that you are always covered.
The licence is not expensive, and the money goes towards the upkeep of the waterways to keep them safe by improving access points and taking care of the environment. You can get a licence from British Canoeing UK for £45 per year that will also include civil liability insurance or go direct to the Environment Agency.
Are inflatable kayaks safe?
Inflatable kayaks are generally very safe. They are usually built with three chambers to help you get back to shore if you get a puncture. Although they are pretty stable you should always wear a lifejacket and use your common sense regarding winds, weather conditions and tides. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat in the summer months.
Many people take their dogs kayaking and there is something rather lovely about sharing a relaxing time with your pooch. Remember to make sure they are wearing their own buoyancy aid as if they fall or jump in the water it can be impossible to get them back aboard without a handle to grab.
It’s a good idea to take your mobile phone with you when out on the water and let someone know where you are going in case of an emergency.
The disadvantages of an inflatable kayak
Generally, you will find that an inflatable kayak is the best idea if you want to go kayaking as they are portable, lightweight and easily stored but what are the main cons compared to a solid hard shell kayak:
- More affected by strong winds, the current flow, and weather conditions.
- Takes time to inflate, either manually with a foot pump or an electric pump.
- Takes time to dry to avoid mould growing in the folds when packed away.
- Restricted leg room especially when more than one person is aboard.
- Oars may require assembly each time.
Do inflatable kayaks flip easily?
No, most inflatable kayaks do not flip easily. Most are very stable and take a lot of effort to tip over.
Kayaks are normally quite wide and therefore very stable ranging from 71cm to 101cm wide. Narrower models will be less stable but travel faster in the water. Choose a wider kayak for more stability.
About the author
Watersports Pro is managed by Ollie, who has been in the industry since 2007. A paddleboard and advanced windsurfing instructor, Ollie has travelled the world teaching these sports.
Now based on the South Coast of England, he shares his experience and knowledge on watersportspro.co.uk.