Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe Or Dangerous?
Whilst they are great portable options, a common question many as is: are inflatable kayaks safe? You should consider many factors when buying an inflatable kayak, which we’ll explore today.
Unlike standard kayaks, inflatable kayaks are susceptible to various risks, like branches, rocks, uneven surfaces, and heat.
Before purchasing, we will review all the must-have features of an inflatable kayak to ensure your safety and comfort. Unfortunately, cheaper options can be more expensive in the long run!
(Related: Ultimate Guide To Kayaking With Kids).
Inflatable Kayak Safety.
Inflatable kayaks are safe to use in a wide range of water conditions. They have passed numerous safety and regulatory tests to be used as intended.
You may be surprised to learn that inflatable kayaks are not soft pool toys and can withstand harsh conditions. Accidents can still occur if you’re an inexperienced kayaker or if unforeseen equipment malfunctions arise, but this can be true for any water sport.
Inflatable kayaks have been on the market for some time but have risen in popularity since 2023 because they are safe, affordable, and easy to store. What’s not to love?
How Are Inflatable Kayaks Made?
It’s important to note the durability of your kayak. The materials and design will be entirely responsible for your safety in the water.
Historically, kayaks were made from logs, animal skins, and tree bark. The wooden frames used in kayak manufacturing years agot were a significant disadvantage to kayakers for many reasons:
- Wood is costly
- It is a porous material that is vulnerable to expansion, warping, and rot
- It requires a high level of maintenance
- Some options are unsustainable when used in extreme quantities for manufacturing.
Alternatively, a high-quality inflatable kayak will include:
- CSM/Hypalon®: An ozone-resistant synthetic rubber
- PVC (Polyvinyl chloride): A synthetic polymer plastic
- Polyurethane-coated cloth: Also known as poly-coating.
- Nitrylon: A hypalon-like fabric
These materials contain polymers that increase the tear resistance of an inflatable boat, which also allows them to:
- Endure the blunt force of sharp rocks without puncturing
- Stay resistant to UV damage
- Maintain quality and strength over time
The contemporary materials used in manufacturing inflatable kayaks benefit the consumer, the producer and, at times, the environment.
The high-performance factor of these newly-designed inflatable kayaks has also contributed to the sport’s surge in popularity in recent years. Reports show that 18.6 million people went kayaking last year in America!
(Related: Best Life Jackets For Kids).
How Long Do Inflatable Kayaks Last?
Whilst inflatable kayaks may be more affordable than traditional options, a crucial factor is how long they will last.
Traditional kayaks bounce off tree branches and rocks without any issues. Instead, inflatable kayaks are designed with multiple air chambers and multi-layer construction. You might think that a puncture would make your inflatable kayak sink, but their many chambers minimise damage and keep you afloat in the event of a puncture. But they do require some additional maintenance.
To keep your kayak functioning for years, you will need to ensure you do the following each time you use it:
- Use a pressure gauge to ensure you do not overinflate the kayak
- Clear dirt and debris out of the valves
- Keep your kayak out of the sun
- Avoid leaving your kayak on hot surfaces like asphalt
- Rinse and dry your kayak after use (before deflating)
- Deflate your kayak before storing it
- Roll or fold the deflated kayak differently each time to preserve the seams
- Store in a cool, dry place
A well-looked-after kayak should last you on your adventures for five or more years!
Are Inflatable Kayaks Stable?
The stability of a kayak is a result of its width.
- Kayaks are usually broad, especially around the midsection
- Inflatable kayaks are narrow and feature large floating pontoons, which ensure the vessel is resistant to capsizing or rolling sideways.
It’s important to inflate your kayak to its recommended pound-per-square-inch (PSI) rating.
- If you over-inflate your kayak, you risk damaging the seams and septums
- An under-inflated kayak is at risk of sinking or deflation
What If My Inflatable Kayak Is Punctured?
You might think that inflatable kayaks puncture easily, but unless you’re using them in places with sharp rocks, that’s very unlikely. Also, the good news is that a puncture won’t necessarily cause your inflatable kayak to sink.
Why is this the case?
- Modern inflatable kayaks have multiple air chambers (three or more: two installed on the sides and one on the floor).
- In the event of a puncture, that air chamber will fill. Your remaining chambers will keep you afloat until you reach the shore.
- High-end inflatable kayaks offer self-bailing drains. These holes in the seams will help to drain out water quickly.
Most kayaks come with a patch kit that will allow you to immediately patch the leak and continue your day on the water.
(Related: Can You Go On A Boat While Pregnant?)
Which Activities Are Safe For Inflatable Kayaks?
Inflatable kayaks support various activities, including recreational paddling on the lake, kayak adventure expeditions, fishing and whitewater kayaking.
There are many inflatable kayak types on the market, which vary in style and size.
- Low-capacity: These vinyl options are great for flatwater lakes, canals or bays. They also suit calm paddles on slow-moving rivers.
- 10-12 foot kayak: These longer-length kayaks are more suitable for fishing as they are more stable, offer a large cargo capacity and include an elevated seat.
- Heavy-duty: You should opt for a top-range kayak with hypalon materials if you plan to whitewater kayak. These versions are much more resilient.
Can Kids Use Inflatable Kayaks?
Kayaking is a great sport to introduce children to, allowing them to become confident on the water plus enjoy exploring nature.
The great news is you don’t have to be a professional to operate an inflatable kayak. These are suitable options for children as the base is more stable.
Remember that a child cannot steer or manoeuvre a full-size kayak. You should opt for a child’s kayak or a tandem option until they are old enough (12+ years old) to operate solo.
Safety Precautions When Using Inflatable Kayaks.
Like any water sport, you (and your kayaking buddies) must be across all the safety precautions, especially if you are exploring a new area.
Our recommendations are:
- Thoroughly inspect your kayak before setting out on the water
- Confirm that you plug all valves securely
- Avoid dragging your kayak over gravel or rocks
- Transport your inflatable watercraft using a kayak cart, or carry it with the help of your paddling partner
- Travel with your kayak repair kit
- Once assembled, take the kayak for a test paddle in shallow water
Inflatable Kayaks vs. Hardshell Kayaks.
The ultimate question! In terms of safety, both an inflatable and regular hardshell kayak are safe. You will determine the best option for you by analysing the following:
- The type of kayaking you plan to do
- Which water will you be adventuring on
- How long will your trip last
- Who will be accompanying you
A summary of the pros and cons below may help you to decide!
Inflatable Kayak Pros:
- Easy to transport
- Convenient storage
- Stable and lighter to manoeuvre
Inflatable Kayak Cons:
- Susceptible to damage and punctures
- Require set-up and pack-down time
- Must be cleaned adequately
- Challenging to steer in rough water
Hardshell Kayak Pros:
- Easy to paddle
- Resilient to hard knocks and unforeseen damage
- Comfortable for long day trips
- Zero set up required
Hardshell Kayak Cons:
- More significant and more challenging to transport
- Difficult to store
- Heavy to carry
- Not suitable for children
Conclusion About Kayak Safety.
We can confirm that inflatable kayaks are safe and durable for your adventures. They suit a range of conditions and experience levels and can be a cost-effective option if you are a beginner.
With any kayaking expedition, be sure to:
- Become comfortable with the kayak before hitting the water
- Study the water conditions and weather for your chosen day
- Have a contingency plan in the event of an accident
- Pack and prepare for all circumstances
- Carry a repair kit whilst kayaking
You can rest assured that current inflatable kayak options are high-quality and designed to meet national safety standards. All there is left to do is relax and enjoy yourself on the water!