It’s understandable if you’ve got reservations about purchasing an inflatable kayak. At the end of the day, how safe can an inflatable vessel be? Are they stable? Will they puncture easily?
There’s definitely a misconception around inflatable kayaks, and it’s easy to understand why. However, these days, inflatable kayaks are built to withstand tough conditions, whether you’re using them on flat water, rivers, or even the ocean.
Of course, they’re not suitable for every single scenario, but they generally have a strong resistance to popping and sinking and are ideal for beginners and advanced kayakers alike.
While they understandably feel less stable than your average kayak, you’ll get used to this pretty quickly, and in fact, you’ll probably be quite surprised at how stable they can feel.
Are inflatable kayaks durable?
When we talk about inflatable kayaks, we’re not talking about something like an inflatable kids toy or a beach ball.
These kayaks aren’t made of one layer of material but are actually made up of multiple layers of thick-coated materials, including vinyl and polyester, which are tough and durable. Some inflatable kayaks even utilize aluminum parts to increase structure and stability.
Whether you’re paddling through rocky waters or getting into your kayak in shallow waters, these materials are not easily punctured, and generally, you needn’t worry about damaging an inflatable kayak.
That said, it’s probably not a great idea to drag it over gravel - however, they’re still built to withstand normal wear and tear and are built to last.
Do they puncture easily?
Contrary to common belief, punctures are less common than you’d expect with well-made inflatable kayaks. As we explained above, modern inflatable kayaks utilize durable materials to ensure they have strong exteriors that can brush up against rocks and branches without running the risk of puncturing.
That’s not to say they’re 100% resistant to punctures. If you take absolutely no care of your kayak, it won’t take long to puncture, and there’s always the risk of the seams splitting or a sharp rock puncturing the material in shallow water.
While punctures are not common, they’re still something you need to be wary of, and you should always store your inflatable kayak away from sharp objects and be careful when transporting it.
It’s also a good idea to carry a small puncture repair kit or patch with you so that you can quickly repair a puncture on the off-chance that one occurs.
How stable are inflatable kayaks?
As we said, modern technology means inflatable kayaks have significantly evolved, and while they’re inevitably less stable than a traditional kayak, they’re still super stable when inflated, and even if you stand up on them they won’t collapse or fold up.
The key to maximizing your kayak’s stability is to ensure it’s fully inflated before using it, as an under-inflated kayak will be less stable and will have trouble staying afloat.
The structure in inflatable kayaks comes from its design, and most use inflatable sections that act like rods or a metal framework, and both of these methods act as rigid stabilizers in the boat that keep it straight and stable as you paddle.
When inflated, these kayaks are surprisingly rigid and often they don’t feel much different to regular, hard-hulled kayaks.
Will they sink?
Inflatable kayaks are actually incredibly buoyant, and the fact that they’re filled with air can be a benefit, as this makes it much easier for them to stay afloat, even if you capsize.
On the other hand, traditional kayaks fill with water when they capsize, and it can be a hassle to get back in. The other benefit of inflatable kayaks is that they’re super lightweight, meaning even if they do fill with water, it’s far easier to tip this out than with a hard shell kayak.
Safety Precautions for Inflatable Kayaks
Inflatable kayaks are more durable and safe today than they’ve ever been, but they’re by no means invincible.
As with all water sports, you should always take precautions when using your inflatable kayak. While they can withstand relative wear and tear, inflatable kayaks are not built for harsh conditions or rough water, and if you’re going white water rafting, you’ll require a specific type of kayak that’s been specially designed for this purpose.
If you use an inflatable kayak on a river with rapids and debris you should exercise extreme caution, and you certainly shouldn’t do this if you’re inexperienced. Conditions such as these will put not only your inflatable kayak at risk but will put you at risk, too.
Inflatable kayaks are very lightweight, and while this is one of their many benefits, it can also be a drawback too. Their lightweight nature can make them more susceptible to being swayed by currents and strong winds, which is another reason why you should avoid kayaking in harsh conditions.
Regardless of what kind of kayak you’re using, as a rule of thumb, you should never kayak alone or without telling somebody else where you are, and you should always, always wear a life jacket!
Inflatable kayaks are incredibly advanced these days, and thanks to their rigid structure and advanced materials, they’re generally extremely durable and stable.
Their inflatable nature makes them convenient and lightweight, and generally speaking, inflatable kayaks won’t puncture or capsize easily. That said, as with any kayak, you need to exercise caution when using them. They’re not completely immune to punctures, and because they’re so lightweight, they can be easily swept up by heavy winds.
If you’re using an inflatable kayak for the first time, you can rest assured that they’re designed to last, but you should still stay close to the shore and avoid any adverse conditions while you’re starting out. Plus, safety should always be your number one priority whether you’re an amateur or seasoned pro.
Always wear a life jacket, avoid harsh winds and choppy waters, and always let family members or friends know that you’re hitting the water and how long you’re expected to be gone for. This way, in the off chance that you’re gone longer than expected, they can raise the alarm.