two kayakers

How to choose an inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayaks are one of the easiest ways to get afloat this summer, and they’re not just for beginners, which is why they've been flying off the shelves this year. (If you need anymore convincing, have a read of our why buy an inflatable kayak blog.)

However, with so many great options available right now, we appreciate it may not be straightforward choice. Luckily for you, we’ve broken down your options below to help you find your perfect kayak.

First let's take a look at the brands:

Aquaglide

Aquaglide have been in the industry for a good 30 years, and, alongside inflatable kayaks, half of their brand is commercial aquaparks. This may just seem like a fun little nugget of information, but it also means these guys really know how to build a strong product, as an aquapark will cope with thousands of people a day, around a hundred thousand a year, and easily hitting one million over the product lifetime. So if you’re looking for a high-quality, durable kayak, you’re in the right place.

The entire Aquaglide line has been completely redesigned for 2020, with the same drive for quality pushing them to add more features and use even better materials, resulting in an exceptional line of inflatable kayaks that more than stand up to their hardshell counterparts.

Z-Pro

The Z-Pro Tango is the most reviewed and talked about kayak on the market and has been mostly unchanged for 10 years – why fix what isn’t broken? It’s extremely popular and affordable, but the quality is up there with that of the Aquaglide Chinook.

The Tango 200 is the only boat offering a colour choice, and the Tango 300 is the only full 3-person adult boat available on the market.

Which kayak is right for me?

The Lunch Hour Paddler

For just getting on the water and having fun, we recommend either the Aquaglide Chinook or the Z-Pro Tango. Both are perfect for a leisurely weekend with a few hours of paddling at a time. Though they’re not the quickest through the water, these boats are both super sturdy and stable, making them perfect for families.

The key downside is that the outer skin makes them a little heavier and quite slow to dry, and the regular pressure (as opposed to high pressure) makes them a little slower through the water.

The Afternoon Adventurer

For the more serious paddlers, the Aquaglide Deschutes or the Z-Pro Flash will be right up your street (or river). They’re both high pressure boats, meaning they’re a little sleaker, very rigid, and travel more smoothly through the water.

They’re better suited to shorter trips still, as neither have a cover, so if there’s any rain or splashing, you’re getting wet. These options also both have no skin, just a tough single Duratex bladder, much a like a RIB.

The key downside to these higher pressure boats is that the thicker material does add a bit of weight. However, the Deschutes is made lighter by not having a floor bladder – it relies on tension from inflatable supports between the seats. This in fact works really well, so you’re not losing anything from not having the floor bladder here.

The Day Tripper

The Aquaglide Navarro and Chelan are your touring or sporting options, for much more serious paddlers who’ll be spending a lot of time in the boat. Both of these can be enclosed and have high pressure floors. In general, they’re your most efficient paddlers, with the most luxury fittings.

Of course, this means that they’re the more expensive options on the market, but you get what you pay for, and you’d be hard pressed to find a reason why these aren’t superior to a solid kayak.

Shop all inflatable kayaks here.

Tips for inflation

To make sure you get the most out of your new kayak, here’s our tips for inflation.

  1. Throw the pressure gauge away. At this low pressure they are rarely any use and will usually cause more damage than solutions.
  2. When inflating, never use a compressor, the best pump is a hand pump as it gives you full control.
  3. Inflate the left and right bladders to 75% pressure, then the floor to 75%. Ideally, walk up and down the floor to force it back into its natural shape – this is necessary due to the boats being folded up in the box perhaps for up to nine months. Next, pump the sides to 100%, then the floor to 100% and in 99% of cases you’ll be good to go.
  4. Don’t be shocked if the kayak doesn’t look quite right on your kitchen floor. It will look right when it’s weighted in the water, on land it will be lop-sided and finding imaginary failures will be easy.
  5. Do not leave your kayak in the sun inflated, even for five minutes, as one degree change in the air temperature can increase the bladders by 1 PSI. If you stop for lunch and are leaving your kayak on the beach, let a little air out of all the bladders. Over-inflation is the biggest cause of leaks in new bladders and this is NOT a warranty replacement, and very easy to spot, so it’s worth being careful.

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If you need any other tips or help choosing your next kayak, feel free to give our friendly and knowledgeable customer service team a call.

Published on 16th July 2020 in Kayaking

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