This post may contain affiliate links so we may receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to below. As an Amazon Associate, I can earn from qualifying purchases. Read our disclosure for more information.
Are you a kayak enthusiast? And planning to buy a kayak but suddenly became confused? Whether to get an inflatable kayak or a hardshell one? Don’t be panic. We got all the answers to your questions. We will provide you a real piece of information. (Oh, yes, take a breath of relief). Well, there is a long list of kayak available in the market. But the following are the most common:
- Inflatable kayak
- Hardshell kayak
The joy of riding in the river/lake with either inflatable or hardshell kayak is electrifying. Do you love watching people paddling with their kayaks? However, inflatable vs. hardshell kayak is a hot topic amongst the beginners as well as experts. Don’t worry, we will thoroughly guide you with the pros and cons of both of them. Kayaking gives you a chance to look at the beautiful scenery, and it’s a fun and lovely hobby. Let’s start paddling into hardshell vs. inflatable kayak. Excited? Let’s dive in.
What is an inflatable kayak?
Inflatable kayaks are what exactly you think-kayaks that are deflated and inflated according to your requirement. They have progressively become super popular over the recent decade. Significantly, innovation in technology has allowed them to become increasingly similar to hardshell kayak in performance expression. Check out our guide about the best inflatable kayaks available on the markets reviewed with a full details.
What is a hardshell kayak?
Hardshell kayaks are also called as a rigid kayak. They are the traditional type of kayak. Hardshell kayaks are the best option for you if you don’t find time to inflate and deflate the kayak. Moreover, a hardshell kayak is made up of rigid material such as plastic, fiberglass, wood, or composite material. Each type of these materials has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon the uses.
Inflatable Kayak vs. Hardshell Kayak? Which one is best for you?
Inflatable kayaks are lighter in weight than hardshell kayaks. You can easily carry the inflatable kayaks because they are not too heavy. But don’t be confused about the thinking that because they are lightweight, they are weaker. Besides, an inflatable kayak can have a higher weight threshold than other traditional kayaks.
But hardshell kayaks are heavier. Some rigid kayaks are even more massive than other hardshell kayaks depending upon the material of construction. Sometimes, they are two to three times heavier than the inflatable ones. Additionally, the lightest amongst the rigid kayaks are the composite hardshell kayaks. Although they are still more decadent than the heaviest inflatable kayaks. Yet, the composite kayak is more comfortable to carry. You can load and unload it from the roof rack with anyone’s help. Moreover, the heaviest kayak is the tandem kayak. But you can carry a tandem kayak with a cart only.
If we talk about the weight-bearing capacity of the kayaks, the inflatable kayak is the winner here. The inflatable kayaks contain a high weight threshold. This means that it can withstand more weight inside the boat. Unlike, a hardshell kayak has a less weight threshold. Although inflatable kayak weighs around 25 pounds, some can handle up to 500 pounds in weight. You can load more items on your boats, such as fishing gear, hiking gear, safety equipment, and accessories being a kayaker.
The hardshell kayaks are estimated 9 feet or larger in size. This is an acceptable reason you will need a roof rack on your automobile to transport it to the beach. However, inflatable kayaks can be folded to a duffel bag’s size that can fit your car’s trunk. In fact, inflatable kayaks are much lighter and smaller in size than the rigid kayak. They are easy to carry and store.
Additionally, the hardshell kayak is not light, and it can be burdensome to transport. Your hardshell kayaks have lower weight capacity, so that it would seem that there are not many benefits to this variety in terms of size. However, inflatable kayaks are just as they feel. You inflate them whenever you need to use them and deflate them when to store them. Hence, inflatable kayak reviews depict that they are super easy to take on vacation or hiking without upsetting about where you’re going to place them.
Hardshell kayaks are heavy in weight, usually weighing at around 55 pounds. Whereas inflatable kayaks are about 25 pounds. You must be wondering, why is this difference? This is the difference in the construction material of both kayaks.
Hardshell kayaks are made from different materials such as polyethylene, wood, fiberglass, and composite. They are rigid and stiff. The material of construction plays a vital role in its weight, durability, and price. For instance, polyethylene kayaks are the least expensive but much durable. However, polyethylene is heavyweight and can be broken through the sun’s rays.
Besides, inflatable kayaks construct with material like polyurethane, nitroylon, Hypalon, and PVC. Also, their damaged parts are quickly repaired. PVCs are simply broken by the exposure of UV rays. But polyurethane and Hypalon inflatable kayaks are highly durable but also very costly.
The inflatable kayak costs just as much, but not more than a rigid kayak. The technology that goes into the stitching the material is complicated and assures that your inflatable is as durable as possible. But what’s about the cost of both? Let’s say it.
For the cost, inflatable kayaks are cheaper. You can find those high-grade materials like polyurethane, which are resistant to rupture. These kayaks with high-quality material cost not only high but also are durable and dependable.
Besides, hardshell kayaks are expensive. Rigid kayaks can cost you higher due to their building materials like wood and fiberglass. Whereas, you will spend more on the maintenance of wooden hard shell kayaks.
Setting up an inflatable kayak is easier. You will just fold the inflatable into your vehicle and set out for the river. But on reaching the water, you will gather it with air before putting it in the water. However, it generally takes about 5 to 10 minutes to set up. The only disadvantage is that most people are not comfortable with inflating the inflatable kayak. On the other hand, it takes some effort and time to load the hard shell kayak to your roof rack. But on getting to the water, you will just take it down from your frame and start paddling.
The durability of the hard shell kayak varies with its building material. Some hardshell kayaks can last for a lifetime, even with small or no maintenance. Besides, each hardshell kayaks are reasonably durable, but you may require more cost or maintenance to get secured if it breakdowns. Fiberglass is the most durable and highly recommended for you.
Whereas inflatable kayaks may look less durable, but they are designed to endure bumps in the water. They can resist hard surfaces such as rocks. Additionally, some inflatables can resist leakage and rupture, which make them durable too. Basically, you will get on their price. You can find a rigid inflatable kayak if you are willing to pay a fair amount of money. Otherwise, you should keep it away from rocks.
Transportation and Portability:
An inflatable kayak is much easier to move around the places compared to a hardshell kayak. You won’t require a roof rack when transporting your inflatable kayak. Another advantage of inflatable kayaks is it can be deflated and stored in a little room similar to an air mattress. Besides, portability benefits because it takes only one person to carry an inflatable kayak into the water. On the comparison, a hardshell kayak typically takes two to three-person to move and lift.
Interesting fact, when traveling on the road, toss your inflatable boats in the trunk of your vehicle or lay it on the backseat. After coming back to your home/ on vacation, you can easily store kayak in a closet. However, simple storage and easy portability make it suitable to own an inflatable kayak.
Well, you will find both pros and cons regarding the performance of inflatables and rigid kayaks. For example, hard shell kayak is fast and easy to move. Additionally, they can resist harsh winds in water. If you are planning for an ocean ride, then hardshell kayak should be your ultimate choice. Although inflatable kayaks are stable and do not upset readily. Yet being lightweight, inflatable kayaks are difficult to control.
You may not feel good about the hard surface of the hardshell kayak while you are sitting on it. Such feelings of uneasiness will decrease your paddling time, making you go for rest sooner. On the contrast, inflatable’s surface feels exceptionally soft and cozy while sitting. Moreover, some inflatable kayaks come with a back seat that you can rest on the back while traveling.
In terms of maintenance, hardshell kayaks do not require much maintenance. If you have a wooden kayak, you will need to keep it away from rodents and insects. For an inflatable kayak, you should take care to protect it from punctures. Moreover, try to dry your inflatable kayak before storage.
When discussing reliability in hardshell vs. inflatable kayak, then anything tough wins. As hardshell kayak is not quickly broken so, they are safe in the rock area. However, some of your best inflatables are from rigid materials, yet they get ruptured. You should be mindful of the site you’re launching it into the water. If your river covers with sharp rocks, it may break your inflatable kayak.
Your top priority should be your safety when you’re enjoying kayak on the water. Whether you have a family member in your boat or a friend riding alongside, you must be safe enough. Most importantly, when you are enjoying the water with other vessels, you must know the boating rules. Especially if you are a beginner kayaker.
When it comes to your security, the type of kayak you use to be durable enough to resist the water you’re navigating. If you are riding in a rough area, hardshell kayaks should be preferred for safety.
If you are wondering either inflatable kayaks are safe or not?
They are! As long as you are in a manageable condition. That’s why it’s essential to check the manual if the inflatable kayak model you are purchasing is recommended for rough waters. Besides, if you do a lot of kayaking in the river rapids, this can influence your kayak purchase.
Inflatable kayaks are tough to control, which is usually why hardshell kayaks are better for rough areas. As technology gets better, and many types of inflatable kayaks work well in waterfalls. Therefore, a hard shell kayak is worth considering if you will be open sea for kayaking. Besides, a hardshell kayak works excellent in some extreme kayaking that includes better maneuverability.
Pros and Cons of Inflatable Kayak
|Easier to carry|
|Durability and strength|
|Inflating and deflating|
Pros and Cons of Hardshell KayakInflatable vs. Hardshell kayak: Which One Is The Best For You?
|Ready to go|
|Heavier in weight|
|Difficulty in transportation|
Kayaking is fun whether you are using a paddle or fishing around the lake. The type of kayak you purchase will depend on your storage, the size you need, your budget, and experience. We have provided you a complete guide on every aspect of the inflatable vs. hardshell kayaks—both of them pretty good and fun to use. But your choice solely depends on your requirement. You may think hardshell kayak is right, but it’s heavy to manage in your vehicle. Then you may think, what about the inflatable kayak? You will have to inflate and deflate occasionally. Right? Although an inexperienced kayaker feels that you need a hardshell boat to ride around the rocks, expert kayakers know that inflatable kayak is built to bounce off rocks when they hit them. Needless to say, inflatable and hardshell kayaks have their pros and cons. We have provided you an honest review of each of them.
Wishing you happy paddling in river water with your incredible kayak! (either inflatable or hardshell, you decide)