Top picks for inflatable kayaks, and the foldable one as well

Kayaking on a lake with your furry buddy is a therapy in itself. The only drawback is that renting kayaks can be an expensive affair, and in this regard, the best solution is to buy your own kayak. It is economical and comfortable, as opposed to hiring a cheap one with compromised stability and maneuverability. Priced at around $100 per day on an average, renting kayaks gets worse if you use them for say, five to ten days. The good news is that if you buy kayaks during the end-of-year shopping holidays, such as Prime Day or Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you can get greal deals, which means a considerable cost saving.

Although summer is about to part ways, the autumn season is the perfect time to shop for kayaks. In most places, you can still access rivers and lakes, and the discounts are significant. Moreover, if you live in a place with warm weather throughout the year, kayaking becomes an all-year-round fun activity.

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There are two types of kayaks available in the market— inflatable kayaks and hard kayaks. The main differences between the two are the weight, size, storage, stability, and speed.

A hard kayak requires a roof rack for transport; it needs two people, a few skills to transport it from the car to the water, and enough muscle power (or a lift-assist kayak rack) to lift it on and off the roof of your car. In contrast, an inflatable or foldable kayak is the best bet. They weigh anywhere from 17 to 60 pounds, depending on whether you get a single or tandem. Once deflated, they pack down small enough to fit in the trunk of a car or cupboard and live in an apartment, unlike their rigid peers.

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Before storing it, make sure an inflatable kayak is completely dry; otherwise, it could develop mold. A hard kayak, on the other hand, is easier to dry off and doesn’t need to be folded.

Inflatable kayaks tend to have a broader base, which makes them more stable and less likely to tip over. However, this impacts the speed and maneuverability, making them well-suited for recreational paddling and calm water.

When it comes to prices, inflatable kayaks, on average, tend to be less expensive than hard kayaks. You can get an inflatable kayak for around $100 or $200, whereas a good rigid kayak costs around $400, and higher-end ones can go beyond $1,000. However, you get what you pay for, and a low-priced inflatable kayak may not provide good comfort, lightweight construction, or durability. We recommend inflatable kayaks in the mid-tier price range that offers great value for money, priced roughly around $500.

Inflatable kayaks are often less speedy than hard kayaks, although they are far more durable than what one could anticipate. Durability primarily depends on the materials used and the overall construction of the unit. There are inflatable kayaks available with a higher price range that can offer excellent durability, such as those with PVC and high-pressure spring valves incorporating drop-stitch technology. Alternatively, cheaper inflatable kayaks may use PVC bottom/hull with lower-pressure valves, catering to more casual paddlers.

Oru kayaks are foldable and made of an ultra-tough corrugated plastic, a departure from the PVC used in most inflatable kayaks. While testing the Oru kayaks, they proved to be highly durable, similar to the PVC kayaks we tested.

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The best kayak option out there is the Oru Lake, thanks to its lightweight design, excellent portability, fast setup, and economical price point. Paddling with dogs is better in Retrospec Coaster, and the 2-in-1 paddle-board and kayak design for cruising is best in Bote Zeppelin Aero.

For detailed information on the functioning and testing of each kayak, including how we tested it, scroll down below.

How we tested

Our kayaks were shortlisted after extensive online research. Then, each kayak was tested in various lakes and rivers to study their performance under different conditions. All testing was performed in relatively calm and stable conditions, although some of it included the minor wakes from the boats. The selected kayaks were best in class in terms of stability and maneuverability.

We also tested the Kokopelli Twain, which is an excellent kayak for hiking, owing to its relatively lower weight. Although it performed well in our testing, we didn’t recommend it among the top picks because of its challenging setup and relatively lower comfort levels.

We also tested the Oru Beach LT and the Lake+ model. While the adjustable-height seat back and the footrest were attractive features, we didn’t find they warranted the additional cost.

We considered the following aspects while evaluating the kayaks:

Comfort: We gauged whether our top picks would remain comfortable for at least two hours of paddling. Seat support, seat height, legroom, and width were the primary factors considered.

Tracking and maneuverability: Kayaks should be easy to navigate and steer in a straight line. Therefore, we assessed maneuverability by testing quick and slow turns, and checked how well each kayak performed in a straight line.

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Stability: Stability is crucial, particularly for beginner paddlers. All our top picks were stable enough for comfortable paddling. They also held up well in moderate to high wakes from motorboats on a lake.

Ease of setup/takedown: We noted the setup times for each of the kayaks, and prioritized quick and easy setup and takedown, as these activities determine the frequency of using the kayak.

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