It seems you’re searching for the best inflatable kayaks for whitewater kayaking. Fortunately for you, we’ve already set down these same rapids before, and when we did, we picked out five of the best options and went as far as to include why we think they’re the best.
So, whether you’re a newcomer to inflatable kayaks or just looking for an upgrade, take a peek at our choices below.
We also included a buyer’s guide and FAQ so that you can get informed on not just what makes the best inflatable whitewater kayaks but the best kayaks in general.
If you’re new to the world of kayaking then there may be some misconceptions you hold about inflatables, so we wanted to dispel them.
This way you can make an informed decision so that you’re not left without a paddle when trying to make your purchases.
In a hurry?
This is our Winner!
Why it’s Our Top Pick
If the rapids can’t wait, then we have the best inflatable kayak for whitewater right here.
We chose the Driftsun Rover 220 for not compromising comfort for safety and looking good while doing it. See in detail why we chose this product below:
Very thick 1000D reinforced layered PVC side tubes with durable PVC tarpaulin bottom makes for a fortress of a kayak that can withstand whitewater up to Class III and IV rapids.
Rocker profile allows the kayak to achieve maximum stability and makes sure that you stay in control.
Safety and comfort are covered thanks to tie down areas for your equipment and adjustable aluminum seating with back support to eliminate cramping and bad posture when in use.
Best Inflatable Kayaks For Whitewater - Comparison Table
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Best Inflatable Kayaks For Whitewater - Reviews
Our first option is the Driftsun Rover 220, a fully inflatable kayak that reaches 12.5 feet long in under ten minutes when inflated.
It’s made of 1000D thickness reinforced and layered PVC side tubing and rigid high pressure drop stitch tarpaulin flooring to protect against punctures.
It’s adventure ready for your whitewater adventure needs, being suitable up to class IV rapids with eight water-draining scupper ports and a multitude of tie down apparatus to keep your equipment to guarantee your safety.
It has a three-chamber construction so if one does get punctured you have ample time to repair it without the whole kayak taking on water.
For all of its safety features and utility as a whitewater kayak, the Driftsun Rover doesn’t leave comfort out of the equation thanks to its adjustable aluminum EVA seating with high back support and adjustable footrests.
If you need a whitewater kayak that doesn’t compromise comfort for safety for you, and maybe another, then this is well worth the hefty price tag.
Our second pick is an affordable model perfect for the solo traveler on a budget, it’s the Sea Eagle 330 Pro. It boasts a capacity of 500lbs, which is amazing for the price you pay for it.
There is a two-person variant available, but we wouldn’t recommend that as enthusiastically as the solo model as some have problems with the chairs being uncomfortable or detaching during rapids, so we figured one chair would be easier to manage than two.
The floor is made of large five-tube integral I-beam floor with in-built chines to improve speed.
It comes with a foot pump for those of you who don’t feel like getting tunnel vision blowing it up, and a carry bag to store it in so that each phase of prep, the inflation, packing up and transport, can be as quick and painless as possible.
It assembles with that pump in about six minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on how often you skip leg day.
Retailing for a low price compared to other items in this market, if you’re a solo traveler looking for a good deal on an inflatable kayak, this could be the one for you.
For our third option, we wanted to introduce a larger capacity kayak into the list, and for an affordable price to boot.
It’s the Sevylor Big Basin Three-Person Kayak and should be more than enough for one to three questing kayakers to brave anything whitewater will throw at you.
At a hefty 12 feet long and NMMA certified to carry 490lbs of weight, this kayak has handles for easier carrying and is a great family option for inflatable whitewater kayaks.
It features heavy-duty PVC combined with tarpaulin to be used in rugged conditions, and if it meets conditions it can’t overcome there’s several air chambers which make it hard to take this boat down.
The three seats it has can be rearranged, and you may want to do that if there’s only one or two of you using this because some have complained it can be cramped when being used to its full three person capacity.
Next on this list is the Solstice by Swimline Flare One-Person Kayak which, besides being a mouthful, is a “whitewater ready” piece of kit.
It’s made from super tough 1000 Denier nylon fabric with very durable drop stitch flooring. In that flooring are a few screw type drain valves which are great for making sure water doesn’t stick around inside the kayak.
That strong floor also has multi-position footrests so that taller and shorter people can find some comfort when tackling the rapids.
It’s on the pricier side for a solo kayak compared to number two on this list, and as long as we’re talking about hang-ups with this product the skeg requires you to wrestle with a screw to uninstall it for whitewater activity.
Most inflatables will have it slide out, so this is pretty unusual and causes some small amount of hassle.
It’s not something that would bother everyone though, and if you’re planning on using this for other, calmer applications then having the knowledge that your skeg is secure could be a plus.
Our final item on this list is the aggressively named Advanced Elements Attack Whitewater Kayak, we assume because of how rough it is against the whitewater since it says nothing about piracy on its Amazon page.
Made from 840 Denier PVC tarpaulin that weighs just 15kg, this kayak is also made to be 35 inches in width to increase stability, and at the stern is a covered cargo area where water-sensitive equipment, or any equipment really, can be stored and saved from the perils of the rapids you’ll be facing.
It hasn’t got many customer reviews on its Amazon page, but is from an established paddle sports brand whose presence on Amazon has sold other kayaks with positive ratings from hundreds, plus they have their own site you can check out if you want to be careful.
If you end up getting this product and liking it, why not leave a review?
Best Inflatable Kayaks For Whitewater - Buyers Guide
How to choose the best inflatable whitewater kayaks
When planning which kayak to use on your next excursion, you want to pick the most dependable one that will brave the worst whitewater you’ll come across. You can find inflatable kayaks that will fulfil these requirements.
There are so many possible options involved in choosing a kayak that it can get confusing for the average consumer who doesn’t know the specifics of the kayak market.
This guide exists to go over some commonalities in kayak specs so that you can make a more informed purchase about which kayak will be best for you. As always, when ordering online make sure that you’re either getting straight from a reputable supplier or at least check out the supplier first so that you don’t get a raw deal.
First, we should tackle the hull shape, something obvious that laymen can tell the difference between. Inflatable kayaks tend towards short and wide designs in order to perform on whitewater.
This is because most of the weight is then centered, allowing for quick turns and maneuverability. The more people any kayak seats, the longer it gets, so this can get difficult to maintain such a compact weight distribution to have this maneuverability.
This is why most of the products above are one or two person models, and we would only suggest a higher capacity one under the assumption that everyone riding it knows what they are doing.
With traditional kayaks, the hull is either flattened or rounded to achieve stability or speed respectively by cutting through or holding onto water friction.
Inflatables are often somewhere in between by virtue of their constructions but tend towards planing-hulled kayaks in terms of how they interact with water friction. This is because they have flatter bottoms and aim to be wider for much more stability, as previously mentioned.
A big factor in your choosing of inflatable kayaks will also be the portability. Hard-shelled kayaks simply can’t compete with a lightweight and portable inflatable.
You want a kayak that has this portability but is composed of thick enough material to still have durability. Carrying bags are also a useful feature for your chosen kayak to have since it makes them even more portable in ways other kayaks never could be.
Despite this high level of protection, punctures are always a possibility and it’s always good to know how to fix this problem. It’s also a good idea to look for a kayak that has multiple chambers as this will mean that if one of them is punctured, you’re still going to be able to float to safety.
Kayaking separates what we call Rapid Level into six different levels which, and this may surprise you, are delineated using the roman numbers of one to six, like so – I, II, III, IV, V, and VI.
Class I is stagnant lake waters that pose no challenge to a kayaker whereas V and VI are dangerous waters that should only be attempted with the most rigorous of safety precautions and expertise.
Some areas use a class before I, called Class A, which instead refers to stagnant lake waters and I then refers to still but flowing water. These levels are important to consider when looking at whitewater kayaks, as you should try and match your purchase to your intended excursion waters and any others you may want to attempt in the future.
A good stopping point to buy for is V since that will qualify your kayak to handle most waterways in the United States.
It’s also good to have a kayak that is comfortable. You may not be overly concerned with kayak comfort in theory, but it’s one of those things where your body would feel it afterwards if your kayak encouraged an uncomfortable posture when you were in it.
Your body will punish you for a poor choice of kayak in this regard, so pick one that is adjustable without molded seats since they exist only to plague the lower backs of paddlers everywhere.
Contoured seating may be best if you have pre-existing back conditions. Adjustable kayaks have extra functionality to them since you can change seating position much easier, which can help maneuverability.
Fortunately for you, inflatable kayaks tend to have more give in them, and so more comfort, than harder-shelled kayak models.
The best safety feature is preparation. As a kayaker you’ll be at peace with the knowledge that you will keel over at some point when facing the rapids, so knowing what to do and what not to do is the best safety feature that you can take anywhere with you.
Having a life jacket to accompany your kayak will certainly not hurt, either. If you’re a beginner not yet adept at paddling, we would definitely recommend kayaks made for newcomers to whitewater sports since they prioritise safety over performance.
As for safety features of the product itself, the overwhelming majority of commercial kayaks should have grab handles as a priority so that it can be steadied if unstable.
An extra paddle will help, we’re sure you’ve heard the saying about being up a certain creek without a paddle, and we’re also sure that no kayaker wants that to literally be the case.
In the event of accidents which may compromise the integrity of your kayak, you’ll want a dewatering device that like a hand pump or even sponge to drain water from the interior.
Your inflatable kayak should absolutely have scupper holes as a dewatering system, since water finds its way inside inflatables much easier than hard-shelled kayak variants. If such accidents are serious enough to cause your kayak to capsize, you could also have throwbags to aid in getting yourself to safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do people kayak whitewater?
Kayaking has a bit of a reputation for being a dangerous activity, but that’s not wholly accurate. Technological advancements and the freedom of a wealth of information available to kayakers everywhere have ensured that the hobby has never been safer.
There’s a lot of reasons, such as the standard adrenaline and endorphin releases during and then after taking part in sporting activity. It also attracts people who love nature and are into other outdoor activities.
What makes an inflatable kayak suitable for whitewater?
With both ordinary and inflatable kayaks the difference between those you’d use on a lake and those you’d use on whitewater are its stability and durability. Whitewater kayaks need to be stable enough, which means wide enough, so that it will resist capsizing.
Width also allows it a great deal of agility in the water, too. The material these kayaks are made of must be as durable as possible since it will get challenged a lot more in whitewater than in other situations.
This is why we’ve vetted our suggested products to have a high level of build quality.
How are inflatables different from hard-shelled kayaks?
All kayaks are extremely similar products in a lot of ways, but the outward construction of the two are very different, with inflatables having higher walls and being higher to get more stability.
With hard-shelled kayaks, the upmarket, higher quality models will always be more durable than inflatables just by virtue of the difference in material. Hard-shelled kayaks also have an advantage as they are heavier, which means that they aren’t pushed around by the water as much.
The inflatables’ lack of such weight is an advantage in and of itself though, since it’s very portable and great for solo adventurers. They can be folded down and stored much easier than hard-shelled kayaks.