Inflatable Kayaks VS Hard-Shell | Which is Better?

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: November 28, 2022
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Inflatable kayaks, as the name suggests, can be inflated and deflated before or after use, thus making them more portable. Hardshell, also known as rigid kayaks, are, on the other hand, designed from plastic, wood, fiberglass, and composite materials such as Kevlar. The boats are heavy at about 55 pounds. 

Comparisons between Inflatable and Hard-shell Kayaks


The materials making the hardshell boats are robust such as wood, fiberglass, and plastic, making them stable and durable. They do not, therefore, easily break down, but care should be taken not to drop them since they are not easy to repair.

The inflatable kayaks are constructed using neoprene, Hypalon, PVD, and polyurethane. The materials are not very strong, but the items can last long if you take proper care.


Inflatable kayaks are easy to move from one place to another as you can inflate and deflate them, whenever there is a need. Carrying these boats does not require you to have a roof rack transport. It does not also need more than one person to take the kayaks to water, and they also require little storage space when you inflate. You can also comfortably carry them in a suitcase or duffel bag, or they can even fit into a backpack. 

The hardshell kayaks are not easily portable, and you will need a roof rack or even a trailer to carry them to the water. The boats are heavy since they are made from sturdy materials, and you cannot take them on your own. The items require ample space for storage, unlike the inflated ones.

Setup Time

When it comes to set up time, the rigid kayaks take less to get them into the water and paddling. They only require offloading from your car roof, and you are good to go.

The inflatable kayaks, on the other hand, require you to remove them from their storage bag and pump in air to inflate. It may consume the time that would otherwise be used for adventuring on the water.


Most rigid kayaks are highly-priced and may not be affordable if you are on a budget. It may take you time to save towards purchasing the right one.

Inflatable kayaks are, on the other hand, more affordable even for a beginner in kayaking. You can purchase an inflatable boat and still enjoy the excellent performance as well as stability on the water.

The Pros and Cons: inflatable vs. Hardshell

Pros of Hardshell

  • Do not require any setup
  • They can be more easily maneuvered than the inflatable ones
  • They are faster on the water 
  • Made from sturdy materials and are thus durable
  • Easy to maintain as you only need to rinse them after use


  • Need to transport them on a rack to the water or pay for shore-side storage hence more cost
  • Not suitable for city dwellers living in apartments as they require additional storage space

Inflatable kayaks


  • Easy to set up and transport since you only need to inflate to use and deflate when not in use
  • Easy to store as you can keep them in a back-pack in a wardrobe or under the bed
  • Usually, the best inflatable kayaks on the market can be durable 95% of the time if you take proper care of them
  •   No need for a rack or trailer to transport them, and they are lightweight.


  • It may take time to inflate unless you have an electric pump to connect to a power outlet in your car
  • They are slower on the water that the rigid kayaks and need extra care after use
  • Susceptible to wind and waves and can be pushed off-track

Types of Inflatable and Hardshell kayaks

There are different types of inflatable, and Rigid kayaks and the kind you choose depends on the usage as well as personal preferences. These kayaks are versatile and can handle a variety of water conditions and trips. They can also be modified, allowing for the addition of accessories to suit your needs.  The following are the main types:

Recreational Kayaks

These types of kayaks are generally less than 12 feet in length; they are also wider to allow for more excellent stability as well as easy to paddle in benign conditions. The inflatable kayaks are generally suitable for great entry-level boats. Many recreational vessels can handle both class 1 and 2 rapids.


Inflatable fishing kayaks are easy to transport and store, and they also have features that are ideal for angling. They are made of ultra-durable materials that can endure sharp hooks. The boats also have slip-resistant floors that make it possible for the angler to stand while casting and reeling. They also have high-back seats that provide comfort while sitting, thus ensuring that you do not strain your back when fishing.  The integrated features such as fishing rod holders, bottle holders, safety ropes, sonar brackets, and tracking fins make the vessels easy to maneuver. They also have anchor lines, storage space, and D-rings, all of which make angling enjoyable and fulfilling.

Tandem (two-person)

These are kayaks that are built to accommodate two paddlers at a time. They generally have customizable seating arrangements that permit configuration for one or two persons. Tandem Kayaks are best for larger paddlers who prefer more space and carrying capacity.

Solo (One-person)

These kayaks are built for holding one paddler at a time. They are generally shorter than tandem kayaks, but the size varies depending on the kind of paddling and usage intended for the vessel.


The inflatable whitewater kayaks are typically shorter and have limited weight capacity than others, and they are also self-bailing. The kayaks have open and shut floor drains, which should remain open when paddling whitewater to permit to rush out. The pipes should also stay closed when paddling on flat water to keep the kayak dry inside.

Final Verdict

If you love water adventures with friends or family, nothing fulfills like kayaking. But it can never be fun unless you have the right vessels. You can choose between inflatable and hardshell kayaks depending on your needs, what you want to use them for as well your budget. Each of the boats has pros and cons, and it is necessary to go through each to avoid errors.

Take your kayaking a notch higher with the right boat and let nothing stand in your way!



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