Disclaimer: We may receive a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Best Inflatable Whitewater Kayak Reviewed
Hitting whitewater with a kayak is outrageously fun, but it’s also serious business. You really don’t want to play around with an inappropriate kayak in water that presents this level of danger.
Any experienced whitewater kayaker will tell you that you need a whitewater kayak that can stand up to the abuses that rapids inflict on your boat.
Building on their reputation for bomb-proof inflatable whitewater boats, world renowned boat manufacturers like Aire and STAR are producing some of the best inflatable whitewater kayaks money can buy.
The best inflatable whitewater kayaks are designed to handle a lot more than a little splashing.
Class II, III, and even class IV rapids can take a toll on any inflatable kayak, and it’s important to mull over how you want to use your whitewater boat before making a purchase.
There are a number of considerations that can make one inflatable whitewater kayak perform significantly better than another. Beyond just making an informed decision when you invest your hard-earned cash, your safety and well being might be on the line.
Getting the proper gear is vital with whitewater kayaking. When you get it right, the fun meter gets maxed-out pretty quick.
We listed some of the most important considerations and reviewed 5 of our favorite inflatable whitewater kayaks below. The quick comparison chart can also be helpful for quick answers and making the decision making process easier.
Top Inflatable Kayak For Whitewater Features To Consider
- Self Bailing – Pitching through light whitewater isn’t likely to casue a lot of water to accumulate in your inflatable kayak, but serious whitewater most certainly will. Getting through big holes and standing waves is going to completely swamp an boat that doesn’t automatically drain water from within. This is the concept behind self-bailing inflatable boats. Since they float, drainage holes in the floor allow water to drain naturally without requiring manual bailing. When a significant amount of water is introduced into your inflatable whitewater kayak, a self-bailing model will out perform a conventional inflatable boat. If you plan on running strong rapids, then a self bailing inflatable whitewater kayak should be strongly considered. Less time getting water out of the boat means more time focusing on hitting that next rapid and enjoying yourself.
- Stability – Stability is always important when the goal is getting through rapids and staying upright. You can read the water better when you aren’t getting tossed around and constantly fighting to stay up. And if you have gear in your inflatable kayak, then obviously you want it to stay put. The primary factor that effects the stability of an inflatable whitewater kayak is the width of the boat. In general, more width equals more stability.
- Weight Capacity – Weight capacity is really about finding a balance between maneuverability and carrying capacity. If you want a nimble whitewater kayak, that can turn on a dime and twist through technical whitewater, then a smaller boat is what you will want. But a smaller boat will not be able to carry the same weight as a larger boat. Carrying a heavier gear load means you need a bigger whitewater kayak, and it will come at the sacrifice of some maneuverability. Adding a second passenger is another addition to the weight capacity. Maybe you have a cooler or a large dry bag. Taking inventory before you make a purchase is going to help your inflatable whitewater kayak perform best for your needs.
- Passenger Capacity – Even if you are primarily thinking about a single passenger whitewater kayak, some inflatable kayaks for whitewater offer the option to add seating for more than one passenger. Removable and adjustable seating is a nice feature if you have a friend or family member that likes to occasionally join you.
- Overall Weight – Generally speaking, inflatable whitewater kayaks are a lot easier to transport than their hard-molded counterparts. A deflated whitewater kayak can easily fit right in the trunk of your car, but many whitewater rivers are in remote locations. Maybe there is only a trail leading to and from the water. If you want to maximize the ease of transportation, considering the overall weight of the kayak will be worthwhile. An inflatable whitewater kayak is usually going to weigh in between 20-40 pounds, which might not sound like much. But if there are a few miles of long trail to your destination, 40 lbs can start feeling really heavy.
Top Inflatable Whitewater Kayak Comparison Chart
Best Inflatable Whitewater Kayak
If you are looking for a solid inflatable kayak, then you might want to consider this option from AIRE. It is available in several different colors and while expensive it’s important to note that you are getting a high-quality item. This could serve you well, even on some of the roughest waters that you are likely to encounter. It is important to note that is kayak is ideally suited for one person. As such, if you are are searching for an inflatable kayak for two people you are going to need to look elsewhere
However, you might be able to fit in a dog at the front. So if you are keen to take your pet along for the ride this could be a big bonus. The product also provides a patch kit that is useful. It will mean that you are easily able to repair the item if it does ever get damaged when you are out on the water.
The kayak does not arrive with a pump however these can be bought separately and may be beneficial if you are planning on heading out on rougher water. Although this is suitable for both class II and class III whitewater. It is sturdy, particularly at 2.5 PSI for each chamber and handles far more effectively than the typical commercial ducky. You can even surf some smaller waves. Ultimately, you’ll find that this particular kayak handles beautifully, particularly when considered as a mid-level kayak. You’ll find large eddies are easy to catch in this kayak but smaller ones will be more difficult. You can also use an electric raft pump to inflate this kayak. That’s brilliant because it means that you don’t have to waste a lot of time and energy preparing it for the water. Instead, you’ll be able to get going as soon as you reach the location.
Ultimately with this kayak, you are getting a high-quality product that provides fantastic value for money and can handle rough white water.
- Aircell System, 30 ounce/500 denier outer PVC tubes, 32 ounce/1000 denier outer PVC floor
- Airtight 20-gauge inner vinyl bladders w/ double-zipper access, double top-stitched seams
- 3 air chambers with Summit II valves, adjustable inflatable seat
- mesh drainage system, 12 sets of cargo loops, bow/stern carry handles
- 1-year manufacturer warranty against defects, repair kit included
This kayak from Driftson is available in two different colors. You can either opt for a light blue variation or the standard orange with grey shading. A big benefit of this possibility is that you do get a lot more with the item rather than just the kayak itself. This includes a pump as well as sturdy paddles. The price is a little higher than the previous option on this list though so that’s something to keep in mind.
Similar to the other option on this list, you can not use this for two people. If you try, you simply won’t gain the right level of maneuvering that you want. There are three chambers to inflate for this kayak. However, it’s still relatively simple to set it up the right way without any issues. You should also keep in mind that this kayak does come with a repair kit. However, you won’t get the glue so you may need to buy this separately. A big benefit of this particular kayak is that the seats are adjustable. That’s fantastic because it means unlike other options, it’s suitable for a wide range of different heights. You don’t need to worry too much about not fitting into this one. There’s no storage compartment for the different items however, you can easily use the tie does to secure items you bring on board.
This kayak is made of 1000d polyester so it is tough and designed for strong white water. It’s also incredibly easy to set up and with the use of the pump, you won’t have any issue getting this prepared for the water. You will also be delighted to find that everything fits easily into the tote making this kayak simply to carry around with you when you need to.
- Durable & Lightweight - Fully inflates to a full sized kayak in less than 5 minutes and weighs a manageable 22 Lbs. 1000D Reinforced Layered PVC side tubes, Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures.
- Stable & Maneuverable - Rigid High Pressure Drop Stitch Floor, Removable Flat Water Tracking Fin, and ample rocker profile deliver unmatched stability and control in rough and flat water
- Adventure Ready - Whitewater Rating: Suitable up to class III and IV rapids, 5 Self Bailing Ports, Plentiful Tie Down Points for Gear and Front Action Camera Mount
- Included - Adjustable EVA Padded Seat with High Back Support, Adjustable 2-Piece Aluminum Kayak Paddle, Deluxe Double Action Hand Pump, Rear Tracking Fin, and Travel Bag.
- Kayak Specifications - Exterior: 8.5’(L) x 36”(W) x 13”(H) / Weight: 22 Lbs. / Capacity: 300 Lbs. / Inflation Time: 9 Mins. / Inflation Pressure: 3 PSI Side Tubes & 6 PSI Floor
This is the first option on our list that is in fact ideally suited for two people to use. As such, you don’t have to worry about not being able to take your partner with you. It’s also far more budget-friendly and you’re probably wondering whether that means a lower level of quality.
First, it’s important to note that with adjustments, you can ensure that this is suitable for use as a single kayak too. You just need to remove one seat and put the other in the middle like a solo kayak. This kayak is also designed to handle class 3 rapids. However, it’s worth noting a lot of water is going to come in at that level. But you will be able to pump it out at the end. You will also be pleased to hear that in a calm stream or lake, this kayak is going to stay incredibly dry unless you have a leak. You just need to be careful that you don’t drag the drainage plug as that will cause significant issues.
The seats are also comfortable. This is going to be great news if you are planning on longer river journeys or using the kayak repeatedly over a period of a few hours.
While the stitching is certainly not perfect, you will find that it tracks quite well. Particularly when compared to other inflatables that are available on the market.
- Airhead Montana Travel kayaks are Inflatable kayaks that are perfect for camping, vacationing, exploring remote areas, and cruising yachts
- Designed for lakes and moderate white water, this two person inflatable kayak is lightweight, compact, and portable
- All 3 air chambers are completely enclosed by rugged 840-denier nylon with UV and water-resistant coatings
- Made with Neoprene elbow guards for comfort when paddling and a stretch net in the bow and 6 D-rings at bow and stern for securing gear
- Bright orange inflatable kayak for safety and visibility on the water
While only available in one color, this kayak does offer high-quality design and is built to remain durable even in difficult conditions on the river. A top-selling point that was missing from the other options is that this does have a storage point. As such, you won’t have to worry about the items that you take with you getting wet. You’ll be able to keep them dry even in class 2 and 3 rapids.
The kayak also provides a high standard of quality, particularly when you consider the price. Indeed, you may find that this kayak is worth significantly more money than you actually end up paying for it. You’ll find that it is very stable even on difficult rivers and in fast-flowing water. One of the reasons for this is that the kayak is incredibly well-engineered. You won’t find any issues with the build of this particularly kayak, that’s a guarantee. This means that you can, with confidence, use it in glass III rapids. Remember, this isn’t always a guarantee. Particularly if you choose a kayak in the lower price range. However, there’s no trouble here.
The kayak is light too and weighs just 34 lbs. That’s despite the fact that it is made from highly durable and tough 840 PVC. This means that you won’t have to worry about carrying the kayak to where you need it which can be a key consideration.
The kayak also provides an adjustable seat and this is just one of the features included to ensure that you do gain a comfortable experience. You don’t have to worry about this one starting to cause aches and pains halfway down a river. There is also a self-draining rear cargo hold. That self-draining feature is a great benefit and will ensure your items remain dry by the end of your trip.
- Self-bailing ports and 12" bow/heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin hull and independent PVC bladders for double layer thickness
- Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin hull and independent PVC bladders for double layer thickness
- 35" width provides increased stability
- Stern deck covered cargo bay for storing a drybag or other gear
Alternatively, you may want to consider this kayak from Star Inflatables. Similar to the other options on this list, it is available in several different colors. As such, you will be able to find the one that matches your style and needs. There are lots of innovative design features of this particular kayak. It’s not just built for the water. The designers have also considered how easy it is to carry back and forth. This is something that is often, overlooked which can lead to issues. However, you’ll find this is a breeze to transport, even over significant distances.
The purpose of this kayak is to provide the durability of a hardshell design while ensuring that you still get the convenience of an inflatable solution. They have certainly succeeded here and you’ll find that it does handle Class III white water with no problem at all. At the same time, it is light enough and easy enough to transport that you won’t have to worry about needing any special rig.
There are design features that ensure it’s an absolute delight on the water too. One of the problems with inflatable kayaks is that if they end up in holes, they can flood with water. This means that they do not resurface as quickly as they should. We’re thrilled to say that this isn’t a problem with this particular model. This is due to both and inflatable bow and stern displacement chambers. It ensures that the kayak does float as it should even in the toughest conditions. Ultimately, we think you’ll be delighted with the durability this option provides. You certainly won’t have to worry about it failing you after a couple of times in the water. Instead, you’ll be able to depend on it for quite some time.
- Creating a top-deck profile that makes the boat possible to roll
- Creating a secure and comfortable cockpit for the paddler
- Gives the paddler a stable and comfortable position above the water
- Multiple D-rings on the bow and stern decks for rigging gear
- Bow and stern handles make the Viper easy to carry to and from the water