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Inflatable Kayaks VS Hardshell Kayaks

So you’ve been kayaking a couple of times, started to learn everything you need to know about the sport, and have decided that now is the time to take the plunge and purchase your own kayak. But, when looking at what is available, you have now realised there is a huge range of kayak options on the market. The first big decision you have to make is whether you want an inflatable kayak or a hardshell kayak.

To help you decide, you’re going to need to know the main differences between the two types of kayaks.


To begin, the first big difference between inflatable kayaks and hardshell kayaks is the manufacturing process and the materials that they are made from. Hardshell kayaks are usually made from wood, plastic, fiberglass or other composite materials such as Kelvar, due to this they are heavy in weight, usually weighing around 55lbs. Inflatable kayaks on the other hand are made from synthetic rubbers and plastic polymers making them around half the weight of hardshell kayaks at 25lbs.


Generally speaking, inflatable kayaks are more user friendly than hardshell kayaks and are therefore recommended more for beginners. Hardshell kayaks are narrower so they can cut through water as they are primarily designed for speed and manoeuvrability, whereas inflatable kayaks are much wider and therefore more stable making them less likely to tip over when you are out on the water. Due to their increased stability, inflatable kayaks are a bit more difficult to navigate than hardshell kayaks.

Storage and transportation

When thinking about storing your kayak when it’s not in use, it is important to consider how much storage space you have and the method of transport. An inflatable kayak can be easily deflated, folded up and kept in a bag ready to go in your garage or the back of your car. Hardshell kayaks on the other hand, cannot be folded away, they will need a dedicated storage space, which could be in the form of one of those steel buildings that fit your size and measurements within the area you want to store them, depending on how many you have. Don’t forget a kayak trailer for transport too. If you don’t have a kayak trailer you could also use a roof rack on top of your vehicle but you will need to ensure it is secured sufficiently.


It may come as a surprise but with regards to the durability of inflatable kayaks and hardshell kayaks they tend to come in pretty equal. Although you may assume a hardshell kayak to be more robust due to the harder exterior, this can actually mean that it is more prone to chipping and cracking whereas inflatable kayaks can bounce off of small impacts. However, with inflatable kayaks there is the risk of air leaks and punctures which you do not have to worry about with hardshell kayaks.


Typically, inflatable kayaks tend to be cheaper than hardshell, although neither will come cheap if they are good quality. If you are new to kayaking an inflatable kayak would be the better entry level equipment to try out the sport. Hardshell kayaks tend to be aimed at individuals who are experienced and spend a lot of time kayaking.

There are a number of different things to consider when choosing your first kayak. Be sure to undertake thorough research for your specific requirements before purchasing your first kayak.

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