Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell | What’s The Best Option?

Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell | What's The Best Option?

If you are an expert at this art, you can pull off any kind of kayak either inflatable or hardshell. But if you are at my level, maybe not every type of them will float your boat.

So in that case you should plan on having a good hand in any one of them, and if you can’t decide which one, no worries! Let me dig deep, and compare apples to apples to find out the winner of – Inflatable kayak vs hardshell |What’s the best option?

What is an inflatable kayak?

What is an inflatable kayak?

Inflatable kayaks are interesting-looking small boats with air chambers in them that can be inflated duh! They are designed to provide the necessary buoyancy to float on water in it up to a limited weight capacity.

It can be carried in a bag or sometimes it comes as a backpack itself. To make the magic happen, all you need to do is fill it in with some air by a hand pump, and voila! It’ll be ready to hit the water.

What are inflatable kayaks made of?

Inflatable kayaks are, as we call them – the magic of science! It was a comparatively new invention of the science when the thought of a pool floats turning into a boat hit the brain! Cool no? It’s not like a pool float completely! Just the concept of floatation has been taken.

The materials are much more durable, stronger, and safe. So don’t worry you’ll be fine! They can be constructed with various materials but most of them come with the construction of PVC. Then comes Hypalon, Nitrilon, Polyethylene, and Neoprene-made inflatables.

Whatever the main material is, a good inflatable always comes with an extra layer of protection with a durable fabric and drop-stitch method.

What is a hardshell kayak?

What is a hardshell kayak?

Hardshell kayaks are solid watercraft without any air chambers to provide buoyancy to float. They don’t need to be prepared like inflation before dragging it to any water.

Its special engineering using physics has made it possible to float with a limited weight capacity without drowning. They are rigid and sturdy and well made to keep you dry and enjoy!

What are hardshells made of?

Hardshell kayaks can be made out of various kinds of traditional stuff. Looking back in history, hardshell boats are the ones that were available in the very early days of human civilization.

With time these boats have been made with more efficient designs and materials making them more efficient, better, and stronger on the water. The most used material seemed to be wood and plastic.

Fiberglass is being used as a base material to build a very strong and solid craft on the water. For its engineering and materials, hardshell can carry a lot of weights including persons and other storage.

Inflatable kayak vs hardshell: Which one is best?

Inflatable kayak vs hardshell

Both inflatable kayaks and hardshell kayaks can be good in their own ways as they are two different types of things with different Engineering and materials. But to pick the best one, we have to compare apples to apples! So let’s find out those similar factors and by judging them let me help you to pick the best one.

Durability & Stability

As for the durability, a good quality inflatable kayak can be more durable than a hardshell kayak simply because It can easily bounce off the hard obstacle on the water without much harm to it.

Unlike the hardshell kayaks, for their strong yet elastic material, inflatables never crack or puncture giving them superior durability over hardshell ones. All inflatable kayak comes in different air chambers so that in case you hit a snag, your kayak keeps on floating.

Besides, it’s much easier and reasonable to fix an inflatable kayak than to do it for a hardshell. So a good quality inflatable hangs in there more than a hardshell kayak.

As for stability, again, inflatables come out being the winner! See, stability mostly depends on the structure of the kayak. A kayak with more width and flat bottom is more stable than a narrow one.

Hardshells have less width than inflatables always making them comparatively less stable. Some hard shells come with a flat bottom hull but they are not as stable as a wider flat bottom like an inflatable kayak.

Weight & Size:

It’s pretty obvious which kayak will have more weight. As inflatables are made out of waterproof elastic material with space to fill it in with the air, the weights are very light compared to any hardshell kayak available for its solid heavy materials built body.

Generally, a hardshell weighs around 55 pounds, while an inflatable feels as light as a feather weighing only around 25 pounds.

Though Hardshells have less width but are usually come with bigger lengths than inflatables. The bigger size of the hardshell helps it to go faster than an inflatable.

Related Post: Kayak vs Canoe Fishing | Which One Is Best?

Usage limitations:

Inflatables: If you want to move around and stretch out your back, an Inflatable kayak can cause a problem! You usually don’t see a lot of leg-room on it. Besides, inflatables require proper drying after use so that they don’t have any molds born.

You need to make it ready by creating a maximum air pressure in it to carry all the weights on it before floating it on the water. So It’ll take a good amount of time and handwork before using. A big limitation is that, for their small size, and airlock system, they don’t come in with any proper storage compartments, let alone dry hatches, unlike hardshell kayaks.

Hardshell: This kind of kayak can’t change its shape and size as it’s made out of rigid materials. So storing it is pretty tough. Also, these are more or less heavy which makes it difficult to transport them unless you have six-packs! If you own a hardshell kayak, you’ll seldom miss a baby. No kidding! These big boys need to be taken care of like babies if you want them to be durable.

Transportation and Storage:

Undoubtedly you’ll get no better option but inflatables if you want to face fewer difficulties pop up in your exciting excursion. You just need to stuff them in your bag and go anywhere you want.

You literally can carry it on your back without any problem. Transporting a kayak has never been this easy since inflatable kayaks have been built. So you don’t need to leave any distant waterholes unexplored anymore. And hardshell being hardshell is a lot of work to transport it somewhere you want to.

Its heavyweights made it time-consuming as well to drag it somewhere. It’s not something you want if you don’t want anything but fun!

Again, storing a small thing is always pretty easy. Inflatables can easily be deflated and of their elastic material, they can be stored anywhere in any shape you want. On the contrary, your hardshell one won’t be that flexible to make it fit anywhere. They need a lot of space in your storage room for their rigid size.

You may Also Like This Article: Can Kayaks Be Stored Outside?

Ease of paddling:

Less the width will be, easier and faster will be the paddling. So hard shells will win this round I have to say. For their less width and heavyweight, they are more likely to cut through the water making paddling easier and faster using less energy.

But inflatables have more drag of water for their comparatively more width. Also, they don’t have much weight to repel the drag and go forward. It’s lightweight but it’ll almost feel like you are struggling more to keep up with your friends owning a hardshell.

Safety in the water:

Maybe you won’t see it coming, but in recent times, inflatables are proving to be safer on water. It is used to think that inflatables are risky as they can get punctured.

But nowadays inflatables are constructed with so much strong and elastic material that they can be used in all kinds of waterholes. Even they are made so strong that a good quality inflatable kayak can be taken to the seas as well.

Whereas hardshell can be cracked by heavy waves and with a collision with big solid bodies on water.

Which costs more – An inflatable kayak or a hardshell boat?

To get a tougher construction at a comparatively low price, get an inflatable kayak. Hardshell boats cost more for their costly heavy materials. Also, hard shells are more costly even to repair than an inflatable kayak.

Which kayak type can handle more weight?

Much to your surprise, it’s the lighter inflatable kayaks that can hold more weight than an average hardshell kayak. Inflatables have a weight capacity of around 500 pounds whereas hard shells have around 300 pounds.

So if you don’t enjoy fishing or going on paddling spending a lazy afternoon without your dog, inflatable kayaks can be the best shot for you.

Final thoughts

I compared almost everything on your checklist to buy your best bet. Affordability, durability, safety, stability, transportation, storage, weight, maintenance, convenience – in all points inflatable kayak has brought home the bacon.

Most people have been choosing these kayaks over traditional hardshell kayaks in recent years. No wonder why! The popularity of inflatable kayaks is increasing like fire.

If you are a hardshell kayak fan, I can guess you never tried one of the good inflatable ones. Try it once, I promise you are going to forget your hardshell kayak for good.

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