How Safe Are Inflatable Kayaks?

Written By: Jen

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The idea of using anything inflatable on the water can instantly sound like a concerning idea. After all, you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of a lake when the boat suddenly develops a large puncture, do you?

red inflatable kayaks

But there are a lot of inflatables you can use on water, including kayaks. Exactly how safe are they though? Let’s take a look.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

Inflatable kayaks are very safe to use, provided you take appropriate safety measures and that you look after them. Even if they develop a puncture they won’t sink immediately – they have multiple air compartments to prevent this.

Kayaks of any kind – inflatable or solid – are only as safe as the person using them. Any time you are out on a lake or river, you must follow certain safety procedures, including wearing a life jacket and behaving in a sensible manner.

Beyond that though, an inflatable kayak is no more unsafe than a standard kayak, provided you do maintain it properly. It’s true that they can be punctured, but this is rare – they use a thick material designed to withstand pressure and sharp edges where possible, so they won’t puncture easily.

Again, we come back around to the common sense of the user. If you decide to take a kayak out on shallow waters filled with rocks, or if you use it for fishing and don’t take good care of your hooks, then they become less safe. But only through your own fault.

On that point, there are different inflatable kayaks designed for different jobs. Make sure you don’t buy the wrong one. If you want to go fishing, you’ll need a larger kayak with sufficient room for your equipment, for example.

And inflatable kayaks have one feature that makes them safer than regular kayaks – they are inherently buoyant, even when they capsize. If you did fall out of an inflatable kayak, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it and clambering back aboard.

inflatable kayak

What Should You Do When Your Inflatable Kayak Gets a Puncture?

If your inflatable kayak gets a puncture, don’t panic. You won’t sink immediately as a kayak has multiple air chambers. Try to repair it if it is above the water line, otherwise take the most direct route to shore. If you can, use a hand pump to maintain air in the punctured chamber.

You aren’t going to sink within seconds if your kayak gets a puncture, so the last thing you need to do is panic.

You should always carry a repair kit with you, so if the puncture is above the waterline try to repair it. If the puncture is very wet then you might struggle, so consider whether it’s better to just return to shore anyway.

When it’s below the waterline, you just need to safely get out of the water. A hand pump is therefore a useful tool to keep with you, as you can keep the punctured chamber somewhat inflated until you’re ashore.

Then, dry the kayak off and you can carry out a full repair.

Read more: How To Patch An Inflatable Boat

What Activities Are Safe to Do with An Inflatable Kayak?

There are loads of safe activities that you can do with a kayak, although that doesn’t mean every kayak is suited to every activity.

For instance, fishing is one of the safest activities to carry out with a kayak. However, you should get a kayak that fits the bill – it should be between 10 to 12 feet long, have a solid seat, and allow you to do fly casting properly.

woman on an inflatable kayak

Some inflatable kayaks are dog-friendly – they have an extra space for your pooch and a durable enough skin that they cannot easily be punctured.

Another activity you can do safely with a kayak is lake paddling. For this, you’d want a kayak with a V-hull and a shorter length, so that you can paddle effectively on lakes even when it gets too windy.

You can also cruise on a river, provided the kayak has a capacity large enough to accommodate 500 to 600 pounds of weight. The heavier it is, the more stable it will be in the face of rapid water flow. If you take a lightweight kayak onto river rapids, you’ll be tipped over in no time.

Furthermore, it should have ample seating area and room to store gear and accessories necessary for the adventure, such as first aid kits, a repair kit, drinks, and life jackets.

a girl kayaking on an inflatable kayak

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe in the Sea?

Inflatable kayaks are safe to use in the sea, provided they are at least 11 feet long and have a minimum of two separate air chambers. Then it is generally accepted that you can paddle a couple of miles from shore, but no further.

You’ll also want to make sure that it’s classified as seaworthy. This should be listed in the product description when you buy the kayak.

Also, bear in mind any wildlife. You probably want to avoid shark-infested waters, as a kayak could be confused for prey.

Read more: Are Inflatable Boats Safe On The Ocean?

How Long do Inflatable Kayaks Last?

As long as you look after your kayak properly, they should last for between 5-10 years. This means making sure they dry fully before you pack them away, cleaning them regularly, and using them responsibly.

The drying thing is the main drawback to using an inflatable kayak. You have to wait for them to fully dry, otherwise they’ll grow mold and lose some integrity. This can take a couple of hours on a cooler day, which is an inconvenience.

But, take the time to properly look after your inflatable kayak and it’ll have a pretty good lifespan.

Intex 68307EP Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

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Safety Tips When Using an Inflatable Kayak

1. Inspect your kayak before sailing off

Before you set out into the water, check if your inflatable kayak is in top condition. Specifically, check for holes and tears, and if you find any, repair them.

Next, check the valves to see if any is leaking air. The last thing you want is for your kayak to let up on you while you are in the middle of the sea. A leaky valve won’t make it sink, but it will stop it from being as buoyant.

Lastly, check if you have all the necessary gear, including that essential repair kit.

inflatable kayaks

2. Check the weather before going into the water

You should be aware of what the weather is going to be before embarking on your kayaking adventure. If it’s going to be stormy, then it’s better to wait it out until it is calmer. Most water-related accidents happen during rough weather.

If the water is too cold, put on gear that will keep you warm, such as a wetsuit. Keep in mind that immersion in cold water can cause hypothermia. Moreover, it is best to paddle near the shore when the water is too cold.

3. Pack safety gear

Being in the water is always a risk as anything can happen at any time. The weather could change abruptly, a big sea animal could attack, or the vessel could lose balance and capsize.

Therefore, it’s wise to bring safety gear to counter these unforeseen situations. One of the most important pieces of safety gear to bring is a life jacket: it will keep you afloat in case you fall into the water.

Other safety equipment you might want to pack includes a first aid kit, a whistle, and headlamps. Take a flare too, if you’re heading out to sea.

kayak safety gear

4. Choose safe locations for kayaking

Depending on your experience and skillset, choose a location that you can handle comfortably.

If you’re a beginner, avoid chasing big waves and paddling when it’s windy. The safest locations to go kayaking include areas close to the shore, calm waters, small lakes, and areas without powerboats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do inflatable kayaks puncture easily?

Inflatable kayaks do not puncture easily unless you are using them in places with pointed rocks and other sharp objects. These kayaks are made with layers of strong and durable materials that are not easy to penetrate.

Are inflatable kayaks safe for fishing?

Inflatable kayaks are safe for fishing. You have to make sure that you use a kayak that’s made for fishing, and that you follow the necessary safety procedures – choosing suitable waters, protecting your hooks to avoid them puncturing the boat, and using a life jacket in deeper waters.

inflatable kayak

Final Words

Inflatable kayaks are safe, provided that you use common sense to look after it, and that you don’t use the wrong kayak for your activity.

Inflatable kayaks are very hard to sink, if you act sensibly, and they don’t get punctures easily. As long as you are prepared for being out on the water and treat it with respect, then they are definitely safe to use.

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Jen is your go-to expert on all things inflatable, from pools to tents and beyond. A former hot tub rental company owner, she's experienced the ups and downs of inflatables firsthand. Nowadays, she writes practical guides on maintaining and enjoying inflatables. A mom of young enthusiasts, her family's favorite outing is the inflatable fun park!

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