Inflatable Kayak vs Hard shell Kayaks

For Kayakers, the debate inflatable kayak vs hard shell kayaks will never end.  It is the debate that has been going on for ages among both novices and professionals. That is why we come up with this article to cover the difference between the Inflatable Kayak and Hard shell kayaks. If you are a water sports lover, kayaking is a thrilling experience for you whether you are maneuvering through the sill lakes, sea filled with high waves, or windy rivers.  Apart from being a fun and relaxed activity, kayaking is the best exercise with great health benefits. Choosing the best kayak also makes a difference when it comes to a great kayak experience.

About the Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable Kayaks are like as their name suggests i.e. they can be inflated and deflated before and after use. They are the form of contemporary kayaks developed to coupe up the modern-day requirements. They are portable, cost-friendly, and simple to transport, which makes them a perfect family kayak. These are good for hikers who want to paddle around nearby backcountry lakes, and for paddlers not having a kayak rack or need to take their boat on public transportation. It’s good for solo kayakers who don’t want to use two vehicles; having an inflatable means you can hike back with it to the put-in point.

About the Hard shell Kayaks

The hard shells kayaks are known for their superior maneuverability. Hard shells sit lower in the water and travel better as each paddle stroke must push quite a bit of water out of the way to turn the boat. This process prevents it from going off-center as easily. If you are going for camping trips longer than an overnighter, a hard-shell kayak is the best choice. The rigid frame offers plenty of space for your gear, both in front of and behind the cockpit. The exact amount of storage space is determined by the length of the boat; a 6-foot-long hard-shell playboat won’t have a whole lot of space, but you won’t need it for anywhere that kayak can go.

Hard shell Kayaks

However, hard shell kayaks are relatively heavy, weighing two or three times than the inflatable kayak. This is particularly true for two-person kayaks, which cannot be carried without a partner or some additional equipment.

Inflatable Kayak vs Hard Shell Kayaks

1. Durability

The durability of the inflatable kayak is where most people get anxious and think that hard-shell kayaks are better. But, when it comes to durability, there is a huge difference across both inflatable and hard shell kayaks. Whereas the durability of hard shell kayaks is mostly reliant on the material, for inflatable kayak, it is mostly reliant on price and purpose.

2. Portability

Inflatable kayaks are certainly better than hard shell kayaks when we talk about portability. If you are transporting your kayak in a vehicle, an inflatable saves you from having to purchase and install roof racks, and from having to maneuver a heavy hard-shell onto the roof racks. Also, your kayaks are safe inside your vehicle, rather than vulnerable to theft on top of it.

A lot of people get an inflatable kayak because they know that paddling is an awesome way to explore and adds a whole new dimension to a holiday. If you want to take your hard-shell kayak on an airplane, not only would it be a hassle, you would have to organize and pay for oversized baggage. Inflatable kayaks can just be checked in as part of your baggage allowance.

Ever thought about doing a multi-day wilderness hike? What would you do if you came across a water body you wanted to cross? You are not going to carry a hard-shell kayak with you, but you could take a super lightweight pack raft.

3. Comfort

Comfort (or lack of) is one of many kayaker’s biggest bugbears when it comes to hard-shell kayaks. It typically just takes about 15 minutes before they start looking for a beach! If you suffer from numbness when sitting on hard surfaces, then inflatable kayaks are a dream. Sitting on a soft inflatable floor implies that you can go paddling for hours and hours and never lose feeling in your legs.

The other issue with hard shell kayaks is that you often get a short, hard backrest if you get one at all. Most of the inflatable kayaks have a clip in a seat that is very supportive of the back. When you are having a relaxed paddle and want to sit and relax for a bit, you can just rest like you are in a lounge chair.

In summer, it is always good to be able to jump out of your kayak for a swim, but getting back in can be a bit difficult and hurting in a hard-shell because of all the hard edges joining with shins and torsos. When you are hauling yourself back into an inflatable kayak, the edges are nice and soft.

Inflatable Kayak vs Hard shell Kayaks

4. The Travelling (Performance in water)

In both cases, the performance is based on the price you paid for. In the end, the performance is influenced by the quality of materials used in the kayak.

However, hard shell kayaks have an edge here due to their solid edges and the ability to resist rocks.  

5. The Storage

An inflatable kayak can be packed up very nicely and easily into a bag, so it takes up much less space in your home. You can put it in a closet if you want – no need for a garage or a shed. This is a huge win for keen kayakers that live in apartment blocks. Hard shell kayaks are hard to transport due to their rigid shade. You need to have a roof rack for your car to fix it up there and transport. Setting up a hard-shell on a roof rack does need some serious efforts as well.

6. The Setup

There are both the pros and cons of both inflatable kayaks and hard shell kayaks when it comes to set-up. A useful comparison is an effort and time it takes from getting up in the morning and deciding to go kayaking, to being out on the water.

  • Time – An inflatable kayak is easier and faster to get going – you just throw the bag in the car and away you go. With a hard shell kayaks, you have to first load the kayak onto the roof racks and tie it down, which takes longer. But when you get to the water, you have to blow up an inflatable kayak, whereas the hard shell kayaks can just be unbuckled and lifted down. Generally, it is not easy to say which takes longer. Most of the inflatable kayaks are very quick to inflate (takes about 5 minutes) so there perhaps isn’t much difference.
  • Effort – This is where the inflatable kayaks take an edge. They don’t weigh anywhere near as much as hard-shells kayaks and they don’t have to be lifted on and off roof racks.

The Verdict

Inflatables are easy to carry; transport and ride and they don’t need much effort. Moreover, they are budget-friendly as well. If you are a beginner and want to polish paddling skills then this the one you should go for.

Whereas, Hard shell kayaks are rigid, durable, and give enhanced control while paddling. On the other hand, they are quite heavy, would require some space to store, and expensive as well. If you are at intermediate or advanced level kayaking, this might be a better option.

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