The best one-person inflatable kayaks 2024

Take to the water faster and easier than ever, with our pick of the best one-person inflatable kayaks

Four one-person inflatable kayaks - best one-person inflatable kayaks

by Chris Duffill |
Updated on

As warmer weather makes a welcome return, we're taking a special look at the best one-person inflatable kayaks. There’s a wide range of the best inflatable kayaks for up to three people that you should seriously consider for when that urge to explore theoutdoors finally kicks in.

One-person inflatable kayaks are perfect for touring expeditions and solo fishing trips, but also for general recreation and those new to paddling. Before you decide to get out onto the scenic lakes and waterways you’ll need to make sure you have the right kayak (plus some other essential bits and bobs) to make the most of your leisure time

The best one-person inflatable kayaks at a glance:

The best budget inflatable one-person kayak: Intex Challenger - View at Amazon
The best one-person packraft inflatable kayak: Decathlon 100 1 Person River Packraft Kayak - View at Decathlon
The best recreational one-person inflatable kayak: Aqua Marina Laxo 285 - View at Amazon
The best value one-person inflatable kayak: Decathlon 1 Person Inflatable Kayak - View at Argos

One-person inflatable kayaks are one of the most affordable and portable boats you can buy. Some seasoned kayakers may prefer hard shell boats - but with an inflatable, you don’t need to bother with trailers or roof racks. Plus they pack away, often into a backpack or bag, and require less storage space when you get home.

What about stand-up paddleboards? They’re another great way to enjoy the water, but SUPs are used with a single-bladed paddle and of course aren’t ideal for touring or longer sessions. Our inflatable one-person kayaks all have extra features like back support, adjustable seats, or footrests in the cockpit.

The best one-person inflatable kayaks 2024:

Please note: All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

The best budget inflatable one-person kayak

Intex Challenger one-person inflatable Kayak

Rrp: $231.66

Price: $199.00

This little wonder may be small, but it delivers a complete package for very little outlay. It comes with an 84” aluminium paddle, hand pump, and hard plastic skegs (fins) for that all-important stability control. Intex has even thrown in a bag to keep it in, although we’d suggest investing in a sturdier one if you're planning a lot of kayaking this summer. This one ranks in our list of the best one-person inflatable kayaks purely for fun-factor.

The one-person inflatable kayak itself is well put together, especially for this price point. Not only is the design pleasing to the eye but it’s also built from Intex’s ‘Super-Tough’ vinyl - a high-density PVC that is resistant to petrol, oil and salt. 

There’s only an inflatable seat in this budget model, but the backrest is more than adequate for casual paddling in comfort. The floor is made more rigid through inflatable I-beams. There are also handy grab lines at each end and a cargo net for storage. 

This really is the ideal budget one-person inflatable kayak for beginners and recreational users alike. If you’re only just getting your feet wet with kayaking, you might need a pair of sporty waterproof shoes to help you stay comfortable.

Pros

  • Stable
  • Inflatable I-beam floor
  • Very affordable compared to other options
  • Everything you need in one package

Cons

  • Single-layer outer skin
  • Not ideal for rough terrain
  • Paddle not the sturdiest

The best recreational one-person inflatable kayak

Aqua Marina Laxo 285 Inflatable Leisure Kayak
Price: $529.00
Alternative retailers
Tractor Supply$683.99View offer

This recreational one-person kayak is an excellent choice for anyone looking to spend a lot of time in flat waters. Sporting a floor cover and multiple handles for easy carrying, this sit-on-top inflatable kayak is wide and reliably stable in the water due to its twin fins and rounded hull. This makes it perfect for children and beginners, plus it is self-bailing should it capsize.

Crucially, this kayak is the first in our line-up to sport a durable polyester fabric hull cover. So, not only is the vinyl inside protected from scuffs and scrapes but it’s also shielded from UV rays. There’s even a splash guard on the bow and stern to help keep flooding at bay.

A rare addition at this price is the premium adjustable kayak seat. It has a cushioned high back, handy storage pockets, and is adjustable thanks to heavy-duty straps. Like the budget Intex, this also comes as a complete package - with a paddle, foot pump and carry bag.

Pros

  • Two tracking fins
  • Adjustable padded seat
  • Fabric outer cover
  • Water splash guards bow and stern

Cons

  • Fabric will retain some water
  • Slightly bulky to carry when packed

The best touring one-person inflatable kayak

Aqua Marina Steam 312 Professional one-person inflatable Kayak
Price: $551.06
Alternative retailers
Tractor Supply$715.49View offer

It’s time to shift things down a gear after all of that recreational splashing around. Touring in a one-person inflatable kayak is more about taking the time to enjoy the wonders of the landscape around you. You’re likely to spot wildlife as you traverse rivers and explore these changing waterways as they head towards the coastline. This excellent offering from Aqua Marina is going to let you explore in comfort, important when covering long distances, due to the adjustable seat and foam footrest.

There’s an extended splash guard on the bow and any errant water is bailed automatically via a special drainage system. The shape of this kayak - an elongated ‘v’ - is also perfect for speed and efficient paddling, with twin fins providing enhanced tracking. But the key feature here in terms of stability is the drop-stitched double-walled floor. It’s 7cm thick. If you’re unsure about what drop-stitching is, read our short guide at the bottom of the page - it’s basically the pinnacle of sturdy engineering for inflatables.

The Aqua Marina Steam 312 also comes with a dry bag, hand pump and a sturdy zippable backpack for easy portage - a great addition for anyone hopping between rivers on foot. You’ll probably want to keep the rest of your belongings equally well protected, so check out this waterproof bag - stow one of these in your touring kayak and you’ll be ready for anything.

Pros

  • Two tracking fins
  • Drop-stitched double-wall floor
  • Super-tough reinforced PVC

Cons

  • No paddle
  • Footrest is not fully adjustable

The best one-person packraft inflatable kayak

Decathlon 100 1 Person River Packraft Kayak Argos

The Decathlon 100 1 Person River Packraft Kayak is an innovative solution for solo adventurers seeking a lightweight and compact watercraft. Engineered for durability and ease of use, it features a robust, puncture-resistant material that can handle the demands of river kayaking. This kayak is designed for optimal maneuverability and stability, offering a comfortable and secure paddling experience. Its streamlined shape enhances speed and agility on the water, making it perfect for exploring rivers and streams.

The kayak is remarkably easy to transport and store, thanks to its inflatable design that packs down small, fitting into a backpack. It comes with a high-efficiency hand pump for quick inflation and a paddle designed for effectiveness and comfort. The Decathlon 100 kayak also prioritizes safety with its multiple air chambers to ensure buoyancy in case of a puncture. This packraft kayak is an excellent choice for those who value simplicity, performance, and the freedom to explore waterways independently. We only wish it came with the paddles, especially for the price.

Pros

  • High quality design
  • Super portable
  • Reputable brand

Cons

  • Paddles not included

The best looking one-person inflatable kayak

The Aqua Spirit Inflatable Kayak Board is one fo the freshest looking inflatable kayaks available. Itmerges the versatility of a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) with the comfort and paddling ease of a kayak, offering a unique aquatic experience. It features a spacious deck with a non-slip surface for safety and comfort, and it includes a kayak conversion kit with a comfortable seat and a double-bladed paddle, allowing users to seamlessly transition from standing to sitting positions.

It might look great, but it's practical too. Thanks to its lightweight design and the included carry bag. Inflating and deflating is usually quick and straightforward although the high-pressure pump might not be the most reliable. The Aqua Spirit Inflatable Kayak Board also boasts adjustable footrests for kayaking, a detachable fin for stability in various water conditions, and front and rear bungee cords for securing gear. It's an ideal choice for water enthusiasts who desire the flexibility to enjoy the best of both kayaking and paddleboarding in a single, easily transportable package.

Pros

  • Stand-out design
  • Comes with loads of accessories
  • Two-year warranty

Cons

  • The supplied pump could be better

The best value one-person inflatable kayak

Decathlon 1 Person Inflatable KayakAmazon

The Decathlon 1 Person Inflatable Kayak offers a practical and enjoyable solution for solo paddlers looking to explore waterways with ease. Its design focuses on comfort and stability, featuring a spacious cockpit and an inflatable seat that ensures a pleasant paddling experience. The kayak is made from durable, puncture-resistant material, making it suitable for various aquatic environments. Its lightweight and easy-to-inflate nature facilitate quick setups and transitions, allowing adventurers to spend more time on the water.

This kayak ticks the portability and storage boxes too, easily folding into a compact size that fits in a carry bag. Included in the set is a paddle but sadly no pump. The Decathlon 1 Person Inflatable Kayak is also equipped with safety features, such as a visible color scheme for better visibility and multiple air chambers to enhance buoyancy and reliability. It's an ideal all-rounder option, and great value from Decathlon.

Pros

  • Great all-rounder option
  • Durable, versatile
  • Eye-catching design

Cons

  • Pump not included

The best one-person inflatable kayak for fishing

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series one-person inflatable kayak
Price: $202.27
Alternative retailers
Walmart$202.27View offer

Inflatable one-man kayaks have become increasingly popular with anglers over recent years with the addition of premium features normally found on traditional hard-shell boats. Our second offering from Intex really does cram a lot of these into a portable and affordable package.

The wide deck on this kayak leaves plenty of space for bait, extra kit and even a lunchbox or two. The construction is lightweight and the laminated PVC should withstand some scuffs and occasional rough handling. It can also be inflated to a high enough pressure for rigidity and stability. Comfort-wise there’s a floor-mounted footrest and an inflatable seat with a booster if you need one. It also comes with a paddle, pump and two fins (skegs). 

But the real highlights here are the numerous detachable mount points - two for rods, one for GoPro and phone, and a spare - more than enough for the average angler’s collection of gadgets.

Pros

  • Two removable skegs for deep or shallow water
  • Excellent mounting options
  • Adjustable seat with optional booster
  • Storage space bow and stern

Cons

  • The inflatable seat may not suit some
  • What you gain in features adds extra bulk

The best inflatable one-person kayak for comfort

Hydroforce Ventura Kayak SetAmazon
Price: $459.33

The Hydroforce Ventura Kayak Set is a one-person inflatable kayak designed for enthusiasts seeking adventure on the water without the hassle of transporting a traditional kayak. It's a no-brainer chocie for comfort. Constructed from durable, puncture-resistant material, it offers stability and comfort for up to two adults. The kayak features an integrated drain valve, adjustable seats for comfort during long paddles, and built-in storage compartments for securing personal items. Its lightweight design and included carry bag make it effortlessly portable, appealing to adventurers who value convenience and flexibility.

Equipped with aluminum oars and a high-pressure air pump, the Ventura Kayak Set ensures users are ready to hit the water immediately. Ideal for exploring lakes, rivers, and coastal waters, this kayak combines the thrill of kayaking with the ease of an inflatable model, making it perfect for both beginners and seasoned paddlers looking for a reliable, easy-to-manage option. It just might pose a bit of a job to clean courtesy of the material.

Pros

  • Extremely comfortable, adjustable seat
  • Solid value for money
  • Awesome design

Cons

  • Not the easiest to clean

Best overall one-person inflatable kayak

For one-person outings, this is a reliable and sturdy choice. The Aquaplanet Inflatable Kayak has everything you'll need, including comfort. The seat position is well thought out, with back support for your lower back. The construction is solid and made from polyester and other robust materials.

Covered storage is ample, as are straps and handles, adding utility to the Aquaplanet. The bow and stern are not as pointed as some others, and the hull is relatively flat-bottomed, but this kayak is more than adequate for river and lake transversal. We’d happily take it to saltwater, too, but only in calm conditions.

This will also carry up to 130kg of weight, including the paddler. This means that you have lots of capacity for luggage, such as a compact camping kit or waterproof travel bag. In our view, this is the perfect beginner kayak for getting into the water for some adventures.

It deflates into a backpack-sized package for hassle-free transportation. Likewise, it's light, so very easy to portage. Plus there's a paddle and pump included.

Pros

  • Great beginner craft
  • Paddle and pump included
  • Spacious

Cons

  • Not the best glide

The best one-person inflatable kayak for cargo

The Cressi Namaka iKayak stands out in the world of inflatable kayaks, blending functionality with performance. Its design prioritizes durability, utilizing heavy-duty PVC to withstand varied water conditions. Ideal for solo paddlers, it features an adjustable seat for optimal comfort and an efficient, easy-to-use foot pump for quick inflation. The set includes a high-performance paddle, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable paddling experience.

This inflatable kayak screams convenience, offering a compact carry bag for transportation and storage. It's equipped with a removable skeg for enhanced directional stability, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced kayakers. The kayak's design also includes multiple air chambers for added safety, alongside ample storage space for gear, making it a versatile choice for adventurers looking to explore lakes, rivers, and coastal waters.

Pros

  • Ideal for storage and transportation
  • Sleek design
  • Sturdy build

Cons

  • It is on the heavier side

Choosing the best one-person inflatable kayaks

Water, water everywhere…

Consider the kind of water you're likely to be venturing into - flat water like lakes, or more active waterways like rivers and calm seas. We’ve grouped our best picks into categories to help you choose. This will really depend on whether you're a beginner, a leisure kayaker or prefer the idea of taking your one-person inflatable kayak on a touring trip into the wild.

The benefits of sit-on-top one-person inflatable kayaks

Our top choices below are SOT (sit-on-top) kayaks - meaning that your lower body isn’t enclosed below the deck. These are ideal for beginners as they’re self-bailing - meaning that if the kayak capsizes, you’ll simply be floating free.

Enclosed kayaks are best suited for more experienced users on trips like river expeditions, where conditions may get a little turbulent. The deck can help repel any wild water from flooding the cockpit, and also provide more space for strapping on your tent and supplies.

A note about whitewater one-person kayaks

Whitewater kayaking is a specialist area. It means dealing with serious terrain, rapids, choppy waters and more. We recommend specialist whitewater kayaking retailers.

If you’re a new or intermediate kayaker we recommend using inflatables on flat waters, or sea kayaking in calm waters close to the shore. Use your choice of inflatables below to become an adept kayaker, and you’ll know when you’re ready to take the leap into whitewater kayaking.

Portability

Decide on your needs for transport - will you be travelling by car, train, on foot, or even cycling? If you've already decided on a one-person kayak, you’ll already probably want to be travelling light. A backpack-sized package is going to be best for moving anywhere on foot. Consider buying bigger waterproof bags for car trips, and make sure your one-person kayak has good handles for easy moving and handling once you've inflated it.

Materials and construction

The lifespan of your one-person kayak is largely down to your budget, as this will determine the type of construction used. The nature of inflatables makes punctures possible of course, but only if you’re particularly unlucky or through poor storage or handling. However, the benefits of inflatables far outweigh the disadvantages. Most decent kayaks of this type are made from double-stitched heavy-duty vinyl or PVC, making punctures a rarity.

Safety when using a one-person inflatable kayak

If you’re new to kayaking or water sports in general, take a look at our advice and buyer’s guide lower down the page. And always remember to plan your excursions well, know your route and respect other people using the waterways.

For safety, we recommend staying close to the shore, whether you’re at sea or on a river or lake. If you’re a beginner you’re bound to make a few mistakes here and there, so remember to always wear buoyancy aids and have fun.

How to choose the best one-person inflatable kayak

Pump up the volume

All but one of our recommended one-person kayaks come with a manual pump. If you’re not keen on doing all that hard work yourself, you might decide to upgrade to an electric one. But don't forget that a plug-in electric pump is only good if your car is nearby. Or, you could take the plunge and get a rechargeable pump that will last long enough between charges to inflate your new kayak. However, a manual pump is always ready to go, so perhaps this is a case of the simpler the better. The average time to manually inflate a kayak is usually five to ten minutes.

If you are interested in upgrading your standard pump, we've got a guide to the best electronic and manual pumps.

Packing and transport time

You should also consider the drying and packing time of your inflatable one-person kayak. This is an often overlooked and frustrating time-hog at the end of your adventure.

Fabric-covered kayaks, although very well protected step up from single layer vinyl, really can make this last step take longer with more difficulty, as the fabric retains some water. Unless you have time to spare sitting out in the sun, it can be very difficult to completely dry them out, so keep this in mind.

If you’re not planning on carrying it on your back (and have the space in your vehicle), invest in a large waterproof bag. This makes drying time much less of an issue, and the added protection is good peace of mind. Drive home and take your time to dry the kayak later instead of out in the wild.

Inflatable vs hardshell

Inflatable one-person kayaks don’t manoeuvre or track the water as well as their hardshell cousins and this is down to rigidity. Many inflatable kayaks are rigid enough to make this a non-issue for touring on flat and relatively calm waters. Hardshell is definitely best for choppy waters and is a prerequisite for most whitewater kayaking and paddling in rougher seas.

It goes without saying that inflatables come with some risk of punctures. Running into rocks in shallow water, particularly in lakes where visibility might be an issue, means that your choice should be robust enough to take the odd mishap. The durability of the outer shell is also important if you’re pushing out over coarse terrains, like beaches and river banks. So, let’s take a look at just what your new kayak is likely to be made of:

Single-layer

These one-person kayaks are commonly made of thinner vinyl. It’s important to choose wisely here, as some budget inflatable kayaks aren’t much better than an inflatable pool toy. Like our examples above, there are some excellent single-layer vinyl kayaks to be found with much thicker, higher-quality vinyl. They’re ideal for relaxed shorter paddles in fair weather, so a perfect choice for beginners. They also pack up smaller than premium thicker-skinned kayaks, so these are great if you’re travelling on foot.

Disadvantages come from the thinner skin which makes the kayak more deformable in the water.  That can make them a little more difficult to paddle in a straight line; but for short recreational and non-touring use, this isn’t an issue.

Fabric-coated vinyl

These are usually high-quality vinyl on the inside, but this time enclosed in a tough fabric outer layer. They’re generally for heavier recreational use, including touring. Other than helping to protect the vinyl from punctures and abrasions, the fabric will also protect the vinyl from harmful UV rays that can weaken it over time. One disadvantage of this kind of inflatable one-person kayak is that the fabric takes on water, so drying and packing time might not suit your needs.

Thick PVC or rubber single layer

This is a seriously durable material that can withstand a high level of impacts, groundings and abrasions. Suitable for long trips, they can be loaded with extra camping gear and still retain their stability. Look for plenty of straps and storage areas.

The structure can be reinforced by drop stitching, but not all kayaks have it. Drop stitching is an internal lattice of stitching that reinforces the inside of inflatable sections. When the kayak is inflated, this ensures a more rigid shell and so more stability in the water.

As you might expect, the lifespan of this kind of inflatable kayak can be 10 - 20 years, but they come at a premium price. If you can stretch to it and are already onboard with serious kayaking, it would be worth investing in one of these before opting for single-layer or fabric-coated versions.

Choose your paddle wisely

Not all kayaks come with paddles. Often the paddle that’s included with some budget inflatable kayaks is not the best. You may want to invest in a good, strong and lightweight aluminium paddle. Bear in mind that most recreational inflatable kayaks are usually wider than solid hull types, so you’ll need a longer paddle to avoid hitting your hands against the sides.

Make sure you have a fin

Always buy a kayak with a skeg or tracking fin. All of our examples here have one. They sit underneath the hull and help keep the kayak in a straight line. They are either built into your kayak's hull or can be attached to it.

Frequently asked questions

one-person inflatable kayak by a river bank
one-person inflatable kayak by river bank

Are inflatable kayaks good for fishing?

The right one-person inflatable kayak can really make your fishing trip simpler, lighter and easier to manage. These often have a wider body for greater stability, and a sit-on-top design. There's usually plenty of floor and hull space for tackle, bait and more. Many also feature built-in rod rests and mounts, ideal for giving anglers' arms a well-earned break.

Do inflatable kayaks work?

Inflatable kayaks, including those designed to take one person or more, work extremely well. One of the areas that you’ll need to pay attention to is the total load capacity, so check to make sure both you and your kit will be within the limit.  They work, but perhaps the key question is: are inflatable kayaks any good? This is down to your needs and preferences, but many owners swear by their compact portability and ease of use.

Are inflatable kayaks safe?

As with any piece of sports equipment, much of this is down to how you use it. A good quality one-person kayak is designed to keep you safe and comfortable. Always follow the manufacturer’s advice. Follow the usual safety codes, wear your buoyancy aids, and you’ll be safe and enjoying the water.

Can one person use a two-person inflatable kayak?

Yes. You may find a two-person inflatable kayak harder to steer though, and it can take more effort to paddle them.

Kayaking jargon explained

Here’s a handy glossary for anyone who is in the market for a new kayak:

• Bow - front of the boat

• Stern - rear of the boat

• Port - left of the boat

• Starboard - the right of the boat

• Hull - the body of the boat

• Cockpit - the enclosed area where you sit to paddle

• Sit-on-top - a kayak without a covered top

• Portage - carry a kayak over dryland

Tips on how to kayak safely

It’s essential that you ensure the safety of yourself and others when you’re enjoying your new outdoor hobby.

• Always wear a buoyancy aid regardless of how strong a swimmer you are

• Check the weather before your trip

• Choose quick-drying clothing that’s appropriate for the conditions

• Check tide times for sea kayaking and tidal rivers

• Check water access points

• Have a route plan, and tell someone else your departure and return times

• Don’t kayak alone until you’re experienced

• Do not overload your kayak - stick to the manufacturer’s stated payload limit

• Do not overinflate a kayak

• Slightly underinflate a kayak in very hot weather to avoid heat expansion issues

Tips for newcomers and inexperienced kayakers

• Begin on calm and still waters

• Avoid sea kayaking until you have more confidence and ensure you stay in calm waters close to the shore

• Avoid rivers after heavy rainfall, even if your kayak is rated for whitewater use

• Keep aware of other watercraft and plan ahead to avoid their paths

• Keep an eye on fishing lines near banks and avoid them

• Choose well-known kayaking locations

• Avoid areas frequented by powerboats and other fast-moving craft

Do you need a licence to kayak in the UK?

England and Wales share over 4,000 km of managed waterways according to British Canoeing, and all of these routes require a licence.

There are some English and Welsh waterways that you can use without a licence, but these are the exception. Although it’s tempting to unpack your brand new one-person inflatable kayak and head for the nearest river, you should definitely arrange your licence before you head out.

You can purchase a license from British Canoeing. An adult licence membership will cost you £47 per year, with some other options available too. Please note this license only covers kayaking in England and Wales.

Chris Duffill is a Tech Product Writer for What's The Best. He specialises in audiovisual, computing, and gadgets. He also writes for Yours.

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