Inflatable Kayaks vs Hardshell Kayaks Comparison

If you want to start kayaking, you would be faced with the option of choosing which type of kayak to buy. As a kayak lover, you must go for a product that can serve you and meet your needs.

Hence the question, should you go for an inflatable or a hard shell kayak? This article looks to compare the two kayak types to help you make up your mind on which to purchase.

Inflatable kayaks are inflatable. They are inflated for use and deflated after use. They are currently the most popular type of kayaks as many people prefer them over hard shell kayaks. There have been major advancements in inflatable tech in modern times, which makes it possible for inflatable kayaks to be compared to their hard-shell counterparts.

Hardshell kayaks are the kayak types that were invoked from time, rigid. They cannot be inflated or deflated and are usually made using plastic, fiberglass, or any other solid material.

Comparison Between Inflatable Kayaks and Hardshell Kayaks

Below, we would be considering how inflatable kayaks and hardshell kayaks compare against each other in different sections;


The first thing you need to consider when deciding on which kayak is the best – inflatable or hardshell – is performance. Which of these kayaks will be able to perform the tasks for which you intend to buy them? Both kayaks can be able to perform certain tasks, but efficiency cannot be the same.

Inflatable kayaks are considered by many to be more stable than hard shell ones. The fact that they are filled with air gives them a high floating tendency. They will not capsize easily. However, inflatable kayaks would not perform very well in severe weather.

In such a case, hard-shell kayaks are ideal as they are solid and rigid. The heavy weight of the hard shell kayaks makes them unable to get knocked down easily in harsh weather conditions.

Deciding on which kayak to go for based on performance depends on what you want to use it for. It also depends on where you want to use it. Inflatable kayaks will perform very well for mild ventures that involve calm waters. Though some inflatable kayaks can handle rough waters, hard-shell kayaks are Ideal options to go for in such situations.


Of course, transportation; you certainly would need to move your kayak from one place to another. Practically, an inflatable kayak will be easier to transport than a hard shell kayak; there Is no argument for that.

This Is primarily because these kayaks are “inflatable,” just as the name implies. They are filled with air, and when the air is released, they become very compact and can be folded for easy transport. An inflatable kayak can fit into any bag or backpack when folded, making it very simple to carry around.

These inflatable kayaks are lightweight; on average, Inflatable kayaks weigh between 30 – 40 lbs. Some of these kayaks weigh as low as 15 – 20 lbs.

Hardshell kayaks, on the other hand, at not inflatable. The size is what it is. They cannot be reduced or folded. Considering the length of kayaks, it won’t be possible to put a hard shell kayak in a backpack. Also, they weigh much more than inflatable kayaks as they are solid items. Most hardshell kayaks weigh between 50 – 60 lbs; some weigh much more.

Transporting such a kayak is possible but won’t be very easy when compared to an inflatable one.


These have to do with the money you are to pay. Generally, an expensive product is considered a high-quality product, while a low-cost product is considered less quality. However, such is not always the case when it comes to purchasing an inflatable or hardshell kayak.

Inflatable kayaks are more affordable than hard-shell kayaks. This is understandable considering the material they are both made with. You can purchase an Inflatable kayak for as low as $100. Costly ones can be priced at $600 or $700. The amount you will be paying for inflatable kayaks mainly depends on their size and weight capacity. Large ones are likely to be more expensive than smaller ones.

Hardshell kayaks are generally more expensive than inflatable kayaks. Once again, this is because they are solid items. A hardshell kayak is likely to cost from $400 upwards. It is not impossible to get some for a lower price.

Hardshell kayaks made with wood can be very expensive; some are priced higher than $1,000. As common, large-sized hard shell kayaks will cost more than smaller-sized ones.


Storage is related to transportation as they both have to do with how compact a kayak is. As you would imagine, an inflatable kayak will be easier to store than a hard-shell one. The major reason is simply that they are Inflatable and will take up less space when inflated.

You can store an inflatable kayak almost anywhere. It would fit into the trunk of your car. You can also keep it in the corner of your garage when folded.

Hardshell kayaks will occupy more storage space. Their shape and size cannot be altered to be stored just the way they are.

If you go for an inflatable kayak, you almost would not need to worry about storage space. On the other hand, storage should be your concern if you opt for a hard shell kayak.


Durability is an important factor to consider when considering going for an inflatable or hardshell kayak. You sure want to go for a product. You can rely on its quality, which would last for you.

Technically, hard-shell kayaks are considered more durable than inflatable kayaks mainly because they are made with composite materials. Most hard-shell kayaks are made using wood, fiberglass, and plastic materials. Each one of these materials has its durability, but generally, they won’t get damaged easily.

Inflatable kayaks are usually made using PVC and rubber materials. These are durable materials, but their sturdiness cannot be compared to hard-shell kayaks. However, inflatable kayaks cannot be damaged easily. Most of them feature drop-stitch technology for ultra durability. This makes the kayak’s surface very tough such that it hardly gets damaged.


Also, inflatable kayaks are very flexible as opposed to hard-shell kayaks. They will withstand knocks and bumps as they easily bounce off hard surfaces they come across. Hardshell kayaks are more prone to damage from bumps and knocks because they lack flexibility.


Frequently Asked Questions About Inflatable VS Hardshell Kayaks- FAQ

Q: How long do inflatable kayaks last?

A: The longevity of an inflatable kayak depends mainly on how it is used and maintained. If properly maintained, an inflatable kayak should last for years.

Q: Can you use an inflatable kayak in the ocean?

A: Yes, you can use the most inflatable kayaks in the ocean. Preferably, you should make use of inflatable kayaks made with very tough materials.

Q: Can a kayak sink?

A: Of course, a kayak can sink. However, this rarely happens as these products were crafted to stay afloat, and they are very stable in water. Inflatable kayaks mostly feature different air chambers.

Q: What is the best type of kayak for a beginner?

A: A beginner can make use of any kayak, be it an inflatable or hard shell. Nevertheless, inflatable kayaks are usually recommended for beginners.

Q: Are hard shell kayaks durable?

A: Yes, a quality hard shell kayak is very durable. Hardshell kayaks are made with composite materials, which makes them sturdy.

Q: How should I store my hardshell kayak?

A: It is important to store your kayak where it would be free from getting damaged. It is advised that you store your kayak in a dry space and make sure it is not exposed to heat or cold weather conditions.


From what is discussed, both inflatable and hard shell kayaks have their advantages and disadvantages. Both are functional and can be ideal for purchase depending on what you intend to use them for.

The major advantage of inflatable kayaks over hardshell kayaks is that they are inflatable. That is primarily what separates the two types, and this comparison would not be necessary if it were not. Being inflatable gives them an upper hand in storage and transportation.

Hardshell kayaks would be ideal for rough waters. Their solid nature makes them able to resist the push and push of the water waves.

If you are new to kayaking, you want to have some fun with a kayak. Then, an inflatable kayak would be ideal. For those who are used to kayaking and plan to take tough kayaking tasks, a hard shell kayak would likely be the best for you.

There are so many inflatable and hardshell kayaks available for purchase from different brands. If you decide on which one to go for, you need to consider products from renowned manufacturers.



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Peter Graham
Peter Graham
Hi there! I'm Peter, a software engineer and tech enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in the field. I have a passion for sharing my knowledge and helping others understand the latest developments in the tech world. When I'm not coding, you can find me hiking or trying out the latest gadgets.


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