Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

Top 10 inflating kayaks and canoes

WideWorld's pick of the top kayaks and canoes
Photo: cfleizach, used under Creative Commons License (By SA 2.0)

They pack into a backpack and fit in the boot of your car – no roofracks needed to cart these full-size kayaks and canoes to the sea or river. Tough enough to ride surf and whitewater, new materials are being used to create sturdy and longlasting craft, with designs that will stay afloat even if you have a puncture. Here’s WideWorld’s pick of the best on the market

Best budget model

Sevylor Tahiti classic – £129.95

Available from Amazon

A tried and tested design that was first produced in 1963, this is the oldest of all the Sevylor models – and it’s had a long life for a reason. Made from special PVC, this canoe has twice run the Amazon and has even been used in the Antarctic. Three air chambers with Boston valves, an I-beam floor (long thin, interconnected cylinders of air) and a drain hole with plug out the back make it a practical, simple choice, and the removable seats give back support if they’re used, extra stowage space if they’re not.

Length: 325cm
Width: 80cm
Weight: 10kg
Max capacity: 165kg.

Best for handling

Advanced Elements Firefly Package – £239


For a simple, easy to navigate kayak you can’t get better than the Firefly. With a tracking fin built into the back and two rigid panels in its superstructure, it gives really precise handling while still folding down into a briefcase-size bag. Bungee deck lacing and a mesh pocket on top of the spray deck is a bonus, but be aware that there’s little space inside for stowage.

Length: 240cm
Width: 90cm
Weight: 7kg
Max capacity: 113kg

Best semi-rigid

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Kayak – £499


One of the closest designs you can get to a regular kayak while remaining an inflatable. The rigid sections of bow and stern give unparalleled stability and trackability in the water, while ripstop fabric up top, combined with enough stowage for an overnight bag, make this a dream package for the single paddler.

Length: 318cm
Width: 82cm
Weight: 16kg
Max capacity: 136kg

Best Canadian

Advanced Elements StraitEdge Canoe – £569


Rigid aluminium ribs in bow and stern, added to the wide beam of the design give this superb Canadian-style canoe great handling in the water. A few smart details give it a real edge for sportsmen: fishing rod holders, stern bag built in and adjustable height seats mean you can spend all day in this with no complaints.

Length: 336cm
Width: 92cm
Weight: 19kg
Max capacity: 181kg

Best on the sea

Gumotex Safari – £349.95


Self-bailing with two outlets front and back, this is a perfect model for sea-going adventures. Made from Nitrilon, a tough, stiff man-made fibre, it is rigid enough to ride over waves despite its length, while there’s strapping and stowage space aft and stern for long-haul expeditions.

Length: 304cm
Width: 72cm
Weight: 12.5kg
Max capacity: 100kg

Best for whitewater

Stearns Inflatable Pivot – £390.00


Great for rougher water, this five-chamber kayak is self-bailing, so you won’t get flooded when the sea or rapids get choppy. While normal inflatables experience drag from having a complex, multi-chambered hull shape, the Pivot uses a tri-hull system that keeps you paddling true, while the unique high arch of the hull maintains brilliant manoeuvrability. Smaller details – like an integrated map case and a dry storage bag – make this a truly premium purchase.

Length: 274cm
Width: 91cm
Weight: 14.0kg
Max capacity: 115kg

Best for space

Gumotex Palava – £546.25


Incredibly roomy with a vast 380cm length, this comfortably seats two adults and a child – or three small adults – and still fits in a package just 55x40x25cm. In fact, it comes with its own drybag, and at 21kg it’s just about feasible to haul this a long distance to the riverbank. High, laterally fitted seats give proper canoe comfort for long-distance paddling, while thigh-straps inside the hull give you the option of kneeling through rapids.

Length: 380cm
Width: 90cm
Weight: 21kg
Max capacity: 240kg

Best for touring

Stearns Spree 1 – £210


A proper kayak, with a proper spraydeck and balance, Stearns Spree 1’s are discontinued by the manufacturers but you can still get hold of them from UK stockists. It’s worth a search too: a thick tarpaulin hull keeps the structure safe from damage and also streamlines your motion in the water for really good control, and the three-chamber inflation system is surrounded by fabric to give a sturdy form.

Length: 295cm
Width: 94cm
Weight: 10.0kg
Max capacity: 105kg

Best for fishing

Sevylor Coral Sea – £249


Strong and stable, the Coral Sea even has a fitting that allows you to attach a motor. Thanks to the design that ends in two spurs at the stern, it’s also stable enough for diving and snorkelling, as well as fishing, and the on-top position means you won’t get swamped and slowed down by taking on water.

Length: 396cm
Width: 89cm
Weight: 8.6kg
Max capacity 180 kg

Best top-end model

Hobie Mirage i12s – £1495


Expensive, yes: but you get what you pay for. The Mirage is a technological breakthrough for inflatables: a rudder in the stern, plus Hobie’s patented pedal-paddling system for when you need your arms for something else. With a special screw-lid dry stowage area and even its own wheeled store bag, this is the ultimate in kayaks. You can even buy a sail for it – let the wind do the work for once.

Length: 366cm
Width: 91cm
Weight: 27kg
Max capacity: 227kg