Inflatable or Hardshell Kayaks: Which One is Best?

When it comes to kayaking, the first question that often comes to mind is what type of kayak to use. For beginners looking to buy, the choice often boils down to a key descision: inflatable or hardshell kayak. Both types have their pros and cons, and the “best” option depends on various factors like your kayaking goals, storage space, and the water conditions you’ll face.

The Hardshell Kayak: A Classic Choice

Durability and Performance

Hardshell kayaks are traditionally made from materials like plastic, fiberglass, or even carbon fiber. These materials make them more rigid, offering better performance and maneuverability. Hardshell kayaks are excellent for long trips and more challenging water conditions, including whitewater kayaking.

If you are kayaking any significant distance the performance difference will be really noticable. Hard kayaks are more streamlined and have less friction.

Storage and Transport

The downside is that they are not as easy to store or transport. You’ll need roof racks for your car and enough space in your garage or shed to store them.


They also require more care and maintenance, especially if the kayak is made from materials that are susceptible to UV damage or scratches.

The Inflatable Kayak: Convenience First

Easy to Store and Transport

Inflatable kayaks can easily be deflated and packed into a carry bag, making them super convenient for those who lack storage space. You can even take them on public transport if needed!


While not as sturdy as hardshell kayaks, modern inflatables are quite durable and can handle various water conditions, including flat water and mild rivers. However, they might not be suitable for rough or sharp rocky terrains.

If you are getting a kayak for a general laugh in calm waters or with kids, then an inflatable kayak might be the best option.

Set-Up Time

It’s worth noting that you’ll need to inflate and deflate this type of kayak each time you use it, which can be time-consuming. You also need a pump and, from personal experience, it can be a frustrating experience.

What to Consider When Choosing

Type of Kayaking

Are you interested in long expeditions, or are you planning more casual outings? Hardshell kayaks are better for the former, while inflatables are generally more suited for recreational use.

Skill Level

Hardshell kayaks offer better performance and might be the better option for skilled kayakers. If you want to develop the best technique then inflatables may limit the level you can progress to.


Inflatable kayaks are generally cheaper, making them an excellent option for those just getting started with the sport. Inflatable kayaks have come along way in recent years with improved durability, ease of set up and more streamlined designs.

Storage Space

If you live in a small apartment, the convenience of an inflatable kayak that can be packed away into a closet is unbeatable.


Both inflatable and hardshell kayaks have their merits. Inflatable kayaks offer convenience and are generally more budget-friendly, while hardshell kayaks provide superior performance and durability. Assess your needs and limitations carefully before making your choice. Happy paddling!

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Co-founder and Chief Adventurer

I am Max, the co-founder and CEO of adventuro. We are on a mission to help you get into the sports you have always wanted to try, or develop in the sports you love, exploring new skills and locations. We do this by partnering with the best instructors, guides, and activity centres to get a great spread from beginner all the way to instructor training.

For too long, it has been way to confusing to find your next steps, or even to know where to start when getting into adventure sports. I am an experienced and/or qualified paraglider, skydiver, scuba diver, freediver, power boat driver, snowboarder, kitesurfer, kayaker, mountain biker, surfer, dirt biker, wakeboarder, and sailor.

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