Inflatables: pros, cons, advice

6:55 a.m. on May 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Anybody own an inflatable kayak, canoe or packraft?

I've noticed the top-end inflatables are no cheaper than kayaks and are in fact more expensive than the low-end models.

Springing leaks is always the main concern with inflatables -- the companies selling the high-end ones insist they are made with tough materials and are very difficult to pop.

Main advantage is ease of storage -- what are the caveats folks need to know before going this route?

6:53 p.m. on May 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Inflatables dont quite track as well. Worrying about punturing the boat can also create problems if you want to fish or go in brackish or salt water. Those oyster shells are razor sharp. In my opinion, I would stay away unless transport or storage was a big problem.

7:51 p.m. on May 8, 2010 (EDT)
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My first kayak was a Sea Eagle inflatable----it was cheap, easy to store, and gave me a chance to learn some basic strokes and discover how much I liked to get out on the river. I was careful to follow the guidelines for caring for the little boat and just loved it. Unfortunately, I loaned it to someone who did not, and after a puncture it has never been quite the same.

Pros--

easy set up--mine was on the water in 10 minutes using a foot pump

light weight--the bag was bulky, but i could carry it myself

roomy--it had lots of space in the cockpit to tandem another person or bring stuff

stable---the pontoons on the side made it tip-proof; my grandson would stand on it and dive into the lake

comfortable--the seats and sides are all soft inflatables and are very comfortable

good downstream--easy to navigate downstream

Cons--

tracking--It would track ok on calm flat water, but with any waves or wind it would list sideways

wind---it was so light it would be blown around by the wind on the lake

slow--compared to other kayak types it was slow--the kayak clubs will not let you tour with them

blisters--you 'll be more prone to getting blisters because you have to work harder--use gloves

paddles--they are ok, but not the very best, get a new one

-----

There are expedition inflatables within the same company that have rudders and skegs, and have corrected many of these problems. I do not have experience with them.

3:11 a.m. on May 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Inflatables dont quite track as well. Worrying about punturing the boat can also create problems if you want to fish or go in brackish or salt water. Those oyster shells are razor sharp. In my opinion, I would stay away unless transport or storage was a big problem.

I would have thought the same, but a friend of mine swears by these Alaskan packrafts, lightweight inflatable one and two man rafts that can be packed into remote lakes and headwaters and use in serious whitewater. They apparently take a pretty serous beating but they can also be field-repaired:

https://www.alpackaraft.com

Not really comparable to a canoe or kayak, but may be of interest to some here.

I think one issue with inflatables must be gear space -- they're all air!

The middle road, of course, is folding boats. We have a 23-year old Klepper which hasn't seen much use of late, but we took it to NZ with us back in '89, and spent o lot of time on Lake Champlain and even some Adirondack trips. Kleppers are a bit tubby and heavy, I think Feathercrafts are much lighter and higher performance, but we've had a lot of fun in that boat, including standing up and diving off the rear deck and climbing back in.

6:36 p.m. on May 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi Tommangan,

My first kayak was an Advanced Elements inflatable and I loved that rig. It was great because at that time I was paddling solo and lived in an apartment. I didn't have a car then but this kayak only weighed 36 lbs in the duffel bag and I could handle it on the bus if need be. I think what you will want is what you have room for and will depend on whether or not you need to move it alone. I paddled my inflatable in ocean and lakes. The only problem I found was it was a bit harder to paddle in rough water but a plus was that it was way more stable in this situation than the Old Town kayak I have now. What kind of paddling are you looking to do? Will you want to do multi-day trips or just day paddles? These are just some things you may want to think about before you purchase.

Jacqueline

11:36 p.m. on May 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I have seen the pack rafts used in a number of situations and I wouldn't be worried about their durability. Their use is rather limited to a specific purpose. As well rubber duckies(Ik's and IC's) are very durable and some in our club paddle them exclusively. They are certainly tough and capable of difficult whitewater with the right skills. They are somewhat slower than hardshells or even folding boats. They are wet. The Alpacas have spray skirts, which in my experience, easily release the swimmer. IC's and IK's do not have skirts available. What this means is that on cold rivers, a wet suit or dry suit is absolutely necessary with any inflatable. The same is also true of even hardshells, but you won't be quite so wet.

Something to consider is what type of river(these are river boat) you are going to paddle. If the stretch is boney, your tail is going to end up with more bruises than if you were paddling a hard shell canoe or kayak.

12:06 p.m. on May 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Our Sea Eagle is about 30 years old. It doesn't get much use these days, but we have used it on Class 3 rapids. Ours did not come with seats, so I have used PFD cushions (otherwise, going over a rock can be hard on the spine or if kneeling, the knees).

As noted above, it doesn't track well. But that means you can do a lot of maneuvering. It is bulky and heavy enough that the bulk can make it hard to maneuver in and out of a small car trunk - but no problem with our various VW Kampwagens or the current Subaru Outback. Never had a puncture, despite going over rocky rapids or, in the Deep South, swamps and creeks with lots of submerged trees and tree trunks (never had an alligator try to take a bite out of it, either, although you sit low enough to be at eye-level with that big gator on the bank sometimes). The Sea Eagle is really stable for floating around the bayous - no worries, like a canoe, of a big gator bumping you and rolling you over - then again, the favorite bayou boat, the pirogue is even more prone to dumping occupants, esp since most folk pole it standing up.

I do prefer a hardshell kayak or canoe. But the inflatable is fast to inflate with the foot pump (as someone already noted) and to deflate for putting back in the car - no hoisting onto the roof rack and no added height to the car for that low parking garage or the home garage to hit. Much easier to store in the garage or tool shed. Plus, no extra toll on the Pontchartrain Bridge (they have an electric height sensor and charge a lot more toll for "overheight" vehicles).

12:51 p.m. on June 4, 2010 (EDT)
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This topic is more fun that going out into the garage and arranging all those boats so that I can put some more inlaws furniture in it while they are getting ready to move. So many boats, so little time...So let's see...

The 17' Kodiak sea kayak is the fastest and racks on the car for most purposes, even paddling on slower creeks. It takes some getting used to doing moving water to line up with the current, but the sheer speed keeps me out of trouble because I can paddle upstream or ferry across the current if needed. When the wind comes up, it cuts through the waves spiling over the spray skirt and the low center of gravity combines with the stability increase at speed keeps me comfortable. I clock 6 mph on flat water with a GPS but sustain 4mph easily by sheer efficiency of low drag. The $1,200 price new was worth it. Can carry several hundred pounds in bombproof hatches.

This time of year most of the creeks are pretty fast so faster creeks and rivers need the Hyside Padillac 2-seater that I got for $100 at a yard sale. Perhaps no one else noticed the $1,700 boat sitting there, but it holds air and . Self-bailing is necessary in any sort of whitewater. Fits in the trunk. Can't beat Hypalon fabric for durability. In comparison, the vinyl kayaks and rafts need patches but make good swim toys.

Have to laugh, but the big boy, a 16' Hypalon raft, has gone the most places and been the most versatile over the years. Coming off the Grand Canyon, it drifted 10 miles with the downstream wind overnight and rowed the last 10 miles across Lake Mead into the afternoon whitecaps. It was $400 used. It also fits in the trunk, with the rowing frame and oars on a rack. Got to love the big ice chest that also serves as a seat.

The short whitewater kayak hardly fits but can be pressed into service on either flatwater or low-water creeks. It carries well on portages. Some whitewater kayaks fit into glove compartments nowadays - jk.

Get one of each, plus a canoe?

12:03 a.m. on June 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I do not know if you have been following Andy Skurka on his epic and record setting attempt to circumnavigate AK and the Yukon but a cool video was just put up.

Click on the Twitter "Follow Me" to see some crazy pack-rafting.

http://www.andrewskurka.com/AK10/index.php

7:00 a.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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10:11 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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I use my brothers 16' fiberglass canoe. I don't like rafts for where I go along the coastal plain because we have alligators, ragged tree stumps in the water, very sharp oyster beds, and it just kinda freaks me out. I have rafted class II and III rivers in the mountains and it is fun.

September 30, 2014
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