Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell

Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell kayak, a debate that has been going on since ages among both beginner and professional paddlers.

That is why I have decided to come up with a detailed article addressing this debate. I have tried to cover everything about both Inflatable Kayak and Hardshell kayak.

Kayaking is a thrilling experience whether you are manoeuvring through still lakes, windy rivers, or sea filled with waves. Apart from being a fun leisurely activity, kayaking is a great exercise with amazing health benefits.

Coming back to the topic, Inflatable vs Hardshell is the most debated topic among paddlers so I will be doing justice with this topic.

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Inflatable Kayaks Vs Hardshell – Which is Best?

So now let’s talk about both Inflatable Kayak and Hardshell Kayak one by one!

There is a difference between a Kayak and a Canoe and if you are wondering about that then you can read our detailed guide on Kayak vs Canoe for more information.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflated Kayaks are exactly like their name suggest; they are inflated and deflated before and after use.

They are the version of modern kayaks that are designed to coupe up with the modern day requirements. It is also called blow up kayak. These are portable, cost friendly and easy to transport making them a perfect beginners kayak.

Due to advancing technology, inflatable kayaks are almost similar in performance as compared to hardshells.


Being the most light weight kayak, It is mostly made up of synthetic rubber and plastic polymers. They usually weighs around 25 pounds which is almost half of the weight of hardshell.

Despite of being made from rubber and plastic polymers, they are very durable and strong. Some of the features of any inflatable kayak are; puncture resistant, weather proof, and dual air chambers for safety in case of punctures.

Is it Cost Effective?

The simple answer would be Yes!

Since Inflatable kayaks are made up of rubber and polymers which makes them cheap in price against hardshell.

Storage & Transportation

Inflatable kayak takes only small amount of space to store just like an air mattress. You can deflate the kayak and store into its carrying bag. That carrying bag can easily fit in the trunk of your car.

Being easy to store makes it easy to transport as well. These kayaks can easily move from one place to another. It does not require any car roof rack for transportation.

Now, Pros!

Now Let’s talk about the pros of Inflatable kayaks.

  • They are very light in weight making it easily transportable and easy to store. They can easily fit in a bagpack.
  • However, don’t think because they are lighter then they are any weaker. They are equally strong as the hardshell kayaks are.
  • Inflatable kayaks are designed to withstand the bumps and knocks. They bounce back in case of collision.
  • Most of the inflatables are made up of using drop-stitch technology which means small fibers inside the kayak interlock as it is inflated making it tough for rough surface.
  • The outer layer is made up of PVC or durable rubber making it more durable.
  • You can easily roll a kayak if it is hardshell due to its rigid shape and stability.

And, the Cons!

  • The Inflatable kayaks with all the top-notch features can be as expensive as any hardshell kayak.
  • Inflating and deflating a kayak may take few of your minutes as you need to inflate and deflate a kayak before using it.
  • You need to take care of the pump and make sure it is clean and intact making you put some extra efforts.
  • Being light weight, sometimes it is difficult to control them in rough water.


HardShell kayaks, also known as rigid kayaks, are the traditional style kayaks which are made from wood, fiberglass, composite material, or plastic. These type of kayaks normally perform amazing on rough waters as compared to inflatables.

These kayaks weighs almost 55 pounds as they made from hard material. Generally, Hardshells are bit expensive as compared to inflatable. They are more stable, durable, and designed to withstand any rough conditions.

A Hardshell is one of the best kayaks for fishing because of its stability and control.


Being a rigid kayak, hardshell is made from wood, plastic, Kevlar, and fiberglass. The hard material makes this kayak very durable and tough. These kayaks can easily survive any water be it still lakes or rough sea.

These Hardshell kayaks weighs around 55 pounds which is heavier as compared to inflatables.

Are these Expensive?

As compared to inflatable kayaks, yes these are expensive!

As Hardshell kayaks are made up of hard material which is normally expensive then material used in Inflatable kayaks making them costly too.

Even wooden kayaks are more costly than plastic made inflatables; since they are going to cost you more for repair and maintenance as well which they often require.

Transportation & Storage

Hardshells are difficult to transport because of their rigid shade. You need to have a roof rack for your car in order fix it up there and transport.

Setting up a hardshell on a roof rack does require some serious efforts as well.

As far the storage is concerned, you need to have space in your garage to store your hardshell kayak.

So you need to take into account that you will require a roof rack to transport your kayak and a sufficient space in your garage to store it.

Now, Pros!

  • They are more stable in rough water and offers you smooth paddling as compared to inflatables.
  • It saves you time of inflating and deflating a kayak as they are ready to go!
  • It gives you more control and confidence while paddling. While kayaking in open sea or rough water then you get to feel more control over your vessel.

And, the Cons!

  • They are very heavy as compared to inflatable kayaks. Carrying them from one place to another is much of a task which requires serious effort.
  • It requires separate storage space as they would definitely occupy sufficient space of your garage.
  • They require more maintenance and care as compared to inflatable. Being a hardshell kayak, their chances that they will get damage and hit by various things while paddling or shifting.
  • Being made from tough material, they are definitely going to cost you more.

Conclusion: HardShell Vs Inflatable

So now let’s conclude that which one is best; Hardhsell or Inflatable?

Generally, it is difficult to tell that which one to choose. However, for your convenience, I have listed out all the features, pros and cons of both kayaks. and based that you can decide which one to choose.

Inflatables can be easy to carry, transport and ride and does not require much efforts. Moreover, they are very cost friendly as well. So if you are a beginner and wanted to polish paddling skills then this the one to have.

Whereas, Hardshells are rigid, durable and give you more control while paddling. On the other hand, they are heavy, would required some space to store, and costly as well. I would recommend you to choose this if you are at intermediate or advance level.

After choosing your kayak, there are plenty of options to choose from in both hardshell and Inflatable kayaks and you can definitely find some of the best kayaks from there. Just surf through our website and you are going to find some good deals for sure.

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