Hardshell vs Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell kayak” is a debate that has been going on for ages among both beginner and professional paddlers. That is why I have decided to come up with a detailed article addressing this debate, covering everything about both Inflatable Kayak and Hardshell kayak.

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

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

Inflatable Kayaks are exactly like their name suggests; they are inflated and deflated before and after use. They are the modern version of kayaks designed to cope up with modern-day requirements. They are also called “blow-up kayaks.” These are portable, cost-friendly, and easy to transport, making them perfect for beginners.

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


Being the lightest kayak, they are mostly made up of synthetic rubber and plastic polymers. They usually weigh around 25 pounds, which is almost half the weight of hardshells. Despite being made from rubber and plastic polymers, they are very durable and strong. Some of the features of any inflatable kayak are puncture resistance, weatherproofing, 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, they are cheaper than hardshells.

Storage & Transportation

Inflatable kayaks take only a small amount of space to store, just like an air mattress. You can deflate the kayak and store it 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, and they do not require any car roof rack for transportation.

Now, Pros!

Now, let’s talk about the pros of inflatable kayaks.

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

And, the Cons!

  • Inflatable kayaks with all the top-notch features can be as expensive as any hardshell kayak.
  • Inflating and deflating a kayak may take a few minutes before using it.
  • You need to take care of the pump and make sure it is clean and intact, requiring some extra effort.
  • Being lightweight, sometimes it is difficult to control them in rough water.


Hardshell Kayaks, also known as rigid kayaks, are traditional style kayaks made from materials such as wood, fiberglass, composite materials, or plastic. These types of kayaks typically perform well on rough waters compared to inflatables.

These kayaks weigh around 55 pounds due to their hard materials. Generally, Hardshells are more expensive compared to inflatables. However, they are more stable, durable, and designed to withstand rough conditions.

Hardshell kayaks are ideal for fishing due to their stability and control.


As a rigid kayak, hardshell kayaks are made from materials such as wood, plastic, Kevlar, and fiberglass. The hard materials make these kayaks very durable and tough. These kayaks can easily handle any type of water, be it a still lake or rough sea.

Hardshell kayaks weigh around 55 pounds, which is heavier compared to inflatables.


Compared to inflatable kayaks, Hardshell kayaks are more expensive due to the hard materials used in their construction.

Even wooden kayaks are more expensive than plastic-made inflatables, and they also cost more for repair and maintenance.

Transportation & Storage:

Hardshells are difficult to transport due to their rigid shape. You need to have a roof rack for your car to fix it up and transport it.

Setting up a hardshell on a roof rack requires some effort as well.

Regarding storage, you need to have space in your garage to store your hardshell kayak.

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

Now, Pros!

  • They are more stable in rough water and offer smooth paddling compared to inflatables.
  • They save time by not requiring inflation or deflation and are ready to use.
  • They give you more control and confidence while paddling in open seas or rough waters.

And, the Cons!

  • They are heavier than inflatable kayaks, making them difficult to carry from one place to another.
  • They require separate storage space as they occupy a significant amount of garage space.
  • They require more maintenance and care than inflatables, as they are more prone to damage and impacts while paddling or shifting.
  • They are more expensive due to their tough material.

United States Coast Guard: The USCG provides safety tips and regulations for all types of boats, including kayaks. Their website offers information on kayaking safety equipment, operating guidelines, and navigation rules. They also recommend that kayakers choose a vessel that is appropriate for their skill level and the conditions they will encounter, whether it be a hardshell or inflatable kayak.

Conclusion: HardShell Vs Inflatable

It is difficult to determine which is the best kayak overall. Both have their own features, pros, and cons.

Inflatables are easy to carry, transport, and ride. They are cost-friendly and suitable for beginners who want to improve their paddling skills.

On the other hand, Hardshells are durable, rigid, and provide better control while paddling. They are more suitable for intermediate or advanced level kayakers.

After choosing your kayak, there are plenty of options to choose from in both hardshell and inflatable kayaks. You can find some of the best kayaks by surfing through our website and getting good deals.

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