Best Inflatable Kayak For Rivers – Ultimate Review in 2023!

Kayaking is one of the best fun activities to undertake for leisure and recreation. For a successful kayaking expedition, you need to secure yourself one of the best inflatable kayak for rivers and enjoy great moments on the water.

Besides being a fun activity, kayaking has been documented as one beneficial health activity you may undertake to stay fit. Kayaking builds your muscles wholesomely from arms to the chest to the entire body. This guide highlights some top inflatable kayaks for rivers that you can rely on a cruise through the waters safely and enjoy your kayaking experience.

best inflatable kayak for rivers

Why Should You Buy A River Kayak?

You might ask, why should I buy a different type of inflatable kayak for rivers? The answer lies in the nature of the water and the build quality of the kayaks. Usually, sea kayaks are made for longer and more harsh usage than river kayaks.

They are built with high-performance materials that can withstand the rough pounding from the whitewater and are more resistant to punctures. These kayaks are best for long expeditions and you can take them anywhere you go.

But river kayaks are mostly made for recreational usage meaning you shouldn’t put them under high pressure. River kayaks are made from lightweight materials to make them affordable for everyone who wants to play around on a nearby lake or calm river. They don’t have the ability to take the pounding from big waves in the whitewater.

So, form a shape of criteria you will be looking for in your kayak depending on your purpose. If you are buying an inflatable kayak just for recreational use, go for the kayak that is made for rivers. To make your struggle choosing the best inflatable kayak for rivers, we have added several of them below. Don’t forget to check them out.

Inflatable Kayak For Rivers Comparison Table

Differences Between Sea Kayak And River Kayak

Here are some distinctive reasons which sea kayaks are different from river kayaks. Read carefully and learn which should be your preference.

River kayaks are usually much cheaper than sea kayaks. As they are made of thinner PVC material, they cost about half of those high-quality sea kayaks making them easily affordable for even beginners. But you will find different river kayaks at different prices. Select one that goes with your budget.

Another difference between sea kayak and river kayak is in their air pressure. Usually, sea kayaks are made with thicker fabric to withstand harsh water conditions. So, they need to be inflated to higher air pressure (generally more than 3 PSI).

But the river kayaks aren’t made to take such pressure. This much pressure can easily tear the thinner fabric used to build river kayaks. They are usually inflated to 1 PSI which is enough for paddling in lakes or rivers. These should be taken into consideration while buying an inflatable kayak.

There are some other minor differences too which you should take a glance at. As we have mentioned earlier, expedition level kayaks are made of thicker fabrics, weigh more than river kayaks. And the higher air pressure increases the weight capacity of these kayaks making them suitable for carrying more essentials with you.

But the river kayaks are very lightweight due to the thinner fabric used in the build which makes the carrying much easier. These types of kayaks can easily be carried over by a person where expedition level kayaks need at least two persons to move. So, take a moment to compare different types before you settle for one.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of River Kayak

Most of the beginners might face a tough time searching for a comparison between the river and other kayaks. We thought it to be a little more helpful by providing a comparative discussion about the pros and cons of inflatable kayaks for rivers.

You should be judging both sides before making a decision that will save a lot of money and hassle in the future. Here you go.


  • The price of the inflatable kayak for rivers starts from as low as $100 and goes up to around $500 depending on the brand, build quality, etc. But it is still much cheaper compared to other kayaks made to survive in the rough whitewater. This can be a great benefit for those who are just starting out.
  • Inflatable kayak for rivers is made with thinner material than whitewater. This makes the kayak very lightweight, hence easy to transport inside the trunk of your car or in a backpack on your shoulder. This can be a great choice if you are planning to go kayaking alone.
  • This type of kayak is very easy to prepare for paddling. As they need a lot less air to pump than their whitewater siblings, it will require less time in preparation. Use any pump you have to inflate the kayaks properly; check the air pressure and you are good to go. Retracting will also require less effort in line with that.
  • Due to the compact size of an inflatable kayak for rivers, you can pack them inside a carry bag and store in your closet when you aren’t using them. This happens to be the easiest solution to store an inflatable kayak of that size.


  • An inflatable kayak for rivers isn’t the perfect choice for rough weather conditions as they become brittle in sub-zero temperatures. They are usually perfect for a sunny day to surf on calm water. Keep that in mind.
  • Another big problem with these kayaks is they are more prone to puncture than those made of thicker materials. It causes you great loss and requires you to spend a lot more time on the repair.
  • In cheaper kayaks, the build quality can be alarmingly low. You don’t want your kayak to wear and tear after several uses. Seams can also start tearing if they aren’t welded properly. Keep an eye on those while buying.
  • You can’t take these kayaks anywhere you go. They aren’t made to withstand the tough pounding from the whitewater and bouncing off the rocks can tear them apart right away.
  • Most of the inflatable kayaks for rivers aren’t self-bailing meaning they don’t have a drainage valve to drain out the water off the boat. This shouldn’t be an issue if you aren’t facing big waves.
  • As you already know, an inflatable kayak for rivers is relatively smaller and lightweight so the weight capacity is also low. If you are going on an overnight trip, you might run short of space for your additional clothing or gear.

Best Inflatable Kayak For Rivers Reviews in 2021

​1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set

This is simply the best choice of kayak for anyone planning to go fishing from an inflatable kayak since it is made to suit such activities besides leisure and recreation.

This kayak is made to give you fun in small water bodies such as mild rivers and small lakes.

It will support up to 400 pounds in weight. In case there is an emergency, anyone can easily spot the kayak because of its bright yellow color. You can get comfort through the adjustable inflatable seats as well as the spacious cockpit.


  • ​High visibility in case of emergency.
  • ​Suitable to go fishing on small water bodies.
  • ​Supports a relatively large weight.
  • ​Comfortable seating posture.


  • ​Has minimal space for carrying your extra gear.

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​​2.​ Intex Challenger K1 Kayak Review

We recommend this kayak for our clients simply because it is among the finest Intex challenger K1 kayak you will meet in the market.

It features a nimble welded material with eye-catchy graphical designs that bring about enhanced safety on lakes and slow-moving rivers. The cockpit gives you comfort while maximizing space.

A well neat cargo net allows you to store extra gear while the 84-inch aluminum oar allows smooth rowing. The inflatable I beam floor enhances stability, and the backseat gives you comfort.


  • ​Has a well welded durable material?
  • ​Very stable, while one is kayaking.
  • ​It provides one with space to store extra gear.
  • ​Made for comfort while onboard.


  • ​Setting up is a process consuming both time and energy.

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3. ADVANCED ELEMENTS Advanced Frame Sport Kayak

​Every little detail of this kayak makes it the best inflatable kayak for rivers with the capability to perform maximally under any water conditions.

Our sporty clients will fancy this kayak since the design makes it easy to cruise in the water easily and at top speed.

It has a proven aluminum bow with stern ribs, which allow increased paddling performance as well as complete control while kayaking. You enjoy the fast set up time, the quick deflation and inflation time plus the minimal weight of the kayak, 26 lbs. The cockpit is large to allow easy entry, and the four air chambers provide increased buoyancy in water.


  • ​Suitable for universal water conditions.
  • ​One has increased paddling performance.
  • ​You spend less time setting up.
  • ​The large cockpit allows easy entry.


  • ​Failure to maintain proper balance may lead to capsizing.

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4. Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

This kayak is ideal for any explorer seeking a quality kayak to have fun while in the rivers. You enjoy a 5 minutes setup for this kayak, allowing you more time on the water.

It has an easy to carry a backpack, which you turn into a seat when you are setting up.

The 21 gauge PVC construction is rugged, making it conducive for lake use. With the tarpaulin bottom, you are assured of durable protection from punctures while the multiple air chambers cover you when one is punctured. Its inflation/deflation valves are double locked for efficiency.


  • ​You spend less time setting it up.
  • ​It is resistant to minor punctures.
  • ​Comes with multiple air chambers and an airtight system.
  • ​Dual density headliner


  • ​The inflation pump is tiresome.

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​5. Intex Challenger K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

​If you are planning to attend a kayaking sporting event, we recommend you get yourselves this kayak. Not only will you enjoy kayaking, but also you will come out top of the game as its performance is top-notch.

We rate it the best Intex Challenger K2 kayak with a two-person seat capacity.

Its body is well streamlined for speed, and the sporty graphics enhance its visibility in the water. It has 2 -86 inch aluminum paddles coupled with a high output pump for better inflation and deflation. The vinyl used in the assembly is resistant to UV damage making it durable in all conditions.


  • ​High visibility due to catchy graphic designs.
  • ​Made to last under any conditions.
  • ​Accommodates two persons or up to 400 pounds in weight.
  • ​Easy to inflate or deflate.


  • ​Little free space within the kayak.

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6. Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Inflatable Kayak

Kayaking will taste a different experience altogether if you decide to try this inflatable kayak, which we included in our list for the best inflatable kayaks for rivers due to its quality and performance.

It comes with built-in aluminum ribs that facilitate easy tracking.

​The material has three layers to withstand pressure and resist quick punctures. With three seat allocations and a weight capacity of 550 pounds, this kayak provides comfort through its adjustable seats. You will appreciate the fact that this kayak comes assembled from the factory, making it easy to set up.


  • ​Has better tracking ability due to aluminum ribs.
  • ​Resistant to frequent punctures.
  • ​Adjustable seats provide comfort during kayaking.


  • ​Inflating is time consuming due to its large size.

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7. Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Kayak Review

Kayaking is one such activity; you never get great fun if you are rocking and rolling all by yourself. This is why we consider this 3 person seater kayak among the best inflatable kayaks for the river, allowing you to enjoy kayaking with two other persons.

The weight supported by this kayak is up to 650lbs while it weighs 32 lbs. Read on the Sea Eagle 370 Kayak review to get more details.

​It has a 370 deluxe kayak package, which comes with two movable super comfortable deluxe seats. These seats provide improved back support for the users. In addition, the 2 paddles, a foot pump, and a carry bag make this kayak ideal. The 2 skegs on the bottom enable better speeding and tracking while kayaking. You inflate or deflate your kayak through the drain valves.


  • ​Provides comfortable seating posture for the users.
  • ​Can accommodate more than one individual.
  • ​Made to last through strong anti-wear and tear material.
  • ​Easy to inflate or deflate as well as carry in the carry bag.


  • ​Inflation is a tiresome task.

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8. ADVANCED ELEMENTS Island Voyage 2 Inflatable Kayak

​Kayaking with this inflatable kayak will be fun for any person, be it for leisure and recreational only or for sporting purposes. It is made to give you comfort and speed while kayaking.

The provision of a rear drain plug which facilitates cleaning and draining for water made us feature is among the best inflatable kayaks for rivers and other small water bodies.

​You get three seating positions for tandem or even single-use with supportive back seats that have bottle holders. Its pointed bow with a rocker brings about high performance while the removable deep fin facilitates tracking.


  • ​Great visibility due to bright yellow color.
  • ​Pointed bow for better performance.
  • ​You will find it easy to clean and drain water.
  • ​Comfortable seats with bottle holders.


  • ​You can only carry a small load on board.

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9. ADVANCED ELEMENTS Straightedge 2 Kayak

While compiling our findings for the best inflatable kayaks for rivers available in the market today, we had to include this kayak for its comfort and high performance.

It happens to be having the largest internal space for the users. Its tandem incorporates an aluminum bow and a stern frame, which improve tracking in water.

​The heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin material will last you and keep you afloat in bigger waves. Accessories included in this kayak include StraitEdge 2 kayak, durable storage bag, 2 foldable seats, repair kit plus the users’ manual.


  • ​Supports a large weight capacity, 500 pounds.
  • ​Easy to operate due to user’s manual.
  • ​Made to last in most water conditions.
  • ​Easy to spot in case of any emergency.


  • ​Limited to leisure and recreation due to its speed.

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Things To Consider While Buying A Kayak For Rivers

Before you buy an inflatable kayak for rivers, the following are some essential things that you should consider.


The kayak you purchase should have a color that allows easy visibility while you are on the water. This facilitates easy tracking of the user and responding to cases of emergencies. Choose a kayak whose body color is shouting, such as bright yellow, gold, and green-white with a shade of blue. The visibility of your kayak is vital at all times for your safety.


Why are you getting a kayak? The purpose of buying your kayak should guide your choice. Those kayaks designed for special purposes such as sporting are designed differently from those meant simply for leisure and recreation. You will notice sporting kayaks have a well-streamlined body compared to any other kayaks.

Weight Capacity

The weight capacity simply guides you on the number of persons you can accommodate in your kayak as well as what extra load you may carry with you. Failure to observe this will result in exceeding the risky weight capacity. It may cause your kayak to capsize. This is a must check and counter check factor for your safety while on the water.


The kayak you choose should be one that has well-layered quality material. It should allow you to navigate different water bodies such as rivers without the risk of getting punctured easily by debris and foreign materials in water. Also, it should be resistant to damage by UV light, thus sustaining you in different weather conditions.

River Kayaking Tips

If you are ready to go kayaking but don’t know the basic rules of it, we must say you aren’t ready. Take a moment, sit back and relax, read the following tips for safe kayaking in the river.

  • Though this is something to be done practically, it is always better to have some theoretical knowledge as well prior to kayaking in real. It will help you understand the basics so that you don’t get caught by any unwanted hazard in the river. Consider learning as an investment too.
  • If you are going to paddle for the first time, it is better to be accompanied by a professional instructor who can teach you the nitty-gritty of river kayaking. Beginners can often overlook potential dangers that can be fatal in the long run.
  • Kayaking in the river isn’t just entertainment. Keep your eyes open to learn from the environment. It helps a lot in times of danger if you can sense it beforehand. This doesn’t build up at once. Continue to follow the demography to be able to identify sudden changes in the surrounding.
  • A bit of homework before the trip always pays for. Gather crucial information like the flow rate of the river you want to paddle in, potential obstacles, etc. to keep yourself safe throughout the trip.
  • Always check for the potential dam release information if you are going to paddle in a river that has active dams. A high flow rate during the release of the dam might cause heavy downstream which won’t be a pleasant experience for you.
  • It is better to have someone with you as it gives a mental boost throughout the tip. Not only they can help you in paddling but also save you if something happens.
  • Remember to check the weather information on the trip date while you plan. You might not want to ruin a plan just because the weather gets harsh. Also, paddling in harsh weather might not be a piece of cake if you aren’t an expert.
  • Be attentive all the time. Though you have come to relax in solitude, don’t just let the boat go anywhere it wants to. Keep control over everything and be awake for any upcoming hazards.
  • Always carry extra clothes if you don’t want to get back home wearing wet clothes.
  • Organize all the essentials night before the trip. You might not wanna miss the pump or something else at home during the trip. Making a checklist for organizing things can be very helpful and save a lot of time.
  • Wear bright-colored clothes while kayaking. It makes spotting you easier in case of any trouble.
  • Wear life jackets for safety and carry all other safety gear necessary for kayaking in the river.
  • Don’t shy to take the suggestion of experienced kayakers even if they are younger. A small piece of information can save your life sometimes.
  • Treat the environment with care. Don’t do any harm to it.


a) Can One Wear Jeans While Kayaking?

​Avoid jeans if possible and instead wear clothes made from synthetic materials such as polyester.

b) What Are The Chances Of A Kayak Tipping Over While One Is On Board?

​Kayaks are made with high stability making them safe against tipping over unless one tries too hard to paddle.

​c) ​Which Kayaks Are Safe, Sit In Or Sit On For Kids And Amateur Kayakers?

​The sit-in kayaks are generally safer for entry-level persons and kids.

Final Words

Kayaking will be a great experience when you choose the right kayak for your expedition. Having prior knowledge of kayaking will be an add-on to your kayaking. It will make you safer and comfortable while kayaking. This guide will provide your insight on the best inflatable kayak for rivers you may choose from.

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