Inflatable Kayak Buying Guide
Inflatable kayak - Beginner's Guide
Inflatable canoes offer plenty of space, can be stowed in a backpack and transported without a car. In this article you will find out what exactly an inflatable canoe is, how it differs from hard shell and folding canoes and for which areas of use an inflatable canoe is often used. We also present a selection of different inflatable canoes.
What is an inflatable kayak?
Many speak of canoes, but actually mean Canadians. In colloquial language, the terms are used as synonyms. In technical jargon one speaks of a Canadian. We use the term canoe in this article. It is a paddle-propelled boat with the paddler facing the direction of travel. Originally, canoes were used by North American Indians as a means of locomotion and transport and are now known as recreational boats in all countries. The canoe is usually paddled in pairs. The front man is a kind of motor and the back man supports and steers while paddling. Paddling alone is also possible, but requires more practice.
Inflatable canoes are dinghies and have a bottom and two side air chambers that are filled with air using an air pump. This is how the boats get their shape and rigidity. As in rigid canoes, inflatable canoes have two or more fixed seat boards. Compared to inflatable kayaks, inflatable canoes offer significantly more space and a higher payload. Therefore, air canoes are particularly suitable for multi-day tours and family trips, but also for paddlers who prefer paddling with a paddle. There are also suitable inflatable canoes for up to whitewater level 5 for adrenaline-addicted paddlers.
Areas of application for inflatable canoes
There are various areas of application for air canoes for which this type of boat is particularly well suited. Basically, the areas of application for inflatable canoes can be divided as follows.
Inflatable canoes are ideal for whitewater use. Due to the large air volume of the boat tubes, inflatable canoes are very stable. In addition, when encountering obstacles in the water, the floor and sidewalls give way compared to hard shell boats and easily negotiate small obstacles in the water. Only high-quality inflatable canoes (e.g. valwix) should be used for whitewater use. These are made of a very sturdy material.
You also need a firm grip in the boat in whitewater. Therefore, most inflatable canoes have thigh straps for whitewater use. However, these should only be used if they do not prevent you from leaving the boat if it capsizes. Here it is recommended that the use of the thigh straps is practiced beforehand.
You can recognize inflatable canoes with a focus on whitewater use by the fact that the bow and stern are pulled up strongly. As a result, the canoe has a shorter waterline and is significantly more manoeuvrable (e.g. in blocked river passages). In addition, the raised bow means that less spray water gets into the boat.
Although inflatable canoes offer less interior space, they are still perfect for multi-day trips. For example, the valwix 2-person canoes offer a payload of up to 600lb and enough space for paddlers.
Because of the benches, you sit or kneel in the canoe. In a kayak, on the other hand, you sit with your legs stretched out and your legs slightly bent. For this reason alone, air canoes have significantly more space for luggage than inflatable kayaks. Also, canoes are not closed, i.e. they have no cover. Thus, the luggage does not have to be squeezed under the deck, but can be better placed in the boat.
Since the boat is inflatable and easy to transport, an inflatable canoe is ideal to take with you on vacation. This means you can use an inflatable canoe in a wide variety of water regions. In the foreground of an inflatable canoe is not the speed, but to explore the area and go on long tours. Especially in Scandinavia, like on a paddling tour in Sweden, you see many people paddling a canoe.
Tube canoes with a tapered stern and bow are better suited for multi-day trips on tame-flowing and large rivers and lakes than canoes with a raised stern and bow. Due to the pointed bow, the boat cuts the water better and thus achieves a higher speed. It also has a longer waterline, which also improves running properties.
Inflatable canoes have a later tipping point than solid and folding canoes and are therefore also well suited for family outings. In addition, the majority of inflatable canoes have sufficiently high side walls. Small children can sit on the bottom of the boat and are therefore even more secure in the boat. Nevertheless, an adult should always sit in the back to keep an eye on the children. Last but not least, families have more luggage with them on an excursion. Here, too, an inflatable canoe impresses with its space under the inflatable boats.
Materials used in the boat skin of inflatable canoes
Depending on the manufacturer, different materials are used for the boat skin. The material is one of the most important criteria for the longevity and possible uses of an inflatable canoe. the Valwix boat skin is made of PVC.
Air pressure and use of drop stitch
The air pressure of an inflatable canoe is an important criterion for the strength and shape stability of the boat. The Valwix kayak have the air pressure among the hose canoes at 1-1.5 psi.
Safety of inflatable canoes
We have not yet paddled the high-pressure air canoes from Valwix with drop-stitch technology. We can confirm that the Valwix inflatable canoes have good tipping stability. In addition, both manufacturers use a very robust material. Here you have to be very unlucky to get a hole in the hull. The boats consist of several air chambers and will not sink in a hole. You can paddle to the shore and mend small holes or tears (similar to a bicycle tube) and continue your tour. Manufacturers offer a repair service for major damage.
Driving characteristics compared to folding and rigid hull canoes
Compared to rigid and folding canoes, inflatable canoes tend to float on the water because of the air buoyancy. With their voluminous side walls, they offer a lot of contact surface for wind and can only be paddled with difficulty, especially on lakes. Folding and rigid hull canoes have a clear advantage here, especially since these boats have a more pronounced keel and bow, and therefore glide better through the water. Therefore, you should be aware that an inflatable canoe is slower and paddling in the wind can be very tedious. Inflatable canoes are still well suited for leisurely tours on a beautiful day on the lake.
The situation is different with flowing water, for which we believe air canoes are best suited. Small to medium-sized rivers are protected from the wind by their bank slopes and their currents offer a pleasant support when making progress. Due to the air buoyancy, you can also pass very flat river passages with the boat, where a folding or rigid hull boat would long since touch down. Whitewater rivers are also very well suited for air canoes, as the air tubes give way better if there are small obstacles in the water. A rigid hull canoe would rock more quickly, and the hull of a folding canoe can be damaged quickly. An air canoe, on the other hand, literally rides over the obstacles and the air tubes give the boat a very high level of stability.
Space and seating comfort
Among the inflatable boats, an inflatable canoe offers plenty of space for the paddlers. Inflatable canoes are available as 2-, 3-, 4- or 10-person variants. As in a rigid hull canoe, you can paddle an inflatable canoe both sitting and kneeling. If you paddle kneeling, it is much more comfortable than with a rigid hull canoe. The air floor gives way a little and is gentler on the knees. Even at low water temperatures, the air floor insulates well from the cold water.
Due to the air buoyancy, inflatable canoes have a very high payload limit. Some models can be loaded with up to 450 kg (e.g. Grabner Adventure or Gumotex Scout) and don't have to hide behind a hard-shell canoe. However, the interior of an air canoe offers less space for luggage than with rigid hull or folding canoes due to the air tubes. If you want to go on a one- to two-week tour, you have to stow your luggage well and prioritize what comes with you when packing.
Compared to classic air canoes, drop-stitch canoes offer more interior space because the side walls are less voluminous.
Advantages and disadvantages of an inflatable canoe
Anyone who buys an inflatable canoe mainly chooses it because such boats are extremely practical. An inflatable canoe can be stored with little space in the apartment or in the basement. Also, it can be transported in the trunk of the car or even on public transport with a boat trolley. Anyone who is about to buy an inflatable canoe will ask themselves whether a hard-shell or folding canoe would be a better option.
A hard shell canoe is only a better choice if you have your own car and ample storage space at home. If this is the case, the robustness and longevity of a hard-shell canoe outweighs that of an inflatable canoe.
An inflatable canoe is easier to take with you on vacation and offers the opportunity to explore new areas. Folding canoes have better handling characteristics than inflatable canoes due to their well-reinforced hull. However, the assembly and disassembly as well as the maintenance are much more complex. The rods must be plugged in correctly and greased regularly. With an inflatable canoe, the air chambers are simply inflated using an air pump.
Conclusion on inflatable canoes
Inflatable canoes are only available in the higher price segment. Most inflatable canoes hold 2-3 people and have good workmanship and robustness. You are not tied to rental stations and you can really independently explore different water areas, regardless of the season and the opening hours of the canoe rentals. You can also take the canoe with you on vacation.