Inflatable Kayak VS Hardshell: Which is Better in 2021?

Are you willing to invest in kayaking, but you are confused between inflatable kayak vs hardshell? Well, you have finally come to the right place now.

In a competitive marketplace, it becomes quite difficult to choose any particular option to get started. Everyone wants to explore the natural beauty by paddling through thrilling waterways, but most people are often stuck at selecting the right kayak.

Even though inflatable kayaks are very popular nowadays, but the vast majority of kayakers still prefer hardshell kayaks over inflatable models due to several reasons that we will discuss in this article.  As we all know, every kayak type has its pros and cons; choosing the right one also depends on your requirements.

However, you don’t have to stress your mind with all these confusions; we have covered every single advantage and disadvantage of both hardshell and inflatable kayaks to help you make the right choice.

Inflatable Kayak VS Hardshell? Which one is best?

It’s imperative to first understand the exact critical differences between inflatable vs. hardshell, and it will help you to understand the whole concept with utmost clarity. Before we start discussing advantages and disadvantages, let’s understand some of the key differences in both of these types.

Materials-Hard Kayak vs. Inflatable?

Kayaks are made from a wide range of materials, usually; hardshell kayaks, which are also called rigid kayaks, are made from tough materials such as wood, plastic, and fibreglass. Due to their material type, hardshell kayaks are much heavier in weight as compared to inflatable kayaks.

On the other side, as you can also assume from its name, inflatable kayaks are made from lightweight materials such as plastic polymer synthetic rubber, which doesn’t mean that inflatable kayaks are less durable than rigid ones. Here we are only concerned about making you understand their few main differences so that you can effectively choose the best one as per your needs.

Cost- Inflatable Kayak or Hard Shell?

Well, the cost is another crucial factor and one of the notable differences between these two kayak types. If we precisely talk about price, inflatable kayaks are much cheaper than hardshell kayaks due to their lightweight construction material that comes less expensive than other types of materials used in rigid kayaks.

However, the lightweight materials of inflatable kayaks are almost equally durable because they are made with extraordinary air chambers that lower the risk of punctures and leaks.

On the other hand, hardshell kayaks are usually more expensive than inflatable ones because the materials that are used in these kayaks, such as wood and fibreglass, are available in a higher price range as compared to rubber and plastic polymer.

Weight Capacity

The weight limit for each type of kayak is different; some kayaks can handle as maximum as 500 pounds of weight while others are limited to 25 pounds. However, if we compare the weight capacity of both hard shell and inflatable kayaks, the difference is noticeable.

On average, inflatable kayaks usually handle anywhere between 25 to 30 pounds, while hard shell or rigid kayaks can go up to 500 pounds without any issues. If you want to keep some extra fishing or any other accessories with you while kayaking, then you must go for hardshell kayaks; otherwise, inflatable kayaks work perfectly for single persons.

Storage Space

The storage space is a widespread concern, especially among beginners who have just started kayaking or those getting ready for it. Inflatable kayaks usually occupy significantly less storage space, and it’s portable enough to move around from one place to another conveniently.

Moreover, there is also no need to have a roof rack on top of your vehicle because you can quickly deflate it for storing in the trunk of your car. You can also carry the deflated kayak even in your backpack or suitcase without struggling for extra space.

However, that’s not the case with hardshell kayaks, they are not only heavier in weight, but they also occupy large storage space as we cannot deflate them or reduce their size. You cannot make any changes in the size of hardshell kayaks because they are made from tough and rigid materials.

To choose between kayak inflatable or hard shell, you should first decide whether you have enough storage space available or not. If you have plenty of extra space, then you can go for hard shell kayaks without any worries.


Safety is something that cannot be abandoned or compromised, especially while choosing a kayak. Paddling through harsh waves of water often carries a colossal risk of any safety hazard, especially if you have minimal experience.

While riding through rough and tough waters such as rivers, it’s recommended to take hard shell kayak with you because they are made with tough and durable materials that can resist severe weather conditions like harsh winds or rain.

Check also: Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

However, nowadays, inflatable kayaks are also very safe because they have been exposed to several latest improvements and technologies. If you don’t have any plans of boating in harsh weather conditions, then inflatable kayaks will work best for you; otherwise, hardshell kayaks are generally more trustworthy for extreme weather conditions.

What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Inflatable Vs Hard Kayak?

Every kayak comes with its plus points and negative points; it’s a natural phenomenon that cannot be changed. However, it’s our utmost responsibility to keep you aware of all the advantages and disadvantages of both inflatable kayak vs. hardshell. It will help you in making the right choice because everyone has their own requirements.

Advantages of Inflatable Kayaks

Portability & Comfort

If your main focus is portability, convenience, and comfort, then you should try inflatable kayaks blindly without keeping a single doubt in your mind. Inflatable kayaks have a lightweight design, and they are straightforward to move around.

Don’t believe in myths; inflatable kayaks are also significantly more substantial and safe; some particular models of inflatable kayaks can even carry the same weight as hardshell kayaks due to their excellent construction. You can keep inflatable kayaks conveniently in your backpack and then inflate in minutes before paddling.


Durability is a very crucial buying factor that often puzzles the customers between inflatable and hard shell kayaks while making a firm decision.

Inflatable kayaks are highly durable as they are much more flexible than hardshell kayaks; the flexibility of these inflatable kayaks makes them suitable for rocky, bumpy, and hard surfaces.

Check also: How Durable are Inflatable Kayak?

Due to these unique abilities of inflatable kayaks, they are usually at significantly less risk of getting damaged via any sudden or intense impact.


Don’t just blindly trust in all the rumors and myths about inflatable kayaks regarding poor stability. Inflatable kayaks are generally more stable than any other type due to their wide base that makes the center of gravity at a perfect spot.

With incredible stability, inflatable kayaks are always considered the ideal option for beginners who are learning kayaking and are not experienced at keeping the kayak straight.

Disadvantages of Inflatable Kayaks

Less Performance

Inflatable kayaks are generally not so good at performance because they are not designed for rough and challenging conditions. If you want more outstanding performance, mainly to perform professional stunts, inflatable kayaks are not recommended for you as they are only designed for beginners to paddle through calm waters.

However, specific models are good at performance, but again it’s very tricky to filter those particular models out of so many brands available in the market today.

Time Consumption

As we all know that everyone follows a hectic routine where they hardly get enough time on weekends for fun and entertainment. Inflatable kayaks generally require more time to get ready as compared to rigid kayaks that are 24/7 ready to go.

You have to first inflate your kayak and then again deflate it after use, which can take more than 10 minutes, along with pumping hassles.

Moreover, it’s also very challenging to maintain the recommended air quantity in a kayak. Otherwise, you will not get the expected performance to incase of pumping too much or too little air.

Apart from everything, you need to also perform some routine safety checks on your inflatable kayak that includes a complete inspection of its body for any potential leakage or damage.

Hard to Control in Rough Waters

Even though we have already discussed this point multiple times, but still we have to highlight it again as it’s a widespread disadvantage of inflatable kayaks. Due to their lightweight design and construction, inflatable kayaks are much more difficult to control, especially while moving in the left and right direction.

Remember, here we are only concerned about control; stability is something different, so don’t confuse or puzzle your mind with stability and control. Both of them are two different terms with different meanings. For rough waters, inflatable kayaks are almost impossible to control, which might also increase the overall safety risk.

Advantages of Hardshell Kayaks

Less Time Taking

Even though hardshell kayaks have a heavyweight and bulky design, they are still better than inflatable kayaks in terms of getting ready for paddling. Once you are done, you can conveniently fix your rigid kayak on your car roof jack. It will save you from the hassles of inflating and deflating and you will spend more time kayaking instead of preparing.

Excellent Control

The control and stability mainly depend on the model and brand of a kayak that you are willing to purchase. However, overall hardshell kayaks offer much greater control than inflatable kayaks, especially during open sea kayaking, which is very challenging. A hardshell kayak is a worthwhile option to consider while paddling in rapid water conditions without any safety concerns.

Disadvantages of Hardshell Kayaks

Heavy Weight

Hardshell kayaks are heavyweight because tough materials are used in their construction, such as wood, plastic, and fiberglass. Due to their heavyweight, hardshell kayaks are generally tough to move around from one place to another without asking for additional support from a second person.

However, hardshell kayaks have a minimal weight threshold capacity if we compare them with their heavy design. If you don’t want to get involved in the hassles of weight-related concerns, then you must go for any other type.


One of the main disadvantages of hardshell kayaks is their low portability and storage options. Hardshell kayaks are often very hard to store because you always have to free plenty of extra space anywhere in your house for convenient storage. Moreover, you also have to purchase a separate car roof rack for your car to carry your kayak to any location such as a beach or a river.


Hardshell kayaks usually require more maintenance as compared to inflatable kayaks. The materials that are used in the construction of hardshell kayaks such as wood, plastic, and fiberglass are not flexible enough to handle the bumps and rocky surfaces. Due to that, you have to pay more attention to frequent damages, which will also cost you more money on maintenance.

Expensive Price

Hardshell kayaks are very expensive as compared to inflatable kayaks due to their construction materials. If you have a limited budget, it’s complicated to find a reliable model of hardshell kayak.

Check also: Sit on Top Kayak vs. Sit-In | Which is Better in 2021?


We hope this article on inflatable kayak vs hardshell has provided you with enough information which will be helpful for you in making a correct decision. If you are a beginner, we will recommend you to consider an all-round option such as an inflatable kayak; it’s much more suitable for calm waters to gain some experience.

Once you are done with deciding the particular kayak type, then you should focus on choosing the right model and don’t rush in selecting a kayak.

If you are still puzzled between these two types, then done hesitate to contact us or ask anything in the comments section. There will be many other kayaking experts willing to answer your question, or one of our dedicated support team members will respond to your queries.

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