Are you looking to buy a new kayak? I am sure you might be confused between inflatable and hardshell types of kayaks available in the market. Not to worry, in this post, we will check out the difference between both the options with pros and cons. Still, for many people, an inflatable kayak will be a better choice.

Are They Different?

Definitely, both have got their unique features and functions that make them different from each other. So let us check out the definition for both types of Kayak!

What is Inflatable Kayak?

The inflatable type of kayak is what the term says. It is a soft plastic structure, which has to be inflated in a kayak form. They generally have three air chambers for their hull structure and two sides and one bottom.

They’re the modern kayaks version and are made to handle the modern-day kayaking requirements. It’s also called a blow-up kayak. They are cost-effective, simple to transport, and portable making them an ideal choice for beginners kayak.

What is Hardshell Kayak?

Hardshell kayak type is constructed or molded of rigid material like hard plastic, wood, or fiberglass. They have a rigid structure. The majority of the people go with an inflatable kayak, as it is lightweight and affordable, but if you are a professional then a hardshell kayak is the right choice for you. 

Inflatable vs Hardshell Kayak

Inflatable vs Hardshell Kayak


When it comes to using inflatable kayaks, you have to inflate and deflate them when you want to store them away. They’re very light and simple to carry but are highly durable. They are easy to store even in the duffle bag or backpack, so you do not require a roof rack for transporting them. Many people find an inflatable kayak to be easy to take over vacation and hiking without any worry about where you will put them.

On the other hand, hardshell kayaks aren’t that light, and they are cumbersome to transport. In terms of size, they are a lower weight capacity, there are not many benefits to this type of kayak.

Also Read: What Size Kayak Do I Need?


Another factor to check out is the durability of the kayaks, and inflatable kayak makes people a bit nervous and makes them buy think that the hard-shell kayaks would be a better choice in this regard. However, when we talk about durability, there’s a vast variation over both hard-shell and inflatable kayaks.

While hard-shell kayaks durability is mainly dependent on the material used, for the inflatable kayaks, it’s mainly dependent on the purpose and price. If you buy a quality kayak, you will find a durable inflatable kayak for whatever type of paddling that you wish to do.


The inflatable is a lightweight kayak and is mostly made from synthetic rubber or plastic polymers. They weigh over 25 pounds that is half the hardshell’s kayak weight.

Despite being made from plastic polymers and rubber, they’re quite strong and durable. Some features of an inflatable kayak include; weatherproof, puncture-resistant, dual air chambers, safety punctures, and more.

Being the rigid kayak, the hardshell kayak is made from plastic, wood, fiberglass, and Kevlar. The hard material used in this kayak is quite tough and durable. These kayaks will survive in any water easily whether it is rough sea or lakes.

Storage & Portability

Traditional kayaks need plenty of storage space. But, most of the apartments do not have a big storage room like a shed or garage? So, an inflatable kayak will be the right option in such a case, as it is easy to deflate, fold, and store under the bed or closet. But, to store hardshell kayaks, you need to invest in expensive roof racks, and inflatable kayaks can be stored easily in your trunk or backseat. 

An inflatable kayak will not take much space for storing. You may easily deflate this type of kayak and store it in the carrying bag. This carrying bag will fit easily in your car trunk.

Hardshell Kayak Pros

  • When you are at the shore-side, they are the best bet.
  • Almost no set up needed.
  • Maneuverable and much faster than inflatable
  • Quite durable and strong built
  • Easy to maintain– they need a rinse when you are done using it. 

Hardshell Kayak Cons

  • They are a bit heavy compared to the inflatable kayaks. So, carrying them is a big task that needs a little effort.
  • It needs a separate storage area as they will occupy enough space in the garage.
  • They need higher care and maintenance compared to the inflatable ones. Being the hardshell ones, there are chances of getting damaged or hit by different things when paddling and shifting.
  • Made from a rigid material, they cost a bit more.

Inflatable Kayak Pros

  • They are lightweight and making them very simple to transport and store. They will fit easily in your bag pack.
  • Just because they’re lighter doesn’t mean they are weaker. They’re equally strong like hardshell kayaks.
  • Inflatable kayaks are made to withstand any bumps or knocks and they will bounce back even in a collision.
  • Many inflatable kayaks are made from using drop-stitch technology that means small fibers in the kayak will interlock when inflated and making it difficult for the rough surface.
  • The outer layer of this type of kayak is made from PVC material or durable rubber that makes it highly durable.
  • You may roll this kayak easily but, a hardshell kayak can’t because f the rigid shape & stability.

Inflatable Kayak Cons

  • Inflatable kayaks with top features can equally be expensive as a hardshell kayak.
  • Inflating & deflating a kayak will take some time as you have to inflate & deflate the kayak before you start using it.
  • You have to take good care of its pump and ensure it stays clean so you have to take some effort there.
  • Being very lightweight, at times it’s tough to control in the rough water.

Final Words

Kayaking is the most enjoyable activity, no matter whether you are fishing or using the paddle to float over the lake. You must buy a kayak as per your budget, size, type of kayaking you do, and storage situation. Make sure the features you need in a kayak are available so that you could enjoy your water sports activity to the fullest. 

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