The sun is out and the temperatures are rising, making now the ideal time to invest in one of the best inflatable kayaks available in the UK.
If your idea of celebrating the warmer seasons is by taking to Britain's coastlines and waterways, an inflatable kayak could be your perfect companion this summer.
Ideal for experiencing new adventures and visiting peaceful beauty spots, kayaking has been growing in popularity in recent years, along with SUP.
Whether you're a beginner or seasoned kayaker, there are many places you can explore in an inflatable kayak around the UK, such as Derwent Water, Strangford Lough, the Fowey Estuary, Stackpole and the River Stour.
Kayaking isn't only a fabulous way to discover more of the UK, but is a healthy activity for all ages, from children to mature paddlers. There are countless health benefits, which include improving your mental health and reducing stress, as well as building your core strength and stability.
According to British Canoeing's Go Paddling website, it can also help prevent or reduce back pain, as well as improve your balance and enhance mobility.
After months of being stuck at home during lockdown, kayaking is an excellent way to start being social again, whether you'd like to reconnect with old friends or make new ones by joining a paddling club.
With this in mind, we spoke to British Canoeing, the national governing body of canoeing and kayaking in the UK, to bring you a guide to paddling with an inflatable kayak this summer. We've also rounded up Country Living's pick of the best inflatable kayaks you can buy in the UK right now.
What are the benefits of buying an inflatable kayak over a solid one?
Inflatable kayaks are a superb alternative to hardshell crafts and come with many features and benefits. "They're designed for recreational paddlers, simply looking to head out on the water to enjoy a leisurely paddle," explains Jenny Spencer at British Canoeing.
"They provide a nice stable platform and most don’t have a deck, giving you lots of space to stretch out."
An inflatable kayak allows you to build your confidence on the water without having to worry about being enclosed, Jenny adds. The downside to that is your legs might get a little damp from splashes of water off your paddles, but they are a great option for the summer months.
The main benefit to buying an inflatable kayak is that they can be packed away when you are not using them, making them easier for you to store if you’re limited on space. Plus, you can put them straight into your car and head off on your adventures without the need for a roof rack. This makes them ideal for carrying on your travels at home and abroad.
You'll find inflatable kayaks for solo adventures or larger inflatables suitable for two or more people as a fun way to share the experience with family and friends.
What should you consider before buying an inflatable kayak?
The first thing to think about is what type of paddling you're looking to do and how often you’ll be using the inflatable kayak as there are quite a few on the market with varying price ranges and quality assurances too, advises Jenny.
"Also, think about whether you want one for just yourself or hoping to venture out on the water with friends and family. If so look for one that is designed for multiple people to use it."
If you are new to buying an inflatable, there are three types: single layer vinyl inflatable kayaks, ideal for light recreational use within a very sheltered water environment; multilayer inflatable kayaks, more versatile crafts that offer better protection from abrasion, punctures and UV light; and heavy duty inflatable kayaks, made of thick materials like PVC, rubbers or drop stitch technology and allow you to venture beyond sheltered water environments.
Jenny says purchasing an inflatable kayak with a skeg (a tracking fin) is worth considering to ensure your craft travels straight. This will avoid you going round in circles and wasting your energy while kayaking.
Are inflatable kayaks safe?
Absolutely! You just need to remember to take a few precautions before you head out. Inflatables are quite light and often sit high off the water, says Jenny.
She adds: "This makes them perfect for weekend adventures and gentle paddling, but not so great for rapids, sea paddling, or places exposed to the elements. Keep your inflatable in their natural environment such as on canals, sheltered lakes and slow flow rivers."
Wearing a buoyancy aid when you paddle is a must, and a lifesaver if you happen to fall into the water.
You'll also want to take a fully charged phone with you in a waterproof pouch and check the weather and wind before you head out. If it’s windy you might want to consider paddling another time as it can be more difficult to power and steer inflatables due to their light weight.
Where can I use an inflatable kayak in the UK?
The best places to use an inflatable kayak are on sheltered waterways such as slow moving rivers, canals and lakes (check the Go Paddling website for a map of paddle points).
It’s important to be aware that for most inland waterways in England and Wales you require a licence to paddle. This licence fee goes towards maintenance and upkeep of the waterways.
"Think about it like paying a little fee towards the waterway you’re using and giving something back so that people after you can enjoy it just as much," explains Jenny. Check out the British Canoeing’s membership, a comprehensive and cost effective licence, which covers 4,500 km.
The best inflatable kayaks in the UK for 2021
Itiwit Inflatable Touring Kayak 2/3 Places
BUY NOW £299.99, Decathlon
Stable and reliable, this two to three-person inflatable kayak is ideal for family outings that take you up to 300 metres from shelter. It inflates in just 10 minutes and features side stoppers for good stability. The inflatable kayak from Decathlon has a patented bow shape for superb glide performance and satisfied customers have praised it for being "good fun" and "great value". They also recommend drying the kayak after use. Paddles and a pump are not included with the kayak.
Sevylor 2 Person Adventure Kayak Kit
BUY NOW £330, Blacks
Ultra-portable and easy to use, this two-person inflatable kayak comes as a package, with paddles and a pump included. The durable kayak features adjustable seats with high back rests for comfort, carry handles and bungee cords to keep your belongings in place. The single interface valves makes it a breeze to inflate, and the removable fin offers extra manoeuvrability. This one is great for exploring lakes and inland waterways and comes with a carry bag and repair kit.
Aqua Marina Memba-330 Professional Kayak (1 Person) Package
BUY NOW £469, Wiggle
One of the best inflatable kayaks in the UK for solo adventures, this is ideal for those who enjoy mid-distance recreational paddling. The ultra-durable Memba-330 is constructed with an innovative rigid drop-stitched DWF floor and inflatable air chamber, along with extra-strong polyester for excellent strength, stability and UV protection. There's great tracking ability and an efficient glide, allowing you to go straighter and faster on the water to cover longer distances. If you're after an all-round package, the kit comes with a paddle, two kayak fins, a hand pump and carry bag for a portable option.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set
BUY NOW £192.95, Amazon
A sporty, fun inflatable kayak, this one is for easy paddling and is highly visible in the water thanks to its bright colour. If you're looking for a kayak to experience lakes and mild rivers with a friend, this two-person watercraft is one to consider. It's lightweight and compact, as well as a snap to assemble. Made with rugged vinyl construction, it features an inflatable I-beam floor for comfort and rigidity. The removable skeg provides directional stability, while two adjustable seats with backrests give comfort. Two aluminium paddles and a pump are included, with happy kayakers saying they are "really impressed" and that it's "excellent value for money".
BUY NOW £629.99, Amazon
An inflatable kayak for pros, the Ottawa is for those in search of elite performance. It offers a smooth and comfortable ride thanks to the innovative nose, which reduces water-resistance, keeping you dry. Single and tandem options are available and the kayak is made from high-quality materials, ensuring longevity. One satisfied customer says: "The kayak is incredibly robust and unlike most inflatables, provides a firm brace for your feet to tension against... Our latest outing was a five-hour paddle down a canal." A paddle, pump and carry bag are included.
Aqua Marina Laxo-380 Leisure Kayak (3 Person) Package
BUY NOW £529, Wiggle
Ready to hit a variety of water destinations, The Aqua Marina Laxo-380 Leisure Kayak allows both beginners and advanced paddlers to hit a variety of water destinations. It's made from extra-strong polyester for optimum durability and rigidity, as well as long-lasting UV protection. You'll like the generous deck space, V-shape bottom floor and high-performance fin system. The package includes three comfy seats, or it can be used by a solo paddler in need of extra space and gear capacity for travelling longer distances.
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