Unlike wooden canoes of old, nowadays there are so many different types of kayak out there. Sea kayaks, recreational kayaks, paddling kayaks, fishing kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, folding kayaks, and touring kayaks to name but a few. Then you have to decide between the different materials, with the two most common being fiberglass, inflatable, carbon fiber, and plastic kayaks. In this article, we will concentrate on the differences between inflatable boats and fiberglass boats. If you’re torn between choosing whether to buy a fiberglass or an inflatable kayak then this article is definitely something you should read.
Both choices have their pros and cons and determining which type is better has a lot to do with personal preference. Though you may like one type over the other, there are still a few important things to consider. This article will get to the bottom of this debate and hopefully help you make the best choice for your particular situation.
We’ll start out by discussing what exactly an inflatable kayak is and what the pros and cons of owning one are. Obviously, an inflatable, or blow-up kayak, is a type of kayak that requires you to inflate the boat before use and then deflate it when you’re done. This type of kayak has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years because manufacturers are making them with more durable materials. These more technologically-advanced materials allow inflatable kayaks to be just as strong as their fiberglass counterparts.
The problem with inflatable kayaks in the past was that they were a bit too flimsy and couldn’t stand up to the harsh conditions one often encounters when kayaking. This is no longer the case as the new breed of inflatable kayaks are made with “drop stitch” technology, meaning that there are small fibers inside of the kayaks outer material that interlock when the kayak is inflated. Making inflatable kayaks with this material makes it very durable and when its combined with the outer layer of durable rubber and PVC, inflatable kayaks are just as strong, if not stronger then the fiberglass type.
Another great thing about the newer types of blow up kayaks is that they’re being made with a slightly wider base than some other types of kayaks. This wide base makes the kayak more stable and easier to maneuver then previous models and therefore makes it a good choice for both beginners and more veteran kayakers alike.
Continuing on with the pros of inflatable kayaks, perhaps one of its best features is its portability. Blow up kayaks are lighter then fiberglass models and they are significantly easier to carry and store. The fact that most types of inflatable kayaks can be deflated down to a small enough size to fit in a large backpack or duffel bag is what makes it perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot of storage space.
This is where choosing to buy an inflatable kayak over a fiberglass one gets a bit tricky. Even though you may prefer a fiberglass kayak you simply may not have anywhere to store it. Not only may you not have anywhere to store it properly, but you might not have a way to transport it either. Fiberglass kayaks require you to transport them using a roof rack or ropes, which may be a bit of a hassle for some.
There are a few downsides to inflatable kayaks, with one being that they’re not as inexpensive as you would think. They’re typically around the same price as a fiberglass kayak depending on the size and brand. You could probably find one that’s a bit less expensive than a fiberglass model, but you won’t be saving a ton of money.
Another issue people have with inflatable kayaks is that they take a bit of time to inflate and deflate. You’ll have to purchase an air pump and it’ll take a good ten minutes to fully inflate and then another ten to deflate your kayak. You’ll also be required to thoroughly wash and dry your kayak after using it in order to avoid it becoming damaged and smelling pretty bad.
Moving on to the pros and cons of fiberglass kayaks, we’ll start with some positives. Since fiberglass kayaks are typically lightweight you’ll have no problem getting it from your car to the water. Unlike inflatable kayaks, there’s no need to have to wait for it to inflate and deflate. This makes it more convenient as no time is wasted from the car to the water.
Another positive aspect of fiberglass kayaks is that they are very durable and easy to handle in the water. This is especially true if you’re going to be kayaking on rough ocean waters or raging rapids. In these conditions, you’ll certainly want a fiberglass kayak as it will survive these elements and you’ll have an easier time navigating these waters as well.
Fiberglass kayaks pay for their increased strength and maneuverability in their increased size and weight. They are typically a bit heavier than inflatable kayaks though they can usually be carried by one person. This, however, may become a bit difficult if you’re a bit older in age or have to carry the kayak a long distance.
As mentioned above, you’ll certainly need to consider the fact that fiberglass kayaks are hard to store and transport simply because they’re fairly large and will take up a lot of space. You’ll also have to be a little more careful with fiberglass kayaks as they tend to accrue scratches and scrapes. Though these are simply a cosmetic issue that doesn’t affect how the kayak will perform in the water, some folks just don’t want their kayak looking beaten up.
Now that we’ve seen what the pros and cons are of inflatable and fiberglass kayaks, we can answer the question of which will better float your boat? The answer to this question is simply a matter of personal preference. If you’re lacking in storage space, are a beginning kayaker, and are planning on using the kayak in calmer waters then the inflatable kayak is your best bet. On the other hand, if you have enough storage space, plan on kayaking in rougher waters, and don’t want to waste time and energy inflating and deflating your kayak then you should go with a fiberglass model. Both are great ways to explore nature and hopefully, this article helped clarify any questions you may have had concerning these two different kayaks.
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