The 5 Best Ducky kayaks in 2023 – Tested and Reviewed by Experts
Kayak technology has come a long way in the past few years. Inflatable kayaks are no longer simple pool toys; they into high-tech specialized vessels that can even rival hard-shell kayaks.
Ducky kayaks, also known as whitewater inflatable kayaks or duckies, are a special kind of inflatable kayak that is suited for whitewater rapids. They’re easy to use and considerably more affordable compared to hard-shell kayaks and perfectly suited for fun outdoor adventures.
These kayaks are built to be tougher than a regular inflatable kayak with a streamlined design and high sides, as well as a self-bailing system to make them more durable and protect them from damage.
Ducky kayaks are also popular for their portability, as they can be deflated and rolled up to fit in a bag, which makes them very easy to transport and store.
Since there are many ducky kayaks available on the market with different features that are suitable for different circumstances, it can be tough to choose the best one that fits your needs.
To narrow down your options, here are some recommendations for the top-rated ducky kayaks, with a detailed review of the key features that each kayak has to offer.
|Driftsun Rover 120||1000D reinforced PVC construction||22 lbs.||300 lbs.||8’5″|
|Aquaglide McKenzie 105||Duratex fabric-reinforced PVC||24 lbs.||300 lbs.||10’2″|
|Intex Excursion Pro||Laminate PVC, Polyester core||39 lbs.||400 lbs.||15′|
|Intex Explorer K2||Heavy-duty Vinyl||35 lbs.||400 lbs.||10’3″|
|Intex Challenger K1||Vinyl, Tarpaulin||23.9 lbs.||220 lbs.||9′|
The Best Ducky Kayaks
1. Driftsun Rover 120 Kayak – Best Overall
The top recommendation on our list is the Driftsun Rover 120. This heavy-duty ducky kayak is ideal for tackling both whitewater and flatwater conditions.
The Rover 120 is manufactured from a 1000D reinforced PVC material with Tarpaulin-covered bottom and a drop-stitch floor which makes the kayak highly durable, rigid, and puncture-resistant.
It’s designed with a large bow and a curved stern to enhance the kayak’s performance and increase control, maneuverability, and stability in class IV rapids, along with a removable tracking skeg for navigating flat water.
The design also features high-pressure valves, 3 separate air chambers, and 5 self-bailing ports for added safety, and an adjustable seat with high back support and EVA foam padding to increase your comfort level.
It’s very light in weight, weighing only 22 pounds, and it has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds. It comes with tie-down points for storing additional gear and an action camera mount in the front.
It also comes with a paddle with an ergonomic grip and some essential accessories, including a pump, a travel bag, and a repair kit.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s made from durable puncture-resistant material
- It can withstand class IV whitewater rapids
- It has a skeg for better flat-water navigation
- It’s designed with 3 separate air chambers and 5 self-bailing drains
- It’s light in weight and easy to transport
- It features an adjustable padded seat and a camera mount
- It comes with a paddle and essential accessories that include a pump, a carry bag, and a repair kit.
- It has limited storage options
- It doesn’t track very well in flat-water conditions
The Driftsun Rover 120 is the best for you if you’re looking for a premium quality inflatable whitewater kayak with exceptional control and stability.
2. Aquaglide McKenzie 105 Kayak – Second Runner
This ducky inflatable kayak from Aquaglide is named after the McKenzie River’s relentless rapids. It’s a cross between a whitewater kayak and a recreational kayak.
The Mckenzie 105 kayak is manufactured from Duratex fabric-reinforced PVC with EvoBeam floor construction which increases its durability and makes it more rigid and stable enough to withstand class III whitewater currents.
It’s designed with Halkey-Roberts valves for rapid inflation and deflation. It also features four self-bailing mesh drains and a Posi-track fin to improve tracking.
It’s very comfortable as it comes with the Aquaglide Core 2 padded Velcro seat with additional loops, floor clips, and a back strap to ensure you’re properly supported while paddling.
It’s light in weight, weighing only 24 pounds, and comes with a carrying backpack which makes it easy to transport. It’s also quite spacious for its size and has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s constructed from durable reinforced materials
- It’s designed with four self-bailing mesh drains
- It’s very stable and can withstand rapid whitewater currents
- It features a Posi-track fin for better tracking
- It’s easy to inflate and deflate
- It comes with a comfortable padded seat
- It’s light in weight and comes with a carry bag
- It doesn’t have extra storage
- It doesn’t come with a paddle or a pump
The Aquaglide McKenzie 105 is the perfect choice for you if you’re looking for a versatile, durable kayak with excellent performance and innovative features.
3. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak – Best for Fishing
The Intex Excursion Pro kayak is one of the best inflatable fishing kayaks on the market. This kayak comes with many features that make it ideal for fishing. It also has a tandem version so that you can enjoy your fishing trip with a friend.
It’s constructed from composite materials, including laminate PVC material with a polyester core, which makes it extremely durable and resistant to damage. The material also allows for higher air pressure to increase the kayak’s rigidity.
It features 3 air chambers and an integrated drain plug to increase safety, 2 directional skegs to enhance tracking, adjustable seats and footrests for added comfort, and spring-loaded valves for easy inflation and fast deflation.
The 2-person version weighs 39 pounds and has a weight capacity of 400 pounds, which means it can carry the weight of your fishing gear and any fish you may catch on your trip. It also has stainless steel d-rings to secure gear and storage space in the bow and stern.
What really makes it perfect for fishing is that it comes with 2 fish holders and an adjustable mounting bracket for any additional fishing gear, such as fish finders. It also comes with 2 aluminum oars, a carry bag to facilitate transport, as well as a hi-output pump.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s durable and resistant to damage
- It’s designed with 3 air chambers
- It comes with a comfortable seat and adjustable footrests
- It has storage space in the bow and stern
- It has a very high weight capacity
- It features fishing rod holders
- It comes with paddles, a carry bag, and a pump
- It’s heavier compared to other inflatable kayaks
The Intex Excursion Pro is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a tough inflatable kayak with many convenient features and accessories to improve your fishing experience.
5. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak – Best Tandem
The Intex Explorer K2 kayak is another excellent option for a 2-person kayak. It’s ideal for tandem and will guarantee you have the best experience with your kayaking buddy.
It has a durable construction as it’s made of heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl. The sleek design includes a rigid I-beam floor and two adjustable inflatable seats with backrests for added comfort.
It also features 3 separate air chambers for added safety, 2 skegs on the bottom to improve tracking and stability, and Boston valves for easy inflation and fast deflation.
It’s light in weight for a 2-person kayak, weighing only 35 pounds, yet it has a relatively high load capacity of 400 pounds to carry a much heavier load. It comes with all the essential accessories, including 2 paddles, a carry bag to facilitate transport, as well as a hi-output pump.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s durable and puncture-resistant
- It features two adjustable inflatable seats with backrests
- It’s very stable and tracks well
- It’s designed with 3 air chambers
- It has a high weight capacity
- It comes with a full package of accessories
- It comes with paddles, a carry bag, and a pump
- It doesn’t come with extra storage space
- Not suitable for large bodies of water
The Intex Explorer K2 kayak is the best option for you if you’re looking for a high-quality tandem kayak that comes with all the essential accessories at an affordable price.
5. Intex Challenger Kayak – Best on A Budget
The Intex Challenger K1 is one of the best budget kayaks on the market, as it combines many great features at a very low price. It’s highly ideal for beginners, but kayakers of any skill level will greatly enjoy it.
It is constructed from a heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl material with a tarpaulin bottom, enhancing the kayak’s durability. It’s also decorated with bold graphics, which improves the kayak’s visibility.
This kayak has a maximum weight capacity of 220 pounds. It has extra storage with a cargo net for securing any gear. It’s still compact and very lightweight, making it easy to transport. It even comes with its own carry bag.
The process of inflating and deflating the kayak is fast and simple, as the kayak comes with Boston valves and a high-output hand pump.
It’s designed with grab lines on both ends as well as a detachable skeg to add more balance and stability. It also has two separate air chambers to increase safety. It also comes with a removable adjustable seat for added comfort, along with some accessories, such as a repair patch kit and 84-inch collapsible aluminum paddles.
Pros VS Cons
- It’s durable and puncture-resistant
- It’s designed with two air chambers
- It comes with two grab lines and a detachable skeg
- It comes with extra storage
- It comes with a paddle, a hand pump, a carry bag, and a repair kit
- It is light and easy to carry
- It’s decorated with eye-catching graphics
- It has a low weight capacity
- It’s difficult to dry the kayak completely after use
The Intex Challenger Kayak K1 kayak is perfect for you if you’re a beginner looking for a simple one-person affordable kayak to get you started with kayaking.
Everything You Need to Know About Ducky kayaks
What Are Ducky Kayaks?
Ducky kayaks, or duckies, are inflatable sit-on-top kayaks. They gained their name because of the curved rocker profile, which makes them look duck-like, and just like ducks, these kayaks can move effortlessly through the water.
They are a combination between a raft and a traditional kayak when it comes to maneuverability and stability, and unlike the average poor-quality inflatable kayaks, ducky kayaks are much tougher as they’re designed with rough water in mind. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in calm water.
How Are Ducky Kayaks Manufactured?
Generally speaking, most inflatable kayaks are manufactured using the same construction method. This method essentially includes using a fabric core to give the kayak shape and a synthetic rubber layer to provide the kayak airtightness, abrasion protection, and UV resistance.
The way manufacturers implement the synthetic rubber layer can vary from one kayak to another, which impacts the price, performance, and maintenance of the inflatable kayak
What Are Ducky Kayaks Made of?
The materials used to manufacture inflatable kayaks include PVC (polyvinyl chloride), Polyethylene, Hypalon, and Nitrylon.
PVC is the most common synthetic material used in inflatable kayaks. It’s a lot cheaper, so it’s frequently used to make entry-level inflatable kayaks for beginners who are just testing out the waters.
The PVC material is very sturdy and makes the kayak more resistant to impact. Its main drawback is that it’s prone to degradation from exposure to UV rays.
On the other hand, materials such as Hypalon and Nitrylon are more frequently used to make high-end inflatable kayaks. They would be an ideal option for experienced kayakers looking for top performance.
These materials are typically more expensive as they are much more resistant to UV ray degradation. Therefore, they can withstand long days in the sun much more effectively.
The Key Benefits of Ducky Kayaks
- Ducky kayaks sit higher on the water compared to traditional hard-shell kayaks, which allows you to see more of the nature around you.
- They’re portable and ideal for travelers as they can be deflated, making them easy to carry and transport.
- They don’t require a lot of storage space and can easily fit in a carrying bag, the back seat, or the trunk of your car, or you can even take them onto a plane with your luggage.
- Duckies are very stable. While they are built with whitewater conditions in mind, duckies can be used in any type of water.
- They are very safe and less prone to capsizing. Even if you do find yourself outside your kayak in the water, you can easily re-enter it, as you would with a traditional raft.
- They’re relatively cheaper in price, which makes them ideal for beginners. They also don’t cost a lot of money or effort to maintain.
Factors You Need to Consider Before Buying a Ducky Kayak
As mentioned before, there are different kinds of materials used to manufacture inflatable kayaks, and each kind has advantages and disadvantages.
The kayak’s material has a direct effect on its durability, so you need to make sure the kayak you’re buying is made of durable material, as this will make the kayak less prone to wearing out over time.
You can learn about the pros and cons of plastic kayaks here.
The weight capacity of a kayak is the total amount of weight the kayak can withstand to carry, including your weight and the weight of any equipment you bring abroad. So, it’s important to take maximum capacity into consideration to avoid overloading your kayak.
The amount of onboard space and storage options depend mainly on the size and design of the kayaks. To make it simple, the bigger your kayak is; the more room you’ll have to carry more gear.
The performance of the kayak is mainly affected by its design. Kayaks come in different shapes and sizes, so you need to choose a kayak with a design that best fits your purpose.
Speed depends on the kayak’s length and width. Tracking, on the other hand, depends on the shape of the kayak. Long narrow kayaks are usually faster, while short wide kayaks will be more stable and track better.
If performance is a top priority for you, you should definitely consider motorized kayaks. You can check my guide on motorized kayaks here.
Stability and Safety
The stability of the kayak is also affected by its design, mainly the width.
Inflatable kayaks are usually wider than traditional hard-shell which makes them extremely stable and less likely to capsize.
There are many features that contribute to the kayak’s comfort level, such as built-in accessory mounts, drink holders, footrests, and pedals.
The most important factor is the seating area of the kayak, so you need to make sure the seat of your kayak is padded and comfortable enough to avoid getting back pains when paddling for a long time.
The price of any kayak mainly depends on several factors, including the construction, materials, size, weight capacity, storage space, and any additional comfort features. You should also consider the buying cost as well as the maintenance fee.
Inflatable kayaks are usually cheaper compared to hard-shell kayaks because of the material used to manufacture them, and they also don’t cost much to maintain or repair.
If you want more options at different budgets, check out the best kayaks under $1,000 here and the best fishing kayaks under $500 here. You can also check the best cheap kayaks if you’re looking for kayaks that come at a more affordable price.
How to Maintain A Ducky Kayak?
Even if your ducky kayak is made of durable materials, you still need to maintain it properly to keep it in good shape and make it last longer. So, let’s take a quick look at the measure you can take to maintain a ducky kayak:
- The most important part of maintaining your ducky kayak is storing it properly.
- Since ducky kayaks are made of inflatable plastic materials, you need to store them away from direct sunlight as the heat and UV rays can weaken the plastic and make it more prone to damage. So, it’s best to keep the kayak under a protective cover or store it inside.
- If you’re going to store your ducky kayak for a longer period, it’s recommended to deflate it completely and put it away in a protective bag. Some ducky kayaks come with carry-on bags to transport them easier, and these bags are also suitable for storage purposes.
- Another important part of ducky kayak maintenance is to clean and dry the kayak before storing it.
- To clean your ducky kayak, you need to scrub the interior and exterior with water and mild soap, then rinse it. This will ensure that there is no debris, sand, or salt left on the kayak that might cause the plastic to deteriorate.
- You also need to make sure your ducky kayak is completely dry to prevent mold growth or corrosion.
- Finally, make sure to regularly inspect your ducky kayak for any signs of damage, preferably before each trip.
- You need to look for any punctures in the surface and pay attention to the air pressure, seals, valves, fitting, hardware, etc.
- If your ducky kayak keeps drifting or won’t stay rigid when inflated, then there’s definitely a puncture somewhere on its surface. Most kayaks come with patch repair kits that will help you deal with punctures easily and quickly, so you won’t have to replace the kayak entirely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens If A Ducky Kayak Is Punctured?
If a ducky kayak is punctured, it will not deflate completely or sink. That is because most inflatable kayaks are designed with multiple air chambers on the floor and sides of the kayak. Even even if one of the air chambers gets punctured, the other air chambers will not be affected or leak any air, ensuring that the kayak stays rigid until the puncture is fixed.
Can You Flip A Ducky Kayak?
You cannot flip a ducky kayak easily. That is because these kayaks are designed to be wider than other types of kayaks, which increases their stability. Since they’re inflatable, they’re also designed with air-filled tubes, which makes them extra buoyant and harder to turn over completely in the water.
What’s The Difference Between Traditional Rigid Kayaks and Ducky Kayaks?
Traditional rigid kayaks are manufactured from materials such as Kevlar, hard plastic, carbon fiber, or fiberglass. They are more e highly durable; however, they’re more expensive and difficult to transport. Ducky kayaks, on the other hand, are made from inflatable materials. This makes them a lot cheaper and more portable as they are light in weight.
Can You Kayak with Dog in A Ducky Kayak?
You can kayak with a dog in a ducky kayak as long as it’s made from a durable, rigid material that can withstand the dog’s claws without getting punctured. Ducky kayaks are also designed to be sit-on-top with higher sides, which will act as an effective barrier to keep the dog inside the kayak and prevent it from jumping in the water.
How Long Do Ducky Kayaks Last?
On average, ducky kayaks can last between 5 to 10 years. This mainly depends on proper storage and maintenance as well as the material used to manufacture the kayak. Ducky kayaks made from more expensive materials like Hypalon and Nitrylon are expected to last longer than kayaks made from PVC.
How to Make Your Ducky Kayak Last Longer?
To make your ducky kayak last longer, you need to store it properly and keep it away from direct sunlight, as it can weaken the plastic material and make it more prone to damage. You also need to clean the kayak after every trip to get rid of any debris, dirt, salt, or sand, then dry it thoroughly before storing it.
Kayak your way to Freedom
- On a budget? Check out the best fishing kayaks under $500 here and the best Fishing Kayaks under $1,000 here. Or Check the best Cheap Kayaks here.
- Going fishing? Here are the best Ocean fishing kayaks, and here are the best River Fishing Kayaks.
- You can also find the best Fly Fishing Kayaks here and the best Bass Fishing Boats here.
- A bit experienced? Check out the best modular kayaks here and the best tandem fishing kayaks here.
- Looking for something special? Check out my favorite Ducky kayaks here.
- Navigate your way with these awesome and beginner-friendly Kayak compasses.
- Going Hunting? These Duck hunting kayaks will give you an unfair advantage!
- Have a need for speed? These motorized kayaks will get you moving.
- Protect yourself from the sun with these Kayak shades, and make your kayak more comfortable with these Kayak seats.
- Keep your feet dry and warm with these superb Kayaking shoes.