With so many paddlers living in cities or other spaces where storage is tight, it’s hard to justify the space and resources that are needed to store and transport a full-size kayak. Enter inflatables. These blow-up kayaks are a creative solution to the storage issues that come with rigid kayaks. Folding down into a pack or duffel, they are easy for anyone with a small vehicle to transport and can be stored in the back of a closet.
Their inherent buoyancy and forgiving material make inflatable kayaks good options for families, but if you’re picturing a beach toy, modern inflatable kayaks will surprise you. Using durable materials and drop-stitching techniques, boat builders can make high-performing inflatables that can be used for recreation, light touring and even fishing.
Aquaglide emerged from the Pacific Northwest in the mid-2000s, producing two very different products that both share the same goal: to get people on the water. Their inflatable “aquapark” play structures are reminiscent of the game show Wipeout, complete with slides, trampolines and inflatable lounges. Aquaglide aquaparks are found at resorts and waterfronts across North America and Europe.
Aquaglide’s paddlesports line, on the other hand, includes a wide range of inflatable kayaks, packrafts and paddleboards. We’ll focus on these, although the parks look like a heap of fun. Aquaglide inflatable kayaks cater to recreational paddlers who want a compact, packable boat for light touring, easy whitewater, kayak fishing or accessing remote, hike- or bike-in waters.
This article provides you with an overview of this year’s Aquaglide kayaks, as well as tips for choosing the one that best meets your paddling needs. You’ll also find links to our Paddling Buyer’s Guide which features reviews and specs for each model.
Top picks: Best Aquaglide kayaks for 2023
The following Aquaglide kayaks have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Aquaglide kayaks here.
Best Aquaglide Kayaks
Blackfoot Angler 160
Blackfoot Angler 130
Backwoods Angler 75
Backwoods Expedition 85
Shop Aquaglide kayaks
Ready to start shopping? Follow the links below to view every Aquaglide inflatable kayak on the market in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. Compare them alongside other inflatables from competing brands in one easy-to-browse location. Clicking on specific models will show you their specs, prices and where to buy, online or in-person.
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Shopping for a used Aquaglide kayak?
If you come across a used Aquaglide kayak, you’ll want to check out a few important things before committing to a purchase. Buying used inflatable kayaks is a little different than shopping for used rigid boats. Heed this advice to avoid disappointment:
1 Gather all the pieces
Firstly, inflatable kayaks come with a number of key parts and accessories aside from the hull itself. Before traveling to look at a used kayak, check Aquaglide’s archives or the Paddling Buyer’s Guide to determine what pieces should be included with the model in question. As Aquaglide kayaks don’t come with paddles or pumps, it’s a bonus if the seller includes these with the kayak.
2 Learn the history
Chat with the seller to find out the reason they’re selling the kayak, and also what kind of paddling they did with it. Consider if any issues they had might be the same for you down the road. Also ask how the kayak was stored; an inflatable that is left out in the sun for prolonged periods will have UV damage, which weakens the hull. Excessive fading is a solid indicator that UV damage has occurred.
3 Try it out
You’ve shown up knowing which pieces should be included with the kayak; now you’ll want to see it inflated. Hopefully the seller can also show you the most efficient way to unpack and pack the kayak up after you’re done, too. As you set up the kayak, look for staining or mildew—sure signs that the boat’s been packed away wet. This might indicate damage. If it was used on the ocean and not rinsed properly, you may see salt deposits in the folds of the kayak. When the kayak is fully inflated, listen and feel for punctures or air leaks at the seams and valves. A minor puncture can often be repaired with a simple patch kit, but leaking valves may need replacement.
If possible, the absolute best way to know how a used Aquaglide kayak fits and performs is to take it for a test paddle. Ask the seller to meet at a location where you can get on the water, and bring a paddle, PFD and the clothes you plan to paddle in.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
Aquaglide kayak buying advice
Aquaglide kayaks’ current lineup includes recreational, touring, fishing, whitewater and ultralight inflatable kayaks. Many of these models are available in different sizes for solo, tandem or even three-person paddling.
Aquaglide recreational kayaks are made for short outings on calm waters. Their wide designs prioritize stability over speed, making them beginner-friendly. They’re also among the most affordable kayaks in Aquaglide’s lineup. Rec kayaks from Aquaglide include the Chinook, Noyo and Deschutes kayaks.
The shortest open-deck kayaks from Aquaglide are the Chinook series. At 12 feet or less, these novice-friendly kayaks are extremely maneuverable, making them the boat of choice for exploring the nooks and crannies of calm waterways. In the same spirit is the closed-deck Noyo 90, another stubby kayak for flatwater recreational paddling.
The Deschutes 11-,13- and 14-footers are high-capacity recreational/touring kayaks with low rocker and a removable fin to enhance tracking (traveling efficiently in a straight line). Like Aquaglide’s other models, seats can be added or removed, with the largest size accommodating two paddlers.
The EVO beam floor, essentially a series of inflatable tubes, helps keep the kayak stiff (increasing its efficiency) without the additional weight and cost of drop stitching. The Deschutes is designed for paddlers who are looking to carry more on the water—whether that’s gear for an overnight adventure, canine companions or young passengers.
Aquaglide’s inflatable touring kayaks provide a bit more speed than their recreational boats. They are a bit longer and sleeker, enabling paddlers to travel further with less effort. Along with the entry-level Deschutes series (see above), touring models include the Chelan and Navarro lines.
The Chelan series of performance touring kayaks are some of Aquaglide’s newest models; available in 12-, 14- and 15.5-foot lengths for paddling solo, tandem or with three people. They’re also versatile; with the removable seats, one paddler can paddle all three sizes. The Chelan is built with a drop-stitch floor for added rigidity and speed. Removable fins aid with tracking as well. This kayak is a good match for paddlers who want to cover some distance in their inflatable.
A unique feature of the Navarro line is the optional zip-on deck. Without it, the kayak paddles as an open decked kayak, but when it’s added, paddlers can wear a sprayskirt for more protection from the elements.
Some people may approach the idea of mixing sharp fishing hooks and inflatable kayaks with skepticism, but the heavy-duty construction of Aquaglide’s angling kayaks that prevents punctures from jagged rocks also protects these boats from stray hooks.
The Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler is available as a 13-foot solo or 16-foot tandem. It is stable enough to sit or stand in, and the frame seat is a premium feature that increases comfort and visibility. The portability of this inflatable kayak makes it easy for anglers to access remote lakes, as the boat stuffs into an oversized backpack.
Whitewater / recreational
The highly rockered McKenzie inflatable kayak is built for recreational use and easy-moderate whitewater, up to Class II with experienced paddlers at the helm. The generously upswept bow and stern ride over waves and increase maneuverability for a drier ride on the river. Find the McKenzie as a 10.5-foot solo or 12.5-foot tandem kayak. It’s built with reinforced Duratex material for more rugged durability than Aquaglide’s purely recreational kayaks.
The three models in the Backwoods line are Aquaglide’s packraft equivalent. These stout boats roll down into compact packages, easily stuffing in a backpack or handlebar bag for hike- or bike-in adventures. Choose from the Backwoods Purist 65, Angler 75 or Expedition 85, all weighing 12 pounds or less. Anyone who prioritizes space and weight will appreciate these ultra-portable kayaks as they open up even more backcountry adventure options.
Pumps and paddles
In addition to essential equipment like a Personal Flotation Device (PFD), you also need a paddle and pump for your inflatable kayak. Aquaglide sells their aluminum-shaft Aries paddles in two- or four-piece versions, as well as the lighter fiberglass Crux and Orion four-piece paddles. Choose a four-piece paddle for the most compact pack size, fitting into smaller bags.
Pumps for Aquaglide kayaks must be purchased separately, so keep this in mind when comparing kayak prices from other companies (some of which may include a pump). Aquaglide offers different styles of hand pumps, foot pumps and electric pumps as well as all the necessary adapters for the valves found on their inflatables. The Hand 10 Pump is a basic pump that’s suitable for all Aquaglide kayaks.
Electric pumps make inflation easier, especially the Accelerator 12V pump, with an automatic shut-off. If you already have a pump, check that you have the appropriate valve attachment. Aquaglide’s models use both Boston and Halkey-Roberts valves.
What are Aquaglide kayaks made of?
Aquaglide uses two different grades of PVC to make their kayaks. Packraft-style kayaks like the Backwoods Purist 65 use Ultralight construction, while Aquaglide’s performance-oriented models—such as the Chelan touring kayak and McKenzie whitewater kayak—use heavier-duty Duratex for more robust builds.
Where are Aquaglide kayaks manufactured?
Aquaglide kayaks are designed in Oregon and manufactured in China.
Who owns Aquaglide?
Aquaglide was acquired by Kent Outdoors (formerly known as Kent Watersports) in 2018. This group of outdoor brands also includes wakeboard and waterski companies like O’Brien and Connelly and the most recent acquisitions, Kona Bicycles and BOTE paddlesports.
Aquaglide kayak warranty
Aquaglide kayaks come with a one- or two-year warranty against manufacturer defects, depending on the model. Recreational and ultralight kayaks like the Chinook, Navarro, Purist and Expedition series have one-year warranties. Check each model to see which warranty period applies.
Compare Aquaglide kayaks
Aquaglide kayak vs Sea Eagle
Sea Eagle is another popular manufacturer of high-quality inflatables. Founded in 1968, Sea Eagle began by producing inflatable rafts and boats that were purchased through mail-order catalogs. Often at the leading edge of inflatable boat design, Sea Eagle has widely adopted drop-stitching; every component of their RazorLite series uses this construction technique, making them among the fastest and most efficient inflatable kayaks available.
If speed is key, choose a Sea Eagle. Aquaglide’s compact Ultralight Backwoods models stand apart from Sea Eagle’s boats with packraft-style portability. If portability is key, look to Aquaglide.
Advanced Elements kayak vs Aquaglide
Advanced Elements makes comparably priced inflatable recreational, touring, angling and whitewater kayaks to Aquaglide. Like Aquaglide, they incorporate drop-stitched floors into some of their models or as an optional upgrade. This makes the kayak much more rigid, increasing performance and efficiency. Unlike Aquaglide, Advanced Elements also uses aluminum frames in some of their models, adding rigidity but requiring a slightly more complex set-up.
Compare models that match your needs specifically between the two brands—often, they have direct equivalents. If you’re an experienced paddler looking for a full-fledged, self-bailing whitewater inflatable, only Advanced Elements’ Attack Pro whitewater kayak fits the bill.
Aquaglide kayak reviews
Paddling Magazine is your best online resource for Aquaglide kayak reviews. Here you’ll find expert opinions on each boat’s performance and features, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses you’ll need to factor into your purchase decision.