Inflatable Recreational Kayak Review: Intex Challenger K1

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

The Intex Challenger K1 is a user-friendly inflatable kayak that’s fun to paddle and easy to store in small spaces. It’s also among the cheapest kayaks on the market, making it a great choice for those wishing to try kayaking without making a huge investment in a boat or a place to store it.

The Intex Challenger K1 kayak is sold with an aluminum paddle. The design features of this inflatable kayak make it suited to paddling on calm lakes and mild rivers. The Challenger K1 is a single-person kayak; check out the Intex Challenger K2 if you wish to paddle with a partner.

This Intex Challenger K1 kayak review will cover the boat’s main features, along with its strengths and weaknesses.

On the water with the Intex Challenger K1

Intex Challenger K1 Specs
Length: 9’0” / 2.72 m
Width: 30” / 76 cm
Weight: 28 lbs / 13 kg
Capacity: 220 lbs / 100 kg
MSRP: $95 USD / $194 CAD

Performance

The Intex Challenger K1 performs like other inflatable kayaks: It’s sluggish compared to a hardshell kayak, but it’s extremely stable. With an overall length of 9 feet, the Challenger K1 is easy to maneuver. Like other short kayaks, however, it’s slow and takes some effort to paddle in a straight line.

The Intex Challenger K1 has a modest maximum weight capacity of 220 pounds. Larger paddlers are best to scale up to the Intex Challenger K2, which has a higher maximum weight capacity and can be configured for single or tandem kayaking.

Market and demographics

The Intex Challenger K1 is a general purpose, budget-priced inflatable kayak for beginners. It’s best for recreational paddlers who are looking to have fun on the water for an hour or two at a time. If you’re looking to develop your skills or spend more time in the kayak, look at a higher performance (pricier) inflatable kayak to meet your needs. The Challenger is versatile and can be used for many applications—just bear in mind that this cheap inflatable kayak will never match the performance and comfort of more expensive boats.

One of the most popular applications of the Intex Challenger K1 is kayak fishing. This 9-foot inflatable kayak is stable and nimble, and provides anglers with access to the shallowest backwaters. Given its bargain price, don’t expect the Challenger K1 to come with the bells and whistles of a dedicated fishing kayak. However, it’s easy to make Intex Challenger K1 kayak fishing mods—such as adding rod holders—to improve your angling experience.

Inland lakes are best for the Intex Challenger K1; sea kayaking with this model is not advised. The Challenger K1 simply doesn’t have the depth to handle ocean waves and is difficult to paddle in strong winds, so stick to sheltered bodies of water.

Though it may look like a miniature whitewater raft, Intex Challenger K1 kayak whitewater performance is limited to easy swifts and rapids. It’s a small kayak with a shallow depth, so it can be a wet ride in waves and chop, as well as more difficult to handle in currents than a dedicated whitewater kayak.

About the Intex Challenger K1

Design

Design features and details

The Intex Challenger K1 kayak is essentially a kayak-shaped rubber raft, like the type you will find at discount prices at any big-box department store. It has two large air chambers running the perimeter of the boat and a flat bottom made up of smaller tubes (known as “I-beams”).

The Intex Challenger K1 has minimal rocker, or upsweep from bow to stern, because its air construction causes the hull to take on the shape of the water it floats upon. This is a great attribute for stability, but far less desirable if you’re interested in paddling for longer distances. A removable skeg (or fin, which attaches to the stern of the kayak) aids in keeping travel in a straight line.

The large, open cockpit of the Intex Challenger K1 kayak is easy to enter and exit, and combined with the boat’s exceptional stability, makes this model ideal for first-time paddlers. Along with the boat’s shallow depth, an open cockpit increases the risk of swamping in rough water. The Challenger K1 should only be used in sheltered, calm conditions.

Dress For Immersion, Not Air Temperature
  • Your body loses heat much faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry.
  • Avoid cotton clothing like t-shirts and jeans; they retain water and accelerate cooling when wet. Synthetic fabrics, or wool, are generally a better choice. If the water is very cold (60° fahrenheit or less), you should wear a wetsuit or drysuit.

Material and construction

The Intex Challenger K1 kayak is constructed of vinyl plastic with welded seams. This construction is quite durable and resistant to impacts with blunt objects and abrasions. Inflatable kayaks like the Challenger K1 aren’t as stiff as hardshell kayaks, which allows it to flex in the water. This makes the inflatable hull durable, but also less efficient to paddle. Narrow, high-pressure air tubes in the floor of the kayak (known as “I-beams”) add rigidity and larger chambers around the perimeter of the hull provide buoyancy.

The vinyl hull can be damaged by punctures, so it’s important to be careful with sharp fishing hooks and cutting tools around the kayak. A single punctured tube won’t sink the Intex Challenger K1, but it will affect performance and buoyancy and should be repaired as soon as possible. Holes are easy to patch using contact adhesive—a repair patch kit is included. Cheap kayaks like the Challenger K1 don’t have the same UV-resistant qualities of more expensive boats, and therefore should be stored out of the sun.

Intex Challenger K1 outfitting

Comfort is king amongst recreational paddlers. The Intex Challenger K1 kayak inflatable seat offers air-ride comfort and adjustable back support that wraps around your sides (a high-back PFD is recommended for a more comfortable fit).

The Intex Challenger K1 skeg is a key accessory; this removable fin attaches to the stern of the kayak to improve tracking to make it easier to paddle in a straight line. A convenient mesh cargo area provides plenty of storage on the front deck for items like water bottles, waterproof cameras and snacks. You’ll also find grab lines on the bow and stern of the Challenger K1 kayak for carrying the boat with a partner to and from the water.

Intex Challenger K1 mods

The Intex Challenger K1 kayak is a budget-friendly platform for angling. But to make it fit your needs, you’ll want to make some Intex Challenger K1 kayak fishing mods. Browsing the Internet reveals many options for upgrades, including adding rod holders, action camera mounts and installing tackle and drink holders.

Make sure your Intex Challenger K1 modifications don’t impede your ability to enter or exit the kayak. Similarly, avoid modifications that may make the kayak more difficult to handle in wind and waves. Test out any modifications on dry land and critically assess how the changes will affect the kayak’s safety and performance.

Wear A Life Jacket
  • Everyone, even strong swimmers, needs to wear a life jacket at all times when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put a life jacket on once you fall into the water. Even a light wind can blow any paddlecraft away from you, faster than you can swim.
  • Buy (and wear) a comfortable Type 3 or S life jacket specifically designed for paddlesports.

Intex Challenger K1 kayak assembly

Intex Challenger K1 kayak inflation is easy and takes a typical paddler less than 10 minutes. The boat features two one-way Boston valves, one to inflate the hull and the other for the deck. The seat inflates with two smaller valves, which must be sealed quickly to keep air from escaping.

An inflatable foot rest is slid into the bow of the kayak to brace your feet. Intex Challenger K1 kayak skeg removal and installation is easy; simply slide the plastic fin into the track on the stern of the kayak.

After a day on the water you may ask, how to collapse my Intex Challenger K1 kayak? The process is easy, just open up the valves to deflate. Make sure you rinse your kayak and allow it to dry thoroughly before long-term storage.

How it compares

  • Intex Challenger K1 vs K2

    The Intex Challenger K2 is a larger kayak with capacity for two paddlers. It has the same outfitting and accessories as the K1. The main difference with the Intex Challenger K2 is that it can be paddled with a partner or solo (a good option for larger, heavier people), making it far more versatile than the Intex Challenger K1.

    The Intex Challenger K2 is faster and tracks better than the K1, however it’s also more difficult to handle in wind—especially for smaller solo paddlers. Choose the Challenger K1 if you’re a smaller or average-sized paddler (under 6’2” and 220 pounds) and if you have no intentions of paddling with a partner. The K2 is a great choice if you’re larger or if you’d like the option of paddling tandem.

  • Intex Challenger K1 2013 vs 2019

    There have been only a few changes to the Intex Challenger K1 kayak since 2013. The most obvious change is the deck graphics. The older 2013 model also featured a two-piece seat, as opposed to the one-piece seat in the 2019 (and current) version. The older seat tended to sit lower to the bottom of the kayak. Performance of the two boats is virtually identical.

Paddle Sober And Smart
  • Never mix alcohol and paddling. Coast Guard and state BUI (boating under the influence) laws apply to all vessels. This includes canoes, kayaks, SUPs and rafts.

Where to buy the Challenger K1

Are you looking to buy an Intex Challenger K1 kayak? This bargain-priced kayak is available online and in various big-box stores, including Walmart and The Home Depot. Amazon Intex Challenger K1 prices are among the best you’ll find, in close competition with Walmart. Intex Challenger K1 kayaks can also be found on eBay.

In Canada, the closest inflatable to the Intex Challenger K1 kayak at Canadian Tire is the Outbound Inflatable kayak, which retails for under $200 and boasts similar features and performance.

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Intex

Challenger K1

The Intex Challenger™ K1 Kayak is sporty and fun with a streamlined design for easy paddling. The bright green color and sporty graphics make the kayak highly visible in the water. Great for experiencing lakes and mild rivers solo, this Sports Series kayak is perfect for one adult. Lightweight and compact, this kayak is very easy to assemble and, with the Boston valve, it inflates and deflates in minutes. You can take the fun of kayaking wherever you go. Made with rugged vinyl construction and built for performance, this sturdy kayak has an inflatable I-beam floor, a low-profile deck and...

Challenger K1 pros and cons

Pros

  • Price: The Intex Challenger K1 is one of the cheapest kayaks you’ll find, often available for under $100 US.
  • Portability: The Intex Challenger K1 kayak rolls up and fits in a large gym bag, even with paddles, and weighs under 30 pounds.
  • Easy set up: The Intex Challenger K1 kayak goes from bag to the water in less than 10 minutes. Take down is even faster.
  • Super stable: The Intex Challenger K1 kayak is wide and features a flat bottom for ultimate stability. Its large cockpit is also easy to enter and exit.
  • Beginner friendly: You don’t need any paddling experience to get out on calm, sheltered water in the Intex Challenger K1, whether you’re looking for a quick outing or an angler looking to try kayak fishing.

Cons

  • Limited seaworthiness: While the inflatable Intex Challenger K1 kayak won’t sink, its large cockpit and low profile allows waves to enter the boat. This design is meant for use on flatwater lakes and gentle rivers only.
  • Slow and sluggish: The inflatable hull flexes and doesn’t cut through the water smoothly. Combined with a short 9-foot length, the Intex Challenger K1 kayak won’t win any races and is difficult to paddle for long distances.
  • Difficult to handle in the wind: The Intex Challenger K1 is small and light and tends to get blown around by the wind, especially for beginners.

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