Complete Guide to Maintaining Your Inflatable Kayaks Properly (Updated)

Doing proper cares can add years of life to your inflatable kayaks.

It’s easy to take care of your inflatable kayak. The three critical areas are storage, inflation, & loading/unloading. Get these three right and the chances of causing bad damage to your inflatable kayak is small.

Improper storage, improper inflation and improper loading/unloading are the three primary ways of damaging your inflatable.

Notice that there is no mention of damage occurring while you are on the water in your inflatable kayak. It happens, but it is unusual.

Maintaining Your Inflatable Kayaks

Photo by Marc Andre

Inflatable Kayak Repair

Inflatable Kayak repair can be simple, easy and outlast the rest of the boat or it can be a waist of time.

Repair is an important part of inflatable kayak care. Here is our suggestions and ideas on inflatable kayak repair.

Inflatable Kayak Care

Storage: Short Term & Long Term


Short term (a few days to 2 to 3 weeks) inflatable kayak storage is easy and simple. Deflate it. Make sure water doesn’t get inside it. Keep it out of the way.

Proper long term storage is critical for proper inflatable kayak care. The best way to store your inflatable kayak is partially inflated (about one half) and out of continuous direct sunlight. Most basements work great. A garage or shed also works.

You can store your inflatable kayak deflated, but you need to take special care. You can even store it rolled up, but this requires even more care and caution.

Here’s what you need to be concerned about if you store your boat deflated and rolled up: 

Moisture is the enemy. It can cause mold and mildew. If your boat in storage goes through frequent freezing and thawing, cracks can develop in the boat where moisture has gathered.

Moisture usually gets on the inside of your inflatable kayak tubes. It can get in through an open valve. More often, it’s gets there through condensation on the inside of the tubes.

This moisture on the inside of the tubes is not a big deal, except when you are storing your inflatable kayak deflated and rolled up for a long time.

The good news is that it’s an easy problem to deal with before you put it in storage. If there’s a lot of moisture, suck it out. If you don’t have a wet/dry vacuum, you can take it to a car wash and use theirs.

If there is just a little moisture, leave your inflatable kayak partially inflated for a few days in an area with low humidity. Leave the valve caps off. Roll it up and put it in storage after the moisture has had a few days to dry out.

The bad news is that many casual inflatable kayak users roll the boat up as soon as the trip is over and don’t do anything else until their next trip. The next trip is often several months away.

The quick solution for this is to make sure your boat gets completely dried after each trip. That will minimize problems from improper storage.

Inflation (& Deflation)


Proper inflation is critical for proper inflatable kayak care and operation. Over inflation can pop your inflatable kayak. Under inflation leaves you with a floppy boat on the river, that’s dangerous. Inflatable kayaks must be inflated properly to perform at their best.

Hot air expands. Cold air contracts.

Leave a fully inflated inflatable kayak out in the sun on a hot day and it can pop. This is much more common in inexpensive recreational boats that don’t use an inner air bladder. Still, it can happen in the best quality boats.

Put an inflatable kayak on a cold river (or lake or ocean) and the air will contract. This could leave the boat floppy.

Keep an eye on the boat. Let air out if you need to. Or, pump the boat back up.

Pumps

A good hand pump or foot pump works good for most inflatable kayaks. 12-volt pumps that attach to a car battery work good, but they will not inflate your boat fully. You must top it off with a hand or foot pump. A 12-volt pump and a hand pump (or foot pump) work great together.

Electric pumps are great, but they are more than most private boaters need. And, you won’t always have access to electricity when you need it.

(I recommend that you haul your inflatable kayak deflated and rolled up, unless you have a trailer. More on this in a minute.)

We inflate our rafts to 2.75 psi (pounds per square inch). There is some variation among inflatables and conditions, but most are close to this.

Do not use a car pump or sports ball pump unless you want to hear a loud pop.

Deflation

Open the valves and out the air comes. It’s that simple, but there are a couple of helpful hints.

If you are rolling the boat up, roll the air out the valves.

If you are going to carry the boat rolled up, roll it as tight as possible. A floppy deflated raft is very difficult to carry.

Loading & Hauling Your Inflatable Kayak


This is simple. Haul it deflated and rolled up. Take advantage of the portability of your inflatable boat.

If you have a trailer, hauling it inflated is not a big deal.

If you must haul it on top of your car, take extra care and take your time.

Cleaning & Protectants


Water is usually all you need. Soap is okay, just make sure you rinse it off good. Harsh cleaners and chemicals can damage the material. Use caution.

Deflate the floor and wipe out the seam connecting the floor to the sides.

Let the sun dry the boat.

Protectants

Apply 303 Protectant once a year, less if you use your boat only occasionally. Do not use “Armor All.” Armor All is a great product, but it’s not for inflatable kayaks. 303 Protectant does the job.

You can get 303 Protectant at rivergear.com , nrsweb.com , or a marine supply store.

303 Protectant will make your boat a little slippery for a few days. Don’t apply just before a big trip.

Inflatable Kayaks with an Inner Air Bladder


Inflatable Fishing Kayaks with an inner air bladder and an outer shell require extra care. Moisture and dirt get trapped in between the inner air bladder and the outer shell.

If you are going to store the boat deflated and rolled up for a long time, then you should try to get some of the dirt and moisture out. The easiest way to do this is to open the outer shell some and let the boat air dry for a few days.

You can also wet/dry vacuum it out. And wipe it out. While this is optimum, simply airing the inner air bladder out for a few days will eliminate most problems.

Some Final Thoughts

Proper care of your inflatable kayak can add years to its life. Improper care can cause major damage.

Proper care is easy. Just follow a few guidelines for storage, inflation and transporting.

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