Some inflatable kayaks are made with an inner air bladder that holds the air and an outer layer for structure and abrasion resistance. Others are made with one layer of material that holds the air, provides structure, and abrasion resistance.
Many recreational inflatable kayaks use an inner bladder. All Aire inflatable kayaks use an inner bladder. Aire uses a urethane bladder. Some use a vinyl bladder. The urethane bladder is much better.
One Layer Vs. Two Layers, Which Is Better?
Inflatable Kayaks Made Without An Inner Air Bladder
Inflatable kayaks made without an inner air bladder are lighter, require much less maintenance, and much easier to repair.
They take five minutes to inflate, five minutes to deflate, and five minutes to prepare for winter storage.
This means more time on the water.
If the one layer develops an air leak, then you have a problem. In good quality boats, this is uncommon; but still can happen. If it does, inflatable kayak repair is not that difficult. And, in good quality inflatable kayaks, punctures while you are on the water are rare.
Inflatable Kayaks Made With An Inner Air Bladder
Inflatable kayaks made with an inner air bladder and an outer shell have more protection. In good quality inflatable kayaks, the ability to switch out air bladders can be an advantage.
This two layer system also keeps the inner bladder a little cooler. In hot conditions, this decreases air expansion, thus decreasing the possibility of “blowing a seam.” This is important in inflatable kayaks that use vinyl for their inner bladder.
Inflatable kayaks made with an inner air bladder require much more maintenance, are heavier, and are more difficult to repair. Where there is water, there is grit and sand and small rocks. These are going to find there way between the outer shell and the inner air bladder. And, over time this wears on the boat. It’s tough to get between the two layers and get all of this out.
It’s also difficult to dry the area between the two layers. For long term storage, you want the boat as dry as possible. If there is moisture in the boat for long term storage, then mold and mildew often develop. This can damage your boat.
Inflatable kayaks made with an inner air bladder are also much harder to repair. You often have to take the whole boat apart to find a leak and repair it.
The Bottom Line…
I’ve owned lots of inflatable kayaks with an inner air bladder and lots of inflatable kayaks with just one layer. There’s not a big difference in performance on the river, but once you are off the river, inflatable kayaks with an inner bladder require much more maintenance.
As I write this, I am in the middle of putting our rafts and inflatable kayaks up for winter storage. Moisture and grit are the enemy of inflatables once they are off the water. Leaving moisture (and to a lesser extent, grit) in your inflatable kayak while it is in storage will damage it and possibly destroy it.
For inflatable kayaks without an inner bladder, it takes me about five minutes to prepare it for winter storage. For an inflatable kayak with an inner bladder and an outer shell. It takes at least an hour of tedious cleaning and drying.
Choose the inflatable kayak that works for you, your paddling plans, your experience, and your budget; but if you choose an inflatable kayak with an inner bladder, plan to spend extra time on repair and maintenance.
Proper cleaning of an inflatable kayak with an inner bladder takes time and effort and is tedious. It doesn’t take a lot of skill, just time and persistence. I hate to do it, but I still do it.
If you think you’ll take this extra time; then consider inflatable kayaks with an air bladder. Be honest with yourself. If you are going to store your inflatable kayak without extensive cleaning, then try to avoid ones with an inner bladder.