Solo Vs. Tandem Inflatable Kayak, Which One To Buy?

Choosing between a solo or tandem kayak?

It’s an important choice.

One person IKs (Inflatable Kayaks) are simple and sleek. Two person Inflatable Kayaks are versatile and more complex to operate.

Solo Inflatable Kayaks

One person Inflatable Kayaks are simple, sleek, sporty, easy to control, and forgiving. They make the freedom and independence of kayaking accessible to many more people.

Less expensive one person inflatable kayaks can even perform well, as long as they (and you) are not pushed beyond their limits.

Tandem Inflatable Kayaks

Two person Inflatable Kayaks are great boats that serve a variety of purposes. They are a great way to share a fun adventure with someone who is apprehensive about paddling on their own. They are also great for hauling lots of gear and for big people.

Quality is more important than on other boats, and control and steering is more difficult.

Inexpensive two person IKs should be used with great caution.

Two person inflatable kayaks need to be strong and tough. The uneven distribution of weight causes extra stresses, strains and scrapes on the boats.

In our rafting operation, two person IKs get more wear and tear than any other boats. The good quality ones take it and still last for years. The lower quality ones just don’t work.

Operation of two person IKs is much more complex than one person IKs. Added length and uneven distribution of weight make them more difficult to handle.

Uneven Weight Distribution

This is not a problem in good quality two person Ik’s. It’s usually not a problem in mid range quality two person IKs.

Lower quality two person IK’s can have some serious performance problems caused by uneven weight distribution.

To perform at its best, an inflatable should mock a hard shell boat.

Uneven weight distribution in lower quality two person IK’s can cause the boat to buckle, develop waves, and even wrap around an object. None of these are good. They can be dangerous.

Use great caution with lower quality two person inflatable kayaks. My recommendation is get a one person IK or get a better quality two person IK.

Great for Couples, Kids, & Cargo


Two person IK’s are great for couples. They can share the fun and adventure of the water. They can take a day trip, an overnighter, or a multi-day trip.

The only caveat here is distribution of paddling power. Two person IK’s perform better with one dominant paddler, who sits in the back with a double bladed paddle.

Many couples use two canoe paddles. That’s fine. It is more challenging, but its great if it works for you.


Two person Ik’s are great for taking kids down a river. You can control the boat and let the kids “paddle,” play, fidget and wiggle. There’s plenty of room and stability.

A parent and child in a two person IK is our most common way of using inflatable kayaks in our rafting operation. It usually works great.

Many parents can take two younger kids, if they want. And, it’s not uncommon for both parents and one child go in a two person IK.

They are great fun.


A two person IK can handle a huge amount of cargo with little effort. This is particularly true if only one person is in the boat.

Big People

Big people can use a two person inflatable kayak as a one person inflatable kayak. This works great. If you do this, I recommend you try to center your weight in the IK. It will make it much easier to handle.

Some Final Thoughts

Two person inflatable kayaks are great boats for many situations. They are great for couples, kids, cargo, and big people.

Stay away from the low quality two person IK’s.

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