Gear Review: Innova Swing II Inflatable Kayak

This inflatable kayak from Innova combines storage benefits and a hard-shell-like deck.

[inflatable kayak]

Garage space tight? Inflatable kayaks are great for easy storage and transport. But they usually have an open cockpit design—a big compromise if you really want a closed-deck boat to protect you and your gear in cold and/or rough water. Solution: The Swing II affords all the benefits of an inflatable, but comes with a deck to repel spray. The 13’2” tandem can carry up to 400 pounds of people and equipment. More importantly, its “tubeless” material (rubber-coated ripstop polyester) means its floor and side chambers can inflate to a higher pressure than bladder kayaks for a more rigid ride. The poly content also helps it dry quicker for roll-up storage.

Three metal crossbars snap in beneath the deck for added structural support. Medium- to large-size drybags fit in the fore and aft areas, accessible via a zippered deck; secure additional items to the deck rigging above. For better tracking, attach the snap-in fin (included). “We pulled the deflated boat from our Subaru’s cargo hatch for a jaunt around Colorado’s Trappers Lake, and had it set up in 10 minutes. It was a hit among grown-ups and kids alike,” says one tester. “And when the afternoon breeze picked up, it punched through windchop, easily deflecting water off the deck.” Reality check: While inflatables win on portability, hard shells are faster and more responsive. $799; 26 lbs.; packed size is 26” x 16” x 10”;