Inflatable Kayak Parts Guide

There are certain parts to an inflatable kayak that are unique to inflatables and very different from hard-shell kayaks. If you are not used to an inflatable kayak it is important to understand these parts and how they work.

Air Chambers

Each inflatable kayak will be constructed with multiple air chambers. This will ensure that your kayak will never simply just “pop”, it will only leak slowly should there be a problem. Only one air chamber is every likely to go at one time so the “backup” chambers will allow you to paddle back to shore safely so that you can make the appropriate repairs.

For example if the floor air chamber goes then you will still have the two side chambers. If the side goes you will still have the floor as well as the other side. The point is your kayak will never completely deflate and leave you stranded. Most inflatable kayaks these days are very well constructed with multiple air chambers to keep you safe and afloat.


Each air chamber will have a valve that is used to fill the kayak with air as well as for letting the air out. The best type of valve is called a Boston valve. Most good quality inflatable kayaks will have one of these.

A Boston valve is a one-way valve that screws into a fitting in each chamber. The reason it is a one-way valve is because the valve body has a rubber flap that will let air flow in but not out and it also has a top cap that covers the filling hole. This type of valve makes it very easy to inflate the kayak quickly and easily.


Many inflatable kayaks will come with multiple D-rings. These can be used for securing seats, dry bags, backrests, gear and knee straps. If your kayak does not have the amount of D-rings that you need you can easily purchase extras and glue them on.

Drain Holes

Many inflatable kayaks, especially those geared for whitewater kayaking, will come equipped with self-bailing drain holes. These are extremely useful in rough water so that the collected water in the kayak can drain away from the seating and lighten your boat.

Do not worry about your kayak sinking if there are no drain holes or if it is filled right up with water. An inflatable kayak will not sink even if the cockpit is filled right up. If you do not have drain holes I would highly recommend bringing along a bilge pump if you plan on kayaking in rough water or surf waves.

Seats and Footrests

Every kayak of course will have some kind of a seat… hopefully. This is not unique to only inflatable kayaks except for the fact that often the seat and footrest will be inflatable as well. Not every kayak will come with footrests but they can always be added in and are a great way to add additional comfort and help with performance. Tip: A drybag can make a great footrest.

Skegs and Rudders

Not all inflatable kayaks come with a rudder or a skeg but most will have at least one. Skegs are great for keeping your kayak on track. They can do a lot to help the skidding of the stern when being affected by wind or waves.

A rudder is very useful for ocean or touring kayaks. It will greatly help to keep the kayak straight and help a little with the steering. If your inflatable kayak is meant for touring it will often have the option of purchasing a rudder.

Either a skeg or a rudder can make a big difference in the performance of the kayak and are highly recommended.

If you are looking for any extras like paddling clothes or kayak parts and accessories please check out our inflatable kayak gear and accessories page.


  1. I m looking for rudders for the inflatable kayak {Qayak). Could you, please help me in this matter.

    • Hi Branko,
      Innova sells an inflatable kayak foot rudder. However it is designed specifically for one of their models. I am not sure if it is able to be installed on other inflatable kayaks. I’d suggest contacting Innova to get their opinion.

  2. hellllpppp!
    I removed all the air valves on my kayak but it wont deflate fully on the floor chamber.
    never had the problem before. tried inflating it and deflating it again. same result!!!
    a real pain as difficult to transport. any suggestions ?

  3. Wanting to add self-bailer holes that I can open and close on my 2010 SeaEagle Explorer. Have any idea who sell them ? Will be using a high density waterproof foam for floor.

    • Hi David, I’m actually not sure. I know Sea Eagle sells some small drain valve caps but I’m not sure they are quite right for your Explorer. I can’t think of anywhere I have seen them otherwise sold separately. I would suggest giving Sea Eagle a call. They might have some ideas for you. Good luck! If I come across any I will post back.

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