No matter the size of your family, finding the right family kayaks can be tricky. We got our first try in an inflatable tandem kayak in 2008, shortly after we got engaged. Around us, the other, more experienced folks on our North Umpqua River paddling trip, all sucked in their breath.
“Last couple I saw get in one of those,” someone said, “they fought the whole time.”
Another added, “Did you know they’re nicknamed ‘divorce boats?’”
As for us, we were newly engaged. All this ribbing could have been unsettling, but we took it in stride. It was kindly, with a touch of warning:
Like marriage, tandem kayaks can be tricky.
After a day on the river, successfully navigating Class III rapids and even getting through a pretty gnarly Class IV, by the end of the day, we were being toasted, not roasted, around the fire.
Tandems aren’t always easy. They’re not for everyone. But we know from that day forward, that just like we were for each other, tandem inflatable kayaks were for us too.
Our tandem inflatable family kayaks
The Sea Eagle 370 Inflatable Kayak combines durability, portability, budget, and fun in a great package that can work for families of any size.
Tandem kayaks and inflatable kayaks can be a great boating fit for your paddling family
In this family kayak article, we wanted to share with you some thoughts and experiences on why we chose tandem kayaks for our family. After all, there are so many different kinds of family friendly boats out there.
For our family, though, inflatable kayaks, especially tandems, hit a perfect sweet spot for us. IKs are portable, durable, and cost-effective. The entire family can quickly get them set up for on-the-water adventures.
Why you can trust us
Our family of four regularly flatwater kayaks around the U.S. West. We’ve taken our kids on short kayak tours, paddled the sea around one of Canada’s Southern Gulf Islands, and packed our two inflatable IKs on camping trips from Oregon to Colorado.
In addition to figuring out the right family kayaks for us and our son and daughter, we also take a disability into account. Jodie is an amputee, and when we kayak she doesn’t wear her prosthetic leg. So our kayak choices also need to work for our family’s mobility.
We are family budget travelers, focused on finding our personal sweet spot of durability, portability, storage, budget, and being family friendly.
Why inflatable instead of a hardshell kayak or a canoe?
While we enjoy hard shell kayaks too, we’ll likely stick to renting those when we’re on trips where we don’t have our IKs. IKs have also just gotten our attention because they ticked every box for a sweet spot for us:
- Budget friendly
The factors below drove our decision to go inflatable instead of hardshell:
Durability: For starters: No, these are not pool toys.
Sometimes when people hear about inflatable kayaks, they start thinking about blow-up pool toys.
This isn’t going to be a post about different materials, or thickness comparisons, or any of that. Here’s what matters to us, as busy parents and entrepreneurs who wanted good boats:
IKs are freakin durable. Their materials and thicknesses are designed to stand up to the rigors and stresses of kayaking, whether that’s scraping over a sandy gravel bed, or your dog walking around the deck.
IKs are not pool toys. They hold air, stand up to adventure, and are ready to rock when you are.
Versatility: Whitewater, flatwater, ocean, or a combo?
Just as hard-shell kayaks are designed with different adventures in mind, so are IKs. Our primary kayaking interest is flatwater. We aren’t running whitewater. While these boats may occasionally taste saltwater, ocean kayaking will be the minority of what we do.
For us, the Sea Eagle boats give us some good options. We can do a little light river-running in them. There may be a little ocean kayaking that we do, but it would be calm paddles near shore.
The bulk of our paddling is going to be on lakes, ponds, and other slow-water, flatwater paddles. This is exactly the sort of kayaking where an IK can really shine.
As the kids get older, these boats can work for them. If we adults want to go for a couple’s paddle (with the kids left safely with trusted folks, of course), we can easily take both boats, or couple up in one boat.
Time for a float? Great! No racks to install on the Subaru. No heavy, awkward boat to finagle upward onto the Outback’s roof.
We can open the rear hatch, toss in the bagged kayaks, paddles, and PFDs, and head out.
Storage: Not only easy to haul in the car or camper, but easy to stow at home
When our IKs are packed into their storage bags, they have a similar footprint to a couple of large gym bags. We don’t have to try to find somewhere outside to keep them. We don’t have to install ceiling storage or worry about bumping our heads on them in the garage.
Why tandems instead of solos?
For starters, neither kid is ready yet to be in a boat on their own. They’ll get there, sure. Once they do, though, the beauty of g is that they can run either as tandems or as solos.
Our family also really values its togetherness. It’s fun to have one parent and one child in a boat. We get to work together. Have a chat. Or just enjoy the great scenery in each other’s fine company.
There are cheaper kayaks, and there are more expensive kayaks. We aren’t made of money, but we wanted a family kayak setup that was high quality yet affordable. At the time of our purchase, we got our Sea Eagle IKs for $349 each. Each boat came complete with two paddles, a repair kit, an inflation gauge, a manual pump, two inflatable seats, and a storage bag.
Potential flaws or challenges
While we really enjoy our Sea Eagle IKs, no product is perfect. Here are a few potential challenges to keep in mind:
Cheaper IKs are available. If budget is a factor, there are other inflatables or hard-shell kayaks you can consider.
Lack of mounts or customization
When deflated, these IKs get folded up and stuffed in a bag. That can make it hard to add on any sort of mounting, such as stuck-on mounts for action cameras. If you want to customize your setup, that can be tricky in an IK, since you can’t just put anything anywhere.
No adjustable rudder
The underside of Sea Eagle boats have hard plastic fins called skeds. The skeds help the boat hold its line in the water and make it harder to get off your chosen course. Some kayakers, though, prefer an adjustable rudder. Plus, the skeds can get bent, but typically you can straighten them out with a hot hair dryer and a little bending.
Think through the type of paddling you want to do and match it to your boat
There are as many types of kayaks as there are kayakers and places to paddle. Sea Eagle boats are rated for different uses. Depending on the type of paddling you want to do, you may want to consider a different type of kayak.
Account for additional setup and takedown time
Any equipment is going to require some level of setup and takedown. For IKs, you can’t just grab your gear and hit the water. It will take a few minutes to inflate the boats. At the same time, when you return to shore, you’ll want to take some time to let the boats dry out, deflate them, and put them away.
Why we chose Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks
Sea Eagle has been making boats since 1968. Today they’re still family owned and operated, and they continue to use the waters around Long Island, New York, to test out their boats. Their inflatable watercraft aren’t just for family boaters either. Sea Eagles have been part of expeditions all over the world, including Venezuela’s Angel Falls, Easter Island, China’s Yangtze River, and the Ganges River of India.
These boats get around, y’all.
All that’s cool, but as you can imagine, what it came down to us was finding tandem inflatable kayaks that hit a sweet spot of 4 factors:
- And a little thing we’ll call “kidability:” The kids’ ability to help move, set up, and take down the boats
We also liked their warranty terms, video-guided setup, and general company ethos.
Our Sea Eagle IKs don’t need racks. Anthony can just open up the Outback’s cargo hatch, load up the boats, paddles, PFDs and anything else we need for the day… and off we go.
When we tow the camper, our bagged-up Sea Eagle IKs can go in the camper too—freeing up valuable space in the car.
Kidability: The kids can help with setup and takedown
Family of four? Sure… but hard shells were going to be a tricky fit for us. When Jodie kayaks, she uses crutches to walk and leaves her prosthetic leg somewhere safe and dry.
Instead of Anthony having to try to handle two or more boats, IKs make it so everyone can easily do what we need to
Yes, there are cheaper IKs. There are also waaaaay more expensive IKs. For the Sea Eagle, we determined we were getting a range of good features, for a price that fit our budget. We’re confident we can float our Sea Eagles for many, many years to come. Plus, we opted to spend a little more for the better seats that come as part of the “Deluxe Package.”
Other kayaks we considered
Of course, Sea Eagle isn’t the only awesome IK on the market. We also considered:
Figuring out the right tandem for your family inflatable kayaks takes some figuring out. Different families, of course, have different needs and circumstances. For our family of four, we feel like we have made a really informed choice that fits what we needs and what we have to work with.
Other ways you might use Sea Eagle inflatable boats for your family
Technically, our Sea Eagle 370 IKs could fit an adult and two children, or two adults. We prefer a two-person-per-boat setup. However, Sea Eagle’s lineup gives families many options. Other Sea Eagle boats are designed for one person. Or, the company’s inflatable canoe can hold up to three people.
Other boats are available too, such as fishing-focused setups or inflatable paddleboards.
Great IKs for family kayaking
Our Sea Eagle IKs fit our space. They’re easy for us to haul and store. Plus, even when Jodie’s not wearing her prosthetic leg, we can all work together as a family to get us on the water and get us home again.
Sea Eagle has put together an amazing array of boats. The IKs are just the beginning, really. Sea Eagle also designs and manufactures inflatable solo kayaks, fishing boats, canoes, catamarans, and more. It’s a pretty drool-inducing setup.
Whatever the right kayaking setup for your family, the most important thing is to find the family kayaks that work for you, and get out there! Maybe we’ll see you on the water in your own inflatable kayak.
As for our family, we’re ready to hit the water. There’s so much to see—and we’re just a quick inflate away from a day’s paddling.
When we think back to that first tandem kayaking adventure long ago, we understand what folks were trying to point out. Sure, like marriage, tandem kayaks can be tricky. But also like marriage, when you trust each other and work together, you can both navigate the difficult spots and get more joy out of the good bits.
Now that we take our kids kayaking, our 2 Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks have become an essential part of our family adventure kit.