There are different types of kayak models and kayak designs. One of the major categorization of kayaks is between the hard shell kayaks and inflatable kayaks. This is a classification that is made based on the materials used to make the kayak.
The hard shell kayaks are vessels, as the name suggests, that are made from tough rigid/ solid material. Hard shell kayaks have hulls that have a constant definite shape. Inflatable kayaks are on the other hand kayaks made from a malleable tube like material that is usually inflated to form the kayak.
Hard shell kayaks are the older kayak types as compared to inflatable kayaks. The original kayak that was made by the Inuit people many years ago was a hard shell kayak albeit being made from a not-so-rigid material; skins. The Inuit kayak however had a solid frame over which the skins were stretched and sewn together.
Modern hard shell kayaks are designed to be more resilient to rough conditions and they can withstand being crashed against hard surfaces. Many modern hard shell kayaks cannot be destroyed or punctured by stiff sharp objects such as braches, twigs, bones, and other foreign objects that can be found in the water.
Modern hard shell kayaks can be made from materials such as tough polyethylene, PVC, Kevlar, fiberglass, wood, and hardened rubber. Some of these materials are fairly affordable while some of them are more expensive depending on the quality of the material and the process through which the material has been taken through.
Inflatable kayaks are made from rubber, hypalon, and lighter or softer PVC. The body of the inflatable kayak has to be malleable to allow it to be inflated and deflated easily. However, the toughness of the pliable material may vary between different inflatable kayak models. The tougher the material usually means the more resilient the kayak is to damage and also the more durable it is.
Inflatable kayaks, despite being less resilient to damage, are as mentioned above less costly and hence they are preferred by recreational users who only want to use the kayak for mild recreational activities. Inflatable kayaks are favored by recreational users because they are easy to carry around due to their light weight. They are also less bulky especially after deflation.
The tougher the material used to make the inflatable kayak many times means the thicker the material used. This can be a disadvantage since it makes the kayak heavier and it will make the kayak more difficult to fold after deflation. The thicker material also makes the inflatable kayak bulkier and more cumbersome to carry around.
When it comes to performance in the water, hard shell kayaks generally perform better since they have better tracking. They can therefore move faster in water and they require less effort to propel them. Inflatable kayaks on the other hand are good for beginners using them in calm waters. Inflatable kayaks are very buoyant and they have better stability when motionless or when used in calm water.