Inflatable Kayak Seats

Many of these inflatable kayaks have inflatable seats that don’t seem so bad at first, yet they are often actually quite irritating and uncomfortable. Your bum and back will be thanking you when you spend a little more on an inflatable kayak with firmer kayak seats. Alternatively, you can replace the seating with some more robust kayak seats once you know you’ll be paddling more regularly.

With a few exceptions (like vinyl cheapies and couple of early Gumotex), IKs have removable seats. That’s just as well as very often that’s exactly what you want to do before replacing them with something more comfortable, less bulky or lighter. If you’re happy with your boat’s seat/s, read no further. If you think they could be improved, read on.

In the old days IK seats were an inflatable ‘L’ as below left with an adjustable strap on each side, from top corner to bottom corner. Gumotex still do it this way (left), but with the top straps going to the side tubes: better.
Or the Grabner pictured above had an unadjustable and bend-prone curved alloy backrest bar, even worse. L air-seats didn’t really work because when you’re pushed against the backrest it collapsed down on itself. And if you leant back the seat base would pivot up like an office chain.
To provide proper support a backrest needs to be stiff and restrained higher up off the side tubes. This requires fitting additional mounts on a boat’s hull, but it’s worth it. Years ago it was one of the first adaptions I did to my Sunny, after changing the stock seats for an Aire Cheetah model. I could now lean back but not tip back

You will also find that an IK is far more comfortable and paddling more efficient if you are sat a bit higher than your heels, as shown by the two cool cats below. Balance is improved and especially if you’re well fed, you’re able to articulate your torso with less effort to get a good draw off the paddle.

Seat base and backrest
A seat base and a backrest perform different functions. The former supports most of your weight; a backrest simply pressing against the small of your back provides all the support needed for a good paddling posture. Anything taller is unnecessary.

EVA (foam) seats commonly come with IKs these days. Molding machines bang them out in China every 2.2 seconds, and with the textured surfaces look impressive. Some, (as left), velcro to a (typically D-S) floor and importantly, have adjustable counter-tensioning straps at the back to keep the backrest upright. This seems trivial and requires additional attachment points, but nothing’s more annoying that having to yank a backrest out from under your bum as you’re settling down, losing you balance and falling in before you’ve even gone anywhere.
Also, these EVA seats are only about 4cm thick and, on an already hard DS floor, aren’t necessarily compatible with all-day comfort and more importantly, they’re too low in relation to the heel, as explained above. Luckily, it only takes a cushion on top or a foam pad (or your shoes) underneath to raise an EVA seat to your preference.

SoT backrest + packraft seat base. A big improvement on the original. Note the thigh straps too. With a pair of those you’re really in business.

Sit on air, lean on a board
In my experience the most effective IK seat has an inflatable seat base and a (usually separate) stiff foam backrest. As above, so below: an SoT foam backrest with counter tensioning straps all of which required gluing on D-rings. The seat base is a horseshoe packraft seat which weighs next to nothing and drains readily so you’re never sitting in water, as you might do on a flatter pad. The base can be inflated to a height which suits you and both items dry quickly and can be removed in seconds to clean and dry the boat. If you’re taller and have a high seat base, you may need to lift the backrest up a bit so it fits neatly against the small of your back.
Below: the featherweight seat base has been threaded with a line to hook to whatever’s around to stop it blowing or floating away.

For packraft seat bases have a look at the Packrafting Store. Alternatively, search eBay for: ‘Spa Booster Seat‘ Made from PVC, they go for about £7. Who knows how long they’ll last but you’ll want to find a way of fixing them to the boat or backrest.
Four-strap foam backrests for SoTs go for around 15 quid.

Fancy cutting and heat-welding your own seat base? Watch the vid below.