If you want to have fun paddling about on a lake but don’t want to incur the expense of a fixed hull kayak, then an inflatable kayak is the obvious choice for you.
Inflatable kayaks are lightweight, therefore easy to pack into the trunk of your car and carry to whichever shoreline you are headed for.
They are also much more affordable than fixed hull models, meaning you don’t need to be an advanced kayaker who goes out every weekend to justify buying one.
The Challenger K1 kayak by Intex is a particularly affordable option, but does its cheap price indicate a drop in quality and performance?
Read on for a full review of this inflatable vessel, including all its amazing strengths and any potential weaknesses.
- Brand: Intex
- Model: Challenger K1
- Length: 108 inches
- Width: 30 inches
- Height: 15 inches
- Weight: 25 lbs
- Capacity: 220 lbs / 1 person
- Material: plastic
- Cargo net for front bow storage
- Inflatable seat with adjustable backrest
- Inflatable footrest
- 84 inch aluminum paddle
- High output manual hand pump
- Carry bag
One of the first things to mention about the Intex Challenger K1 kayak is how easy it is to set up, especially compared to other inflatable options. The total set up time, including inflation, only takes between 10 and 15 minutes so you can get out on the water wonderfully quickly!
All you need to do is find an adequate space and make sure that the ground is free from sticks of stones which might tear the fabric as it inflates, then get pumping.
The kayak comes with a high output hand pump which attaches to the boston valves on the boat itself. This kayak has two air chambers, one that forms the bottom of the kayak, and a second that forms the sides and deck.
These two chambers are designed so that if one deflates in the water there will be a second air chamber remaining, however it does mean that inflation takes slightly longer. The hand pump is effective but requires a lot of puffs to really fill the air tubes.
Due to the thin quality of the plastic material, these tubes cannot hold a high interior air pressure and the final feel of the kayak is soft and squishy to touch.
You can check the pressure against a handy measuring strip which indicates how thick each tube should be if fully inflated.
Once all the tubes are filled you can attach the skeg to the bottom of the boat and the cargo net fits easily across the bow deck.
The inflatable seat is brilliantly easy to attach as it is simply secured with velcro, which is highly time saving. Finally the inflatable footrest can simply be wedged into the front section of the kayak and you are ready to go.
There are no handles, but it doesn’t matter because this vessel is so lightweight and you can lift and carry the kayak to the water using the grab cord.
Climbing into the Challenger K1 can be a little tricky due to the covered design of the bow. This is a sit-inside kayak, meaning that your legs and knees are contained within the front section of the vessel.
The front section is surprisingly short and tapers to a point quite sharply, meaning that the feel of the interior chamber is narrow and shallow. There isn’t much room for tall people to maneuver and many will not require the use of the footrest at all.
The inflatable seat fits snuggly into the cockpit and provides lots of cushioning for your bum so you don’t feel numb or uncomfortable. What is more, the back of the seat is adjustable and can be straightened or reclined using straps to suit your preferred positioning.
All this really aids comfort and makes the Challenger K1 a very cozy kayak to ride in. Yes, there isn’t much leg room, but your lower back and bum will feel wonderfully cushioned and supported as you paddle about.
There is space for belonging behind the seat in the stern of this kayak, however this space is limited and it is almost impossible to access once you are out on the water.
The addition of the cargo net on the bow deck is incredibly useful as it allows you to store bottles of water, snacks, and other belongings really easily, and they are all positioned right in front of you so can be easily grabbed whenever you so need them.
Of course, this bow deck is exposed to splash water so all these belongings need to be waterproof or contained in drybags, but the surface area is actually really large and allows you to take a surprising amount with you.
Performance On the water
The Challenger K1 is definitely best for recreational kayaking on calm waters. As a fun means of paddling about and seeing the lake from different angles, it is fantastic, but it lacks speed and durability, even compared to other inflatable options.
This is due to the thin plastic fabric that makes up the kayak, which does not have a high operating pressure. More high density plastics can maintain a much higher internal air pressure and sit higher in the water as a result, but these kayaks cost much more money as a result.
The Challenger K1 is a budget option and its squishy feel is an inevitable consequence, but it does not impact the enjoyment of paddling about on calm waters.
The addition of the attachable steg on the bottom of this kayak is paramount and really does make a huge difference to the way it tracks through the water.
This one small feature allows you to navigate with much greater accuracy and directional control and will really relieve much of the effort from your paddling.
As the Challenger K1 is quite a closed kayak, it doesn’t take on too much splash water and therefore drainage is not a huge issue. However, this kayak is slow and sits pretty low in the water so it is not suitable for choppy conditions.
The welded plastic material that the Intex Challenger K1 is made from is not the most high quality or high density fabric available and is therefore susceptible to tears and punctures.
If well looked after, this kayak holds up just fine and will provide you with lots of wonderful trips on the water, however, on shore you should be careful to keep it away from branches, stones and twigs as they can all damage the thin material.
The kayak comes with a repair kit which includes puncture patches that can be used to cover holes temporarily.
Of course, this kayak’s durability cannot be compared to that of a fixed hull model, and even more expensive inflatable models perform better in this area. However, considering the low cost of the Challenger K1, its durability is commendable.
It is 100% waterproof and has been UV treated to protect against the sun’s rays. The seams are strong and durable and the colorful graphics maintain their vibrancy and lustre even after long exposures to sunlight and lots of time on the water.
Deflating the Challenger K1 is even easier than inflating it, and takes a matter of minutes. Some kneeling and pressing is required to get all the air out of the air tubes, but once emptied it flattens and folds very easily.
The Intex Challenger K1 comes with a neat and compact carry bag. This lightweight and handy case makes the kayak extremely easy to lift and carry, and as it only weighs 25 lbs in total, it is easy for a single person to carry it from shore to car or vice versa on their own.
The bag itself is a little thing and the handle shows signs of wear after time, but as part of an initial package it is really handy and space saving.
If you are looking for a fun, affordable recreational kayak then the Intex Challenger K1 is perfect. As with anything in life, if you pay less there will inevitably be some drawbacks and that is true of this kayak.
The plastic material it is made from has a low operating pressure that means the boat is squishy and sluggish even when fully inflated. However, this is unimportant if you are simply padding about on calm waters and you will still get much enjoyment out of it.
It is unsuitable for choppy conditions or for long distances however, as the kayak simply doesn’t have the speed or stability to perform well in those circumstances.
The lightweight and compactable design make this an ideal kayak for casual users as it can easily be packed up and stored, and can just as easily be carried to the water for a fun dip.
Best of all, this kayak comes with all the accessories included so you don’t need to buy paddles or carry bags separately. It is comfy and user friendly and will be a brilliant addition to any beach or lakeside holiday!