Budget-Friendly Fun: Intex Challenger K2 Inflatable Kayak Review

Updated: Jan. 22, 2024

Beware: This affordable kayak turns beginners (like me) into paddle addicts!

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Fh We Tried It Sheri Kaz Inflatable KayakSheri Kazmierski for Family Handyman

Summertime makes me long for barefoot days floating on the lake, building forts, running through sprinklers, making root beer floats and eating watermelon. Just because I’m a grown-up doesn’t mean the fun is over. It’s only just begun now that I have a kayak of my very own.

And since everything is more fun with a friend, I ordered the two-person Challenger K2 Intex Inflatable Kayak. I waited impatiently for the weather to warm up to test it out.

For a little context: I’ve never personally owned a boat, canoe or kayak, but I’ve been a grateful guest onboard and never had to worry about anything but showing up with cold beverages. So, this Intex Inflatable Kayak review is from a novice paddler who loves any chance to hang out on the water she can get. 

If I can do it, so can you!

What is the Challenger Intex Inflatable Kayak

Img 5532 Sheri Kaz Challenger Intex Inflatable KayakSheri Kazmierski for Family Handyman

I tested the two-person K2 Challenger Intex Inflatable Kayak. This sleek, brightly-colored kayak is made of thick puncture-resistant PVC to withstand abrasion. It’s 11-1/2 feet long and 2-1/2 feet wide, with a low profile just over a foot high when inflated. When deflated, it weighs under 39 pounds and fits in a handy carrying case with room to spare.

It also has a removable plastic skeg to help keep the craft steering straight. This is a dual-chamber kayak, with one Boston air valve for the floor and another for the body. The seats inflate separately. In the unfortunate circumstance of a leak, dual chambers and the included patch kit will save the day.

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Product Features

Img 5543 Sheri Kaz Challenger Intex Inflatable KayakSheri Kazmierski for Family Handyman

The Challenger K2 has a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds. It comes bundled with a hand air pump and two aluminum oars that disassemble for easy storage. This kayak has two adjustable and inflatable seats with back support held in place with Velcro and buckles. It comes equipped with a grab line, a cargo net in front and plenty of legroom (unless you’re a giant basketball player).

How We Tested It

Img 5558 Sheri Kaz Challenger Intex Inflatable KayakSheri Kazmierski for Family Handyman

When the Intex Challenger arrived, it was the tail end of a blustery spring. I unpacked it indoors to see what I was in for. I read through the user manual, outlining assembly and safety instructions, care and maintenance tips and plenty of warnings. 

After trying the included hand pump, I quickly dug out my electric air mattress inflator.

The owner’s manual said, “Use a hand- or foot-operated air pump to inflate the boat. Do not use a high-pressure air compressor.” What?! I could see myself pumping on the beach until the sunset. I wondered why they would even include a cheap plastic hand pump, but after watching a few kayaking videos, I soon realized if you’re down the river and losing air, it would be an invaluable accessory to have inside the boat. By the way, other customers love using the hand pump to inflate the entire kayak and say it’s very efficient (but I digress).

The paddles were easy to assemble, but again no mention of which way the paddles should face when rowing, which I didn’t realize until I was on the water. There are three holes on the handle to adjust the angles. I guess knowing that comes with experience or knowledge of physics.

Getting the Kayak Ready

Finally, a warm spring day with overcast skies and a brisk breeze—better yet, absolutely no one on the lake. This spring-fed lake can be chilly even in the dog days of August. The wind was concerning because I wasn’t sure how hard the kayak would be to maneuver. To be on the safe side, I packed my new personal floatation device (PFD), commonly known as a life vest. 

Since it’s a double-chamber kayak, the first task is to inflate the bottom marked with the number one next to the valve. However, we weren’t sure how to tell if the kayak had enough air. Oh well! On to the second inflation plug for the body. Nowhere in the instructions does it say where these plugs are located, but we found them. These air plugs or Boston valves are cumbersome at first, but it’s all part of the learning curve.

Next, we installed the inflatable seats. They’re secured by a long strip of Velcro on the bottom and are adjustable. The back of the seat is held in place with straps and a plastic buckle. 

Time to Get On the Water!

With grab lines on both ends, the inflated kayak was light enough to carry to the beach. In the last minute, I found a rope in my car, tied it to the front of the kayak and stuffed it in the cargo net just in case.

My friend got in first and sunk to the bottom, filling the kayak with water. Oops—we absolutely did not over inflate it. 

I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I wanted to get my feet wet, so to speak and perfect my paddling technique. With the wind blowing, I paddled hard against it so it would be easier to head to shore. I’m used to stepping into big 37-foot boats and haven’t been the navigator of a small craft low to the water since I was a kid. So, I wanted to stay close to the shore to practice turning, stopping and playing with the wind. 

Like riding a bike, it all came back to me very quickly, and the Challenger prevailed against the odds! It felt stable, capable, and easy to navigate, even for a beginner. The cushy seats made it comfortable, and I had plenty of legroom sitting in the front (I’m 5’2″). 

The temperature dropped, and I headed ashore. It was time to pack it up, which took twice as long as setting it up. I took the skeg off and easily dragged the kayak through the sand and to the grass myself. Deflating took a long time, as did drying the kayak for storage. Remember, we had that bottoming-out incident that left water in the boat.

Honestly, drying was a difficult and hilarious process. My friend was doubled over watching me laying in the boat with towels on my feet to dry the far reaches because my arms were too short (almost as doubled over as I was when she bottomed out). 

To be on the side of caution, we laid the kayak out in the shed to dry rather than folding it up in the bag. See you soon, Challenger!

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Deflates for portability and storage
  • Lightweight
  • Durable materials
  • Stable on water
  • Air pump, oars, tote bag and patch kit included
  • U.S. Coast Guard I.D. – NMMA Certified
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Vague instructions (but easy to figure out after a trial run)
  • No drain plug
  • Dry time

FAQ

 Intex Inflatable KayakSheri Kazmierski for Family Handyman

How long do inflatable kayaks last?

With any craft, proper care and maintenance are the keys to longevity. Although Intex Inflatable Kayaks don’t offer a warranty, you can expect a well-maintained and durable kayak like the Challenger to last 7-10 years. Intex includes patch kits in case of punctures or leaks.  Need a storage solution? Learn how to build a kayak rack.

What Other Reviewers Had to Say

With over 30,000 Amazon reviews, this Kayak is popular (and beloved). Five-star reviewer j.booth wrote, “When I bought this I was worried that I might have to buy an electric pump because I’m used to pumping up paddle boards. But this kayak was so easy to put together and pump up, it only took like 10 minutes to do the whole thing! It was stable on the water and so much fun!”

Terry Rowe found a new love writing, “I waited a year to write this review! I have nothing but POSITIVE things to say about this kayak! I’ve been on calm lakes, windy lakes, and rivers with this kayak and I LOVE IT! I have no complaints about it! Airs up in about 7 minutes and it’s SO EASY to transport! It stays in Jeep all year! I love it!”

David R loves it too saying, “This kayak is awesome! Perfect for paddling around the lake or calm spots on the river. Stores easy in the bag, easy to pack, inflates easily, I always let it dry before deflating and packing it up. But definitely worth it!”

Final Verdict

The Challenger Kayak is highly suitable for beginners (like me) and seasoned paddlers alike. It may not be the boat you need to shoot the rapids in the Grand Canyon, but if you want good times on the water, this affordable Intex Inflatable Kayak will give you hours of fun.

For people that don’t have a truck to carry a heavy kayak or a place to store one, an Intex inflatable kayak is a great option. I love that I can carry it in the bag, throw it in the trunk and have a relaxing day exploring the rivers and lakes. Nothing makes me feel more grounded or grateful than spending time in nature. Whether exploring or lounging, this kayak is double the fun on the water.

If you’re joining friends with hard-body kayaks, prepare for set-up and dry time, otherwise you’ll be left in the dust.

I love the durability and the sporty design of the Challenger. It’s wonderful for sunbathing or exploring. The soft floor and sides are comfortable and I don’t have to worry about skinned shins during transport.

The cockpit doesn’t feel claustrophobic like other kayaks but is closed enough to feel secure. The Challenger feels surprisingly stable in the water, and I never feared tipping it in spite of the wind. I didn’t encounter boat wakes or need to make quick turns, but other users were also impressed with the stability and maneuverability of the Challenger kayaks.  

If you want an excuse to get on the water, exercise, see new points of view or enjoy nature, the Challenger is an affordable ticket to summertime fun.

Where to Buy the Intex Inflatable Kayaks

Intex Inflatable Kayaks Ecomm Amazon

With over 30,000 glowing Amazon reviews, the Intex Inflatable Challenger Kayak is not only a great value, but fun that will last many years. Intex Challenger Kayaks are available on Amazon and Walmart

I can’t wait to make more summertime memories with my Challenger!

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