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Here’s my review of Intex Challenger K1, one of the cheapest kayaks on Amazon. Is it even worth this low price?
As someone who paddles inflatable kayaks almost daily, I was very interested in testing the Challenger K1 on the water to find out.
Length: 9’0” (2.72 m)
Width: 30” (76 cm)
Weight: 28 lbs (13 kg)
Capacity: 220 lb (100 kg)
Price: Normally around $100 but often goes on sale. Check price on Amazon
Unboxing and First Look
Intex Challenger K1 is a very lightweight and portable kayak that comes in a bag. It weighs only 28 lbs, so I had no problem carrying it to and from the water.
I wasn’t very impressed with the material of the bag. It is very thin and the seams don’t look very reliable. It’s anyone’s guess how it will hold up over time.
Despite the compact size, the bag is large enough. The kayak and all the accessories fit inside comfortably, and I did not have to squeeze them back into the bag after a day of paddling.
Cool, but what’s inside?
Inside the bag, I found the kayak itself, a dual-action pump, an inflatable seat, a collapsible 5-part paddle, a tracking fin, and even a simple inflatable footrest. Add a life jacket, and you’re good to go!
Assembling the Intex Challenger K1 was very easy. All I had to do was unfold the kayak and inflate two chambers of the hull, the seat, and the footrest. The hull chambers come with Boston valves while the seat and the footrest use a different type of valves commonly found in pool toys.
The first chamber, marked “1”, inflates the bottom of the kayak. You will find its valve on the inside of the kayak’s right wall.
The second chamber’s valve is much easier to find. It is right behind the cockpit. This chamber inflates the upper part of the kayak and the rim of the cockpit.
The Boston valves are common for low-pressure inflatable kayaks. I had to remove the top cap to inflate the chamber. When it’s time to deflate the kayak, you unscrew the middle portion and the air comes out freely. Overall, I find the Boston valves pretty easy to use but not as intuitive as the traditional valves where you push and turn a stem in the middle to open/close the valve.
I found that the double-action pump is adequate for this size of kayak. It took me about 3 minutes to inflate each chamber and even less than that to pump up the seat and the footrest.
The hose, however, is cheap plastic, so make sure you don’t twist it too much or step on it or it will crack.
There’s no stated operating pressure for the Intex Challenger K1. Instead, Intex has printed a simple measuring scale right on the hull. The Challenger comes with a clear measuring tape that you put over this scale to see if the kayak is fully inflated. Unfortunately, I’ve lost my tape, so I can’t demonstrate it.
When fully inflated, the kayak remains fairly soft. It does not have the rigid feel of more expensive inflatable kayaks, which is a bummer but is to be expected given the materials and the price.
A word of caution: I found (the hard way) that the seam on the rim of the cockpit is very sharp. Be careful, it can easily scratch your skin.
To inflate the seat, I’ve used one of the adaptors that come with the hose. It should not take you more than a couple of minutes to inflate the seat and the backrest. Make sure you push the valves inside once inflated for extra safety.
Installing the seat is very easy. Just put it on top of the velcro strip on the floor, then clip the strap that holds the backrest into receivers inside the cockpit.
As you can see, the seat is pretty narrow. This kayak was definitely not designed for big guys and girls. Surprisingly, however, the seat provided decent back support during my test paddle.
Intex Challenger K1 comes with a simple 5-part paddle. The shaft is aluminum and the asymmetrical blades are made from plastic and are quite flexible. Anyway, it is incredible how they managed to include both a paddle and the pump with such a cheap kayak.
The paddle is very basic but it does the job. You can even adjust the feathering (the relative angle between two blades).
The Challenger comes with an inflatable footrest, which is basically a cone-shaped inflatable bag. It could be useful for kids and smaller paddlers.
In my case, I just stuck it in the rear as a soft of an airbag.
The final step of the assembly is to install a tracking fin, or skeg. The installation is very straightforward, you just slide it in and you’re good to go. I’d say the fin is a must-have if you want this kayak to track (hold its course), especially in the wind.
Intex Challenger K1 on the Water Review
For a kayak that’s so incredibly cheap, the main question is “is this even a real kayak or just a pool toy?”
My tests on the water showed that, even though the Intex Challenger is small and pretty tight for me, it does have the characteristics of a “real” kayak.
Space and Comfort
On the water, I immediately felt that I am too tall and a little bit heavy for this boat (I am 5’10” and about 175 lbs). The cockpit opening is very small and I struggled to squeeze my legs inside the kayak. Luckily, the Challenger is very flexible and kind of conforms to your body.
Intex Challenger has decent primary stability if you consider how small it is. It does not feel very tippy and behaves well on calm water.
Yet, when the wind and the waves started to pick up, I felt less secure. The soft, flat hull does not provide any secondary stability. It limits your control and connection to the boat as you can’t lean onto the sides. This is a kayak that can flip you unexpectedly.
The large skeg that comes with the Intex Challenger does a great job in helping it to hold a straight line. The kayak tracks pretty well for its length and does not leave you struggling to make it go where you want it to.
That said, the performance deteriorates when the wind picks up. Because the kayak weighs next to nothing and sits pretty high in the water, it gets blown around quite a bit. I’ve paddled the Intex Challenger K1 in choppy conditions and I did not like it.
You don’t expect an 8-foot inflatable kayak to be fast, do you?
The Intex Challenger K1 is not going to set any speed records. It is fast enough for its intended use, which is short recreational trips on calm lakes, close to the shore. I would not dare to go on any long-distance trip in a kayak made from non-reinforced vinyl.
Durability is the weakest point of the Intex Challenger K1 and my biggest concern. This kayak is made from vinyl. By contrast, higher-end inflatable kayaks are built from multi-layer, polyester-reinforced PVC. You can puncture non-reinforced vinyl with a sharp rock or branch fairly easily.
That said, even if you have a blowout, the Challenger won’t sink. It has two air chambers in the hull, an inflatable seat, and an inflatable footrest, so it will stay afloat. You’ll have something to hold onto as you swim to shore.
Luckily, I did not get to test that aspect of the Intex Challenger K1 and arrived back to shore safely.
Intex Challenger K1: Final Thoughts
Who Is Intex Challenger K1 Best For?
I think the Challenger has its place on the market and is well worth its price. If you are a smaller person and you want to try kayaking without investing too much, it might be a good option for you. For a very low price, you’ll get an almost complete package (minus a PFD) that can let you enjoy short recreational trips on a local lake and see if kayaking is for you.
An (almost) complete package for beginners at an awesome price, the Intex Challenger K1 can be your first step into kayaking. Just remember to paddle on calm waters only and stay close to shore.
- Lightweight and affordable
- Super-easy to store and transport
- Comes with pump and paddle
- Reasonably stable on flat water
- Non-reinforced vinyl is not durable
- No secondary stability
- Limited space and capacity
- Gets blown around by the wind