How Did We Pick These Products?
The picking process involved several stages of research, comparisons, and assessments. Initially, we ran a 30-hour extensive online research to single out 35 top-of-the-line inflatable boats with the maximum number of positive customer reviews. The initial assortment of products needed to be thoroughly checked, so we arrange a field-test session with the help of a number of community-based volunteers. For the next couple of weeks tested each listed product in simulated environments.
Based on their overall performance, design, build quality, advanced features, weight capacity, speed and durability we championed 10 models in different categories.
Next, we sought for help from renowned industry experts and celebrated boat specialists for ranking the models based on their special features. They guided us through the final ranking round from which we got our final 10 list.
Our aim is to present to you a comprehensive list of products that would meet the diversity of requirements by our readers. There's no single flawless model that would be right for all occasions. But we bring to you the top deals that money can buy.
Our Top 10 Best Inflatable Boats
Picking the top products from so many choices was not an easy task. That’s why we made a top 10 list in different categories. Therefore, you can benefit from reading our comprehensive top 10 reviews. So, who makes the best inflatable boats? Let’s find out!
Some brands and models worth noting
During our research, we came across hundreds of boats in this category. Not all of them could made it to our list but we found some good brands that deserve attention for their popular product lines. You might want to know more about them for further market analysis: Honda (popular model- Honwave T32, Honwave T38, Honwave T40), Zodiac (known for their hard bottom military grade inflatable boats; popular model- Cadet 310 Aero, Cadet Fastroller, Cadet 230 Aero, Cadet 270 Aero, Yachtline 310, Cadet Compact 250), AB Inflatables (popular for their inflatable tender models), Highfield Boats, Tiwal (known for their sailboat lineup, popular model- Tiwal 3), BRIG Rigid Intelligent Boats (popoular for their luxury models), Avon (popular model- 340 RIB, 320 Jet RIB, Seasport Jet 320, Redstart, Redcast), Achilles, Defender, Liya (well known for their 20 ft fishing boat models)f, Seamax Marine (popular model- Ocean 380), Outcast Boats, Silver Marine (a Chinese brand), Seabright Marine Ltd., Coastal, Inflatable Sport Boats (popular model- Killer Whale, Shark), Asis (known for their fire rescue RIB models), Aquamarine (popular for their 9 ft models), West Marine (popular model- RU 250 RU 260, RIB 310), Sea Eagle (popular model- SE8, 14SR, SE9, 285, 375FC, 285FPB, Foldcat 375), Mercury (popular model- 310 Dynamic, Ocean Runner 350, 240 Dinghy), Saturn (popular for their Kaboats, SD330W, SD385 4m, Mars and SD470 models), Goplus (known for their 7.5 ft models), Klymit, Fox (popular model- FX 240, 290), INMAR (popular model-Marine), Maxxon, Bombard, North Pak Outdoor, Aquapro Inflatables, Nordik, Sevylor (popular model- Hui 400 3P, HF 360 ), QUICKSILVER (popular model- Mercury 270, 430), NRS, Solstice Swimline (popular model-Voyager), ANCHEER, EncoyKid (well known for their baby boats), Italian brand ZAR Formenti, Classic Accessories (popular pontoon model- Colorado XTS), Quicksilver (popular model- 230, 330, 380), Aquos (popular model- PF380), Pool Central (popular model- Zray Ranger 400), Wetline (popular model- 260 ECO), Brismarina, Takacat (much sought after model- 380 LX), Humber RIBS, SOLAR MARINE, Yamaha, Wing, UK brand Sea Pro, Bay Breeze, Canadian brnad Titan Boats, RibCraft (popular for its 6.8 model), Zodiac Zoom, Klymit (popular dinghy model- LiteWater), WALKER BAY, famed UK brand Lidl, Seago (popular model O2 Lite), Caribe Nautica, Aldi, Ducky, Kodiak, Gala Inflatable Boats, NiftyBoats, LoadStar, Metzeler Inflatables, Sea Doo, Apex, Aquafax Ltd., Seak, Surfsea, Waveline, Coleman, KOLIBRI, Italian brand Azzurro Mare, Boston Whaler, Nash, XCAT, Aleko, and Italian brand AB.
Some other tested models you might have a look:
Why Buy Inflatable Boats
First, let’s define what an inflatable or blow up boat is. This is a type of air filled boat that is lightweight and made from a durable, usually vinyl material, constructed from a floor and flexible, air-inflated, pressurised gas tubes - sides. These materials make them super strong, in fact, they are called rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) for that reason. For those that are not as sturdy as a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) are called semi-rigid.
RIB boats are used for fishing, cruising and other on-water activities. For that reason, they have transducer mounts for using advanced gear. Their greatest benefits include the fact that they can be easily deflated and stored and that they are lightweight. As most people don’t go camping and fishing each weekend, storing a hard-shell boat can be tricky. This is why the majority of non-professionals opt for these types. These boats give you the freedom for pleasure water cruising in distant lakes and water bodies as these are highly portable.
In addition, these amazing boats are used for various safety and rescue operations. Their flexibility, as well as high safety features, allows various applications in different environments and conditions.
Inflatable Boats: A Comprehensive Buying Guide
Even though your final choice will most probably be based on the type of water and the level of your experience, as well as a balance between material, capacity, and price, there are some common factors that all quality inflatable boats must-have. We have made a list of 14 things to consider before making your final decision.
There are seven basic types of inflatable boats. We want to point out that it is very important to get to know each of them, with their pros and cons, as this will help you choose a quality product. Those seven types include rafts, dinghy, kayak, pontoon, and float tube inflatable boats. Let’s learn more about each of these types!
Rafts are similar to kayaks and dinghies at first sight, but we must emphasize that there are several very important differences. First of all, rafts have a different shape. Moreover, their configuration is different.
Rafts have a circular air-filled tube. The tube surrounds the floor and the boat seats. Unlike life rafts or lifeboats regular ones have an open design. They are fantastic for fly fishing. The key reasons for the high raft popularity are a range of prices, i.e. suitability for different budgets, and versatility.
Dinghy is a Hindi word. People in India and Bangladesh call their smaller boats dinghies. This type of inflatable boats is peculiar for its affinity with dinghy boats. If you are looking for a small inflatable dinghy, you can easily recognize it as soon as you see the U-shaped air rubber bladders. The bladders are not connected at the rear part of the dinghy boat. Why did the engineers decide to shape the dinghy boat in this way? Such a construction increases the boat’s stability and enables easier and better control over the boat to the user.
Another benefit of buying a dinghy boat is compactness and ease of transportation/storage. Note that some manufacturers add steering wheels to their dinghies.
Inflatable kayaks are recognizable for their narrow and long body. This allows for good hydrodynamics. However, this feature has its downsides as well. It is not always easy to install a motor. Those models that are not compatible with any kind of motors will require paddling.
Their advantages include easy control, excellence in long-distance travel, suitability for fishing, and attractive narrow bow design.
Pontoons are often the right solution for different categories of users. There are two key types: framed and frameless. Their greatest advantage is the fact that you can easily install a motor. Most of the models have one man capacity.
They provide very good stability which is important for fishing. They are ideal for cruising with multiple persons. Their main drawback is the lack of storage.
These are double hulled water crafts that were invented by Austronesian peoples. These are geometry-stabilized boats that have modern inflatable variants available. If you want stability, go for this type.
Canoes are popular 1 person water sports crafts for fast and amusement cruising. Inflatable canoes are fantastic portable options for those who frequently canoe in faraway water bodies.
g) Float Tube
Float tube inflatable boats are the smallest type of these boats. As a result, they are very affordable. You will have to use your feet, as these boats are not big enough for a motor.
If you love contacting water, we recommend the float tubes, as the chances that you will get wet are very high. One of the advantages is very easy and good maneuvering, even in small spaces. However, don’t pick this boat if you don’t like fishing from a seated position. However, apart from the above categories, you'll find blow-up mini yacht models for taking your water adventures to the next level.
There are also center console models with cabins. If you have a jet ski, there are inflatable boats for housing your jet ski. What's more, you will find flying inflatable boat models that come with specialize flying gear installed for taking off in the air. It's a super fun option if you're into such things.
2. Frequency of Use
How often do you want to use your boat? Are you a regular fisherman? Do you go camping and cruising on a lake every weekend? Will you use the boat only for a few days during the summer?
You should make your decision based on the frequency of use. If you will use it a lot, invest more money and get a top model. On the other hand, if you plan to use the boat occasionally or rarely, you don’t have to spend a fortune. Make sure that its safety features are good enough and get a middle price range boat according to your needs.
3. Construction Material
If you are interested in inflatable boats and are making research, you will notice that the most common inflatable boat material is PVC and plastic. However, there are different types of PVC that provide drastically different boat features. High-quality products come with fiberglass bottom for enhanced rigidity. This mainly refers to longevity and safety.
If you want a high-end product with state-of-the-art material, we recommend Hypalon. You can also consider aluminum for the rigid parts of the boat. Some quality models have aluminum floors or reinforcements. Also, you should opt for aluminum for oars.
4. Decking Material & Design
When it comes to decking material and design, there are several options: inflatable and non-inflatable design, as well as aluminum or some other, less suitable material. We recommend a non-inflatable design and aluminum. This is the pricier option, but you will get a quality watercraft that is durable and convenient. The only disadvantage of the non-inflatable models is they are less comfortable. Remember that inflatable designs are foldable and super portable.
The durability of the boat is obviously one of the most important factors playing a significant role in user satisfaction. Everyone wants a durable boat. There is always a puncture risk. However, quality material and construction will diminish that risk.
Keep in mind that better materials imply higher prices. However, we do recommend investing a bit more, as inflatable boats are not things you will be buying often. Also, quality material means that you will spend less money on repairs.
6. Ease of Set Up
This is another important factor, as people usually want a boat whose assembly does not take much time. Also, the setup process should not require more than one person. Tool-free assembly is another important feature. Blowing up the body is something of a big issue for these products. You'd get the required electric blower. Some models have self inflating capacity for which you wouldn't need to do the blowing manually.
7. Ease of Maintenance
Similarly, ease of maintenance is sought after when buying inflatable boats. You must know that all inflatable boats do require maintenance. We described key maintenance rules later in this article.
However, you should also know that picking quality material will diminish the maintenance requirements of the boat.
Comfort is another important aspect, as you will probably spend a lot of time in your inflatable boat, regardless of whether you are fishing or cruising. Things you must pay attention to include legroom, seats, and inflatable cushions. Since most of these boats are used for recreational purposes, comfort plays a major role here.
You have probably noticed that all serious inflatable boats review sites pay lots of attention to comfort. You should also not underestimate it when choosing your inflatable rowboat or inflatable fishing boats.
9. Stability & Safety
As you already know, the stability of the boat and the maximum safety of all passengers are the two most important features. Construction of the boat plays a key role in ensuring both stability and safety.
We are proud to say that modern technology managed to provide state-of-the-art solutions and inflatable boats today are safe, comfortable, and stable.
The users must pay attention to the boat PSI. Inflating the boat correctly and reaching the optimum PSI leads to a stable boat. Using a pressure gauge equipped pump will help you control the PSI.
It is true that inflatable boats can take less weight than the regular boats. However, new-age materials and advanced construction technologies increased this limit to even 2000 lbs.! And these are usually giant in size. However, you must not forget to count the weight of all the equipment and load you are carrying on your boat as well. You can find the right inflatable raft or houseboat based on a simple calculation by adding 20% to your weight and weight of the people who will be with you, as well as the weight of all the equipment and cargo you plan to take on board.
Besides, every board in this category has a weight limit on the basis of their size. For an 8 ft model can hold up to 3 persons maximum. Sometimes, a boat with even a smaller length can take more people due to building material factors. You can find a number of length sizes, most popular ones being 4 ft, 8 ft, 10 ft, 12 ft, 14 ft, and 20 ft.
11. Catarafts or Regular Inflatable Boats
Here we come to the well-known dilemma of choosing catarafts or regular inflatable boats. Regular boats have many air chambers, while a cataraft has only two. Rafts are more popular and easier to find. They’re also stronger. If you wonder which one of these two types can take more load, a cataraft is a winner. This is important if you opt for a motor-operated boat.
Moreover, catarafts have rigid construction and are more expensive while inflatable boats are more lightweight and provide more space.
12. Air Deck vs Rigid Aluminum Slats
Let’s compare the features of the air deck and rigid aluminum slats. First of all, the air deck requires less assembling time than the floorboard boat, but the slatted deck is the absolute winner in this category. That's why the American Navy prefers the slatted deck for most of their 11 and 7 meter RHIB models.
Similarly, the slatted deck is the most lightweight model of them all. It has a flat bottom, while the air deck has a V-shape bottom.
On the other hand, the slatted deck will have lower performance than an air deck. It also has less strength, while the air deck has relatively good strength.
The slatted deck does not require special maintenance, while the air deck needs some. However, remember that the air deck models are more comfortable than the slatted deck models.
In the end, the air deck is more expensive than the slatted deck boat.
13. Oars and Pump
The pump is an inevitable part of the equipment when buying an inflatable boat. Some manufacturers provide a hand pump, others include a foot pump, while some don’t provide the pump at all. The top models come with the automatic pump that will save you time and effort. Some pumps come with a pressure monitor. This is very important for the correct PSI of the raft.
Similarly, oars are extremely important for the proper functioning of your boat. Quality oars are usually made from aluminum.
There are several factors affecting the inflatable boat price. Those include material quality, ease of maintenance, anti-puncture protection, and warranty, as well as the brand reputation.
When it comes to the material, the story is simple. PVC is cheaper and Hypalon is more expensive. There are different types of PVC as well. It also dictates the price.
Care & Maintenance of Inflatable Boats
Keeping your inflatable boat in good condition is crucial for safe and enjoyable experiences. Here are some care and maintenance tips recommended by the manufacturers and industry experts.
First of all, you must remember to store the vessel in a dry place. Experts agree that this is the crucial thing for keeping your boat highly functional. You definitely want to avoid mildew, rotting, and bad odor. Remember that storing your inflatable boat in a wet environment can damage it, as it weakens the fabric.
Also, don’t forget to cover it after you store it. This will protect it from dust, moisture, and other negative effects in the storage place, as well as possible contact with animals, depending on your boat storage location. Make sure you use a quality trailer when moving a fully inflated unit.
Next, we want to talk about keeping your boat clean. This is extremely important. Why? Dirt will degrade the material consistency of the raft. It will weaken it, as some chemicals can penetrate the material structure. In addition, you definitely don’t want to see ugly stains on boat fabric.
You should clean it with a towel used just for your boat. If there are any stains, you should use warm water. Avoid chemicals, as they can penetrate some of the materials and damage them. Remember that these boats do not usually include an engine unless they're highly expensive. In that case, you would need to maintain the mechanical part on a regular basis.
3. UV Protection
Protecting your boat from UV rays is very important. Some boats come with UV protection. However, lower quality models do not have this type of protection. Such boats will become weak over time. The material may become damaged and brittle.
Luckily, there are some affordable and very efficient products that provide UV protection to your boat. You can get them from some manufacturers, from boat gear stores, as well as online.
Even though spending a day or two on the water definitely guarantees lots of fun, there are some safety issues we must address. These refer both to the boat choice and behavior before you enter the boat, while you are onboard and after you leave the boat; i.e., maintaining the boat itself. Let’s see some of the key safety tips from experienced users, leading manufacturers, and experts.
1. Choosing the Boat
Opting for this type of boat is a very good idea. If you have chosen this type instead of a hard-shell boat, your safety is already increased. Climbing into the boat from water is much easier. Anchoring and approaching the shore is safer. Low center of gravity and more buoyancy reinforce the inflatable boat safety features.
In addition, if you choose an inflatable raft, you can really have your peace of mind, as these models are virtually unsinkable. Quality models have systems that keep the boat inflated even if some of the chambers are punctured. You can get an ex military model for reliable sturdiness and longevity. Finally, these types of vessels are used by the rescue teams and military services, as one of the safest kinds of vessels.
2. Getting to Know the Boat
You should find out lots of information about your boat even before the purchase. Similarly, read the User’s Manual from cover to cover in order to learn more about your boat. This is the only way that will guarantee maximum safety.
Each manufacturer will definitely list the safety measures in the User’s Manual. In addition, there is a list of limitations and prohibited actions when it comes to inflatable boat use. You must always stick to the person and lbs. maximum allowed capacity of the boat.
Similarly, learn more about the boat inflation and weight distribution rules explained in each User’s Manual. This will help you understand the behavior of your boat in different situations and guide you to perform the correct actions in regular and critical situations.
3. Basic Equipment
You should always have a repair patch kit and tools on board. Also, experts recommend having a manual pump, a map, paddles, as well as a visual distress signal device each time you go cruising with your inflatable boat. In addition, having life vests for each person on board is always a very good idea. This is a must if you have kids or people who don’t know how to swim on board. Apart from that, always keep quality sealant (preferably rubber cement) close to hand in times of emergency and accidental nicks or leakage. Use boat lifts or docks if possible. Make sure you use a canopy if you have a plan to stay an extended period on water during day time.
4. Water Type
Some boats are suitable only for still waters, while others are versatile and can be used on fast-flowing rivers and whitewater as well. You must always use your boat according to the water type it is intended to be used on.
You don’t have to have the official license to use these crafts for fishing or cruising. However, education is recommended, mostly when it comes to navigation rules, behavior in heavy traffic zones, etiquette, as well as the right of way rules. Depending on your country, there might be slight differences in these rules, but the general boating rules are equal or similar on the international level.
Finally, we can say that owning an inflatable boat is a great pleasure. It will definitely bring you lots of joy, especially if you plan to use it with your friends and family.
We have discussed the value factors and tried to give you a detailed, analytical, and comprehensive guide to choosing the right inflatable boat.
We chose the Intex Excursion 5 as the very best inflatable boat on the market. We analyzed all criteria from our value grid and concluded that this model is the winner. Intex Seahawk 4 is the runner up. This 4-people boat has excellent features and amazing performance as well.
Don’t forget to focus on your own preferences and needs when analyzing these vessels. Regardless of the type, you are looking for, be it for the ocean, for fishing, or one with a motor, you can definitely pick one from this list prepared by the Kayak Fisherly team.