What You Will Get Here
- Why Buy Inflatable Boats?
- How Did We Pick These Products?
- Things to Consider When Buying an Inflatable Boat
- Our Top 10 Product List
- For 5 Persons: Intex Excursion 5 (Aluminum Oars & Air Pump)
- For 4 Persons: Intex Seahawk 4 (Aluminum Oars & Air Pump)
- For 3 Persons: Bestway HydroForce Voyager 1000
- For 2 Persons: Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon
- For Transportation: Classic Accessories Colorado XT Pontoon
- Max Capacity Boat: BRIS 1.2mm PVC 12.5 ft
- A List of 4 Other Products We Reviewed
- Care and Maintenance of Inflatable Boats
- Safety Tips
Why Buy Inflatable Boats?
First, let’s define what an inflatable boat is. This is a type of boat that is lightweight and made from a durable, usually vinyl material, constructed from a floor and flexible, air-inflated, pressurized tubes - sides.
Inflatable boats are used for fishing, cruising and other on-water activities. Their greatest benefits include the facts 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.
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.
How Did We Pick These Products?
As I am passionate about different kinds of sports, mainly open-air sports that allow spending lots of time in nature, such as hunting and fishing, getting a quality raft was a logical decision for me and my family.
However, picking a high-end model was not easy. The good thing is, I learned a lot about boats while struggling to find information on the Internet prior to my purchase.
Now, I can say I know quite a bit about inflatable boats. My interest in these types of boats did not cease after getting one. On the contrary, I became more interested in the way they work and the mechanisms and constructions behind these watercrafts.
This is why I decided to share my experience with you. However, I had to rely on community-based reviews as well. Finally, I consulted experts on boats and they provided invaluable insights into some things I didn’t know.
This is how we prepared a comprehensive list of criteria that helped us narrow down the choices. This approach also helped us make a list of things to consider when buying inflatable boats. We categorized them according to different purposes and capacities, so you will be able to find one as per your individual needs.
Things to Consider When Buying an Inflatable Boat
Even though your final choice will most probably be based on the type of water and your level of 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 think of before making your final decision.
There are five 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 five 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. Rafts have an open design. The key reasons for the high raft popularity are a range of prices, i.e. suitability for different budgets, and versatility.
This type of inflatable boats is peculiar for its shape. If you are looking for a small inflatable dinghy, you can easily recognize it as soon as you see the U-shaped air 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.
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 travels, suitability for fishing, and attractive 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.
They provide very good stability which is important for fishing. Their main drawback is the issue of storage.
v) 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 contact with 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.
2. Frequency of Use
How often do you want to use your boat? Are you a regular fisher? 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. However, there are different types of PVC that provide drastically different boat features. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.! 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 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.
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 a 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, air deck requires less assembling time than the floorboard boat, but the slatted deck is the absolute winner in this category.
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 a 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 special care. 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 very simple. PVC is cheaper and Hypalon is more expensive. There are different types of PVC as well. It also dictates the price.
Our Top 10 Product List
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. First, we analyzed their basic value factors, presented in the “Things to consider” section. Then, we were able to decide which specific product was most suitable for different needs. Therefore, you can benefit from reading our comprehensive top 10 review. Why wait? Let’s meet the finest products on the market!