Getting kids was one of the most amazing things ever happened in my life. People do change, inevitably, and so does the way you spend your free time. In my case, spending time in nature, near a lake or a river is our favorite kind of leisure and open-air entertainment.
That’s when I got interested in researching the market for the best inflatable boats. We decided to get one so we could enjoy fishing from the middle of the lake, as well as a relaxed day on the water. Owning an inflatable boat really changed my life. My whole family started enjoying our time together more than before.
Some of the striking benefits of owning this type of vessel include more fun with your family and friends, lots of space for your equipment, safety, as well as a convenient boat that does not consume much space.
I highly recommend you learning more about inflatable boats (from specialists or any reliable source) before you get one, as there are different types of high-quality inflatable boats on the market that are suitable for different needs. Today, we’ll take you to the exciting journey of finding the top-rated inflatable boats for you. So, let’s get started!
Top Inflatable Boats : Comparison Chart
|Pick Name||Thumbnail||Product Name||Price|
|Best 5-Person Choice||Intex Excursion 5||Check Price|
|Best 4-Person Choice||Intex Seahawk 4||Check Price|
|Best 3-Person Choice||Bestway HydroForce Voyager 1000||Check Price|
|For 2-Persons||Intex Explorer 200||Check Price|
|For 1 Person||Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon||Check Price|
|6th||Intex Mariner 4||Check Price|
|7th||AIRHEAD Angler Bay||Check Price|
|8th||Classic Accessories Colorado XT Pontoon||Check Price|
|9th||BRIS 1.2mm PVC 12.5 ft||Check Price|
|10th||Inflatable Sports Boats Shark 9.8′||Check Price|
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!
01 Best 5-Person Choice: Intex Excursion 5
Intex is one of the most popular inflatable boat manufacturers and this sturdy and reliable model explains why.
This model has an inflatable I-beam floor. It provides rigidity, increases boat safety, but also increases your level of comfort. If you have had some inflatable boats before, you definitely know that the worst feeling, especially for beginners, is an unstable floor that feels too soft. You won’t have such problems with this model by Intex. There is a front, middle, and rear “excursion” seat.
Moreover, we liked the fact that its structure is composed of three air chambers. In addition, there is another chamber in the hull. This provides extra buoyancy. When it comes to filling and deflating, there is a Boston valve on two chambers. You can quickly set up and deflate the boat, without special effort.
When it comes to physical characteristics of this 5-person capacity boat, its inflated state dimensions measure 10ft (2.3 m) 4in x 5ft 5in x 1ft 5in. It has 54-inch quality aluminum oars. The all-around grab line is super convenient. It also has 2 oarlocks, one on each side of the boat. The oar locks are welded.
This model is versatile, as our community-based inflatable boat reviews show, it is perfect for fishing, cruising, as well as other activities on the water. The model number suggests that it can house 5 persons. Similarly, Excursion 4 model is compatible for 4 adults and Excursion 2 is ideal for two.
- 5-person capacity
- Φ 8mm x 410″ pp rope
- w/10034 Boston valve
- 10 foot 4in X 5ft 5in X 1ft 5in inflated state dimensions
- 4 lbs. weight
- 1,100 lbs. capacity
- 5 hp motor
- 3 air chambers + 1 auxiliary chamber
- Made from super-durable vinyl material.
- Tough, rigid, convenient, durable, and safe
- Very comfortable.
- Approved by the US Coast Guard.
- Good for fishing, cruising, and camping.
- Shipped only within the USA and to selected countries outside of it.
- Comes with a hand pump, not the battery-operated pump.
In terms of lightness and compactness, this is one of the best inflatable boats on the market. It’s great for fishing, camping, and cruising trips for up to five people. Its key advantages include safety, durable materials, and extreme comfort.
We picked Intex Excursion 5 as the top of the list for its excellent construction, lots of space, and low weight. We recommend you to choose this if you want a ready-to-go, quick set-up, 3-air chamber, convenient, and durable vessel.
02 Best 4-Person Choice: Intex Seahawk 4
If you are looking for the perfect watercraft for four people that will ensure excellent fun on your boating, fishing, and cruising adventure, Intex has the perfect choice for you. Intex Seahawk 4 is made from the highest quality, heavy-duty PVC. This material is resistant to scratches and ensures comfort and durability. In addition, it is puncture resistant. You will definitely use this inflatable boat for many years.
The manufacturer really thought of the user comfort in all possible segments. There are inflatable cushions for extra comfort. This is a 3-air chamber design. There is also an additional chamber located inside the main hull for extra safety.
When testing, we noticed that Intex Seahawk 4 had an excellent all-around grab line. This was a very convenient feature. Moreover, this model comes with oar locks and holders. This 4person model measures at 138x57x19 inches and its maximum weight capacity is 1050 lbs. Intex indicates the weight capcity by the model name, for example, the Seahawk 2 (Seahawk ii) and Intex Pro 200 models have the maximum capacity for 2 persons. Seahawk 3 model can withstand 3 people while Seahawk 1 and Explorer 100 are mono models. On the other hand, like the Explorer PRO 400, Seahawk 4 and Seahawk Sport 400 have the maximum capacity for 4 persons, and the Seahawk 500 has it for 5 persons.
What do you get in the package? You get the boat, a repair patch kit, welded oar locks and holders, a hand pump, and the U.S. Coast Guard I.D. The aluminum oars, measuring 48 inches each.
- 138 x 57 x 19 inches
- 5 pounds
- 4-person capacity
- 1050 lbs. capacity
- 3-air chamber
- Perfect for 4 people.
- Has a very good, maximum capacity of 1050 lbs.
- A three-chamber model.
- Made from high-quality PVC that is puncture-resistant.
- Safe and durable
- Cannot be shipped internationally.
- Some users complained about the floor being too soft.
If you are looking for an awesome model for four people, with very good lbs. capacity measuring 1050 lbs., you have just found your perfect match. Intex Seahawk 4 is made from a very durable material that is puncture-resistant and provides comfort to the users.
In addition, it is a high-quality 3-chamber model. You will get a rich package, with the repair kit and a pump. In addition, this model is made by a reputable brand that is well-known in the boating world.
03 Best 3-Person Choice : Bestway HydroForce Voyager 1000
If you are looking for a 3-person choice, we believe that HydroForce Voyager 1000 is a great option. To be precise, this model is suitable for two adults and one child, or a person that is not heavy. The total weight capacity is 594 lbs.
This is a very strong, durable model. The key peculiarity of its construction is the 3-ply heavy-duty PVC structure. This is a very good structure for the boat, especially if you take into consideration that this is UV-resistant. The material won’t degrade over time. Similarly, it is resistant to abrasion pollutants.
While testing this model, we liked the integrated fishing rod holders. So, we highly recommend this model for fishing; making it an excellent gift choice for anglers. You will also like the safety-grab ropes. In addition, it has inflatable cushions and a storage bag.
We also liked the content of the package. You will get a hand air pump, a storage bag, and a pair of 60-inch aluminum oars. We liked the fact that they are omnidirectional. The motor of this attractive model is up to 1.4hp.
- 4 hp motor
- 115″ x 50″ x 18″ dimensions
- 594 lbs. Capacity
- 3-ply structure
- 3-person capacity
- 60-inch aluminum oars
- Lightweight and durable
- Perfect for fishing.
- Strong, durable 3-ply PVC-nylon-PVC structure.
- Pollution-and abrasion-resistant
- Can be used with a manual pump only
If you want to have a watercraft that can take three people and has 594 lbs. capacity, a strong 3-ply structure and is UV-resistant, we strongly recommend you to consider the HydroForce Voyager 1000.
This model is perfect for lake exploration and fishing. It comes with a pump, a storage bag, and oars. You will also appreciate the integrated fishing ropes, a cool feature that we fancied.
04 For 2-Persons: Intex Explorer 200
Here is another excellent model by Intex. Intex Explorer 200 is a very good choice if you are looking for a 2-person boat. First of all, we want to tell you what it is designed for.
It can be used on calm waters, lakes or pools. It has 2 air chambers. Also, you will get 2 oars. This raft is comfortable, as it has an inflatable floor. This provides both rigidity, increases your safety, and ensures comfort.
Moreover, this model has a 210-pound capacity and the following dimensions: 73 x 16 x 37 inches. What do you get in the kit? You will get the air pump, a mini model and the repair patch kit so you can do the repair task yourself.
To summarize this review, we want to point out that we liked the safe construction and comfort of this boat. This is why the manufacturer emphasized that this model is suitable for pool activities. Trust us, this watercraft will be a perfect companion on your lazy summer chill-out days. It’s ideal for 2 people like the Intex Challenger 2 and Explorer Pro 200 models, but you can take a small child with you if necessary. Explorer 300 model from Intex can support 3 persons.
- 73 x 37 x 16 inches
- 210-pound capacity
- 2 air chambers
- 2 person boat
- 48-inch oars
- 13-gauge PVC material
- Made from high-quality PVC.
- A durable and weather-resistant model.
- The perfect choice for pool leisure and still waters.
- A rather small weight capacity.
If a 2-people boat made from a quality 13-gauge PVC is what you are looking for, look no further. This model is a durable, safe, and attractive inflatable boat with two air chambers, a grab rope, an inflatable floor, providing extra comfort and rigidity. You will get welded oar locks, a repair patch, an air pump, and a U.S. Coast Guard ID. Intex products are known to be reliable and this product lives up that expectation.
05 For 1 Person: Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon
Do you want a boat for two persons? Are fold-down seats your preference? Do you want to benefit from large storage (20 pockets and 2 drink holders) perfect for camping and all-day cruising? Classic Accessories Colorado is the right option for you.
This model has rod holders that can be mounted in three different positions. In addition, there is a two-position motor mount. It is suitable for trolling. There are also 3 oar-lock positions. Therefore, this is one of the most versatile and flexible two-person capacity inflatable boats on the market.
Moreover, we really liked the design. You can pick from two colors: black or sage green. Both of them are very attractive and perfectly suit the overall design.
Moreover, the motor mount is weatherproof. It measures 108 inches in length, 56 inches in width, and 26 inches in height measured to the top of the seat. It is 71.5 lbs. heavy and comes with 7-inch 2-piece aluminum oars.
What does the manufacturer offer? You get a 1-year warranty, a detachable micro-slit foam fly patch, as well as non-corroding oarlocks. Its capacity is 400 lbs.
It’s 9-inch, heavy-duty pontoons are made from excellent material. Namely, the manufacturer used high-end anti-abrasion and wear-proof PVC. It is good, even for the shallowest waters.
- 108 x 26 x 56 inches
- 5 pounds
- 400-lbs. capacity
- 1-year warranty
- Class 1 river rating
- 9-foot pontoons
- High storage capacity
- Perfect for camping and cruising
- Convenient weather-proof motor mount
- Sturdy 2-position motor mount.
- 3 oar-lock positions.
- Adjustable seats and footrests
- Comes without an air pump.
The greatest advantage of Colorado Pontoon from Classic Accessories is its huge storage capacity. In addition, we liked the fact that the heavy-duty pontoons are made from abrasion-resistant PVC bottom. Therefore, this is a durable inflatable boat built according to all safety standards.
In addition, it has non-slip footrests and adjustable seats. The footrests are also highly adjustable. If you are looking for a 400-lbs. Capacity boat good for two people, this is what you need.
06 Intex Mariner 4
The peculiarity of this model is the molecular structure of its material. It is made from a very strong PVC that ensures durability and convenience.
Moreover, this model is abrasion, UV, and impact-resistant. This is one of the key reasons why so many people choose this model.
In addition, it has four Boston valves, it is easy to inflate and deflate it, and the keel is inflatable as well. This is why it is easy to handle and control this boat.
Also, you will like a durable guard and the grab line. The capacity of this model equals 880 lbs. When inflated, it measures 129″ x 57″ x 19″. This is a four-people boat. You will get aluminum oars and a high-output pump.
Experts say that its material is very good and provides durability and safety. Also, the construction consists of three layers. The outer layers are made from PVC, while the inner layer is made from polyester mesh.
This model is suitable for fishing and boating. The inflation and deflation processes are easy and don’t require much time, due to the quality valves.
You will get a repair kit, a pump, as well as the motor mount fittings, and a battery pouch. As the model name suggests, it has a capacity for 4-person, if you want a bigger capacity, you can opt for Mariner 5.
- 57 by 19 by 129 inches
- 4-person boat
- 77 lbs.
- 54-inch aluminum oars
- 880-lbs. max weight capacity
- Suitable for four people.
- Has quality oars.
- The accessory package is rich.
- Excellent 3-ply structure.
- Made from quality
- The bag is too heavy.
If you are looking for a quality inflatable raft-type boat suitable for four people, we recommend this model by Intex. It comes with lots of useful accessories, quality oars, and it is made from quality material.
Additionally, you will love the fact that this model is UV-resistant and impact-resistant. It is a durable, convenient, and sturdy model.
07 AIRHEAD Angler Bay
We would like to start this review with the key peculiarities of this model. The first thing we noticed was that it has an inflatable floor and a movable seat. It is made from heavy-duty vinyl. The seams are electronically welded.
In addition, this model has wraparound grab lines and 2-rod holders. There are also several drink holders. When it comes to capacity, it is good for 3 people. It measures 96 inches (length) and 54 inches (width).
Moreover, we must emphasize that this model has four drain plugs and a ditty bag. It is a lightweight, portable watercraft mostly chosen by users who want to use it for lakes and still water explorations.
What else can you use this boat for? User reviews say that this best inflatable boats for fishing adventures. It is a portable, lightweight model that is very popular both among beginners and experienced users.
An added advantage is that this model is compatible with the airhead trolling motor transom. Versatility, compatibility, and flexibility are among the most important features when buying an inflatable boat.
It has four drain plugs and a battery storage bag. It is made from a heavy-duty K80 PVC material that is weather-resistant and very durable. Now, we will show you the full specs list for this amazing model.
- 3-people capacity
- 96 inches long
- 54 inches wide
- 2-rod holders
- K80 PVC material
- 4 drain plugs
- Lightweight and portable
- Three-person capacity
- Four drain plugs.
- Made from heavy gauge K80 PVC.
- Durable enough for fishing and cruising
- Not eligible for international shipping.
If you want to enjoy a 3-people inflatable boat, Airhead Angler Bay is the perfect model. This durable product is made from K80 PVC material and it is suitable both for cruising on slow rivers and lakes and fishing.
In addition, this model has 4 drain plugs, 2-rod holders, and very comfortable seats. The users state that it is a lightweight and portable model that provides excellent speed, comfort, and safety.
08 Classic Accessories Colorado XT Pontoon
Are you a dynamic person/family/group of friends who love to travel and not to stick to one place for fishing, cruising or camping? Classic Accessories Colorado XT is what you are looking for.
First of all, gear bags are removable. As a result, you can benefit from the highly customizable storage space. There are 20 pockets in total with 2 insulated drink holders. Therefore, you will quickly realize that this model is very good for camping and cruising.
Moreover, there is a powder-coated steel tube frame, as well as a rugged, 2-piece aluminum oar set, measuring 7-inches each (two pieces). Additionally, the rod holder can be mounted in 6 positions. The anchor system has a fillable mesh bag.
In general, this model is easy to set up, use, and, most noteworthy, easy to transport. Why did we consider this as the most suitable choice for easy transportation? Because of its transport wheels! There are not many models in the market with transport wheels. These allow very easy access and moving the raft effortlessly over different surfaces.
In addition, this model weighs 68 lbs. The pontoons measure 9 inches. You can choose from two color combinations: sage-grey and pumpkin-grey. The manufacturer provides a 2-year limited warranty for this 400-lb capacity vessel.
- 9-foot pontoons
- 400-lbs. capacity
- Class 1 River rating
- 108″l 56″w 26″h dimensions
- 68 lbs. weight
- 2-year warranty
- 7-inch two-piece aluminum oars.
- Fits all Sevylor® boats
- Sturdy support tubes
- Compact size
- Holds outboard motors easily
- Convenient footprint design
- You must be very careful to avoid punctures.
If you are not a stationary nature, river, and lake explorer, or if you don’t like cruising and fishing on the same location all the time, you need to get the Classic Accessories Colorado XT. This is great for easy transportation. It comes with wheels that allow easy movement and has 400-lbs. capacity and 9-foot pontoons. It weighs 68 lbs. and a 2-year warranty. We highly recommend this product.
09 BRIS 1.2mm PVC 12.5 ft
Do you want an extra-large inflatable boat? What if we tell you that one of the models that amazed us with its design and performance has a 1675-lbs. capacity? Yes, that’s correct! This more than 12 feet water craft can take 6 adults! This amazing product weighs 180 pounds. It has a thick aluminum floor and a 1.2 mm high-quality PVC main tube.
The outboard motor material is the marine plywood transom. You will like the fact that the bottom layer is doubled. It provides extra safety and rigidity. You will feel very stable, safe, and protected in this vessel.
In addition, the package houses three individual air chambers. This is very important, as some critical situations, such as punctures or deflation of one chamber will not jeopardize you. At the same time, the inflation/deflation process is very simple and quick.
Moreover, there is a deep V-keel and rub-strake protection. The oarlock is integrated. Let’s talk about the material itself a little bit more. The 2000 Denier PVC fabric is much better than the 1100 Denier PVC fabric. It is much more durable and puncture-resistant. So, this model is sturdy and will definitely last and serve you many years to come.
You will also get a rich package with the product. Namely, the package includes the aluminum floor, oars, a foot pump, a repair kit, and a carrying bag. Now, let’s see the full list of the product specifications.
- 5 feet long
- 58 feet wide
- 1-inch long tubes
- 3-chamber model
- 1675-lbs. capacity
- 180 lbs. weight
- 25 hp motor
- 6-adult people capacity
- Heavy duty PVC material provides extra durability and sturdiness.
- A quality, 12.5-mm thick aluminum floor.
- 6-people capacity.
- A total of 1675-lbs. capacity
- Rather heavy.
If you want to find a good capacity choice, up to 6 persons to be exact, then you can consider the Bris 1675-lbs. The greatest advantage of this excellent boat is its high-quality PVC material (2000 Denier type), as well as the aluminum floor.
In addition, it has 3 chambers, comes with the oars and a pump. You will enjoy using this 6-people capacity raft for a long time. They also have a 10.8 ft model with a smaller frame. Overall, it’s an amazing product for sale, get it before the stock runs out.
10 Inflatable Sports Boats Shark 9.8′
The first thing we liked about this beautiful boat is its design. It will definitely leave you speechless at first sight. Its sleek contours and white color are unique and mesmerizing.
This model’s peculiarity originates from its designers. Did you know it was designed by nautical engineers to achieve rear buoyancy and easier use? We loved the touch and feel of this model during our testing. Actually, this is one of the models we enjoyed the most.
Moreover, the extended rear pontoons, as well as the transom area lead to a higher max allowed weight capacity limit. This is a 5-people vessel with a max weight capacity of 1158 lbs.
We also liked the floor. It is made from aluminum. It is an easy-slide, 24-mm floor. It is a very stable and convenient model. The seats are strong and comfortable. In addition, it is easy to clean.
Let’s talk a bit more about its construction and technical aspects. The seams are heat welded. So, this is suitable for salt water, fresh water, and extreme weather conditions.
The construction material, 1100 denier PVC is not as good as the 2000 denier PVC, but it is a UV, stain, puncture, and oil damage-resistant material.
We also liked the package content. You get a removable seat cushion, 2 repair patches, 2 aluminum bench seats, 2 aluminum oars. lock-in holders, a carry and storage bag, a quality foot pump, a one-way drain plug, heavy-duty carrying handles, as well as two towing D-rings. That being said, we can say with certainty that this is a well-equipped boat package on the market! We were surprised by the rich content of the accessories that come with the product itself.
- 70-lbs. weight
- 1158 lbs. max capacity
- 5-people boat
- 44 x 24 x 11-inch dimensions
- 1100 denier PVC material
- 30-inch pontoons
- Has an excellent max weight capacity.
- Can accommodate up to 5 adult people.
- Made from a quality PVC material.
- Comes with a very rich set of accessories.
- Assembly is a bit more time-consuming than that of similar models.
This 5-people model has 2 adjustable bench seats. In addition, there are two handles. It is USCG approved. The manufacturer provides a 3-year warranty.
If you are looking for the best inflatable boat for ocean, this is the right product for you. Finally, the number of accessories that come with this boat is amazing. You will get everything you need for a safe, comfortable, and convenient cruising or fishing.
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.
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 you launch your journey to hunt down the best inflatable boats out there.
There are seven basic types of inflatable boats. Let’s not mix up inflatable boats with inflatable kayaks. 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. cheap inflatable boats lack in both quality and durability.
When it comes to the material, the story is simple. PVC is cheaper and Hypalon is more expensive. Besides, some people might have allergic reactions to Hypalon material. There are different types of PVC as well. It also dictates the price.
Care & Maintenance Tips
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 and fishing hats for each person on board is always a 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 the water during day time. It’s also ideal to keep a kayak GPS onboard, so you won’t get lost even when it gets dark.
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.