Whether you’re taking your family out for a summertime lake vacation, or going out with some friends for a short fishing trip, you’ll need a good boat to get you there.
The thing is, most people don’t go boating every single weekend, meaning they don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a real boat.
Beyond that, it’s hard for most people who don’t actually live by the water to store a boat.
This is where inflatable boats come in handy.
They’re much cheaper than traditional boats, are far easier to store and transport, and come with many awesome features that allow you to do much of what you would be able to do in a traditional boat.
Hop onboard as we take you through some of our favorite inflatable boats on the market and what you should be looking for as you hunt for your next inflatable purchase.
The Top 9
Best Traditional Inflatable Boats
OUR #1 PICK - INTEX MARINER 4 4-PERSON
When it comes to traditional or raft-style inflatable boats, it’s difficult to argue that the Intex Mariner 4 is not the best out there. There is plenty of room on this 4-person craft for friends and family, as well as gear and other equipment. It is made with a durable 3-ply construction and a smaller frame than it’s older brother, The Mariner 5, making it easy to get from place to place. There is a reinforced rock and abrasion guard on the bottom of the hull, keeping you safe from any obstacles that might try to take your boating adventure to a halt.
It is outfitted with two fishing rod holders for fishing enthusiasts, two rotating oarlocks for taking paddling breaks and soaking in the surroundings, and a myriad of gear pouches for keeping your small belongings safe. Thanks to the mount-capability, you can easily attach a motor to this bad boy for extra speed and usability. If you’re looking for a boat that can succeed at just about any water task, look no further than the Intex Mariner 4.
#2 INTEX EXCURSION 5 5-PERSON BOAT
If you’re looking to roll out on the lake with a larger crew, check out the Excursion 5 from Intex. This bad boy can support up to 5 people while still keeping tons of room onboard for gear, coolers, and anything else that you might want to throw in the mix for a fun day on the water. It comes complete with 4 fishing rod holders on each side of the boat, placed next to the benches. The cool thing is, they’re facing inward, meaning you can fish while chatting it up with your buddies that you bring along.
As for the construction, the Intex Excursion 5 is made with multiple air chambers that hold the air independently. This means that you don’t have to worry about your boat popping on the water and leaving you stranded. It comes complete with an Intex pump that is manually operated, though because of the sheer size, we recommend buying an electric pump. For lazy adventures on the lake with the whole crew or family, the Excursion 5 is the best inflatable boat around.
#3 HYDROFORCE MARINE PRO 3-PERSON
Even though it says that it’s a 3-person raft, this raft is best for 2 adults and a small child or dog. It’s an excellent entry-level inflatable raft that is made of high-grade material for safety and durability. Even the most extreme nautical conditions won’t destroy this thing. That being said, don’t take it out in the middle of rough seas, but you get the point. It stays sturdy against ultraviolet rays, salt water, and punctures from reef and rocks.
The HydroForce Marine Pro comes complete with oars and locks that secure them into place whenever you need to take a break. They’re also rotate very smoothly, allowing you to leave them in place while you paddle. If you want to attach a motor, you’ll love the ease of doing so thanks to the include mount. It also comes with an included pump that can inflate the boat in under 10 minutes, so that you can spend less time sitting on the dock and more time venturing out into the deep. If you want a solid 2-person boat for chillin’ in the sun or catching a few fish, this is a great option.
Best Inflatable Boat For Fishing
#1 BEST INFLATABLE BOAT FOR FISHING: INTEX SEAHAWK 4-PERSON
Intex makes some of the best inflatable boats on the market and their Seahawk 4-Person boat is no different. When it comes to fishing, it’s one of the best out there. It comes with its own pump for quick inflation and is made of an incredibly tough vinyl that will ensure long-lasting use without wear and tear or worry about punctures. You can easily fit four people onboard while still having plenty of room for all of your fishing gear.
We love the fact that the floors are rigid in sturdy, as it allows you to stand and get a better vantage point for fishing without fear of falling or tipping over. Even when you’re sitting, you’ll enjoy how comfortable the seats are. There are two rod holders placed at the rear, as well as a few oar holders, so that you can focus on fishing without having to row.
#2 CLASSIC ACCESSORIES COLORADO PONTOON BOAT
If you’re looking for something a bit different, check out the Classic Accessories Pontoon Boat. It’s a 9’ long inflatable boat that is made to perform as a solid, load-bearing fishing pontoon for all your fishing desires.The cataraft design is incredibly strong, allowing you to pack on tons of gear without slowing you down. There is also a neat suspended seat that puts you right above the water. It comes ready to install a trolling motor if you choose, and even if you stick to traditional paddling, you’ll be happy to know that there are also two oarlocks so you can focus on fishing when you need to.
The seat onboard if very comfortable and also incredibly durable, and also comes with two armrests that have additional storage beneath them. Right behind the seat is a ton of storage in a metal basket, perfect for things that you don’t necessarily need within arm’s reach. Both easy to store and transport, this pontoon-style inflatable boat is perfect for anglers who don’t have much room to work with.
#3 AIRHEAD BY ANGLER BAY
The AirHead by Angler Bay is certainly the most casual inflatable fishing boat out there, and is perfect for those who are on a budget. The boat comes with a removable seat, allowing you to modify it depending on what you need. It’s also equipped with a mount for a trolling motor, and includes some solid rod holders, drink holder, and grab lines for safety. The taller sidewalls make it excellent for kids, as they add a bit of a barrier between the deck and the water.
The boat is made from a tough and puncture-resistant PVC material that can hold up against rocks. That being said, this boat is best paddled in slower and calmer streams. It is pretty stable though, even without the hard floors. Thanks to its size, you can easily store this thing up in the trunk of a typical, economy-sized car. If you’re in the market for an entry-level inflatable fishing boat that is perfect for kids, the Airhead by Angles is an excellent option!
Best Dinghy Style Inflatable Boats
Our #1 Pick - NEWPORT VESSELS INFLATABLE DINGHY
If you’re looking a tube-style dinghy boat, the best one on the market is no doubt, the Newport. It’s made from a variety of advanced and durable materials that give it both power and long-lasting strength. It can also support a crazy heavy load for the size. The 1100 denier construction is puncture-resistant and element-protected, and the aluminum floor/decking/seats give you supreme stability when compared to other inflatable boats in its class.
In terms of mounting a motor, the Newport Vessels Inflatable Dinghy is the one we would most recommend when doing so. It’s got a very steady and keeps a very low center of gravity when turning, making it a prime choice for handling speeds that are past typical paddling. Attach a good motor, and you can easily fly through the water at top speed that go 20+ mph. Overall, this bad boy is easily the most rigid inflatable boat.
#2 INFLATABLE SPORTS BOATS KILLER WHALE
The Inflatable Sports Boats Killer Whale comes with all of the bells and whistles that an inflatable boater could ever want, though at a much higher price, which is why it isn’t at the top. If you can spend the money though, you’ll get an array of top-tier features.The floor and seats are constructed out of a high-quality aluminum, making them perfect for standing on or fishing from. It’s perfect for conquering more perilous waters. The large seat storage bag can easily be removed, as well as the additional cushion for seating.
As for durability, this thing is tough. The welded seams make sure that, even when this boat takes a beating, it stays in tact. It is a bit bigger, so when transporting, you will need at least a mid-sized car. Even then, it only takes about 20 minutes to pump and set up. The boat is designed to fit up to five people and can hold up to 1268 lbs, meaning you can bring along your whole crew, as well as a plethora of gear. Overall, this is probably the best inflatable boat for the ocean.
#3 CLASSIC ACCESSORIES TOGIAK
If you’re a big fan of the Classic Accessories line of inflatable boats, you’ll absolutely love the Togiak. It is an inflatable tube-style raft that is designed for people who want to angle. It’s made with high-grade materials and is packed with tons of features. Even with the small size, it comes with a 300lb capacity. The seat is both comfortable and fully adjustable, making it great for longer sessions out on the water. It comes complete with a myriad of pockets and storage options, including a mesh storage platform located behind the seat and a rod holder in the back.
When it comes to transporting this thing from the car to the water, you’ll absolutely love the backpack-style straps. It’s very lightweight and can be fully inflated and on the water in less than 10 minutes. It’s a great inflatable craft for the money and comes in a fun and innovative design that will separate you from all the other anglers out on the water.
Best Inflatable Boat Brands
Intex is easily one of the most prominent manufacturers when it comes to all water-related inflatables. Their products are also fairly-priced, allowing anyone with any budget to find something they can use. Many of their models come complete with fishing rod holders and motor mounts. They also use some of the best PVC-based construction on the market. These features are typically only available on boats that cost a lot more.
They’re perfect for anglers who are looking for an alternative to their hard-hulled boats, or those who want to take infrequent fishing trips. Some of the best models out there include the Intex Excursion 5 and the Intex Mariner 4.
Classic Accessories manufacturers a variety of mid-range inflatable products, though they are probably most known for their Colorado Pontoon Boats. Their products are made from high-grade materials and feature a variety of accessories that makes them excellent for fishing. Compared to other boats on the market in similar price ranges, the Classic Accessories Pontoons seem to have many more options in terms of comfort and storage.
You can even outfit your Classic Accessories boats unlike many other companies would allow you to. From mesh storage platforms to higher-quality baskets, the company allows you to upgrade and make modifications to your heart’s content.
How To Choose the Best Inflatable Boat
Below are the 8 criteria to go over that will help you decide which boat will be perfect for you in your circumstances.
While dinghys and rafts may look similar to the untrained eye, there are a few important differences that you should note when making your choice. Rafts are filled with air in a large tube that sits around the floor and seating areas. You’ll likely find that the floors are designed with flat areas that can be modified or built with different materials.
They’re easily the most versatile and popular inflatable boats on the market and come in an array of sizes and prices.The best ones are just as durable and usable as high-end, hard-hull boats.
Dinghys are like rafts in a way, though the shape is what gives them away. Rafts have air tubes that circle the entirety of the boat, while dinghies are more U-shaped and do not connect at the back end of the boat. This is why dinghies are so much easier to control, as well as far more stable. You can easily attach a motor to dinghys without any trouble compared to rafts, though some rafts come with the ability to mount motors, so it really depends on the specific model.
Typically, you’ll find that dinghies are more worthy of traversing the ocean when compared to rafts thanks to their stability and maneuverability. This makes them perfect for sea anglers.
For more serious anglers, pontoon boats are usually top choice. These are especially great if you’re planning on riding solo. Pontoon boats can either perform like dinghies or traditional rafts, depending on the model you get. That being said, they are usually more stable and allow you to sit and stand comfortably while you cast your line.
The biggest issue with pontoon boats is that they don’t track nearly as well, making them a bit more difficult to place. They also don’t come with as much room for storing gear, so keep that in mind.
One of the very first things that you should decide when purchasing an inflatable boat is how many people you want riding on it/how much gear you need to hold on it. Inflatable boats have far lower weight limits compared to traditional hard-hull boats, meaning you need to consider the weight of everything that you’ll be bringing onboard very carefully. Figure out the weight of the people you’ll be taking, plus your gear, and add about 20% of that. That is the capacity that you should aim for when deciding on your boat.
Typically, you’ll find one of two types of materials on an inflatable boat: PVC or Hypalon. PVC boats are typically cheaper and are very durable, though if you’re looking for extended use over the years, you might want to invest in Hypalon. This is because PVC isn’t the best at maintaining itself.
Hypalon is a synthetic material that is heavier than PVC, though far more robust. This means that if you plan on leaving your boat docked up all day in the water and sun, Hypalon might be your best bet. That being said, Hypalon is expensive, so it really depends on your budget too.
Typically, you’ll find either a high-pressure inflatable floor on inflatable boats, or solid aluminum planks that snap into the bottoms of the hulls. If you need a boat that is more stable, look into getting one with aluminum decking. They make the bottoms of the boats feel a lot more durable and secure while inflatable bottoms may feel a little wimpier or squishier. That being said, it is likely that, even if you get high-pressure inflatable floors, you’ll still be safe from punctures or abrasions. They also tend to be a bit more forgiving when it comes to shock or heavy movement coming from underneath.
Ease of Set-Up
You’ll want to be able to get in and out of the water as quickly as possible. You definitely don’t want the inflation and deflation process to take a half hour. An inflatable boat, no matter the size, should be easy to set up, even if there is just one person doing it. Even beyond that, all of the necessary tools or equipment that you need to set it up should come complete with the boat. Having to buy additional pumps can be annoying.
If you’re out on the water for long periods of time, you’ll definitely want an inflatable boat that is comfortable to use. Being able to relax when you need to is crucial for a good time. There’s nothing that can destroy an outing quite like a rigid seat. Check out the seats and see how they’re made. Are they aluminum or inflatable? Do they have padding if they’re hard? How about lumbar support?
Check to see how the seating is in relation to the paddle holders. They should be in a comfortable position that makes them easy to paddle with.
How Often Will You Use It?
The price that you pay for your inflatable boat should be based off of how much you’ll actually use it. Are you planning on taking your inflatable boat out multiple times throughout the week or are you just planning on using it for short trips here and there?
If you’re planning on buying something to use almost everyday, you definitely don’t want to skimp out on the cost or quality. You’ll need something that is going to last you a long time. On the other hand, if you only need the boat for a few weeks out of the year, there’s no reason to burn a hole in your pocket.
There are many additional features that you should consider looking for when checking out your inflatable boats. If you’re an angler, there is no doubt that you should look for an inflatable boat with fishing rod holders onboard. These can be used to place your rods in for hands-free fishing, or give you a break while you paddle your boat to your next destination. You also might want to have oarlocks onboard so that you can take a break from paddling to cast your line or sip on a cold one. Where are you gonna put that frosty brew when you’re done drinking it? Better find a boat with cupholders! You see what we’re getting at, right?
Below we answer the many questions you probably have before pulling the trigger to purchase one.
How To Repair Inflatable Boats?
Because most inflatable boats are made from similar PVC-like materials, it’s pretty easy to generalize repairs. If you are dealing with a Hypalon boat though, or a boat that is made with other types of synthetic materials, we would recommend going to see a professional repairman.
If you are a DIY-kind-of-person, here are the steps you can take to repair your boat in the case of any damage:
- Find the hole or part of the boat that needs to be repaired and make sure that you clean it and dry it. If it is a bit hidden, we recommend marking it so that you don’t lose the position that it’s in.
- Get your PVC material in hand. This can be purchased from any major inflatables manufacturer or hardware store.
- Cut your PVC so that it is large enough to cover the hole with two inches extra on every side. Cut the PVC so that is rounded instead of square. This way you won’t have to deal with the corners not sticking to the boat once you apply your adhesive.
- Put your patch over the hole so that the hole is in the center of the patch. Mark it with a pencil
- Using sandpaper (fine grit), sand around the inside of the circle that you just drew on your boat, as well as the actual part of the patch that will be adhered to the boat. Blow off any material that comes off with sanding and makes sure that both the surfaces are smooth.
- Apply your adhesive to the hole, as well as the piece of PVC that you cut. Place the PVC cut on top of the hole and put some pressure on it. By the way, do this in an area that is well-ventilated, as the adhesive used is very toxic.
- Using a roller or something similar, roll along the patch to make sure that there are no air bubbles. You’ll need the patch to cover the hole entirely.
- You’re all done! Give the boat at least 24 hours to dry and heal before getting back out on the water!
How Long Do Inflatable Boats Last?
The answer to the question really depends on how you use your inflatable boat. Even inflatable boats that are inexpensive can last you forever if you know how to take care of them. You might even buy an inflatable boat for thousands of dollars and take it down crazy rapids just to find that it falls apart.
This is why you must take care of your inflatable boat no matter how much “durability” the company claims the boat has. Try and give your boat a good cleaning every time that you take it out of the water. You can do this with a simple soap solution and water. When you’re done washing it, make sure to dry it thoroughly so that mold and mildew don’t grow.
Whenever you finish boating, check the entirety of the boat for punctures. They can be tiny and unnoticeable. The last thing you want is for a small hole to grow without your knowing. When storing your boat, always try and store it on top of things and out of the sunlight. Storing it under heavy items can leave it more susceptible to punctures and keeping it in the sunlight will wear it away much faster. Show your boat no love and it may last you a few years. Take good care of it and it can last you a lifetime.
Where Can I Use My Inflatable Boat?
You can pretty much use inflatable boats just about anywhere that you would use a traditional, hard-hulled boat. The best thing about inflatable boats is that they’re even better at getting into waters that would be difficult or impossible for a hard-hulled boat to get into. You can truly take inflatable boats into any bodies of water from lakes, to rivers, to the ocean. If you have a large pool in your backyard, there’s no reason why you can’t take it in there too. Always make sure to check reviews and rapid ratings before doing anything insane.
As for activities, inflatable boats are great for fishing! Some inflatable boats are more equipped with fishing features than others, so it really depends on the specific model that you end up choosing. You’ll also have to get an inflatable boat that has a bit more storage if you plan on bringing a bunch of fishing gear.
Lastly, inflatable boats are excellent for camping trips. This is because you can transport them along with all your gear without the need for a trailer hitch. Take a little ride down the river and find some cool camp spots to stay for the night.
Can I Attach a Motor To My Inflatable Boat?
The answer to this question depends completely upon the type of inflatable boat that you get. If you purchase a boat that doesn’t come with a motor mount, and you try to do it yourself, there’s a chance that you could do some serious damage to your boat. Not only is it dangerous for the boat itself, but also could be dangerous for people riding if it isn’t installed properly.
Your first step for installing a motor should be to find a motor that is compatible with the boat that you get. It should be compatible with not only the mount, but also the size of the boat and max horsepower that it can handle.
Just How Portable are Inflatable Boats?
The best thing about inflatable boats is that they’re far more portable than their hard-hulled cousins. Typically, they’ll come complete with their own little carry bags so that you can transport them with ease. No matter what kind of vehicle you have (excluding the ultra-tiny Smart Cars), you should be able to fold up and fit your inflatable boat in with ease.
Even when they are fully inflated, they’re still fairly portable. You can transport an inflated boat from one body of water to the next by simply pulling it out of the water and into the next. If you’re dealing with a traditional boat and trying to do this, you will likely fail big time.
How To Store an Inflatable Boat?
You should take really good care when storing your inflatable boat. You never want to have this be the last thing on your mind, as it’s really easy to forget about your inflatable boat when it’s not right in front of you. Make sure that you leave your inflatable boat in a place that is somewhat temperature-controlled. If you live in a place that gets really cold during the winter or hot during the summer, you definitely don’t want to leave it outside.
ALWAYS make sure that you dry your boat before you store it. Tons of unseen grime and microorganisms can attach to your boat without you even knowing it. If you don’t make sure to dry these before storing it away, it’s likely that the cool, dark place you store your boat in will create the perfect breeding ground for these little organisms to grow and eat away at your boat.
Whatever you do, don’t leave your boat in your car. Cars can heat up like crazy during the summer no matter where you’re at. The heat can absolutely kill the material on your boat, shortening it’s lifespan tenfold.
How Easy are Inflatable Boats To Inflate?
It all depends on what kind of apparatus you are using to inflate your boat with. If you’re using a manual hand pump, it’s going to take much longer than electric pumps. Typically, inflatable boats will only come with manual hand pumps, so you will most likely have to buy an electric pump separately if you want that extra convenience.
The size of your inflatable boat is also a big factor when it comes to inflation time. If you have a really big boat, it’ll take much longer to inflate than a small, one-person dinghy. Boats with single chambers are much easier to inflate and inflate much quicker. Boats with multiple chambers will require that you fill them separately. While this process isn’t difficult by any means, it will take much longer to get going.
Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?
We hope that our list of inflatable boats was helpful in narrowing down your decision. There are many different kinds of inflatable boats out there, though we recommend the Intex Mariner 4 if you’re looking for something that works all-around, in any type of boating situation, while still remaining affordable.
No matter the type of boat that you ultimately choose, you need to remember to consider how you will use it, as well as remember to consider the other features and characteristics that we mentioned above.
Some boats are great for fishing, some boats are great for hitting rapids, and some boats are great for just kicking back on calmer waters. Use the knowledge that we provided you with to make your final decision!