Best Whitewater Rafts: Top 7 [+ Buyer’s Guide]

Navigating through rapids is exhilarating and an adrenaline rush.

Feeling the raw power of nature is an experience people come to crave once they get a taste while rafting.

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White water is only one of the great activities you can do on an inflatable raft.

Overnight camping trips, fishing and day cruises are also a great way to enjoy the water.

To help you with your search for the perfect raft, we have created the Top 7 best rafts for whitewater and calm water rafting.

Best Whitewater Rafts

#1 Best Overall: BRIS 1.2mm PVC 15’ Whitewater Raft
Bris 1.2mm Raft
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  • Best among heavy duty river rafts
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  • Heat welded seams guaranteed to last in fresh and salt water and extreme humidity
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  • Removable high pressure drop-stitch floor

#2 Best Overall: Saturn Mini Raft 9.6’
Saturn Mini White Water Raft
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  • Best raft for attaching rafting equipment accessories
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  • Two D-rings inside and 10 D-rings outside
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  • Lightweight and maneuvers in tight spaces

#3 Best Overall: BRIS 1.2mm PVC 9.8’ Whitewater Raft
Bris PVC Raft
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  • Most durable smaller white water raft
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  • Quadruple overlap seams for optimum durability
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  • Ultra strong PVC hull
Bris 1.2mm PVC Raft

If you are looking for a white water raft that can withstand the toughest environments out there, look no further. The BRIS 1.2 mm PVC 15’ whitewater raft has all the elements of durability and guaranteed quality. Excellent resistance to tearing and puncture, top grade material and superior construction make the BRIS 1.2mm a must have.

Quadruple overlapped seams keep water out and air in. This raft comes with a 3 year manufacturer guarantee, but you won’t need it, as the BRIS 1.2 mm is made with 2,000 Dtex 1.2mm PVC fabric with polyester support. Coupled with a high pressure drop-stitch raft floor, puncture or tears from rocks will not be an issue.

The incomparable durability isn’t the only reason to buy this raft. The BRIS 1.2 mm comes with many ideal accessories. Three inflatable thwart seats are included and they are inflatable and detachable. Inflation and repair is a breeze, with the included repair kit and foot pump.  A deck line around the rim of the raft is perfect for attaching gear and belongings, ensuring they’ll stay on board. You won’t lose speed due to water-logging, as the BRIS 1.2 mm 15’ is self bailing.


#2 Best Overall: Saturn Mini Raft 9.6’

Saturn Mini Raft

The Saturn Mini 9.6’ raft is one of the most affordable mini rafts on the market. Seating four people, this rafts offer the speed and excitement adrenaline junkies crave. Extremely versatile, it can also be used on flatwater for leisurely touring or fishing.

Customers can’t get enough of the Mini 9.6’ quality of build and material. This raft is made with 1,100 Dtex high strength PVC fabric and a 6" thick drop-stitch high-pressure air floor, rating at over 10 psi. The removable drop stitch floor is 1.2mm PVC, providing optimum puncture and tear resistance.

The accessories and gear capability put this raft at the top of its competition. There are two 10” diameter removable thwarts, which can easily be replaced with seat bars attached to two D-rings on the inner deck. If you want to attach gear to the rim of the raft, there are ten additional D-rings on deck.

The two inflatable and detachable thwarts will add comfort to your whitewater adventure, and the foot pump and carrying case will make transport and inflation a breeze. With the ultimate durability, accessory options and convenient transport and storage, it’s easy to see why the Saturn Mini Raft 9.6’ is one of the best whitewater rafts for sale.


#3 Best Overall: BRIS 1.2mm PVC 9.8 Whitewater Raft

Bris 1.2mm PVC White Water Raft

 BRIS is making our list again with its inflatable 1.2mm 9.8ft white water river raft. Sticking with the 2,000 Dtex 1.2mm PVC fabric with polyester support, this raft is immune to puncture and tears from rocks and tree limbs. Even though this BRIS raft is a smaller version, it packs all the punch of the larger 15’ counterpart.

Quadruple overlap, heat welded seams are among the many features that ensure durability and quality against damage and degradation. The high pressure drop stitch floor provides protection against rocks and branches, and 140mm width protecting rubber lines the tubes for longevity.

Do you like to bring supplies on the river, but worry about them falling out of the raft? The ten d-rings on the raft provide ample storage options to attach gear. The two D-rings on the inner deck are a great option for attaching different seating. The BRIS 1.2 mm PVC 9.8’ also comes with three inflatable and detachable thwarts, as well as a self bailing system, so water logging won’t slow you down.

 

#4 AIRE Super Duper Puma Self-Bailing Raft

Aire Super Duper Puma Raft

Are you looking for a super maneuverable raft for windy, narrow creeks and rivers? Look no further! The sleek and narrower width of the AIRE Super Duper Puma Self-Bailing Raft allows for navigation through even the tightest spots in the water.

You can’t get much stronger than the bombproof PVC material that coats the tubes and floor of this raft. The tubes themselves are filled with urethane air cells that provide security against ripping or puncture by the elements.

The piano hinge floor design allows for self bailing for top speeds through the rapids. Because this raft is larger, you can fit a lot of friends into your rafting adventure. The impressive 14 D-rings allow for great gear attachment, such as installing the NRS Fishing Raft Frame, or bar seats for leisurely cruising. The strap in thwarts included are perfect for bumpier rights.

The AIRE Super Duper Puma Self-Bailing Raft is the perfect raft for group activities, such as rapids, fishing or just paddling along a calm river. Because of its maneuverable design, rafters of all levels can enjoy the fun and excitement this raft has to offer.


#5 NRS Otter 140 Self-Bailing Raft 

NRS Otter 140 Self-Bailing Raft

The NRS Otter 140 Self-Bailing Raft is considered to be the most versatile raft by consumers out there. Whether it be camping, day trips, fishing, cruising or level five white water rafting, this raft does it all!

Because it is 14’ long and 7’ wide, you can pack this raft to the brim with gear and accessories. It has two removable thwarts for comfort and 12 D-rings for gear attachment. One of the reasons why this raft makes the FinBin Top 7 best rafts for whitewater is because of the endless accessory attachment options!

NRS has designed gear to not only fit the Otter 140 Self-Bailing, but any other raft. But if you want to best fit, it’s best to attach accessories to the Otter 140. This raft can accommodate the NRS Bighorn II Raft Frame that has ample room for coolers, dry bags, and any other gear you’d like to bring along.

Adding and adjusting up to three thwarts is no problem with the included The NRS BAT (Batten Attachment Thwart system). This raft isn’t only convenient for gear attachment, it’s also incredibly sturdy and durable.

The hull and tubes are made with Pennel Orca® material that is resistant to damage and degradation. It can withstand even the toughest rocks and the sharpest corners. Deflation and storage are a breeze with the Leafield™ C7 and A6 Pressure Relief Valves.

Easy storage and inflation, grade A hull and tube materials and the incredible versatility of the Otter 140 Self-Bailing Raft make it a no brainer for a raft purchase.


#6 Saturn River / Fishing Raft 12’

Saturn River Fishing Raft

Saturn Brand makes our list again as one of the best whitewater rafts to buy, this time with the 12’ fishing raft. Though this raft is perfect for whitewater, it also has all the features of being a perfect fishing boat.

The 12’ fishing raft is made with 1,100 Dtex high strength PVC fabric and a 2.5" thick drop-stitch high-pressure air floor, just as the 9.6’ mini raft is. It also includes two removable thwarts for rafting, which can easily be replaced with attachable fishing seats for comfort while casting.

The Saturn River/Fishing Raft 12’ comes with ample storage space and gear attachment options. TWo towing and attaching D-rings in front and back make attaching gear and seats a breeze. The raft also has a paddle holder on each side, allowing a secure place to store your paddle while you are fishing. And the deck lines on the bow and stern allow for secure attachment of belongings.

Weighing at only 50 lbs., the Saturn 12’ Fishing raft is a breeze to transport. The Leafield C7 valves make inflation and deflation a piece of cake. Because this raft is made with 1,100 Dtex High Strength PVC, you can be assured you are safe from punctures and tears while adventuring.


#7 BRIS 1.2mm PVC 13’ Whitewater Raft

Bris 1.2mm PVC Water Raft

We here at FinBin just can’t get enough of BRIS rafts. Our third BRIS raft on our list comes with an impressive use of 1.2mm tear and puncture proof 2,000 Dtex PVC and a drop stitch removable floor. Combining these elements with 140mm rubber lining along tubes, this raft is the toughest raft around.

Just like the other BRIS models, the 13’ whitewater raft comes with great accessory mounting, attachment and storage. There are ten D-rings around the rim of the raft with included deck lines. Your belongings can be clipped to the deck lines or rings, or you can use the rings to install hardware like fishing seats.

When you aren’t fishing or leisurely cruising, the three inflatable and removable thwarts help you stay in the raft while adventuring in whitewater. The self bailing system prevents being slowed down by water logging, and the quadruple folded, heat welding seams found in all BRIS rafts will keep water out and air in for the smoothest ride down the rapids.

With a pump and repair kit included, the ultra durable design and storage and mounting capabilities, it’s no wonder why the BRIS 1.2mm PVC 13’ Whitewater Raft wraps up our Top 7 Best Whitewater Rafts list.


How To Choose The Best Whitewater Raft

There are different rafts for different styles, preferences and abilities of paddling. Though the rafts on this list are extremely versatile, there are ways to tailor them to exactly what you want. Buying a raft for the first time or buying a raft you aren’t use to doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few helpful tips.


Material

Any raft worth buying will be made from the most durable PVC material available. Our rafts highlighted are made from 2,000 Dtex 1.2mm PVC fabric and 1,100 Dtex PVC fabric. The ideal PVC for intense, Class 2+ whitewater rapids is definitely the 2,000 Dtex PVC. It’s a bit more of an investment, but you’ll be safe from tearing and puncturing by rocks or tree branches. If you plan to do lower class rapids, cruising or fishing, you will be just fine with the 1,100 Dtex PVC.


Size

The size of the raft you buy depends how many people you want to raft with, your paddling ability and what activities you plan to do.  If you plan to have many people rafting with you with a lot of gear, definitely invest in a larger raft, like the BRIS 1.2mm PVC 13’ Whitewater Raft. If you are planning to go with only a couple people or solo, try the Saturn Mini Raft 9.6’. It’s smaller size is ideal for a smaller groups or navigating alone. Another thing to consider is what you want to do with your raft. For instance, if you plan to mostly fish, try a raft that has the best options for attaching fishing gear, like the Saturn River / Fishing Raft 12’. It comes with paddle holders and fishing seats are very easy to install.


Water Type

If you have tough, exciting white water rapids in mind, definitely, as I’ve mentioned before, get a raft with ultimate thick and tough material. You’ll also want to have a raft with thwarts, as they are safer than kayak or fishing seats, for example. Also, think about investing in a raft with lining on the tubes to resist tearing or puncture. If you will be on relatively calm or flat water, it’s not necessary to invest in super thick and reinforced lining, but think about a raft that has more deck hardware for storing belongings.


Ease of Assembly

All the rafts on this list are incredibly easy to inflate and store. The drop stitch flooring is easy to install and remove as well. The NRS Otter 140 Self-Bailing Raft, for example, comes with the NRS Batten Attachment Thwart system so you can easily add or remove thwarts, and replace them with upright seats if you’d like.


Storage

Bigger is always better for storage, but so are deck lines! If you are going on multiple day trips or have many people joining in on the adventure, you’ll be storing a lot of belongings. A bigger raft has more room for people and accessories. If you prefer a smaller raft but need to store belongings, invest in one with D-rings and decklines so you have a place to attach gear.


Accessories

All of the rafts on our list come with D-rings. D-rings are crucial in attaching gear, such as high back seats, anchors, even sails! The brands we have highlighting come with great universally mounting accessories, including customizable frames, thwarts, oar pins, the list goes on. Accessories can be purchased on the brands’ website or local retailers.

Whitewater Raft with D-Rings
Raft with Oar pins


Classes Of Whitewater

Just like any other sport, rafting has varying levels of difficulty and ability. As with anything else, start small and work your way up. The ranking starts at Class A, which is flat water like lakes. Next is Class I. Easy, smooth water with little chop and movement. Class II is slightly harder, considered intermediate rafting skills. Some chop and consistent, predictable rapids and falls. Some maneuvering skills required.

Class III is considered difficult. This is where novice/intermediate rafters transition into more advanced rafters. The waves and chop are unpredictable. The passageways and eddies are narrow and require maneuvering skills. Class IV is considered very difficult. The rapids are long and powerful and paddle maneuvering is an absolute must. The risk for bodily injury is higher. Rescue skills are highly recommended.

Class V is incredibly difficult and advanced. There is constant and violent rapids with no break. The rocks are jutting out and must be maneuvered around with advanced skill. The top, most advanced and “incredibly” difficult class is Class VI. Rafters face possibility of extreme injury and even death. Do not attempt unless you are a professional or trained to handle Class VI.


FAQ 

What Is a “Self-Bailing” Raft?

A self bailing raft is a very simple design. The top of the floor of the raft is permeable, so when water enters the deck of the raft, it exits out through a series of holes on the bottom of the floor. Much like self-bailing kayaks, the simple hole design is an inexpensive, simple and ingenious system.


What are some of the best places to whitewater raft?

(Add In Keyword “white water rafting colorado”)

The options to white water raft in the States, as well as all over the world, are endless. If you are looking to go rafting in the states, there are many lists that can guide you to some of the best spots. If you are looking to go global, a list like this one is also helpful. Here are my top three places in the United States to raft:

Grand Canyon: The Grand Canyon is the ultimate destination to raft. It is a national monument for good reason. The natural beauty is exquisite and the spacial bounds seem endless as you navigate through it. Rafting the Grand Canyon is a special and exciting way to see its grandiosity. There is a full class range of difficulty, from beginning level to expert, so there is something for everyone. Friends, families and couples will get a lot out of rafting the canyon.

Colorado river: Colorado state is national known for its nature and endless opportunities for outdoor adventures, including whitewater rafting. The Colorado River expands the entire Rocky Mountains through Colorado and is a true sight to see. With a ton of different launch spots and difficulty levels, you’ll never go the same route more than once is you didn’t want to.

Humboldt County: Completely reminiscent of a fairytale, Humboldt county is home to some of the most rugged and beautiful nature in the country. The redwoods line the entire area and the rivers are pristine. The Klamath and Trinity rivers are two favorites, with various classes for different levels of ability. The combination of towering redwoods and exhilarating rapids will have you coming back year after year. A must do on anyone’s bucket list.

Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?

Inflatable rafts are great for outdoor adventures like camping trips, white water rapid rafting, or fishing.

Whether the trip is amongst friends, co workers or family, you can be guaranteed to have a great time while you are enjoying nature on the water.

All of the rafts on our Top 7 Best Inflatable Whitewater Rafts are versatile, easy to use and tons of fun, like the BRIS 1.2mm PVC 15’ Whitewater Raft.

With our comprehensive guide, you can be assured that you are getting the right raft that fits perfectly into your skill level and activity preference.

Get out there and get rafting!

should you buy?