8 Best Inflatable Boats | March 2017

8 Best Inflatable Boats
Best Mid-Range
★★★★★
Best High-End
★★★★
Best Inexpensive
★★★★
We spent 37 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Taking a trip out on the water has never been easier or more fun than with one of these inflatable boats. They work great for fishing; as emergency rafts, dinghies or tenders; or just for simply cruising your local river, lake or ocean. We've selected models suited for a range of uses and passengers so you can be sure to find one that meets your needs. Skip to the best inflatable boat on Amazon.
8
Kick back and relax in confidence with the Intex Mariner 4. While it is made with three layers of super tough, laminated PVC for added strength and longevity, it's also quite heavy, unfortunately, and therefore cumbersome to move about on land.
  • inflated keel for improved stability
  • us coast guard-approved
  • included oars are flimsy
Brand INTEX
Model 68376EP
Weight 98 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0
7
The unique Airhead Angler Bay is lightweight and has a movable seat. It's constructed from high-quality vinyl with electronically-welded seams, and though it's equipped with wraparound grab lines, they're a bit hard to reach for most people.
  • multiple molded drink holders
  • limited warranty only lasts one year
  • capacity is smaller than it looks
Brand Airhead
Model AHIBF-06
Weight 45.4 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0
6
The Solstice Sportster is a sturdy, marine-quality dinghy with an aluminum slat floor and a three-person, 595-pound capacity. Its heavy-duty, 3-ply fabric provides reliable protection from the elements. However, it's rather pricey.
  • accepts 4 hp gas or electric motors
  • three high-pressure air chambers
  • included pump is of poor quality
Brand Solstice
Model 21265
Weight 74.8 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
5
The Classic Accessories Colorado XT Pontoon offers removable storage options that include a total of 20 pockets and two insulated drink holders. Its rod holster can be mounted in six different positions for maximum versatility.
  • built-in wheels for easy transport
  • padded seat can swivel
  • not designed for strong rapids
Brand Classic Accessories
Model 69774
Weight 107.4 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0
4
A great choice for the seafaring-inclined child, the Aquavue Voyager is equipped with a transparent bottom, allowing for underwater exploration without actually getting wet. Its two air valves are suitable for use with hand or electric pumps.
  • includes a convenient pull rope
  • quick release for easy deflation
  • unfit for larger adults
Brand Sieco Design
Model pending
Weight 3.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0
3
Good for rivers and bays, the Bris BSG330 is constructed from durable 0.9-millimeter PVC, with an aluminum floor and a marine-quality plywood transom. Should you choose to attach an outboard motor, it can accommodate models up to 15 horsepower.
  • can be used as an emergency raft
  • can hold up to 1213 pounds
  • two aluminum bench seats
Brand Bris Boat
Model pending
Weight 130 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0
2
When deflated, the Sea Eagle 9 fits in its included storage bag, which is about the size of a large backpack. You can keep it in the trunk of your car for impromptu aquatic journeys, as it can be filled with air and fully assembled in just 15 minutes.
  • 1200 pound capacity
  • i-beam reinforced floor
  • impressively durable construction
Brand Sea Eagle
Model SE-9FD
Weight 74 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0
1
The rugged Bestway Hydro-Force Caspian features marine-grade plywood floorboards, a two-chamber construction with low-profile valves, and extended tail tubes for superior buoyancy to withstand the toughest of aquatic conditions.
  • has a nonslip surface
  • comfortably accommodates two adults
  • good value for its price
Brand Bestway
Model 65046
Weight 54.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

Buyer's Guide

A Rubber Band Of Brothers

Originally made from vulcanized rubber, modern inflatable boats for civilians are now typically made with PVC or vinyl. Although not nearly as puncture-resistant as vulcanized rubber, the standard for search-and-rescue missions and special operations, PVC and vinyl are much more flexible and lightweight.

For example, let's compare the Navy SEALs' "Zodiac", a rubber assault raft, with your average vinyl inflatable dinghy for fishing on the nearest lake. The former is designed for beyond-the-horizon transportation, stealth, and its ability to take a bullet in one or more of its eight distinct air chambers and remain afloat. The latter, with its average of three or four air chambers, is designed to not sink completely if you accidentally poke a hole in it with a fishing hook.

One person can drag ashore a PVC or vinyl boat, complete with tackle box and a cooler full of fish. One person cannot drag ashore 565 pounds of motorized, vulcanized rubber with a maximum payload of 1.4 tons designed to ferry Death itself across the River Styx.

In other words, vulcanized rubber may indeed be stronger than both PVC and vinyl put together, but it's also much heavier, which completely defeats the purpose of owning an inflatable boat to begin with.

Indeed, why buy an inflatable boat if you can't take it out by yourself from time to time?

To Hull And Back Again

We talked about the benefits of PVC and vinyl for those of us not running black ops in the Persian Gulf. Now let's talk a bit about the different kinds of hulls you might come across and the effects they may have on how and where you decide to use your inflatable boat.

Inflatable boats have three major types of hulls:

Flexible hulls with flexible floors for small boats less than three meters long allow for the most compact storage of all of the inflatable boats. Flexible hulls allow you to deflate your boat, fold, roll it, and stuff it into a carry bag sometimes small enough to fit inside a larger bag, such as a camping backpack. They are typically made of the same material as the rest of the boat. Most whitewater rafts have flexible hulls designed to bend to the will of the rocks.

Flexible hulls with rigid floors allow for sturdier boats while affording some flexibility for mounting waves. The floors usually consist of a handful of plywood or aluminum slats designed to prevent the boat from squeezing without sacrificing the benefits of bending bow to stern.

Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs) have hard, V-shaped hulls that allow them to navigate rougher waters, such as the open sea, with increased maneuverability and control. RIBs make for ideal search-and-rescue boats because not only can they cut through waves with ease, but their inflatable gunwale ensures the boat stays afloat in the event it takes on too much water during a mission.

In sum, don't take plywood floors whitewater rafting and don't take flexible floors on a rescue mission. The rest is up to you.

Rubber Ducky, You're Not The Only One

Anyone who has ever floated down a river on an inner tube will probably not be the least bit surprised to learn that the modern inflatable boat began with none other than Charles Goodyear, the chemist and engineer after whom Frank Seiberling named his famous tire company.

In 1838, approximately 2,500 years after Mesoamericans invented stabilized rubber to make balls for sport, Goodyear invented his own more sophisticated process for curing rubber called vulcanization, named after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

Over the years, thanks to its amazing properties, vulcanized rubber has provided us with all sorts of rubbery inventions that we often take for granted, such as shoe soles, conveyor belts, rubber duckies and squeaky dog toys. But before shopping cart wheels drove us utterly insane with their uncanny ability to veer to the left at the most inopportune moments, vulcanized rubber gave the United Kingdom's Royal Navy its very first inflatable boat, the Halkett boat.

Designed in 1845 by Lieutenant Peter Halkett, the Halkett boat was a step up from the Duke of Wellington's inflatable pontoons. Not only could it be carried in a knapsack, but it doubled as a waterproof blanket for explorers caught camping on wet ground. However, despite the boat's many features, the Admiralty deemed the boat unfit for general use in the Royal Navy and limited its use to survey expeditions. It was not until the Titanic sunk in 1912 that everyone, including the Royal Navy, began to take inflatable boats very seriously.

Since then, inflatable boats have become not only the standard for lifeboats, replacing the Titanic's fancy wooden clunkers, but also the standard for military assault rafts, giving us the Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft, the aptly nicknamed "Zodiac" that Hollywood directors love to feature in their war films.

Best of all, now you can have one, too. And you don't need to use it for invading exotic lands, if you don't want to.



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Last updated on March 16, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.


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