The 8 Best Inflatable Boats

Updated March 13, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Whether you're into fishing out on the lake, need to ferry supplies from shore to your mega yacht, or you prefer a raging rapids adventure with friends and family, one of these inflatable boats will be perfect for the job. Our selection includes models ideal for use as emergency rafts, dinghies, tenders, and general runabouts. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best inflatable boat on Amazon.

8. Airhead Angler Bay

Ideal for most fishing trips, the Airhead Angler Bay is a lightweight option with a movable seat, four built-in drain plugs, high-quality vinyl materials, and electronically-welded seams. The wraparound grab lines are rather difficult to reach, though.
  • multiple molded drink holders
  • supports up to 6 people
  • doesn't come with instructions
Brand Airhead
Model AHIBF-06
Weight 47.1 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

7. Aquavue Voyager

For the seafaring-inclined child, the Aquavue Voyager boasts a fully transparent bottom, allowing for underwater exploration without actually getting wet. Its two air valves have integrated backflow prevention, making them suitable for use with hand and electric pumps.
  • integrated pull rope
  • deflates in less than 60 seconds
  • dimensions are pretty small
Brand Sieco Design
Model pending
Weight 3.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

6. Sea Eagle 9

The removable, reinforced floor in the Sea Eagle 9 is made from extremely sturdy 38-millimeter Polykrylar, which is designed to provide superior impact, puncture, and tear resistance when going through rough waters. A high-capacity foot pump and repair kit are included.
  • nylon fabric outer sheath
  • can take a gas or electric motor
  • assembly is difficult
Brand Sea Eagle
Model SE-9FD
Weight 74 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

5. Intex Mariner 4

The Intex Mariner 4 is constructed with three layers of durable, laminated PVC for strength and longevity. A total of four Boston valves facilitate rapid fill-ups and deflation. Unfortunately, at nearly 100 pounds, getting it into the water is cumbersome.
  • inflated keel for improved stability
  • built-in rock guard
  • included oars are flimsy
Brand Intex
Model 68376EP
Weight 98 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Hydro-Force Mirovia Pro

The rugged Hydro-Force Mirovia Pro features marine-grade, resilient, and abrasion-resistant aluminum floorboards, allowing you to brave the toughest of aquatic conditions. Its four-chambered construction and extended tail tubes will ensure superior buoyancy.
  • has a nonslip surface
  • shock-absorbing strake
  • it's on the bulky side
Brand Bestway
Model 65049
Weight 146.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

3. Newport Dana

Capable of holding a 10-horsepower engine and up to three people at a time, the Newport Dana can reach a top speed of over 20 miles per hour in ideal weather conditions. The V-shaped keel and 18-inch tubes ensure smooth planing and stability when turning.
  • 2-year warranty
  • sturdy d-rings for towing
  • comes with a storage bag
Brand Newport Vessels
Model 20M1000017
Weight 116 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

2. Classic Accessories Colorado XT

The Classic Accessories Colorado XT is equipped with removable gear bags offering customizable storage options, including 20 pockets and two insulated drinks holders. An integrated rod support can be mounted in one of three different positions to keep the oars in place.
  • built-in wheels for easy transport
  • powder-coated steel frame
  • supports up to 400 pounds
Brand Classic Accessories
Model 69774
Weight 107.4 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Sport Boats Killer Whale

With extra-long rear pontoons and a reinforced transom, the Sport Boats Killer Whale accommodates large motors easily, while also providing superior stability, even when carrying heavy weight loads. The heat-welded seams withstand both salt and freshwater environments.
  • puncture-resistant pvc material
  • contoured design improves buoyancy
  • assembles in 10 minutes
Brand Inflatable Sport Boats
Model pending
Weight 146.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

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've 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 13, 2018 by Jeff Newburgh

A dedicated writer and communications professional spending his days lost in the intricacies of both proposal and freelance writing. When not sharing the knowledge of both fully and self-insured medical benefits to employer groups of all industries within California, Jeff Newburgh can be found at home spending time with his family and 3 dogs, pondering the next chew toy to be thrown, while kicking back and relaxing with a nice glass of red wine.

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