Inflatable boats are widely used by boaters because of their simplicity and flexibility. Inflatable boats have the ultimate advantage in storage ability compared to other boats because they can be deflated and stored or transported in a compact space.
Just because they are inflatable does not mean they are kids’ toys; inflatable boats are used in some of the harshest environments including near rocky shores because they are more resilient than aluminum or fiberglass. Inflatable boats are the choice of Navy SEALS or Marine Raiders for certain missions, but they are just as practical for teenagers or adults looking for an easy way to paddle around a lake.
Best Inflatable Boats
Here’s our picks for the 10 best inflatable boats.
The Intex Excursion 5 is a great inflatable boat for lakes or rivers and streams with a light current. The best feature of this boat is that it carries up to five adults, making it a great choice for parties or short adventures with your family or friends. This boat does not have a rigid transom for a motor, so the boat is entirely hand-powered by the included oars.
- Three air chambers including an auxiliary air chamber in the hull for extra buoyancy.
- Boston valve for quick-fill & fast deflate.
- Includes a motor mount fitting.
Inflatable pontoon boats are very popular because the pontoons offer stability and a great view of the water due to the high seating platform. The rigid plastic seat is a serious plus for longer trips. While this boat is limited to only one seat, many families like them so much they will buy two or more of these boats and travel as a flotilla.
- Comfortable molded plastic fold-down seat.
- Includes zippered armrest pockets and rear storage platform.
- Rides High for Improved Visibility
The Intex Seahawk 3 is a great choice for teenagers or adults and supervised children looking for the ultimate lake swimming accessory. The 790-pound capacity is plenty for carrying kids and gear for a long day on the lake.
- Designed with heavy-duty puncture-resistant PVC for comfort and durability and an inflatable I-beam floor.
- Includes two 48 inch aluminum oars and a high-output pump for easy inflation and deflation.
- Over 9 feet long with a maximum weight capacity of 790 pounds
The BRIS 15.4 Inflatable Boat is a serious boat for serious conditions. This boat is plenty strong for mounting a gas or electric outboard motor and can carry up to 9 adults. This boat is closest to the rigid inflatable boats use by Navy SEALS or Marine Raiders, and the BRIS 5.4 inflatable can handle any conditions recreational boaters might attempt.
- Made with 1.2mm PVC fabric with polyester support for excellent resistance to tearing.
- All seams are heat welded for durability.
- Features durable marine plywood transom and five individual chambers
The Intex Explorer 200 is a great accessory for large pools or lake swim areas. It has two separate air compartments for safety, and it includes oars and an air pump.
- 2 person inflatable boat.
- Includes two French oars.
- Includes a mini air pump.
The PEXMOR Inflatable Dinghy Boat in 7.5 or 10 feet model length is a lot of boat for your money. Simply inflate the boat with the included foot pump and four adults can cruise calm waterways with the included oars. The boat comes with a convenient carrying case so it can be deflated and packed away for easy storage or travel.
- Includes hard floorboards for comfort and safety.
- Includes two built-in fishing rod holders.
- Transom built for up to 10hp motor.
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is a great value for those who prefer the convenience of an inflatable with the smooth ride of a kayak. Kayaks are great for getting around the water with ease because they ride on top of the water. Inflatables are
- Cockpit built for two adults features inflatable seats with backrests.
- Removable underwater skeg adds directional stability.
- Inflates to 10 feet long with 400-pound weight capacity, deflates into a small package that fits in a trunk.
This Dinghy Tender from Brine Marine is USCG rated, which is an important consideration when using an inflatable boat on regulated waterways such as navigable rivers or the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). With a 5hp motor, this boat should carry three people between 5-10 mph for extended distances. Most states require registration for any boat using a gas motor, so be sure to check local regulations.
- USCG Rated for Up to 3 people and 5hp motor.
- Roll up slat floor designed for easy setup.
- No leak guarantee-2 year limited bow to stern warranty.
The PackFish Inflatable Boat is a serious inflatable boat for fishing. This boat includes everything an angler needs to get on the fish including large tackle storage compartments, fishing rod holders, and oarlocks. One of the best and most unique features is that the boat collapses into a backpack with straps, making this boat a perfect way to get to the fish in remote mountain lakes.
- Maximum capacity 1 person or 300 pounds.
- Less than five minutes of inflation & assembly time.
- Includes a foot pump and carrying backpack.
The Max4out Inflatable Fishing Dinghy can be used for many purposes, but this design is especially useful as a dinghy for transit to/from boats at moorings or making trips ashore from boats or yachts at anchorage.
- Solid transom for mounting a motor.
- Solid floor panels for comfort and safety.
- Solid bench seats for seating multiple adults while ferrying between destinations.
Buyers’ Guide – Finding the Right Inflatable Boat for You
Inflatable boats offer serious choices for boaters wishing to tackle the toughest conditions, or they can be the simplest and most economical choices for those who just want to get out on the water.
Inflatable boats generally offer economic versatility, with excellent boats built for purposes such as fishing or dinghy ferries on larger boats, there are some concerns and limitations with all inflatable boats that must be understood by the buyer.
All of these limitations can be understood and managed, making inflatable boats a long-lasting and practical choice for many boating purposes.
Common Limitations and Concerns
Air Leaks – Every inflatable boat is prone to leaking, especially over long periods. This does not make inflatable boats unsafe. Inflatable boats have design characteristics such as compartmentalized chambers that minimize the risk of air leaks and make the boat more resilient, which is why inflatable boats are preferred over fiberglass or aluminum in harsh conditions. Most inflatable boats are filled with air into compartmentalized separate chambers. If one chamber springs a leak or suffers a catastrophic large tear, the other chambers remain intact and the boat still floats. Small leaks or large tears are easily fixed outside of the water with repair kits that are included with most inflatable boats. Small leaks are also easily countered by pumping in more air. For that reason, many boaters will carry the air pump with them on the water, so that slow leaks can be replaced without worry.
Seating Comfort – Inflatable boats with inflatable seats or benches may not be comfortable after an hour or so on the water. The best inflatable boat seats are hard or rigid plastic seats or benches. Inflatable seats can be comfortable, but it is a matter of maintaining proper inflation to the passenger’s comfort.
Accessories – There is a way to mount most boating accessories such as anchors, motors, or fish finders, although the appropriate accessory for an inflatable boat may be different than a fiberglass boat. Many inflatable boats have solid wood or plastic transoms that can mount an outboard motor, but care must be taken so that the motor is not too heavy or powerful for the boat. Anchors are very important in inflatable boats because they are lightweight with large surfaces above the waterline which makes them prone to being moved by the slightest breeze. However, large, heavy, or sharp anchors are a poor choice in an inflatable boat. Instead, try the Dyna Living Drift Sock Drogue Anchor. It is made entirely of nylon and anchors the boat by creating drag in the water.
What Inflatable Boats Are Great For
With those concerns in mind, inflatable boats are a great choice for the following applications:
Small inflatable boats make a great companion while swimming in lakes or large pools. They are used as safety/flotation devices for a break when needed, or as a diving board. For swimmers who want to take a break in the shade or carry refreshments with them, lightweight boats like the Intex Explorer 200 are a great choice.
Inflatable craft such as the Sea Eagle PackFish Inflatable Boat or the Classic Accessories Roanoke Inflatable Pontoon Boat are best for fishing because they allow access to places other boats cannot reach. Fishing in an inflatable allows the fisherman or fisherwoman to get as close as possible to the fish while still offering protection from snakes, plants, bugs, and other hazards. Many lakes restrict access to hand-powered boats or have no boat ramps, so inflatable boats are a great way to get access to under-fished lakes or streams.
Large boats or yachts often have difficulty reaching some docks because of their size. Carrying an inflatable boat such as the Max4out Inflatable Boat Fishing Dinghy on a large boat is practical and economical because it allows the large boat to remain at anchor and avoid paying hefty slip fees while transiting to restaurants or other attractions. Carrying or towing an inflatable boat also has the added benefit of serving as a life raft in case of emergency.
Inflatable boats such as the BRIS 15.4 are the best boats for industrial uses or rocky shores and rivers. This is where inflatable boats earned their fame because aluminum or fiberglass boats would be quickly beaten up under these conditions. Inflatable boats are like riding in an all-around airbag, making boating in these conditions a complete non-issue.