It seems that the weather has made an almost immediate change and the sun is now shining brightly as I sit here writing this review. Looking at the sun made me start daydreaming about getting into the great outdoors and what’s more fun on a sunny day than hitting the water?
But if you’re going to get nautical then you need a vessel, right? If you want something you can easily take with you on any adventure then an inflatable boat is an excellent option. However, you only need to look at the online market to see that the options are seemingly endless. How is anyone supposed to find what they’re looking for?
That’s something you won’t need to worry about as I have taken the time to check out several inflatable boats. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 7 inflatable boats and I’ll be including some handy buying tips to make sure that you get the most bang for your buck. Before you know it, you’ll be heading out onto the water without a care in the world.
Inflatable Boats - 7 Top Picks
As I mentioned, there are a lot of inflatable boats to choose from and while it’s always good to have a choice, this can make it more difficult to make a final decision. After pitting lots of boats against one another, these are the seven that I thought really stood out.
OUR TOP PICK
I think that this is an excellent choice for families as the boat has capacity for five people and up to 455kg. If you’re looking for something for a weekend adventure with your loved ones, it’s perfect. But not only is it large, it’s also incredibly durable. The Intex Excursion is made from vinyl which promises to remain rugged and robust outing after outing.
I’d also recommend the Intex Excursion for people who don’t want to mess around when it comes to set up. This boat consists of three air chambers that are quick and easy to fill. With Boston valves, you’ll also find that deflating the boat is a cinch as well. And if you’re looking for something extremely buoyant, you won’t be disappointed.
The boat does come with strong aluminium oars however, there isn’t a motor mount which does limit your options when it comes to how you can use this one. That said, it is possible to buy an add on from Intex that allows you to attach a motor but of course, this does mean spending a little extra cash.
No motor mount
Easy to set up and deflate
Comes with robust aluminium oars
Lightweight and portable
Won’t easily puncture even in rocky water
Let me start by saying that, yes, this is one of the most expensive boats on this list so you will need to be willing to invest. However, it’s a very robust and well built vessel that will stand the test of time so it’s actually excellent value for money when you think about it.
The Aqua Marina Aircat features a hard deck that allows for excellent stability as well as being spacious enough for several people. Do keep in mind that there is a 400kg weight limit so you’ll need to consider the weight of your equipment as well as the people on board.
The boat is made from high quality materials and is welded for extra strength and protection. The boat boasts the latest in drop stitch technology. What this means for you is a more rigid and stable boat that will do well out on the sea.
Generous weight capacity
Large deck space
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this boat, I have to point out that it isn’t going to be suitable for more demanding activities. I’d recommend this extremely affordable boat to people who just want something simple for a fun family weekend by the lake.
It’s a two person boat so isn’t the largest but it’s one of the most lightweight on this list at just a little over 3kg so it’s brilliantly easy to transport. This boat features an inflatable floor so won’t have the stability of a hard floor boat but on shallow water where you’re teaching the kids to enjoy boating, it’s an amazing beginner vessel.
The INtex Explorer Pro is fitted with Boston valves so inflating and deflating takes no time at all. Even if you’re just spending a couple of hours on the water, you won’t spend half of this getting set up. However, I should point out that you will need to buy any accessories separately as this is sold as just the boat.
Lightweight and portable
Great for families
Not suitable for anything other than simple sailing on still water
Easy to set up and deflate
Grab line all around boat
BEST FOR FISHING
If you’re keen to get out on the river or lake for a spot of fishing then you need a boat that’s got features that will make your life easier. This inflatable boat from Hzexun really does have it all. For starters, you’ll notice the rod holders which will free up your hands to do other things. There’s also a whole host of other accessories included like cushions, oars, an anchor and safety ropes, among others. If you’re looking for a complete package, I would recommend this one.
This boat is made from PVC and offers very good durability. It’ll stand up to more rugged waters where there are a lot of rocks without tearing or puncturing easily. It also comes with an oxford fabric cover for protection when it’s not in use.
This is a lightweight boat that’s easy to set up but there’s one thing I noticed that lets it down slightly. That is the lack of a motor mount. The boat does come with oars but if you had a motor you wouldn’t have to work as hard to get from one part of the lake to another. It’s not a deal breaker but something to consider.
Very strong fabric
No motor mount
Seats 2 to 4 people (various boat sizes available according to this)
Lightweight and portable
Comes with lots of accessories including rod holders
Anti collision and resistant to wear
BEST ENTRY LEVEL BOAT
If you are only going to be using your boat for a few lazy days on the lake and don’t need something with a whole host of features, then this is a great choice. It’s perfect for newcomers to boating who want a simple boat that allows them to get used to being on the water.
Outsunny is a well known outdoor brand so you know you can trust the quality. Plus, this is a very affordable model so you won’t break the bank which is great news all around!
The PVC material is incredibly strong but just in case, the boat does come with a repair kit and a few other handy accessories. You’ll also be pleased to know that if a leak or puncture does occur, the boat is designed with 11 air chambers so you can rest assured that it’ll stay afloat while you get it back to shore for repairs.
This is only a two person boat with a maximum capacity of 180kg so it’s not suitable for families. However, it’s lightweight and so easy to set up since the air pump is included (great value for money!)
Great value for money
Small with a lower weight capacity
Easy to set up
Durable materials and repair kit included
Incredibly safe thanks to 11 air chamber design
BEST FOR GETTING FROM A TO B
Some people require an inflatable boat for simply getting from one place to another and in this case, you’ll want something durable and lightweight. The SUPremacy Tourer really does give you everything you’re looking for and is ideal for adventurers.
The boat seats three people so is perfect for small groups but the load capacity is only 230kg which isn’t quite as much as some others in the same range. Moreover, you should keep in mind that it is best suited for two adults and one child so it does make a good choice for small families.
The SUPremacy Tourer really stands out where durability is concerned. It’s made from nylon which is strong in itself but the boat also benefits from being anti-corrosive and resistant to all types of water. That said it doesn’t have any UV protection so you will need to make sure you store it correctly in order to get the longest life out of it.
Comes with an air pump
No UV protection
Lightweight and easy to transport
Low weight capacity
Seats three people
3 air chambers
Fins included for better stability
BEST FOR SINGLES
It’s fun to share your time on the water with other people but sometimes, you just want to get away from it all and enjoy some alone time. That’s where I would recommend this single person kayak for some real me time. That said, the same boat does come in a two person option, if this is something you would prefer.
In any case, the AQUATEK kayak is a really robust piece of equipment made from PVC and using drop stitch air flooring. What I also love about this one is how secure the air valves are; they’re incredibly tight so there’s hardly any chance of losing air no matter what you put the kayak through.
You get a very good number of accessories with this one which includes an air pump, carry bag, inflatable seats and paddles. If this is your first inflatable boat, you’ll have everything you need to get started. That said, I did notice that this boat is slightly heavier than some others which could make it trickier to transport.
Comes with accessories
Durable and well made
Great for single adults
Very stable on the water
Things To Consider When Buying An Inflatable Boat
The boats I have included in this guide are all brilliant quality and well worth considering. However, you do need to think about various features because not all boats are going to be suitable for all users. In this part of the guide, I’ll be providing you with some information on what you’ll need to think about before settling on a boat.
How Much Use Will You Get Out Of The Boat?
If you’re going to use your boat more frequently, then you’re going to want to buy something that’s better constructed and made from more robust materials. I’ll go into more detail on build quality and materials later on but don’t be tempted to buy something more affordable at the risk that it won’t be as durable and able to stand up to the challenge of more intense use. You’ll only end up spending more on repairs or even buying a replacement.
On the flip side, if you’re only looking for something to use every now and then, you won’t need to worry so much about the materials. Of course, you’re still going to want something durable but it won’t need to withstand quite as much wear and tear.
It doesn’t take me to tell you that the more people you want to carry in the boat, the larger it will need to be. But what a lot of people forget to think about is how much other stuff they’ll be carrying. If you’ve got a lot of gear to transport as well, you’re going to need to buy a larger capacity boat to fit everything in.
It’s also worth looking to see if the boat comes with any storage space, such as under the seats. But what’s most important is weight capacity. This information will be given on the listing and it’s essential that you don’t overload the vessel.
How You’ll Use The Boat
The choices when it comes to inflatable boats are staggering. There is literally a type of inflatable boat for every occasion. What might work well for one person may be an inconvenience to another so it’s really important to think about how you’ll use the boat and this will allow you to make a more suitable decision on the type of boat that has the most appropriate features.
If you’re planning on using your boat purely for recreational purposes; perhaps a short break on a lake, then you won’t need anything too advanced. A typical raft would be more than enough. There are different sizes but it’s easy to come across those that are designed for a family as well as some basic equipment. If you wanted to motorise the boat, then pretty much all models can accommodate this.
However, if you’re going to go fishing out on the lake then your boat could do with being a little bigger to take all of your gear. What’s more, in this instance, I’d always advise choosing a boat with a motor as this will free you up to concentrate on fishing instead of having to row the boat. You will also find that there are fishing boats with rod holders and other features that can make life easier so these are worth looking out for. Also think about the type of flooring as hard floored boats are usually better for angling since they make moving around the boat less of a hassle.
For people who want to take their boat out on the river there are some more detailed things that you’ll need to think about. For example, you’re probably going to have to take far more equipment so you’ll need something slightly bigger. Moreover, rivers can be quite testing environments with lots of rocks and obstacles so your boat needs to be made with strong materials that can handle this.
Some people want to buy an inflatable boat simply as a means of transport but if you do this then you’ll want something of a higher quality. Boats like this typically come with a hard floor and can have a motor mounted which makes getting from A to B much quicker. What’s more, hard floor boats tend to be more stable on choppy water so they’re perfect if you’ll be using the boat on the sea.
The same kinds of features should be available if you’re using a boat as a tender for something bigger. You’ll almost certainly want a motor so look for those that have a mount for this and a hard floor is a must. That said, for going very short distances, an affordable inflatable dinghy might suffice.
If you’re feeling very adventurous and want something for whitewater rating then you must choose a boat specially designed for this purpose. These boats are built with waves, sharp rocks and other things in mind so they’re much more robust.
As well as how you’re going to use the boat, you will also need to think about where you are going to use it as this will also influence your final decision. For example, some inflatable boats are not suitable for use on the sea as they’re not designed for saltwater and they may not be designed to handle choppy waters or waves. Make sure that the boat you choose has features in line with the type of water you’ll sail it on.
Materials And Build Quality
I’ve mentioned materials and build quality a few times already in this buyer’s guide but it really is one of the most important things to consider when buying an inflatable boat. When it comes to materials, you’ll normally have two choices; hypalon or PVC. As with anything, there are plus points and downsides to each material so getting to know more about them will help you make a decision.
Hypalon is much more durable than PVC. This is a type of synthetic rubber and one of the great things about it is that it won’t give into wear and tear and shows very little sign of deterioration even when used for a long time. What’s more, it’s resistant to so many things including chemicals and UV rays as well as extreme temperatures.
But you must consider that these features do mean you will have to invest a little more to buy a boat made with hypalon. In most cases, you can expect to pay double the price you would for a similar boat made from PVC.
So, it’s clear that PVC won’t set you back as much and there are some other good things about these boats. For starters, PVC can be coated so that the material is better protected against UV rays making it more durable. Modern PVC inflatable boats have come a long way from what you used to get but they’re still not quite as robust as hypalon.
You see, PVC will only last around a decade and over time, it will start to show signs of deterioration. In days gone by, PVC boats were almost always glued but this caused problems when they were exposed to hotter temperatures as this would cause the glue to break down. Modern models are now typically welded so they are a little stronger.
In terms of build quality, what you want to be looking at is how the boat is bonded together. More often than not, you’ll find that they are glued since this method works well regardless of the material. The problem is that there is a higher chance of leaks down the line.
Some boats are welded and this does create a stronger bond. Moreover, since the seams overlap when using this method, they’re far more high quality. But there is a problem with this and that is that the welded seams can weaken or even crack. Although this typically only happens if you fold them too frequently.
Finally, where build is concerned, you must think about the type of floor that the boat has. There are three types to choose from and as with everything else, there are pros and cons to each.
The roll up floor is normally used for boats that will be used for leisure and is ideal since it is portable and incredibly lightweight. However, it isn’t going to work well for things like river boats and fishing.
Hard floor boats are much more stable but since they’re made with things like marine plywood and aluminium, they’re a lot heavier. You should also keep in mind that they take longer to set up than a roll up floor, although not by too much.
You might opt for an air floor but don’t be fooled into thinking that they are some kind of flimsy flooring. Modern air floors are high pressure and offer excellent stability and rigidity.
Storage And Transport
You’re going to need to be able to easily get your boat to the water and back again so looking at how easy it will be to transport is essential. One of the great things about inflatable boats is that they’re a lot more portable than other types of vessel. It is possible to deflate the boat and transport it flat or you can pop it on a trailer or roof rack fully inflated. It depends on the facilities and space your vehicle has.
If you are going to transport the boat deflated then make sure that it comes with a carry bag to make it more portable.
When you’re not using the boat, it is again possible to store it either deflated or inflated. That said, I would recommend deflating it as it just makes life easier and won’t take up as much room. Unless you’ve got an empty garage or something similar where you can store the inflated boat, it’s just going to get in the way. That said, if you do keep it inflated just be mindful of anything around the boat that could puncture it.
It’s also never a good idea to store your boat somewhere in full sun as the UV rays can cause damage. While most boats are pretty resistant to this, there’s a limit to everything.
If you’re keen to get outdoors and enjoy the rivers, lakes and coasts of the UK then there’s no better way to explore than by boat. An inflatable boat is a brilliant option for travelling as it’s lightweight and yet incredibly durable, provided you choose the right product.
I’ve included some of the best inflatable boats for fishing, sailing, sports and much more. Just remember to look at all of the features to make sure that the boat you choose is suitable for how you intend to use it. Happy sailing!