The 5 Best Inflatable Boats [Ranked]
An inflatable boat is a portable boat that you can set up and take down quickly. They’re ideal for recreation, fishing, and light boating activities (Source).
How Do They Work?
Inflatable boats utilize tubes that you fill with air. Typically assembly of an inflatable boat takes about 20 minutes (Source).
When choosing an inflatable boat, experts recommend you ask several questions before making your purchase, such as how you’re going to use the boat, whether you need a motor, and how often will you be storing it.
Also, be sure to take a look at the material that’s used in the construction of your boat because that will determine how durable it is and for what applications it’s best used (Source).
Comparing The Options
How Do They Compare
Here, we take a look at five boats, which are perfect for lazy days in the water.
- The Intex Explorer 2-person boat is a small craft designed for two people. This boat is meant for calm waters such as a lake or pool. It comes with two oars, a mini air pump, and a patch kit. Although the PVC construction makes for a lightweight design, some users complained that pet claws and debris easily puncture it. Overall, this is a boat built for fun and not for the serious boater.
- The Intex Excursion is a step up from the Explorer as this model is designed to fit five people. This model includes three air chambers along with an auxiliary air chamber for added stability and buoyancy. Like the previous model, this comes with a set of aluminum oars and a pump. This is another excellent boat for calmer waters, but some users say it’s difficult to row and control and it’s recommended you also purchase a small trolling motor to use instead of rowing.
- The Seahawk by Intex is a 2-person boat that’s designed for rowing, although it does include a motor mount for a small trolling motor. Like the previous boats, this one is better in calm waters or a pool. Users maintained that the quality of the boat is high, but fitting two adults comfortably is a bit of a stretch; a better fit is one adult and a child.
- Next up, also by Intex, is the Challenger, which is another 2-person craft that comes with French oars, and a motor mount. Like the other Intex boats, this one also uses the three-chamber design for stability and buoyancy. Boston valves make for easy inflation/deflation. Comes with a pump, but no patch kit.
- Last up is the Goplus inflatable dinghy, which is designed for up to four people. This boat is made from 3 layer PVC material and is a little more rugged than the previous boats. Also, this boat features a hard deck, which makes it easier to stand in and very stable. It comes with oars and a motor mount. While the other boats we looked at are mainly for light recreation, this one is better if you’re using it in rougher waters. The downside to this boat can be cumbersome to store and takes a while to inflate/deflate.
Best Inflatable Boats For 2018
Ease Of Use
This 2-person boat offered by Intex is well-made, easy to control, and an excellent choice for pools and calm waters. Users love the design and that it’s comfortable to paddle around, but some do note that it’s thinner than they expected.
The Intex Explorer measures 73” x 16” x 37”, and it features two oars, a mini air pump, a repair patch, and a two air chambers. Another great thing about this product is that it has welded oar locks in addition to a grab rope on the bow. What’s more, the floor is inflatable for maximum comfort, and it has a 210-pound capacity.
As a whole, users have a favorable opinion of the Explorer 200, and they are satisfied with its performance, durability, and safety.
A reviewer comments that he used four of Intex boats on Lake Michigan daily for a week and that he was astonished by the quality of the material. He adds that they are big enough to fit 2-3 kids and that he highly recommends them as the best inflatable boats available.
Another buyer states that it’s slightly tricky to navigate in a lake, but once you get used to it, you’d have a lovely time. A purchaser also mentions that the mini pump is easy to use and that it inflates the Explorer 200 quickly. However, a couple of customers have complained that the product leaks and that doesn’t hold air very well. Some also point out that it arrived without the mini pump or the oars.
Ease Of Use
If you are planning a lake vacation and you want to go paddling, you might take a look at this inflatable boat set offered by Intex.
Users love the two welded oar locks, but some do note that it’s not as well-made as they expected. The Intex Excursion 5 features three air chambers, which include an auxiliary chamber in the hull, a Boston valve on the hull chambers to make inflating and deflating quick/easy, and all-around grab line.
Another great thing about this product is that it’s made of super-tough vinyl construction in addition to the inflatable seats and floor. What’s more, it’s US Coast Guard approved, and it comes with a hi-output manual pump.
A reviewer shares that the seating is far more comfortable than he expected and that the inflatable boat is roomy, but it can fit 2-3 people and a kid at most. He adds that he loves the four fishing pole holders, but he would also have liked cup holders. Another use comments that inflating and deflating the Excursion doesn’t take long and that it performs well in the water.
A purchaser also observes that it’s easy to row it around a lake and that it’s light, but sturdy and doesn’t take much space once deflated.
However, a couple of customers have complained that the Excursion 5 is a disappointment because the material is thin and as a result, it starts to leak after a couple of times in the water. Some also note that they have issues with the pump.
Ease Of Use
This 2-person inflatable boat offered by Intex is comfortable, well-designed, and perfect for children and adults alike. Users love the price and the two built-in fishing rod holders, but some do note that it’s too small.
The Intex Seahawk features two quick-fill Boston valves, motor mount fittings, which is great because you can add a trolling motor, a grab handle on the bow, and oar holders. Another great thing about this product is that it has three air chambers including an auxiliary one inside the hull. What’s more, the 2-person boat has an all-around grab line, and it comes with a repair patch kit.
In general, buyers have a high opinion of the Intex Seahawk, and they praise its design, performance, and stability.
A reviewer comments that it doesn’t take long to inflate the boat and that it’s comfortable, but it would be too small for two adults. He adds that it arrived well-packed with no visible damage and that he highly recommends it as one of the best cheap inflatable boats.
Another user mentions that the raft is big enough to fit her and her boyfriend along with a travel bag and that she is surprised by its quality. A purchaser also states that the included patch kit is a nice bonus and that the boat is light and made of durable plastic. However, a couple of customers have complained that it doesn’t hold air very well and that it’s hard to paddle. Some also point out that fishing hooks might pierce the material.
Ease Of Use
If you’re looking for cheap inflatable boats for fishing, you might take a look at the Challenger 2 set offered by Intex. Users love the inflatable floor, but some do note that it’s not as easy to row it as they expected.
The Intex Challenger 2 features rugged vinyl construction, three air chambers (auxiliary one included for safety), and two quick inflate/deflate Boston valves.
Another great thing about this product is that it has oar holders in addition to grab handle on the bow with all-around grab line. What’s more, the Challenger 2 has motor-mount fittings, 48” French oars, and a high-output pump. The maximum load capacity is 374 lbs.
A buyer shares that he tested the Challenger inflatable boat on a four-day camping trip and that it performed far better than he hoped. He adds that the pump works well and that there are no leaks so far. A reviewer also states that the size is perfect for two teenage kids and that the boat folds easily into a compact shape, perfect for a canvas bag. Another purchaser observes that it deflates quickly and that it’s ideal for padding around a lake.
However, some customers have noted that they don’t like the oars and that they are too short and flimsy to do the job.
Ease Of Use
This inflatable boat offered by Goplus is well-made, high-quality, and available in 2-person and 4-person model. Users love the color options and the heavy-duty grab rope, but some do note that it’s expensive. The Goplus features three layers of 0.9 mm PVC material, which is anti-aging, wear-resistant, and protected against corrosion.
In addition to this, it has durable marine wood floors, separate air chambers, a light keel, and V-shaped hull. Another great thing about this product is that it has thickened anti-collusion strips in addition to a marine sealant to prevent leaking. What’s more, it has a one-year warranty and a weight capacity of 400 lbs. (2-person)/ 900 lbs.(4-person).
A buyer observes that the pump the Goplus dinghy boat in less than 10 minutes and that it’s easy to move it around even without deflating. He adds that he is surprised by the craftsmanship and that it seems quite durable.
Another user shares that the 2-person model fits an adult and a child comfortably and that it holds air very well. A purchaser mentions that the quality is far superior that he expected and that he highly recommends it as one of the best inflatable boats available.
However, some customers have complained that the description is not accurate and that the product they received didn’t have all the features. A few have also pointed out that it’s hard to row.
In particular, he wanted something that was easily portable in a car or truck and something that would inflate quickly when he gets on-site to the water way.
One user suggested investing in a small aluminum boat instead of an inflatable one, but other users were skeptical, saying that inflatable options are more comfortable and safer than aluminum ones.
If you are concerned about comfort, one user says that he supplemented with bean bags to make boating more amenable.
Another user says that he purchased a v-hull, fiberglass RIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable) boat for his local harbor.
It was important to purchase the ‘v’ because the enhanced rigidity and weight helps him to pierce through the choppy bay.
In his experience, they are safe and affordable options, but you do have to be careful about punctures. This is especially the case when you’re storing it as well as inserting it and extracting it from the water.
He also advises that, if you’re considering an air-deck or plank floor you’ll want to invest in a high-quality, high-pressure pump to deal with the floor/keel.
To his mind, there are a couple other styles of options available including a small aluminum boat, a portable, foldable boat, and a Rigid Hull fiberglass dinghy/tender.
Another user suggested purchasing a 12-volt inflator and deflator tool- this is clearly superior to relying on a foot pump.
Another person had some thoughts about sizing considerations – saying that a 9-foot option would be a little bit cramped for two people, but it is doable on calm waters. In terms of attaching the outboard motor to it, if you don’t mind getting your feet wet, this Reddit user says, the easiest method for doing so would be just to go into the water and clamp it onto the back.
Another Redditor said that Saturns are ideal budget boats but in their experience, they are a hassle to pack up – they ended up purchasing an aluminum option and carrying it around with a trailer hitch on their car.
Another Reddit user asked the boating community about an ideal setup. He wanted something that would collapse inside of his sedan’s trunk.
He was deciding between purchasing a more expensive branded option or going off-brand- saying that the cost of shipment shouldn’t be too much because he found a bunch of local sellers.
The other challenge he was facing, he described himself as clueless about outboard motors. Specifically, he wanted to buy something used but was concerned about ensuring that it was high-quality enough to last for the longterm.
Another thing he was struggling with was the horsepower strength of the outboard motor- wondering whether a 5 horsepower option would be strong enough to deal with four people or whether he should invest in something stronger. One user suggested buying the Intex Mariner 4- saying that if you want to fish and relax this is it an ideal option
An experienced boater said that a 6-8 horsepower outboard motor would be strong enough for one or two people.
In terms of purchasing a brand or off-brand option, while many of them look identical, the real difference comes down to the manufacturing quality.
Specifically, it’s the glues that are used- and you can’t tell from a stock product photo the level of adhesive quality. Top quality brands, in his opinion, are ones like Honwave, while more budget-friendly options are things like Saturn and Bris.
Some Basic Questions
Another novice and inexperienced boater had some basic questions. He says that he and his family go camping on a small lake and decided to take up voting as a fun, new hobby.
He purchased the Excursion 5 boat and acquired a trolling motor from his father, but needed to acquire a battery and a mount.
One person advised that you probably don’t need the power center to connect, though he suggested purchasing a larger battery than a 12 volt.
He explained that when he was a child that his family had a 35lb thrust motor combined with a large marine battery- he was able to get up to five hours of use per charge.
Another user said that if you’re charging from solar panels, a 35Ah battery would probably charge in around 4 hrs from something like a 100W solar panel.
Another user advised providing more information about the type of trolling motor- saying that if it 12 volts, for instance, you’d want a battery that would supply 90ah and give you 150 reserve minutes.
He says that you don’t want to skimp on the battery- if it is too small you can end up stuck out on the lake without any way of getting back to shore.
Another interesting tidbit he provided is that if the waterway lacks onshore power supplies, solar option will be your best bet, but that can be expensive and really slow to charge.