Inflatable boats are perfect for people of all ages and abilities looking for an easy, inexpensive, and high-quality boat that will last for decades. Good quality inflatable boats can be found in any sport shop and on Amazon, and a decent boat only costs around two-hundred dollars. These boats can easily be folded down and stored on a shelf and can weigh less than fifty pounds. Nowadays there is a huge selection of inflatable boats, making it easy to find one that fits your specific needs.
Rated: Best Inflatable Boats 2018 - 2019we rate these devices based on performance on the water and value
Types and Features
There are four main types of inflatable boats: Yacht tenders, roll-up sports boats, RIBs, and console RIBs.
Yacht tenders, also known as a “dinghy”, is intended to be used as a tender for a larger vessel. Yacht tenders can mount to a small trolling motor, be paddled or rowed, and can be used for fishing or just having fun in the water.
Roll-up sports boats offer the benefits of a sports boat with the easy stowage of a thingy. These are equipped with either a high-pressure air floor or a slatted deck, and have an inflexible keel, shallow V-shaped hull, and a solid transom for mounting an outboard motor. These boats are versatile in design and have a lively performance on the water. Once you remove the motor, you can roll up the boat for easy transportation and storage.
RIBs, or rigid inflatable boats, have a hard hull and are usually used in rescue missions. They are also known as rigged-hull inflatable boats, or RHIBs. The inflatable collar at the gunwale allows it to maintain buoyancy in very rough water. These boats are designed with a deep-V hydroplaning hull so that the can also perform as a ski boat.
The console RIB comes closest to a traditional boat out of the four types. This boat offers a full console with a steering system and power trim on the outboard motor. There are several options to choose from regarding seating arrangements and custom fit outs.
River rafts, canoes, catamarans, kayaks, and pontoon boats are also types of inflatable boats in their own category. The hulls on these boats have a high-tech PVC, polyurethane, Hypalon, or Neoprene fabric coating that is resistant to tears, punctures, UV rays, abrasions, and chemicals.
The most popular of these is the river raft, which is great for both fishing and recreational river floating. River rafts are both affordable and versatile.
Canoes and Kayaks are great for river fishing, and are the best choice for recreationally floating rivers. They are excellent for long river floats and good for flat water paddling. There are some basic differences between canoes and kayaks that are important to know.
A canoe is an open-deck boat that is ideal for families to use to leisure around calmer lakes. They can hold more people and supplies and typically paddlers use single-bladed paddles. Paddlers either sit on a seat or kneel when in a canoe.
A kayak is considered to be a type of canoe. Kayaks are closed-deck boats and hold fewer passengers and supplies than canoes. Paddlers use double-bladed paddles and are usually seated on the bottom of the boat with their legs stretched out in front of them. Kayaks are fast, sporty, and better for use in competitive water sports. Catamarans are multi-hull boats and are used for sailing and/or kayaking.
Pontoons are primarily used by anglers. They are excellent for fly fishing and lake fishing. More specialized designs are excellent for running Class IV and Class V rapids.
Hypalon vs. PVC
Hypalon and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) are the two most common types of material used to make inflatable boats.
PVC is the inexpensive and more popular choice for inflatable boats. It is a multi-layer fabric that is much stronger than the plastic used in pool toys. It is used in many lightweight, inflatable kayaks, canoes, and boats. New technology has made PVC a more rugged and reliable material, versus what is was several years ago. The seams can be either thermobonded or glued, and this material is standard in air floors. PVC is the best choice for boats that will be rolled up to be stored.
Hypalon is the Dupont trademark name for an exterior coating on neoprene rubber and vinyl fabric. It is extremely durable in both freezing and hot tropical climates. Hypalon is unaffected by UV light and salt water, and is resistant to oxidation, while PVC does not do well in extreme weather conditions. It is much more expensive than PVC and is used by professional search and rescue crews, the Navy Seals, and the Coast Guard. Hypalon is the better choice is you want to leave the boat inflated most of the time, and want a boat that will last longer than one made out of PVC.
Do You Need a Motor?
Depending on what exactly you want to use your inflatable boat for will determine whether or not you need a motor. For example, if you’re looking for a kayak, canoe, river raft, or anything that you want to paddle, you will not need a motor. However, if you are looking for a sports boat or a boat you can use for fishing, then you will need a motor. On most boats, the motor can be removed in order to deflate the boat and easily store and/or travel with it.