Best Inflatable Boats – Pumpin’ Watercraft
The best inflatable boats can help you explore bays, rivers, lakes, and coastlines more easily and more affordably. The problem is that there are a whole heap of different inflatable options available.
Boats. Pontoons. Dinghies. Rafts. The list goes on....
We know how important it can be to find the right vessel, so we’ve put this guide together to help you navigate through the various features and designs, whether you’re looking for a multi-use recreational vessel or a compact fishing boat.
Ok, let's get on with it 🙂
Our Top Picks:
9 Best Inflatable Boats, Rafts And Dinghies For Recreational Use
1: Sea Eagle FastCat (best overall)
The Sea Eagle FastCat is a durable catamaran-style boat that has a high weight capacity and room for up to two people. It features all-over high-pressure drop-stitch construction which can give it a more rigid feel and can make it faster and more efficient over the water.
It features four independent air chambers for added safety and it can be inflated in just 15 minutes. Another great feature is the non-slip EVA floor to make it safer and more comfortable for standing.
This is a stable boat that can be ideal for day-tripping or fishing, with universal Scotty mounting pads included so you can attach your own rod holders or other accessories (sold separately). There are D-rings as well, so you can attach other items or secure your gear.
It also features a transom for attaching a motor (included with certain packages), up to a 6 hp capacity.
2: Sea Eagle Rescue14 (best inflatable raft)
This Sea Eagle Rescue14 is a durable raft that is designed to be used as a rescue boat, with a high weight capacity and space for up to seven adults. Its bright orange color is highly visible and it also benefits from having a 6-inch rubbing strake and reflective strips around the entire boat.
It features five separate air chambers for increased safety and added buoyancy. However, if you choose the option with the plastic floor there will be four independent air chambers rather than five.
There are seven heavy-duty D-rings designed for rescue situations, as well as ⅝ inch grab lines.
This stable boat is also designed to handle a motor up to 40 hp with the plastic floorboards installed, or 25 hp with the inflatable drop-stitch floor installed. The rear pontoon tubes and rigid drop-stitch keel make planing easier, helping you to ride over waves for increased speed.
3: Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8 (best inflatable dinghy)
The Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8 is a compact and lightweight inflatable dinghy that can be ideal for exploring waterways as well as for use as a tender.
It features reinforced 1100 denier white PVC fabric which is resistant to both UV damage and punctures, with heat-welded seams for added durability.
The Shark comes with two aluminum oars and two aluminum bench seats. It has a high weight capacity, with room for up to five people. The aluminum floor is designed to slide easily into place and helps to add rigidity to the construction.
You can add your own motor (sold separately) up to a maximum of 15 hp. The V-shaped hull and inflatable keel can help improve performance, with the rear pontoon design helping to maximize planing for faster speeds.
4: Bris 15.4 Inflatable Rescue & Dive Raft (best heavy-duty inflatable boat)
This Bris 15.4 Inflatable Raft is a roomy, durable boat that is made out of 1.2 millimeter thick 2000 decitex PVC, with a double layer of fabric on the bottom for added protection from sand and rocks. It also benefits from having a tough aluminum floor and a transom made out of marine plywood.
There are plenty of D-rings for securing items, including ones for towing, both at the bow and the rear pontoon tubes. You’ll also find grab lines around the boat and carry handles.
The boat features five separate air chambers for added safety and a one-way drain valve that comes with a plug. There are three aluminum bench seats included and room for up to nine people.
This inflatable raft comes with a set of aluminum oars, a carrying bag, and a foot pump.
5: Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat (best budget inflatable boat)
The Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat is a lightweight, affordable option that can be ideal for calm lakes and slow-moving rivers. It can be great for families, with the capacity to carry up to six people. However, you might find it’s more comfortable with up to four people on board.
A great feature of this one is that it has two built-in rod holders and molded drink holders, so it can be ideal for a day of fishing. It comes with one inflatable seat that can be moved around, and features swiveling oarlocks as well as oar holders on the sides. Oars are not included.
For added safety and ease of re-entry, there are grab lines around the boat and inside. You’ll also find drain plugs to help get rid of excess water.
You can add a motor up to 3 hp to this but you will first need to install the Airhead Trolling Motor Transom (sold separately).
6: Inflatable Sport Boats Dolphin 8.8
This Inflatable Sport Boats Dolphin 8.8 is a lightweight and compact inflatable raft that can be ideal for carrying up to four people to and from a larger boat. It can also be ideal for fishing and recreational use on lakes and rivers.
If you want to add a motor (sold separately), there is a transom included and it can handle up to a 10 hp motor. It also features durable PVC fabric and is designed to handle both freshwater and saltwater, as well as be resistant to UV light and humidity.
One feature that helps to keep this boat lightweight is the inflatable drop-stitch floor, which can also help to provide rigidity for better performance.
It comes with one aluminum bench seat, a set of aluminum oars plus a foot pump, and repair patches.
7: Newport Vessels Seascape
The Newport Vessels Seascape is a durable 9-foot dinghy that is made from three layers of tough 1100 denier PVC with a protective UV-resistant coating and strong heat-welded seams.
It has wide 18-inch tubes for added stability, even at high speeds. It’s compatible with a motor of up to 10 hp (sold separately) so you can cover water more quickly if you choose.
Another good feature is the inflatable drop-stitch floor, which is crafted for durability and to provide comfort and rigidity. You’ll also find grab lines around the perimeter for added safety.
This can hold up to three people and comes with one aluminum bench seat as well as a set of oars.
8: HydroForce Caspian Pro
The HydroForce Caspian Pro is a budget-friendly inflatable boat that is designed to hold up to three adults and one child. It can be ideal for lake trips or even fishing.
It features PVC construction with UV protection and abrasion resistance, as well as four separate air chambers for added safety. For added buoyancy, there is a high-pressure inflatable keel which can also give you better boat control, particularly at higher speeds.
The Caspian Pro features a marine plywood transom to allow you to add your own motor up to 10 hp (sold separately). It comes with grab lines, a steel tow ring, as well as a rubber strake for added durability. Additionally, it features rotational oarlocks and comes with a seat of oars and a hand pump.
9: Intex Mariner 4
This Intex Mariner 4 is a budget raft that can be great for light recreational use or fishing.
It features three inflatable thwart seats, with room for up to four people. However, if you’re looking to fish or if you prefer more space for comfort, you might find it’s better suited to two adults plus your gear.
It’s made from two layers of durable PVC with a further layer of polyester mesh for added strength. It also has a heavy-duty plastic floor for added rigidity.
A handy feature of this raft is the included fishing rod holders, so you can safely stow your rods while you make your way to a good spot on the lake.
The Mariner 4 also comes with a set of aluminum oars and welded oarlocks, as well as mount fittings if you want to attach a trolling motor (sold separately).
9 Best Inflatable Fishing Boats And Pontoons
1: Sea Eagle 375FC FoldCat (best inflatable fishing pontoon boat overall)
This Sea Eagle 375FC FoldCat is a very stable and durable fishing pontoon that can be ideal for either one or two anglers. It features a patented folding design for easy assembling and disassembling, and it can be inflated in just 10 minutes.
Video: How To Assemble And Use The Sea Eagle Foldcat
It features aluminum cross boards that provide a stable platform for standing, making it easier to cast and retrieve. It also features swiveling seats so you can rotate 360 degrees to face whatever direction necessary. The seats are padded for added comfort for all-day fishing trips and can give you good visibility.
A nice feature of this is the full fabric floor, so that if you do happen to drop anything off the cross boards, they can fall onto the floor underneath. This can also be a great place to store your cooler and additional tackle, freeing up your standing space on the cross boards.
This comes in various packages which can include rod holders, a set of oars, oarlocks, a casting bar, and even a motor (with certain packages).
2: Sea Eagle 385FTA FastTrack Angler (best motor-ready fishing boat)
The Sea Eagle 385FTA FastTrack Angler is a lightweight fishing kayak that can be a good choice if you’re looking for a compact inflatable boat that can be easy to travel with and simple to set up.
It can perform well on flatwater and is rated for up to Class II whitewater, so it can be a versatile little boat. It is also rated for use with an electric motor of up to 34-pound thrust (motor sold with certain packages).
A great feature of this kayak is that it has a reinforced non-slip floor, which can make standing a little safer and can be useful if you happen to drop a hook.
This kayak can be ideal for either one or two anglers. It features a FastTrack rigid inflatable keel and narrow bow for improved speed and tracking in current, wind, and open water. It also features rod holders, a fish ruler, and front and rear spray skirts for added storage.
3: Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon Boat (best budget pontoon)
The Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon is an affordable pontoon that is designed for one angler. It’s made out of heavy-duty abrasion-resistant PVC and can be a good choice for lakes and bays and slow-moving rivers with up to Class I rapids.
It has plenty of storage for all your gear, including mesh pockets and zippered pockets on the pontoon tubes, plus a large rear storage basket that also has a motor mount (motor sold separately).
It features a padded seat and adjustable non-slip footrests, although there’s no floor to put your feet on, so you’re likely to get wet.
This budget pontoon comes with a set of aluminum oars and bronze oarlocks.
4: Sea Eagle PackFish7 (best budget fishing boat)
This Sea Eagle PackFish7 is a compact, affordable fishing raft that is built for one person, making it an ideal option if you’re looking for a budget boat that’s easy to transport.
This one packs down to just 20 x 20 x 5 inches and stores inside a backpack so you can easily hike it into more remote locations and take it on vacation.
It features two built-in rod holders and fish rulers, as well as two stow pouches to keep your gear safe. The pouches also have cup holders so you’re set for a day on the water.
A nice feature of the PackFish7 is the tracking strips under the hull, which can help to stabilize the vessel and keep you tracking straight in wind or current. It also comes with an inflatable seat and a set of oars. The rigid floorboard is available with the Pro Fishing Package.
5: Star Rival Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak
The Star Rival Sit-On-Top is a highly visible inflatable kayak that can be great if you’re looking for a vessel with a clear and spacious deck.
This is a wide, stable kayak, with a high-pressure drop-stitch deck which is designed like a stand-up paddle board to provide a more rigid platform. This can make it great for standing to fish, as there is more space to move around.
There are five Scotty mount bases, which can make it easy to attach your favorite accessories and rod holders (sold separately). There is also bungee rigging on the deck at the bow and stern so you can secure your gear for the day.
Another great feature of this kayak is the high-back aluminum frame seat, which lets you sit a little higher off the deck for increased visibility and can be removed completely if you want even more deck space.
6: Bris 10.8 Inflatable Pontoon Boat
The Bris 10.8 Inflatable Pontoon is a durable dinghy that is made out of 1100 denier PVC fabric which is built for abrasion resistance and has a rubber strake for added durability. It features 16.5-inch tubes and comes with two aluminum bench seats.
This dinghy has a high weight capacity and space for up to five people. However, if you’re planning to use it for fishing, you might find it’s better with just one or two adults so that you have more space to store your gear and move around.
A good feature of this one is the grab lines for added safety. It also features an aluminum floor, which can help increase rigidity and provide a stable platform for standing.
With the marine plywood transom you can install a short shaft motor up to 15 hp (sold separately) if you want to boost your speed over water. It comes with a set of aluminum oars, a repair kit, a bag to carry it in, and a foot pump.
7: Inflatable Sport Boats Killer Whale 10.8
The Inflatable Sport Boats Killer Whale 10.8 is an inflatable dinghy that has a high weight capacity and large 18 inch wide tubes for increased stability in rougher conditions.
This vessel has room for up to five people but for fishing trips, it can be more comfortable with just two anglers if you want to use some of the space for your gear. It comes with one aluminum bench seat, so it can also be ideal for fishing on your own.
You can attach a motor to the transom, up to 15 hp (sold separately) so you can get to your favorite fishing spot more quickly. There are two aluminum oars with oarlocks included with the dinghy and it comes with a slide-in aluminum floor, which can help to increase the rigidity of the hull for improved speed.
8: Sea Eagle 285 Frameless Pontoon Boat
This Sea Eagle 285 Frameless Pontoon Boat can be a great option if you’re planning to fish on your own. This is a lightweight, compact vessel that’s convenient to travel with and easy to set up on your own - with a set up time of just five minutes.
It features a U-hull design so the pontoon tubes extend at the front rather than the back. It has a raised fabric floor for minimal contact with the water, meaning you can access shallower depths that might be out of range for larger boats.
There is plenty of space on board for you and your fishing gear, with two universal Scotty mounts, allowing you to customize it with your accessories (sold separately).
It comes in various packages, with options including a swivel seat and a motor.
9: Aquos Heavy-Duty 7.5 Inflatable Pontoon
This Aquos Heavy-Duty Pontoon is a budget option that comes with a 20-pound electric trolling motor (battery is not included), so it can be ideal if you’re a new angler looking for a starter pontoon. It does have the capacity to take up to a 55-pound trolling motor (sold separately) if you want to upgrade it.
This is a stable vessel that features a durable aluminum floor that sits on top of the inflatable pontoon tubes to maximize space. There is a height-adjustable folding seat included, so you can sit comfortably while fishing, paddling, or motoring.
You also get a paddle included, which can be used either while seated or from a standing position.
Why Buy An Inflatable Boat?
One of the reasons to buy an inflatable boat is that it can be a lot more affordable than a non-inflatable one of comparable size and capacity. This can open up boating to a larger number of people who may otherwise not be able to afford it.
As well as generally costing less, especially many of the budget options, inflatables also tend to cost less to own in the long run. For example, most can be deflated and loaded into the back of your truck, your trunk, or the backseat of your car - something that you probably can’t do with a full-size standard vessel, essentially eliminating the need for a trailer.
You’ll also find that you usually don’t need to pay to store it at a marina or docks, as you can deflate it and store it inside its own carry bag at home or in your garage. Additionally, repairs can be less expensive, as they can often be done on your own using a repair patch kit.
Easy To Transport And Store
Because they are lightweight and can pack down to fit in the back of your car, inflatables can be much easier to travel with. This means you can transport them between different bodies of water more easily than if you had a standard boat, which would likely require a trailer.
Because of their portability, inflatable boats can be ideal for storing on larger boats to be used as dinghies or tenders. They can also be great for storing on board an RV or in some cases, a closet at home.
More Fuel Efficient
Because inflatables are lighter by design, it also means they can be more fuel-efficient than standard boats because the motor doesn’t have to work as hard to move the vessel.
This can help to reduce costs if you use a gas-powered motor and can mean you can stay on the water longer if you use an electric motor as you shouldn’t need to recharge as frequently.
How To Choose An Inflatable Boat: The Different Types
A pontoon can be one of the most stable types of inflatable vessels because of the design of the hull, featuring a tube on either side, which can make them ideal for fishing and standing.
Some pontoons will have an open deck that sits on top of the pontoon tubes, creating more space for you and your gear without restriction from side walls.
Some of these types can be more tricky to set up because they may require additional attachments, such as the installation of the floor and seat. Some may also be more awkward to travel with and may have several different parts.
A dinghy can be ideal to use for recreation as well as for use as a tender for accessing larger vessels. They often have keels and pontoon tubes that extend at the stern which can allow them to plane when motorized.
Hull shape can vary and can be flat or V-shaped. Some vessels will come with rigid floors for increased performance, comfort, and stability. The type of floor the vessel has will usually determine how easy it is to set up and travel with. For example, an inflatable floor can often be rolled up with the rest of the boat, unlike an aluminum or wooden floor.
A raft tends to have a flat bottom and will either feature an inflatable floor or a rigid floor. Because of the design of the wide, flat bottomed hull, you may find that speed is sacrificed but this is not always the case, as some life rafts designed for rescue are built for speed with planing hulls.
Some rafts will often have highly visible strips so that they can be easily seen, and they will also tend to have grab lines around the perimeter for added safety during rescues.
An inflatable kayak will often be easy to store, transport and set up. A kayak will tend to be easier to paddle and maneuver on your own compared to a larger, wider vessel because it can be paddled using a single kayak paddle rather than oars. This is because kayaks are often narrower, which can also make them quicker over the water when manually powered.
However, some of them will also be capable of having a motor attached for increased power and speed.
Inflatable Boat Features To Look For
One thing that you might want to think about is how much the boat weighs. Despite being inflatable, some of them can still be pretty heavy and awkward to carry. Probably less awkward than a standard boat but you may want to consider whether or not you’ll need someone to help you unload it and set it up.
Vessels with inflatable floors may weigh less than those with aluminum or wooden floors, so this could be an option if you’re looking to keep the overall weight to a minimum.
However, a hard floor can be more durable and can increase performance, as well as stability but may be more difficult to set up compared to an inflatable floor.
Generally, most vessels will have a maximum carrying capacity, which often includes a maximum total weight as well as a maximum number of people. Remember to think about who will be joining you on your trip and the amount of gear you want to be able to bring.
While some vessels may have a very generous weight capacity, this doesn’t always mean there will be enough room for you and your crew to fit comfortably or safely. It’s not recommended to overload your boat beyond its suggested capacity.
Size can be important as this will determine how much on board space you’re likely to have, especially if you’re hoping to have room for a couple of adults, a couple of kids, and a dog, for example.
The inflated size will also usually determine how large the boat will be when it’s deflated, with more compact ones often being smaller than larger ones when they’re packed down.
Remember to consider the size of the tubes, if it’s a dinghy or raft, as this can affect the available space on board. Some pontoon-style boats may have a more open space on top of the tubes than a dinghy, for example.
Wider tubes can be more useful in rougher water, as this can increase stability and can be smoother when traveling at higher speeds. Larger tubes can also mean increased buoyancy.
Inflatable vessels are generally buoyant by design because they’re filled with air. But it can be a good idea to look for one that has multiple air chambers. This means that if one chamber was to suffer a puncture or damage, the remaining chambers can help you to stay afloat until you can get to shore to repair the damaged chamber.
Another feature you might want to look for is grab lines on the perimeter. These can be beneficial in a rescue situation as you can grab hold of them to help climb back into the boat if you fall overboard.
High visibility features, such as bright colors or reflective strips, can also be useful, especially if you plan to boat in low light or in areas where there’s a lot of other traffic.
How Should You Store And Care For Them?
It can be best to store your inflatable in a dry place away from bright sunlight, humidity, and extreme temperatures. It can also be a good idea to store it off the ground, especially if you plan to store it in a garage.
Remember to clean and dry your vessel before you deflate it for storage, otherwise, you might find mold and mildew growth the next time you go to use it.
Some inflatable vessels are designed to be compact and easy to store, and can often be stored inside a closet in your home. It can be useful to store the vessel inside the bag it came with as this can help to keep it free of dust, dirt, and damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Portable Are Inflatable Boats?
This depends on the type, as some can be very portable and can be carried on your back in a backpack. Others can be more awkward to travel with, especially if they have aluminum floors or framed seats. Most of them, however, will fit in the trunk of your car or across the back seats, or even in the back of a pickup.
How Easy Is It To Store Inflatable Boats?
Some can be stored in a closet at home or in your garage. Many inflatables will usually come with a storage bag to keep the vessel safe while in storage.
Are Inflatable Fishing Boats Safe?
Yes, they can be very safe because of their increased buoyancy. Inflatable fishing boats are often made from strong, durable material that is designed to resist dropped hooks and abrasions. They are also usually very stable by design.
How Fast Do Inflatable Boats Inflate?
This will often depend on the type of pump you use and the efficiency of the boat’s inflation system. Some compact vessels can inflate in as little as five minutes. But others may take 30 minutes or more, depending on the size and type of boat.
Can A Motor Be Mounted To An Inflatable Boat?
Yes, many inflatable boats can have a motor attached. However, the boat will usually need to have a transom to allow you to mount the motor. Some inflatables come with transoms included but others may require you to buy a transom separately.
Do You Need A Boat License For An Inflatable Boat?
This depends on the state where you plan to boat and the size of the motor that’s attached. In most cases, if there is no motor attached you may not need a license. In some states, you need a license or boating safety card to operate vessels with motors greater than 10 hp, for example. State laws vary.
Do I Have To Register An Inflatable Boat?
Some states or areas may require registration even if your boat does not have a motor, so it’s best to check with your local department, as registration will sometimes depend on the length of your vessel. If you add a motor, you will probably need to register it in most states.
Our Final Words
Now that you’ve seen a few options, it’s time to narrow it down to the finalists. We think the best inflatable boat for recreation is the Sea Eagle FastCat because it has drop-stitch construction for added speed, stability, and durability and benefits from having a spacious deck. It’s also easy to set up.
A great runner up in this category is the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8 because of its high capacity and ability to carry up to five people, making it an ideal choice for families.
The winner of the best inflatable boat for fishing is the Sea Eagle 375 FoldCat because it’s lightweight, stable, and features a spacious standing deck and swiveling seats.
A worthy runner up in the fishing category is the Sea Eagle PackFish7 because it can be carried on your back for convenience and is an affordable little vessel that has the added benefit of built-in rod holders.
Remember to think about where you want to use your vessel and who, if anyone, will be joining you on board. Not all of our selections will be suitable for every boater, so it can be important to choose the right one to suit your particular activity.