best inflatable boat

The 7 Best Inflatable Boats Reviewed For 2017

Whether you’re spending a weekend at the family’s lakefront cottage or floating the river with friends, you’ll need a quality boat. Problem is, most people aren’t out boating every weekend.

We don’t have time and space to store a large canoe or a kayak at our apartments. Not to mention the car in the driveway can’t fit a full size boat!

I’m going to help guide you through the process of choosing a new inflatable boat. We’ll talk about some things to consider when purchasing a new boat.

For more of my top gear recommendations, have a look through these popular Outside Pursuits guide links: Trolling Motors, Trolling Motor Batteries, Life Jackets.

Quick Answer: The 7 Best Inflatable Boats For 2017

  1. Intex Excursion 5 Inflatable Boat
  2. Intex Mariner 4 Person Inflatable Boat
  3. AIRHEAD Angler Bay 6 Person Inflatable Boat
  4. Ancheer Inflatable Boat/Dinghy
  5. Classic Accessories Inflatable Pontoon Boat
  6. Shark Inflatable Dinghy 9.8
  7. Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Sport Dinghy

Now I’ll recommend a few inflatable boats, with our reviews you’ll have a handful of great inflatable boats to choose from!

Best Inflatable Boats

 Intex Mariner 4 Person Inflatable BoatClassic Accessories Colorado Inflatable Pontoon BoatShark Inflatable Dinghy 9.8
editors choice
Person Capacity4 People1 Person5 People
Weight Capacity880 pounds400 pounds1158 pounds
Inflated Size:4.75ft Wide x 1.5ft High x 10.75ft Long4.5ft Wide x 2ft High x 9ft Long5ft Wide x 1.5ft High x 9.75ft Long
Best For:General recreationFishingMotorized transportation

Inflatable Boat Reviews

#1 Intex Excursion 5 Inflatable Boat

Intex Excursion 5 Inflatable Boat

Intex Excursion 5 Inflatable Boat at a Glance:
  • 3 air chambers safety and buoyancy
  • 3 inflatable seats with 2 with backrests
  • 4 built-in fishing rod holders
  • Includes 2, 54-inch aluminum oars and hand pump

Intex makes the Excursion 5 ready out of the box to support a crew of up to 5 people. With enough space for tons of gear, beer, and all the required daily goodies there’s a lot to like.

The boat comes with 4 fishing rod holders on each side of the boat. These are placed next to bench seating that faces inward for conversation or spending time together whether you’re landing fish or drifting the lake.

The Intex inflatable boat is made of three inflatable chambers which independently hold air. No need to worry about having your boat “pop” and sink to the bottom like the titanic.

Of course with an inflatable boat you’ll need some way to pump it up. That’s why there’s an included high pressure manual operated pump.

There are aftermarket electric pumps, but with the stock Intex pump you’ll be pumping by hand.

While there are motor mount fittings included with the boat, some users worry that this PVC boat just isn’t quite sturdy enough to handle a motor. This may not be the cheapest inflatable boat you can get, but its pretty close!

Best For: Large groups on a lazy journey!

#2 Intex Mariner 4 Person Inflatable Boat

Intex Mariner 4 Inflatable Boat Set

Intex Mariner 4 Person Inflatable Boat at a Glance:
  • 4 Boston valves for quick inflation and fast-deflation
  • 2 fishing rod holders
  • 3 inflatable seat cushions
  • Includes 2 54-inch deluxe aluminum oars and high-output hand pump

For the price, it’s pretty hard to argue with this inflatable boat that has room for plenty of people, gear, and mounted equipment.

Overall I think it’s a slight improvement over the Excursion 5 as it features rugged and durable 3-ply construction and a slightly smaller frame. With a reduced footprint the boat is able to hold more solidly in form and function.

I love that they prominently feature the reinforced rock and abrasion guard around the inflatable hull. This is an area of significantly increased durability where the boat is made to handle bumps, scrapes, and scratches.

Overall the 4 person inflatable boat features two rod holders for fishing, two rotating oar locks, and battery and gear pouches.

It’s outfitted and engineered to handle a small transom trolling motor which mounts up to preinstalled holes on the exterior of the inflatable boat.

Because of the lightweight nature of the boat and relatively short frame, it makes a great candidate for a small electric trolling motor.

It’s a little smaller than the Excursion 5 and equipped with plenty of accessories, this boat is really a do-it-all system.

If you want a boat that can float with a group of people or take you and your friend fishing for the evening, this is the best inflatable boat for the money that can wear all the hats!

Best For: Keeping one boat that can fit any task.

#3 AIRHEAD Angler Bay 6 Person Inflatable Boat

 

Airhead Angler Bay 6 Person Inflatable Boat at a Glance:
  • 2 rod holders and multiple molded drink holders
  • 32-guage heavy-duty vinyl
  • Swiveling oar locks and side mounted oar holders
  • Trolling motor transom mounts

With a 6-person capacity you’d think this inflatable boat would hulk like a behemoth. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. This olive and yellow boat is ready to handle fishing, paddling, or floating with any number of people.

I love that they included several rotating oar locks so that people in the middle or rear of the boat can paddle.

Grab two sets of oars if you want to paddle faster! Plus, there are two mounted rod holders ready to go when you want to land a nice game fish.

There are plenty of drink holders sprinkled around the boat and 4 separate drain plugs to dry out the boat when you pull it up for the night.

I like that the movable seat can be adjusted around the boat. That helps get it in the right spot so that you can put a transom trolling motor in the back and paddle from the front set of oar locks.

Of course you’ll want to leave room for fishing tackle and space for the kids to cast their lines without hooking you on the back swing!

So don’t pack the boat too full. Its a tough call but this may be the best inflatable boat because it does everything pretty well at a reasonable price.

Best For: Versatility and multiple options for motors and rowing.

#4 Ancheer Inflatable Boat/Dinghy

Ancheer Inflatable Boat Dinghy Raft

Ancheer Inflatable Boat/Dinghy at a Glance:
  • Rigid aluminum deck floor + inflatable keel
  • 4 air chambers for safety and buoyancy
  • Dual action foot pump and 2 aluminum oars
  • Triple layered 0.9 mm PVC outer skin

Unlike the Intex and Airhead boats we reviewed earlier, Ancheer makes this boat in a true dinghy fashion.

The four air tub design is resilient and redundant so there’s no need to worry about sinking or failure of the air baffles – there are four of them to back you up!

By far the dinghy style with the hard backed transom is ideal for mounting up a motor. With a max load of over 600 pounds you can safely mount up to 4 horsepower motors on to this dinghy.

There’s no problem loading on an old two stroke outboard motor to zip across the lake.

With a full crash barrier and triple layered PVC Ancheer is trying to make users feel super safe when loading this boat up and heading out fishing.

Unlike the other boats, this inflatable dinghy is more purpose built. It belongs on the water with a small outboard motor and makes a perfect boat for the angler.

There’s no reason you can’t use it for transportation though! Make no mistake, the Intex boats make better “party boats” for lazy days and lots of people.

But if you want a high quality fishing boat that you can count on, the Ancheer Dinghy is a far superior choice to anything we’ve reviewed so far.

Best For: Mounting an outboard and a more traditional hard bodied boat feel.

#5 Classic Accessories Inflatable Pontoon Boat

Colorado Inflatable Pontoon Boat

Classic Accessories Inflatable Pontoon Boat at a Glance:
  • Padded fold-down plastic seat
  • 10 mesh pockets, 12 zippered pockets and 2 drink holders
  • Two 7-foot two-piece aluminum oars
  • Two position motor mount for trolling

This 9’ long inflatable pontoon boat is made to outperform all the boats on our list when it comes to load bearing, motor mounting, fish slaying fun!

There’s no mistake that the cataraft design with two inflatable tubes and a suspended seat and decking, is agile and capable of bear amazing loads.

While you might not want to hook up the old two stroke outboard, this cataraft is ready to take on a trolling motor. Two oarlocks hold the included paddles in place and can be adjusted into three separate positions.

That goes along with the two position adjustable motor mount and the super durable seat.

The boat itself weighs in at a moderate 71 pounds but it can handle up to 440 pounds of capacity. There is plenty of rear storage for both the trolling motor battery and your fishing tackle.

I personally love the armrests which are not only well placed, but they features additional storage. These are the perfect place for your soft sided tackle boxes. There’s also a detachable foam fly holder!

Because the body of this raft is solid and features many components made from steel or aluminum, it won’t pack down as well as some other boats.

For carrying in the car or frequent transportation you may want to go with the Ancheer. If you’re storing this boat at the beachhouse and won’t need to pack it up it could be a top contender for the best inflatable fishing boat!

Best For: Anglers who will store their boat on site.

#6 Shark Inflatable Dinghy 9.8

Shark Inflatable Sport Boats

Shark Inflatable Dinghy 9.8 at a Glance:
  • 2 aluminum bench seats
  • 2 aluminum oars with lock-in holders
  • Made from 0.9 mm/1100 denier thick PVC
  • Compatible with either 2 or 4 stroke motors

Like the Ancheer dinghy, this inflatable boat is made to handle smaller loads with a focus on the ability to handle higher output motors.

This time we can plug in a motor up to 15 horsepower! With a 15 horse motor on this lightweight 70 pound boat, you’ll be flying out to your favorite fishing spot each morning.

Like most dinghy type inflatable boats, there is minimal storage when compared to the raft style boats for 5-6 people like the Intex boats above.

However, you gain significant improvements in rigidity and capacity. With nearly 1,200 pounds of max load and welded 1100 denier PVC construction this boat will hold up to just about anything.

I like the removable seat bag and cushion. It makes it easy to add a little extra storage for taking another person in the boat or zipping across the lake for a dinner picnic.

When there’s just one person in the boat, however, you can easily remove the seat and gain tons of storage space for tackle and gear.

The seats on the boat are made from aluminum and lend to a much more traditional feeling style compared the inflatable rafts. I like the solid aluminum floor and included oars with oarlocks.

However, these heavier and more sturdy features make the boat harder to pack. You might not want to have to break down this boat every day. The Shark 9.8 has my vote as the best inflatable dinghy!

Best For: Places where you can leave the boat assembled between trips and carrying a much larger outboard motor than other inflatable options.

#7 Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Sport Dinghy

Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Dinghy Boat

Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Sport Dinghy at a Glance:
  • Made from 0.9 mm/1100 denier thick PVC
  • Includes aluminum bench seat and 2 aluminum oars
  • Compatible with either 2 or 4 stroke motors
  • Includes carrying & storage bag and high volume foot pump

Newport is bringing us the last boat on our list which is another addition to the Dinghy class of boats.

Like the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8, the Dana Dinghy is made from advanced, tough materials and supports tons of load, options, and power. .There are a few differences though.

This Newport boat comes in quite a bit cheaper than the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8. For that cheaper price you get the same sturdy 1100 denier construction, aluminum floor and decking, and aluminum seats.

However, you lose the ability to handle some horsepower. This boat is rated for a maximum of 10 HP versus the Inflatable Sport Boats Shark 9.8 which can handle 15.

If that sounds trivial then perhaps the cheaper price and lower motor output is a good choice for you. But when you consider that 15 HP is 150% more power and speed than a 10 HP motor you may want to spring for the more expensive boat.

In general they offer most of the same competitive features. Users with tighter budgets will probably prefer the cost savings of the Newport Vessels dinghy.

Best For: Boaters on a budget looking for an inflatable boat that can handle a moderate outboard motor.

Inflatable Boat Comparison Table

Inflatable BoatPerson CapacityWeight CapacityIncludesBoat WeightTrolling Motor Compatible
Intex Excursion Inflatable Boat5 PeopleN/AOars, hand pump, 3 seats50 poundsYes
Intex Mariner Inflatable Boat4 People880 poundsOars, hand pump, 3 seats70 poundsNo
Airhead Angler Bay Inflatable Boat6 Person 900 9001 moveable seat, 2 rod holders45 poundsYes
Ancheer Inflatable Boat/Dinghy1 People616 poundsOars, 1 seat, alum floor91 poundsYes
Classic Accessories Inflatable Pontoon Boat1 Person400 poundsOars,1 seat 71 poundsYes
Shark Inflatable Dinghy 9.85 People1158 poundsOars, 2 alum seats. foot pump70 poundsYes
Newport Vessels Dana Inflatable Sport Dinghy3 People1,067 poundsOars, alum bench seat, foot pump101 poundsYes

How to Choose the Best Inflatable Boat For You

Inflatable boats are a relatively new addition to the options available who want to get out on the water. Traditionally only hard bodied canoes and kayaks were easy to find and buy.

Not to mention inflatable boats have to be sturdy, resilient, and puncture proof. With newer and better inflatable boats on the market today it’s easier to find a boat to fit your needs.

If you’ve never considered purchasing a new inflatable boat, there are a few things you might miss that are quite important!

best inflatable fishing boat

What Type of Inflatable Boat is Right for You?

Just like traditional hard bodied boats, inflatable boats come in many varieties. Whether you want a kayak, canoe, single or tandem there’s an option out there. But how do you know where to start?

Canoe-type inflatable boats are generally a good choice for 1-2 people with some gear. A canoe can handle enough gear to comfortably go out on a fishing trip or multi-day canoe camping trip.

These boats aren’t as small and agile as a kayak but the greater storage space provides more flexibility for boaters to choose their favorite activity.

Kayak inflatables are the smallest and most nimble boat available. They’re lightweight and will very easily fit in any vehicle when packed down.

The smallest and lightest inflatable kayaks can even be packed into a backpack!

Rafts and larger inflatable boats can handle up to half a dozen people or more. These boats are usually “party boats”. Unless, of course, you upgrade to a full-on river raft.

Most inflatable rafts for recreational use feature additions such as coolers, cup holders, and often mounted oars.

best inflatable dinghy

How Often Will You Use Your Boat?

For those who may use their inflatable boat only occasionally, skimping on quality might be fine. Spending a few extra bucks to get a durable, high quality boat for regular use, however, is critical.

If you plan to use your inflatable boat regularly, consider increasing your budget to accommodate. Getting an extra inflatable kayak for when the kids visit the cottage doesn’t need to break the bank.

Buying a boat for weekend fishing trips might be worth investing in the most durable and rugged boats available which could rapidly increase in price..

Catarafts or Regular Inflatable Boats?

Catarafts deserve to be in a category of their own. While they are technically inflatable boats, they don’t quite fit the same bill. Catarafts are made of two inflatable bodies joined by a network of aluminum tubing and webbing.

Catarafts are generally more agile and responsive than their equivalent sized raft counterparts. They’re inherently self bailing since they do not feature a full floor on the boat bottom. Instead the bottom of the raft is usually open and sits up off the water.

While some traditional rafts can handle a motor, catarafts generally have an superior load bearing performance. They can be easily balanced and loaded with supplies or heavy objects like an outboard motor.

Catarafts make a superior choice of inflatable boat if you have enough room to transport them.

inflatable pontoon boats

Construction Material

Inflatable boats are generally made of just two materials. Fortunately it makes things easy to distinguish when choosing. If you’re on a tight budget and need to keep prices as low as possible, you may prefer PVC boats.

PVC inflatable boats are constructed with a coated PVC fabric. These fabrics are durable and dependable although they fail to maintain the excellent properties of the superior Hypalon fabrics. There’s nothing wrong with PVC and it will work great for occasional, gentle use.

Hypalon, on the other hand, is an advanced synthetic material which can be used to improve the performance of inflatable boats.

Boats made with hypalon are heavier but significantly more robust than those made with PVC. If you want to keep your boat assembled and docked, say, all summer at the cottage, then Hypalon might be a better choice for you.

Trade offs include the increased price of hypalon versus the lower cost of PVC. Hypalon is heavier and thus harder to pack and transport.

PVC might be a better choice for packing into the back of the car on a regular basis. Hypalon will withstand more use and abuse than PVC.

best inflatable boat

Decking Material and Design

Decking underfoot in inflatable boats is usually designed either as a high pressure inflatable floor, or as solid aluminum planks that snap into place.

Aluminum planks offer the added benefits of being more sturdy and rigid. They will perform more closely to an aluminum flat bottom boat compared to inflatable bottoms.

These interlocking aluminum ribs or tubes form a solid feeling bottom that might just make many users feel safer in general.

Inflatable bottoms are generally high pressure tubes that provide structure and rigidity to the boat. These floors can be a little “squishy” underfoot and may feel a little unsafe at first.

Usually the bottom of these floors is protected by design or material from being easily punctured or abraded from underneath. Nonetheless, you should be careful not to beach on sharp objects with abrupt force!

Inflatable bottom boats tend to be more forgiving and absorb more of the shock of waves. If having a gentle ride or being easy on the knees is important, consider using an inflatable bottom raft.

Conclusion

Ultimately boaters have three main choices in the world of inflatable boats. Choose an inflatable raft style boats, such as the Intex models, for more relaxed and group fun at an affordable price.

Consider a cataraft style boat for the option to choose between lakes, rivers, and other hard to navigate places when it’s just one person and their fishing gear.

For the heaviest loads and the largest motors possible with an inflatable boat you’ll want a dinghy style boat.

No matter what boat you choose, remember to start by consider how you’ll use it. Whether you’ll transport it daily, or once a year. How many people will be in the boat and what types of activities might you want to do with it?

Some of the boats on our list are great for more than one type of fun. Others are meant just for fishing. At the end of the day, just remember to have fun!

I hope this guide was helpful in picking the best inflatable boat to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a boat I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.

Have fun and be safe out there!

Notice: Outside Pursuits is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees sold through by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon offers a small commission on products sold through their affiliate links. Each of your purchases via our Amazon affiliate links supports our efforts to bring you the best possible product reviews at no additional cost to you. We appreciate your support here at OutsidePursuits.com

About Casey Fielder

I am an avid outdoorsman with experience in naturalist education, outside adventure education, ski instruction, and writing. In addition to my outdoor hobbies, I’m a huge fan of punk rock. I have launched several start-ups. (or business ventures) When exploring the backcountry, I usually carry less than 10 pounds of gear. Years of experience have taught me to pack light. I enjoy sharing my experiences of backcountry education teaching and guiding through writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*