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.
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!