The 10 Best Inflatable Boats of 2021: Cataraft & Regular
As the name suggests, inflatable boats are lightweight watercraft that are made using flexible tubes, which are filled with pressurized air to make them buoyant. They are not as durable as the solid boats made from hard and fixed materials but have one main advantage: portability.
Because they can be deflated, inflatable boats are foldable to a compact and lightweight package. That said, if you prefer this boat type, we have what you need. Scroll down to read more about the best inflatable boats that you should consider buying.
- 10 Best Inflatable Boats – Review
- 1. Best Overall Inflatable Boat: Bestway HydroForce Caspian Pro
- 2. Best Budget Inflatable Boat: Intex Mariner 4
- 3. Best Pontoon Inflatable Boat: Classic Accessories Colorado
- 4. Best High-Capacity Inflatable Boat: Newport Vessels Del Mar
- 5. Best Inflatable Boat for Kids: Bestway Kondor 1000
- 6. Best Inflatable Boat for Sports Racing: Sea Eagle 370 Pro
- 7. Motor-Compatible Inflatable Boat: Intex Excursion 4
- 8. Cataraft Inflatable Boat: Classic Accessories Roanoke
- 9. Safe Inflatable Boat: Intex Explorer 200
- 10. Heavy-Duty Inflatable Boat: Intex Seahawk 4
- How to Buy the Best Inflatable Boats
10 Best Inflatable Boats – Review
1. Bestway HydroForce Caspian Pro (Best Overall)
2. Intex Mariner 4 (Best Budget)
3. Classic Accessories Colorado (Best Pontoon)
4. Newport Vessels Del Mar (Best High-Capacity)
5. Bestway Kondor 1000 (Best for Kids)
6. Sea Eagle 370 Pro (Best for Sports Racing)
7. Intex Excursion 4 (Motor-Compatible)
8. Classic Accessories Roanoke (Cataraft)
9. Intex Explorer 200 (Safe)
10. Intex Seahawk 4 (Heavy-Duty)
1. Bestway HydroForce Caspian Pro
2. Intex Mariner 4
3. Classic Accessories Colorado
4. Newport Vessels Del Mar
5. Bestway Kondor 1000
(Best for Kids)
6. Sea Eagle 370 Pro
(Best for Sports Racing)
7. Intex Excursion 4
8. Classic Accessories Roanoke
9. Intex Explorer 200
10. Intex Seahawk 4
1. Best Overall Inflatable Boat: Bestway HydroForce Caspian Pro
- Person Capacity: 3 & 1 Child
- Weight Capacity: 1058 lbs.
- Material: Nylon, PVC, Metal, Plywood
- Assembled Dimensions: 110 x 60 x 16.5 in.
- Weight: 97.89 lbs.
This inflatable boat from Bestway leads the pack because of several features. To begin with, it has a 4-chamber PVC construction for extra safety plus a high-pressure inflatable keel. These ensure you remain buoyant with better control and handling.
Additionally, the PVC is heavy-grade, which makes the boat resistant to UV degradation, pollutants, and abrasion. This construction is made more durable by a marine-grade plywood transom, which strengthens the stern.
The inflatable keel plus rigid floorboards give you better control as compared to a flat floor model. As such, you can steer the boat easily when rowing or when motor-powered. That said, the unit is compatible with outboard motors of up to 10 HP.
Aside from that, the watercraft can carry quite a lot of weight, with its maximum capacity capped at 1058 lbs. It is designed to accommodate 3 adults but has enough room to fit a kid as the fourth person. A bench seat is included to help organize the seating arrangement for all 4.
Other features include a tough strake to protect the vessel from impacts, omnidirectional oarlocks for attaching the pair of aluminum paddles included in the set, a hand inflation pump, pressure gauge, carrying bag, and a 33-ft towrope.
The only problem is that no rod holders are built-in.
2. Best Budget Inflatable Boat: Intex Mariner 4
- Person Capacity: 4
- Weight Capacity: 1100 lbs.
- Material: Polyester, PVC, Plastic
- Assembled Dimensions: 129 x 57 x 19 in.
- Weight: 70.5 lbs.
Intex’s Mariner 4 is packed with multiple features at a bargain. These include a durable exterior with 2 layers of heavy-gauge PVC for abrasion resistance. These layers are laminated to an inner polyester layer for further reinforcement.
On the other hand, the flooring is built using heavy-duty plastic, which is extruded for comfort and rigidity. There are also three inflatable thwart seats for comfortable sitting. The unit is actually designed to accommodate 4 people and has a high weight cap of 1100 lbs.
Underneath is an inflatable keel, which gives better control and handling while a tough rock guard on the hull’s circumference protects against bump damages.
You also get 4 Boston valves on the main hull for fast inflation/deflation, 2 fishing rod holders, an all-around grab line, grab handles on both ends for easy carrying, welded rotating oarlocks, and motor mount fittings.
On the downside, the seats don’t have backrests for better support.
3. Best Pontoon Inflatable Boat: Classic Accessories Colorado
- Person Capacity: 1
- Weight Capacity: 400 lbs.
- Material: Nylon, PVC
- Assembled Dimensions: 108 x 56 x 26 in.
- Weight: 71.5 lbs.
If you prefer the pontoon inflatable boat type, we highly recommend Classic Accessories’ Colorado. This is because it is very practical, having 12 zippered pockets, 10 mesh pockets, 2 insulated cup holders, and a large rear rack for better organization.
There are also mounting fittings at the rear for attaching a motor or you can use the two 7-ft aluminum oars that are included to propel the boat. That said, bronze oarlocks are built into the chassis for securing the paddles when not in use.
As for the two pontoons, they are durably built using tough nylon at the top and abrasion-resistant PVC at the bottom. These are held together by a rust-resistant powder-coated steel tube frame.
Other features include a high-riding seat for good visibility, a backrest and non-slip footrests for maximum comfort, a rod holder, and a dual-side stripping apron that does not need to be unclipped during entry/exit. This apron has a printed fish ruler for measuring your catch.
The only issue is that no air pump is included for inflating the pontoons.
4. Best High-Capacity Inflatable Boat: Newport Vessels Del Mar
- Person Capacity: 4
- Weight Capacity: 1124 lbs.
- Material: Polyester, PVC, Plywood
- Assembled Dimensions: 114 x 60 x 18 in.
- Weight: 116 lbs.
With a weight capacity of 1124 lbs., Newport Vessels’ Del Mar can carry the most weight, which is enough to fit 4 people.
An aluminum bench seat is included in the pack for balancing the weight of 2 people across the center but you need to buy an extra one for the rear section to accommodate the other 2.
You also get 4 pieces of 24mm thick aluminum-framed marine wood flooring to create a sturdy bottom surface while the walls are triple-layered with polyester sandwiched in PVC. That said, the PVC is 1,100 Denier Korean type, which is UV, corrosion, and salt resistant.
An inflatable keel on the underside gives you better stability plus control, and this is made better by the wide 60-inch footprint that makes it more stable.
The boat has motor fittings that you can use to mount up to a 10 HP motor. More features are multiple D-rings for towing, oarlocks, and holders for the two included aluminum paddles, a foot pump, and a carry bag.
However, the boat is very heavy (116 lbs.), which makes it difficult to carry. Also, the seats are not padded and they don’t have backrests.
5. Best Inflatable Boat for Kids: Bestway Kondor 1000
- Person Capacity: 1
- Material: Vinyl
- Assembled Dimensions: 61 x 38 in.
- Weight: 5.43 lbs.
The small size and lightweight design of this Kondor 1000 make it ideal for kids that are 6-15 years old because they can easily carry it to the river/lake.
On top of this, the unit has 3 air chambers to maximize safety in case of puncturing while a grab rope along the circumference makes it easy for your kid to hop back on board if they fall off.
A large rope handle is placed at the front for easy carrying/towing while two oar clasps on the sides keep the two included 49-inch paddles in place. You also get an inflatable floor for maximum rigidity and comfort.
Even though an air pump is not included, you will get a repair patch and a tow rope. The craft is also very affordable but no pockets are built-in.
6. Best Inflatable Boat for Sports Racing: Sea Eagle 370 Pro
- Person Capacity: 3
- Weight Capacity: 650 lbs.
- Material: PolyKrylar
- Assembled Dimensions: 150 x 34 in.
- Weight: 32 lbs.
Sea Eagle’s 370 Pro is characterized by a streamlined design that glides above water with ease. Additionally, it has 2 skegs at the bottom for better tracking and steering at high speeds. These features make it the ideal choice for sports racing.
Other than that, the boat is relatively lightweight for its size because it weighs 32 lbs. but has a 3-person capacity and a 650-lb weight capacity. As such, it is easy to transport even by one person.
The hull is built using 38-mil PolyKrylar, which is basically rugged PVC. This is tough enough to withstand dog claws and paws, plus it has high-frequency welded seams that fuse the boat into a very solid piece.
Inflated seats with backrests ensure you sit comfortably while the bow and stern grab lines make it easy to hop back into the boat if you fall off. You also get multiple accessories like a foot pump, pressure gauge, repair kit, and a carry bag.
On the downside, the craft is quite expensive and it does not have motor-mount fittings.
7. Motor-Compatible Inflatable Boat: Intex Excursion 4
- Person Capacity: 4
- Weight Capacity: 1100 lbs.
- Material: Vinyl
- Assembled Dimensions: 124 x 65 in.
- Weight: 41.9 lbs.
With its motor-mount fittings at the back, Intex’s Excursion 4 can be fitted with a 1.5 HP (max) motor, which comes in very handy if you get tired of paddling. That said, the boat comes with 2 oars plus paddle holders on each side and oarlocks for easy one-person rowing.
Heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl is used to build the unit for maximum durability and the interior has 3 separate air chambers plus an auxiliary chamber for maximum safety. The floor has inflatable I-beams for rigidity, durability, and comfort.
More features include a 4-person capacity with comfortable inflatable seats that have backrests for good support, rod holders, a gear pouch, an all-around grab line, Boston valves for quick inflation/deflation, a carry bag, a repair kit, and a hand pump.
The only problem is that the oarlocks are not the welded rotating types, which make it much easier to row the boat.
8. Cataraft Inflatable Boat: Classic Accessories Roanoke
- Person Capacity: 1
- Weight Capacity: 350 lbs.
- Material: Nylon, PVC
- Assembled Dimensions: 96 x 55 x 29 in.
- Weight: 43 lbs.
The pontoons are built using nylon and PVC, with the latter forming the bottom section for abrasion resistance. These have temperature resistant bladders for maximum durability and are held in place by a powder-coated steel tube frame that is corrosion-resistant.
The boat is quite compact and nimble, which makes it easy to maneuver in rough waters. It is also very practical because it has a wide armrest with zippered pockets, a rear storage platform, adjustable footrests, and a stripping apron under the seat for holding your fly line.
However, no air pump is included and there are no motor-mount fittings at the back for motorizing the vessel.
9. Safe Inflatable Boat: Intex Explorer 200
- Person Capacity: 2
- Weight Capacity: 210 lbs.
- Material: Plastic
- Assembled Dimensions: 73 x 16 x 37 in.
Two air chambers in Intex’s Explorer 200 make it a safe inflatable boat because it remains buoyant regardless of puncturing accidents. Each of these has double valves for quick inflation/deflation and a repair patch is included for mending any punctures on the go.
That said, a double-action air pump is included in the set, which pumps on both fore and back strokes for quick inflation. A pair of 48-inch oars are also included and two oarlocks are welded to the boat for easy rowing.
The floor consists of inflatable I-beams, which are rigid and comfortable to step on. Other features include a grab rope on the bow for holding onto when on the water and a 2-person capacity, in which the craft is designed for kids age 6 and above.
On the downside, you get no seats and no pockets/pouches.
10. Heavy-Duty Inflatable Boat: Intex Seahawk 4
- Person Capacity: 4
- Weight Capacity: 1050 lbs.
- Material: PVC
- Assembled Dimensions: 138 x 57 x 19 in.
- Weight: 47.8 lbs.
This inflatable boat has a heavy-duty design that consists of a puncture-resistant PVC exterior, a heavy-duty grab handle, and welded oarlocks. These features make it very durable and capable of carrying up to 1050 lbs. in weight.
The unit is also built to be as safe as possible because it has three air chambers, which include an inner auxiliary chamber in the main hull. You also get an all-around grab handle to help you jump back on board if you fall in the water.
Motor mount fittings are included at the rear section for installing a trolling motor but you can use the pair of aluminum paddles that come with the boat.
Other features are inflatable seat cushions, a gear pouch, and fishing rod holders. However, the seats don’t have backrests for comfortable sitting on a long fishing day.
How to Buy the Best Inflatable Boats
Of course, an inflatable boat must suit your purpose and this could be different things. For instance, if you want a vessel for sports racing, it must be streamlined with skegs underneath for easy tracking and steering. For this, we recommend Sea Eagle’s 370 Pro.
On the other hand, if you want a boat for just chilling out on the lake, an affordable piece with a semi-rigid floor will do.
However, for choppy waters, rigid floor inflatable boats are better because they cut through the waves with ease. Generally, these are better because they can be used in all scenarios and a perfect example is Bestway’s HydroForce Caspian Pro.
You should buy an inflatable boat that will fit you and your family/friends so that you enjoy the water together. These usually range from a single person to a 4-person capacity.
That said, once you have identified the person-capacity, you should check the weight capacity, in which the higher it is, the better. For instance, with its 4-person capacity, Newport Vessels’ Del Mar has an edge over its peers because it can carry up to 1124 lbs.
There are two main inflatable boat styles: catarafts and regular.
Catarafts (also called pontoon) have two inflatable tubes joined together via a metal frame. They are mostly designed for single person use and are more suitable for fishing.
This is because they have multiple pockets to store your gear, raised seats for better visibility, and stripping aprons with fish rulers. The best one you can get is Classic Accessories’ Colorado.
As for the regular type, these usually have a U-shaped front with the bladder connecting to a solid transom at the rear end. Some are fully inflatable with no solid parts. They are very common because they can be built to accommodate multiple people.
4. Floor Type
As explained earlier, inflatable boats with rigid slats on the floor are suitable for use on rough waters such as on the sea. They are the better option because you can also use them on smooth waters, but they come at a high cost.
On the other hand, those with air decks are very affordable but are only suitable for riding on smooth waters, mostly on lakes.
5. Construction Materials
Inflatable boats are made using different materials like nylon, vinyl, plastic, PVC, etc.
Ultimately, should ensure that the material is as durable as possible, with the most ideal one being PVC. This is because it is abrasion-resistant, with some variations being UV and salt resistant.
Though very expensive, Hypalon material is the best one because it is tougher than PVC. However, this is rarely used.
6. Stability and Safety
Inflatable boats with hard and wide bottoms are more stable. These are better when considering a boat for carrying many people.
On the other hand, safety should not be compromised and for this, ensure your dinghy has multiple air chambers, which will ensure you remain afloat in case of a puncture.
1. Are Inflatable Boats Safe on the Ocean?
This depends on the material used. If it is salt and corrosion resistant with the transom being marine-grade quality, then the boat is safe for sea use.
However, you must be aware of the lightweight nature of these boats, which makes them easy to drift away or be blown by the wind deep offshore. It would be better to head to the ocean if you have a motor mounted on the boat to speed your way back to shore over the choppy waters.
Read More: The Best Ocean Kayaks
2. How Fast Do Inflatable Boats Inflate?
Setting up an inflatable boat can take 15-20 minutes but this depends on how fast the pump is and the size of the vessel.
Hand pumps are slower than electric ones while larger vessels take a longer time to fill up. That said, certain features like Boston valves help to quicken the inflation process.
3. Can a Motor Be Mounted to an Inflatable Boat?
This is possible but the boat must have motor mount fittings for compatibility purposes.
4. How Do You Repair Inflatable Boats?
Most of these vessels come with repair kits that contain patches and adhesive. All you need to do is identify the puncture, wipe clean the area around the hole, apply adhesive on the patch and area around the hole then stick the patch.
You should follow the instructions given on the repair kit’s package for more detailed guidance on the best way to do this.
In summary, we recommend Bestway’s HydroForce Caspian Pro as the overall best inflatable boat because it has an extra-safe 4-chamber PVC construction. It also has a rigid marine-grade plywood transom with an inflatable keel for easy control and handling.
However, if you prefer the pontoon inflatable boat type, Classic Accessories’ Colorado is the best option. It has multiple pockets, motor mount fittings, and durable construction.
For kids though, be sure to check out the lightweight Bestway Kondor 1000 because it is easy for them to carry.