The best inflatable boats encompass a wide array of vessels with varied abilities that are suited to a myriad of purposes…


As a result, it is necessary to offer the following caveat and disclaimer: the term ‘inflatable boat’ can be confusing as there are some large RIBs (Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boats) with multiple high-powered engines that are designed to perform search and rescue operations in the most demanding coastal conditions imaginable, while other inflatable boats are suitable only for playing in a swimming pool or on a calm lake or river.

This guide highlights some of the best inflatable boats for various common and specific uses. Even the best inflatable kayak will be wholly unsuited to acting as a yacht tender (see explainer below), while the best yacht tender will likely not make an ideal inflatable fishing platform.

With so many designs available, it’s crucial to select the right inflatable boat for the job.

At a glance:

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6 of the best inflatable boats

Inflatable Sport Boats Killer Whale

Best inflatable boat for use as a tender

First up on our list is arguably the best value, fully-modular PVC tender that can currently be purchased on the market. Featuring an 1,100 denier thread count and heat-welded seams backed by a 3-year warranty, this inflatable boat is sure to last a long time.

Coming in three different sizes with both modular aluminum and air floor options, there is an option to fit the requirements of most cruisers looking for a fully storable tender – a huge benefit for owners of sub-40ft boats.

While there are many options available, I would advise buyers to go with one of the 9.8’ or 10.8’ models with the solid, modular aluminum floor, as these have the best performance-to-price ratio. These models will also handle the best when blasting along in chop with up to a 15hp outboard.

While the 8.8’ model will be fine for lighter use, the 10.8’ is a lot more boat for not a lot more money or storage space onboard. However, if speed of set-up is your priority, the easiest models to set up and break down are without a doubt the air floor models.

Reasons to buy

– Heat-welded seams
– 3-year warranty
– Semi-rigid floor
– Includes all necessary accessories like bag, pump, oars, bench, etc.
– Some air floor models feature EVA faux teak decking

Reasons to avoid

– Fairly expensive for a PVC tender (close to some cheaper glued Hypalon options)
– Not as rigid as a true RIB
– Can only take up to a 15hp outboard
– Modular aluminum floor options can be more difficult to install than air floor models
– Wide, light inflatable boats without a keel such as these tend to row very poorly


– Size: 10.8 feet

– Weight: 80 pounds

– Material: heat-welded re-enforced UV and puncture resistant PVC

– Capacity: 5 person


West Marine RIB 350

Reasons to buy

– Tremendous value
– Quality materials
– Very robust and capable

Reasons to avoid

– Big and heavy
– Requires serious storage/lifting capabilities
– Fiberglass floor will require more maintenance and is also heavier
– Still nearly $4,000


– Size: Length: 11 feet 5 inches

– Weight: 161 pounds

– Material: Floor: fiberglass | Transom construction: fiberglass and birch marine plywood

– Capacity: 1320 pounds./4 person

Next up on our list is a premium but affordable RIB option for cruisers with either davits or a spot on the foredeck of their yacht, looking for a tender with a lot of capability.

This model features a double-floor, lift points, and an integrated anchor locker. At 161lbs and 11’6”, this model is hefty, but this sturdy construction allows the RIB to sport up to a 25hp outboard.

Coming in at under $4,000, the RIB-350 is priced well below many of the other offerings on the market, and is of sound construction and materials.

While the RIB-350 is a very good and affordable dinghy option for serious cruisers, I would like to see a double aluminum floor option in the future.

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Inflatable kayaks and other inflatable row boats

While the boats above are undoubtedly some of the best fully inflatable boats on the market, they are ill-suited to applications where rowing is preferred or required. For the sake of exploring rivers, streams, or even lakes by paddle, an inflatable kayak is a much better option.

Unlike their solid cousins, inflatable kayaks are surprisingly stable, while retaining many of the unique properties of a solid kayak — such as exceptional tracking through the water, good speed, inertia, etc.

Inflatable kayaks tend to accomplish these things by having a completely flat bottom, with the exception of a rigid fin that typically slides into place on a stitched track that is integral to the bottom of the kayak. From there, there are many unique and proprietary features that differentiate one inflatable kayak offering from another.

For small boats of 20-28’ without the ability to launch or store a proper tender, an inflatable kayak can often be a way to add versatility without many of the downsides that come with owning and operating what is essentially another vessel (i.e. cost, storage space and additional fuel storage).


Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Reasons to buy

– Very directionally stable thanks to the included skeg
– Lightweight and easy to carry
– Fast
– Comfortable to sit in

Reasons to avoid

– Only comes in one color
– No storage nets or bin


– Size: Display length: 58.74 centimetres

– Weight: 13.4 kilograms

– Material: vinyl

– Capacity: 350 pounds / 2 person

The Intex Explorer is the company’s no-frills, functional inflatable kayak that is designed for two people.

Although not as stiff and robust as more premium options, the Index Explorer will work wonderfully well for exploring lakes and rivers and may even be used in some very calm coastal areas.


Intex Challenger K2

Best tried and tested inflatable kayak

Reasons to buy

– Affordable
– Has cargo net to hold gear
– Nicer color than Explorer

Reasons to avoid

– Not as rigid as the Excursion Pro
– Low bow makes it susceptible to splashing


– Size: Inflated size: 11 feet 6 inches X 2 feet 6 inches X 1 foot 3 inches

– Weight: 36.4 pounds

– Material: vinyl

– Capacity: 2 person

The Intex Challenger K2 is the company’s mid-range inflatable kayak and the one that I have owned and enjoyed for years.

Like the other models, the Challenger K2 features a fully-inflatable construction, detachable skeg that slides into place, and inflatable seats that are actually very comfortable.

Despite the similar cost, the Challenger K2 has one benefit over the Explorer that is noteworthy: the cargo net is actually surprisingly useful as I always find myself stowing gear like life jackets, waterproof cameras, etc. underneath it.

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Intex Excursion Pro K2

Best inflatable boat for rowing

Reasons to buy

– Higher pressure air tubes to increase rigidity
– Integrated foot rests and rod holders
– Comes with two different skegs for shallow and deep water

Reasons to avoid

– Only comes in one colour
– No dedicated storage solution for gear


– Size: Inflated size: 12 feet 7 inches x 3 feet 1 inch x 1 foot 6 inches

– Weight: 19.77 kilograms

– Material: plastic

– Capacity: 2 person

The Excursion Pro is Intex’s premium inflatable kayak, although it is still very affordable. This model features a more rugged construction and numerous creature comforts like foot rests and integrated rod holders.

More pronounced coverings also create small storage cubbies at either end of the kayak, although it would be nice to see a dedicated storage bag on future models.


Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon Boat

Best inflatable boat for fishing

Reasons to buy

– Rugged steel frame construction
– Abrasion-resistant bottom
– Elevated seat allows for better visibility and functionality
– Pontoon design makes boat more stable
– Lots of integrated storage

Reasons to avoid

– Fairly expensive for what is essentially an inflatable fishing raft
– Cannot accept an outboard motor
– Steel frame could rust over time if used in salt water


– Size: Assembled size: 108 inches L x 56 inches W x 28 inches H

– Weight: 77 pounds

– Material: PVC bottom, tough nylon top, powder-coated steel tube frame, bronze oar locks, cold and heat-resistant bladders and rugged 7-foot two-piece aluminum oars

– Capacity: one person


The final inflatable boat on our list is the Colorado, offered by Classic Accessories, which has been designed primarily as an epic river fishing platform for a single user.

With an abrasion-resistant bottom, this river raft was made for navigating the craggy shallows that trout and other freshwater fish tend to inhabit.

With a rugged steel frame and a wealth of storage, including rod holders, this pontoon boat is the mountain angler’s ultimate tool. This raft can also be fitted with a trolling motor.

Buy it now on Amazon


What makes an inflatable boat a tender?

In the context of inflatable boats, a tender is a small inflatable boat designed to be an auxiliary vessel to a larger boat or yacht. There are many types of tenders, including those with rigid bottoms as well as wholly inflatable and storable models.

Tenders may be very expensive or very cheap depending on the design. Typically, the most expensive tenders are constructed with painted aluminum bottoms and double floors, where the walking surface is covered with some type of faux teak vinyl or foam decking.

On these more expensive tenders, the tubes are typically constructed of heat-welded (rather than glued) hypalon, which is far more durable to UV than PVC.

Therefore, fully-fledged tenders are typically the preserve of wealthy liveaboard cruisers who spend most of their time in tropical regions where their tender is in use nearly all of the time and is therefore constantly exposed to UV radiation.


For casual part-time and/or temperate cruisers, more affordable but equally suitable, tender options exist. For less demanding applications where stowage ability and modularity takes precedence, fully-inflatable boats with an aluminum floor are often preferred, though a model with a rigid air floor may also be used.

In terms of rigidity while underway, expect boats with an aluminum hull and double floor to be the most rigid, while air-floor models are typically the least rigid and therefore the worst option for handling coastal chop and outboards above 10hp.

RIBs with fiberglass hulls and floors also exist, but these are typically heavier, not as rigid, and also prone to degradation from constant immersion in water (blisters) and UV radiation (chalking).

While fiberglass is a wonderful material for larger vessels, I do not recommend it for RIBs as aluminum tends to be a much more performant and long-lasting choice.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated sailing page for more marine products.