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The world of boating can be very daunting to a bystander, there are so many options for boats, accessories and insurance that you can be left with no idea what to investigate first. But don’t worry, we will give you a basic rundown of everything you need to know. The following information will help you make an effective decision as to which type of boat is best suited to your needs.
Already familiar with inflatables boats? Check out these useful articles:
- Best inflatable kayak comparison
- Best budget inflatable kayak comparison
- Best inflatable fishing boat
- Best inflatable dinghies comparison
- The best brands in the inflatable boat world
- Frequently Asked Questions about inflatables
Inflatable VS Non-inflatable
Ease of transportation and storage is one of the major reasons that people opt to buy an inflatable watercraft over a regular model. The fact that most inflatables can be stored in a regular box means that they can fit almost anywhere without hassle. Due to being constructed out of fabric, inflatable kayaks, dinghies and pontoons also tend to be a great deal lighter.
Whilst traditionally the performance of inflatable watercrafts was considered greatly inferior to regular models, today the gap between the quality of their performance is very slim. Although if performance is the most important feature for you, then a regular model may be better suited to your needs.
One downside of inflatable watercraft is their reliance on a source of air to pump them up. Sometimes foot or electric pumps can fail leaving you high and dry! We always recommend having a backup plan should this ever happen to you.
It is generally cheaper to buy a good quality inflatable than a basic regular model. This is mainly due to the fact that the materials used to create inflatables are more readily available at cheaper prices than those of their regular counterparts.
Kayaks, Dinghies and Pontoons – Which Should I Get?
Inflatable kayaks (also known as inflatable canoes) are an ever popular product, and one of the very first mainstream inflatables to really catch the public’s attention. They are a versatile craft, which is one of the reasons they have remained so popular. With a narrow body and streamlined design, inflatable kayaks are speedy and highly maneuverable.
Kayaks are controlled and propelled via a double-bladed paddle. To complete newcomers to kayaking, paddling, even in a straight line, may seem easy. But take it from us, you will practice for a frustratingly long time before you efficiently master the art! We will go into more detail on another post, but the basic idea is to evenly match your paddle strokes on each side to go forwards.
An obvious bonus to owning an inflatable kayak as opposed to an ordinary model is ease of transportation and storage. Due to their streamlined size, they can be easily deflated and folded down to take up as little space as possible. This means that a camping trip does not have to start with packing up the RV using your Tetris skills!
Inflatable kayaks, From the keel to the seats; are completely inflatable and are built using very tough fabrics that are resistant to damage. Their simple design means that there is very little that can go wrong.
Kayaks first appeared in human history over 4,000 years ago as transportation and hunting tools for the Inuit and other subarctic peoples. These original craft were mainly used to hunt food in lakes and coasts and rivers. Modern day Kayaks (especially inflatables) are lightweight craft, but the originals were somewhat heavier. The frames were often constructed using whalebones which had seal skin tightly wrapped around to form the shape of the craft.
Unlike today, where you have almost too many options for buying your dream vessel, traditionally each person would craft their own. The general idea was that the length of the boat is the same as the length of your arms. This meant that the size and dimensions of these watercraft could be dramatically different from each other. But it also meant that each craft was personalized and borrowing a friend’s recreational vehicle wasn’t always a good idea…
Paul Caffyn is one of the most legendary kayakers in history. He is most famous for paddling around the whole coast of Australia in a simple sea kayak. He paddled 9,500 miles almost non-stop for a year. While we are not suggesting that you should plan a similar adventure just yet, it is an inspiring feat that should convince you that a Kayak is indeed a versatile craft!
During his journey Paul was attacked by almost every natural obstacle imaginable, but none stopped him from completing his rubber boat voyage.
Facts & Features
- Kayaks are extremely portable, even compared to other inflatables. If portability is a main concern for you then look no further than an inflatable kayak.
- They are a fantastic all-round vessel. Whether you want to go fishing, ride whitewater rapids or simply having a relaxing paddle in the sun; this is a generally cheap option that is as versatile as you!
- The average Capacity is around 600 pounds. This is less than some other inflatable options, but considering the size of these vessels, it is not a deal breaker!
Inflatable kayaks are best suited to those who don’t want to be limited by their craft.
Dinghies are often the first inflatable experience for the typical person. This is due to the cheap child-focused dinghies that can be found on any beach in any country during the summer months. Often Dinghies are powered by an outboard motor, they can be controlled with paddles or oars, but this is a clumsy process and hard work, and will most often leave you going all over the place rather than in a straight line!
Inflatable dinghies are the perfect balance between portability, capacity and versatility. Also known as inflatable rafts, these watercrafts are great if you want to simply enjoy being on the water. There is enough space to stretch out, and store anything you may need.
Inflatable dinghies are an affordable option for lake fishing, this is due to their size and the space available to keep your equipment and catches safe. The general design of a dinghy includes an inflatable body with a fully or partially inflatable floor or a floor made out of a different material altogether. Your choice between them comes down to your purposes for the craft.
First there are roll-up floors which have wooden or aluminum slats encased within the fabric floor. This design means you can inflate your craft in a matter of minutes. This is the most simple dinghy design, and as a result, the cheapest.
Then you have high-pressure inflatable floors; they have a keel tube that inflates inside the floor. The result is a V – shaped floor that can go faster and is more maneuverable than its roll-up counterpart.
Next there are solid-panel floors, these boats have a rigid floor made of some substance such as wood or plastic. Solid-panels take a while to inflate so are best suited to those who wish to have regular use their watercraft.
Last but by no means least are RIBs or Rigid Inflatable Boats. These are often the choice for more serious boat lovers. Generally made out of fiberglass, this type of floor increases the value of the dinghy. Performance and capacity are excellent with a RIB.
The Riverland Dinghy Derby takes place in Renark South Australia and is a race between around 60 dinghies on a 56 mile stretch of the Murray River. These boats are powered by strong outboard motors and reach speeds of over 50 mph.
These dinghies always contain 2 team members and are faced with the danger of the infamous Australian crocs should they tip over! A true adrenaline sport that we don’t suggest attempting until you have read all the posts on this site!
Facts & Features
- The carrying capacity of most dinghies are much greater than any other inflatables. This should be plenty for anything you plan to use it for.
- Not best suited to rowing, these inflatables should be powered with an outboard motor.
- This craft is a great option for lake fishing on a budget. Capacity and ease of setup makes it a hassle free option for catching some delicious freshwater treats.
- While not as versatile as an inflatable kayak, you can still comfortably take an inflatable dinghy on moderate whitewater rapids.
An inflatable dinghy is best suited to those who want to have a comfortable inflatable experience.
If you are looking for the ultimate inflatable fishing boat then an inflatable pontoon boat is for you. It looks like 2 kayaks fastened together…which it basically is! The capacity and portability of inflatable pontoon boats is compromised for maneuverability.
The two pontoons easily cut through the water, and the fastened oars means that the boats are highly practical for lake fishing. There is next to no room to move on one of these inflatables, but they are built with fishing in mind so comfort should not be your main priority!
While most inflatable dinghies and kayaks are very portable, pontoon boats are generally not. But the lack of portability is overshadowed by their sheer practicality for anglers. they feature many little details that come in handy for the typical fishing enthusiast; including rod holders and extra pockets for fishing accessories.
The main choice facing those who wish to buy a pontoon boat is whether to go for a packable or non-packable design. A packable model allows easier transportation and storage at the cost of capacity, whilst non-packable models sacrifice portability for storage. So your specific needs will influence your decision here.
Whilst not having global fame; the Picnic Pontoon runs with the idea of a pontoon boat and takes it to a whole new level. Billed as the ultimate leisure craft Picnic Pontoon is basically a picnic table attached to two pontoons. The floating table is popular with many Minnesotans and is the ultimate relaxing summer experience.
If your DIY skills aren’t quite up to the level of making your own floating table, then we suggest that you stick to an inflatable pontoon boat instead!
Facts & Features
- Average capacity is around 500 pounds. Considering the amount of space available on a pontoon boat, 500 pounds is a great deal of space!
- Pontoon boats are the ultimate fly fishing inflatables. Every part of these vessels is designed with fishing in mind, so rest assured that your needs will be catered for.
- Whilst not as portable as other inflatables, they are a great compromise for serious anglers.
- These are not versatile craft, they are built with fishing alone in mind. So we advise not to take your inflatable pontoon boat to some rapids….
- Most of these inflatable watercraft are built to fit 1 person, so you will have to get used to floating alone.
Pontoon boats are best suited to serious anglers.
What to Look For in An Inflatable
Once you have decided what type of inflatable best suits your needs, it’s time to look at specific models. There are many brands for each type of inflatable, and a wide range of choices from each manufacturer.
Due to an inflatable’s great storage possibilities, you can go to any major super-center and pick up an inflatable kayak for around $150. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for! Buying a generic inflatable boat could be ideal if you simply want a few weeks of fun on the water, but if you want your purchase to last you a while, then we suggest shopping around and finding a model that suits your needs better. We recommend that you get yourself a mid-ranged boat, which should last around 5 – 10 years.
Cheaply made inflatables tend to rip and spring leaks more easily than their more expensive counterparts. They are also prone to being unbalanced on the water, this increases the likelihood that you will capsize. It is also worth considering the fact that cheaper models will require more maintenance and checking with use.
The formula to choosing the right inflatable watercraft for you is this:
What do I need it for? -> What are my requirements -> How much do I want to pay?
First you need to decide which type of inflatable is best suited to your needs, this step will determine if you go for a kayak, a dinghy or pontoon boat. This choice will be governed by what you want to do with your boat. For instance a pontoon boat will not be best suited to someone who wishes to go white water rafting!
Secondly you must work out what specific requirements you have for your purchase. This will include things like portability, dimensions, and storage capacity. For instance If you want to transport your vessel in a small car you should look at models which are specifically marketed as space saving.
And then finally you must decide how much money you are willing to part with. By this stage you should have a few models on your list, this final step will help you narrow the selection down to the perfect inflatable for you.
This is a basic breakdown of what you can expect for your money at today’s prices:
|Type||$100 – $ 300||$300 – $600||$600 & Above|
|Kayak||Expect a basic boat. Limited accessories. Good for learning to paddle. Ideal for gentle lake conditions. One seat.||Expect a better build quality with more accessories and a respected brand name. Good for mild – moderate whitewater. Can have 2 seats.||Expect professional quality. These models will be able to face any condition. Perfect for whitewater.|
|Dinghy||Expect children’s size boat. Gentle recreational activities only.||Expect a well balanced watercraft with good safety features. Versatile and adequate for most water-based activities.||Expect professional quality. Fibreglass floor for a long-lasting vessel. Sturdy craft well suited to most water-based activities|
|Pontoon Boat||Expect a basic Float Tube. Only suitable for calm water fishing.||Expect a basic pontoon boat. Good accessories. Fair amount of storage.Sturdy construction.||Expect professional quality. Adjustable fixtures. Full range of accessories. Excellent use of space.|