One possible downside to this much variety in use, however, is not knowing which one to actually choose. Although most brands indicate the type of water their products are supposed to be used on, you have to remember that there a plethora of different manufacturers out there. Luckily for you, here is a list of 10 of the best inflatable rafts currently available so you can easily find a match.
10 Best Inflatable Rafts in 2017
The entries below are a mix of different inflatable rafts, each with its own unique use. Furthermore, none of the items are listed in any order whatsoever. This will, hopefully, prevent any bias in your decision, and instead, will encourage you to choose based on what you truly need.
Saturn 9.6 Feet Inflatable Whitewater Raft (RD290)
This inflatable raft measures 9.6 feet in overall length, and about 5.3 feet in width. It weighs approximately 80 pounds, and can withstand up to 2 + 1 individuals, although no exact weight capacity is indicated by the manufacturer. The RD290 is just the ideal size and weight for Class III+ whitewater activities.
When it comes to the air chambers, the Saturn 9.6 feet has a 2 + 2 + 1 setup, which includes the two detachable thwarts. The craft in general, is made with puncture-proof 1,100 dtex high strength PVC fabric, and is protected by 1100 g/m2 coating on both interior and exterior surfaces. As for the base, it uses a 140mm drop-stich high-pressure air floor, which is removable.
Lift handles are present at both front and rear ends of the boat, while a rubbing strake can be seen all around the raft. There are also self-bailer holes around the edge of the raft’s bottom. Aside from a repair kit, a spare valve, and carrying bag, the unit also comes with a generic hand pump.
Saturn 12 Feet Inflatable River Fishing Raft
Much like the Saturn 9.6 feet raft, this model is also constructed with 1,100 dtex high strength PVC fabric, and has the same 1100 g/m2 coating. However, this one is longer and narrower, with overall dimensions of 12 feet by 3 feet by 10 inches. The Saturn 12 Feet raft has no self-bailing system out of the box, but you can cut about 6-8 dime-sized holes in its bottom.
Because of its added length, this unit can conveniently seat up to 3 adults, withstanding up to 770 pounds of total weight capacity. The main module on the other hand, only weighs around 49 pounds. For the number of air chambers, this one has a total of five (3 + 2 setup). Accessories include 2 paddles, 1 repair kit, a carry bag, and a decent hand pump.
The Saturn 12 feet blow up river raft is also the perfect size to outfit for fishing use, which is why it is often offered with a customized frame, seats, and mounts for oars and rods, among others. You can still fish with it in its default form, and it can even handle easy Class II whitewater rafting, but an outfitted version would yield the best result.
Saturn 13 Feet Inflatable Whitewater Raft
This inflatable watercraft can comfortably sit up to 5 adults, while still having room for some gear or 3 younger passengers. Such setup is made possible thanks to the 13 feet by 6 feet by 5 inches dimensions of the boat. The Saturn 13 Feet raft weighs 125 pounds, which is to be expected, but it is also meant to be transported by multiple people via its 6 carrying handles.
There are 5 air chambers in total (4 exterior tubes and 1 dropstitch air deck floor). The floor is self-bailing, and comes with a 5-layer PVC construction. There are also extra PVC on the top tubes for added exterior protection.
Rubber strake is also integrated, along with 2 removable thwarts and 12 exterior D-rings. Aside from the main unit, a repair kit and nylon carrying bag are added in.
AIRE Tributary 9.5 HD Self-Bailing Raft
The Tributary 9.5 HD raft by AIRE measures 9 feet and 8 inches in length and 5 feet and three inches in width. It has an overall heft of 70 pounds, but it can handle up to 600 pounds of total weight. It only has 1 thwart, while the air chambers total in at 3 (2 main ones and 1 for the floor).
It is constructed mainly with PVC materials, in 42/2000 (weight/denier) quality for both the tube and the floor. There are up to 10 D-rings on the vessel, plus 2 carrying handles. The floor is also self-bailing.
The tubes are zippered, which allows for easy access during repairs. Speaking of which, the product also comes with a repair kit.
AIRE Tributary Twelve HD Self-Bailing Raft
This inflatable raft has a length of 12 feet and 4 inches and a width of 6 feet and 1 inch. When fully-assembled, the unit weighs approximately 118 pounds. It has two thwarts and are installable with cam straps.
Much like the AIRE Tributary 9.5, this one still has zippered tubes, which make repairs more effortless. There are three main air tubes. You can find 10 D-rings on it, and 4 carrying handles.
The lace-in, self-bailing floor is an effective means for getting rid of water. As for the build of the product, it uses welded PVC outer shell seams, and a 42 oz./2000 denier PVC material for both the tube and floor constructions. It only comes with a repair kit.
Bris 12 Feet Inflatable White Water River Raft
With its 2000 denier PVC main tube and bottom floor fabrics, this raft is reliably tough. It also sports a unique I-beam inflatable floor, along with a self-bailing system. Its two thwarts are removable.
The Bris 12 Feet raft has 4 separate air chambers. A rubber strake is integrated around the device, in addition to an all-around boat life line, resulting in optimal protection and security. Bundled with the raft are 1 set of oars, foot pump, a carry bag, and a repair kit.
Dimensions-wise, this blow up raft measures 12 feet in length and 6 feet in width. It can transport a max of 6 adults, but the unit itself only weighs 106 lbs. There are two carry handles, one at the front, and another at the rear.
Bris 13 Feet Inflatable White Water River Raft
The Bris 13 Feet raft is just like the Bris 12 Feet raft, but only 1 foot longer. It still uses a similar 2000 denier PVC construction on both its main tube and bottom floor fabrics. The inflatable floor also sports an I-beam build, plus a self-bailing design.
The two thwarts are removable. A rubber strake around the instrument, as well as a life line, offer optimum support for when things get rough. You can also find 3 carrying handles on each side of the watercraft.
This Bris blow up raft measures 13 feet long and 6 feet wide, and weighs 128 pounds. It can accommodate up to 8 adults, and is armed with up to four individual air compartments. Packaged along the main item are the following: 1 set of oars, a carry back, repair kit, and a foot pump.
Bris 14.1 Feet Inflatable White Water River Raft
Similar to the other Bris entries on this list, this particular model still has the same width, same goes for the construction materials used. The length, however, now measures roughly 14 feet long. It also has the same quantity of air chambers, which is 4 in total.
The Bris 14.1 Feet raft has an I-beam floor that uses an identical self-bailing system, much like the two Bris units. Moreover, your safety is further upheld thanks to the all-around life line and surrounding rubber strake.
Packaged accessories are still the same as the 12 feet and 13 feet Bris rafts, which includes the following: a repair kit and carry bag, a foot pump, and a set of oars. The size of the boat, plus the 3 removable thwarts, makes for a suitable boarding setup for 10 persons.
NRS Outlaw 142 Self-Bailing Inflatable Raft
The NRS Outlaw 142 blow up raft offers competent durability, thanks to its PVC construction. However, the floor material is more durable than the tube, since it uses a 68/4000 (weight/denier) quality, whereas the latter only uses 48/2000. The floor is also self-bailing.
The product provides up to 12 D-rings for your strapping needs, as well as 2 carrying handles on both left and right sides of the craft. For optimal buoyancy, the apparatus contains up to 3 main air tubes. Its two thwarts can also be disconnected to make way for other optional attachments, like the NRS Fishing Frame.
This model is 14 feet long, and has a width of 6 feet and 6 inches. It has a heaviness of 155 pounds, and can hold 6-8 passengers. A repair kit comes with the purchase.
NRS Otter Livery 106 Standard Floor Raft
The Otter Livery 106 raft from NRS can keep up to 6 paddlers afloat. With its 10 feet and 5 inches length and 4 feet and 11 inches width, you will certainly have enough room to be comfortable, while still being able to maneuver tight corners. It weighs only 62 pounds.
When it comes to the construction, this model is manufactured using 41 oz., 1100 denier Pennel Orca material, for both its tubing and flooring. It is equipped with two main air containers, and 6 stainless steel D-rings.
Apart from its front and rear grab handles, 2 removable thwarts are also available. Additionally, a repair kit is included in your purchase of the boat.
Best Inflatable Rafts Comparison
A lot of aspects can influence your process in finding the ideal inflatable raft, from material construction, to passenger capacity, and price, just to name a few. With that said, here are some of the most important factors you should deliberate upon, if you are serious in buying a model that will best suit your personal criteria:
Like with most big purchases, having a realistic budget is recommended. This will not only prevent you from reaching too high, but it is also a smart way to invest. If you have the means, however, then feel free to widen the scope of your option.
If you are a little tight on money, consider looking into the Saturn and Bris lineups, since most of their inflatable water vessels are retailed at an accessible price. In contrast, the units from AIRE and NRS are a bit on the expensive side, but quality is almost always guaranteed.
Most average inflatable boats, including the raft variety, are made with PVC materials. But, newer developments were later discovered, leading up to the use of stronger and more resilient components. A great example of which is Hypalon™.
Units made with PVC are quite flexible and light, meaning they are easier to fold and stow. PVC is also generally effective in enduring punctures and abrasions. However, they are not as efficient in fighting UV rays and corrosive chemicals as compared to Hypalon.
Fortunately, most modern PVC-made inflatables are now protected by coatings that help fight corrosion. The 1100 g/m2 coating that Saturn uses on its rafts is just one example of this particular countermeasure. Sadly, these added layers do not last a lifetime, and will slowly fade with each exposure to the aforesaid harmful elements.
As for Hypalon, it promises complete resistance to UV degradation, corrosive substances (i.e. oil, acid, and etc.), and extreme temperatures. It is even tested to last up to 20 years, regardless of the number of exposures. Note that Hypalon-constructed crafts tend to be heavier and less flexible, not to mention pricier, than PVC-made ones.
If you go over the 10 entries again, you will not see the word “Hypalon” in any of them. However, if you look closely, one of the products from NRS is built using a material called Pennel Orca. NRS claims that this component still possesses the same properties as Hyaplon, which used to be their primary material from way back.
To choose, simply consider the type of environment in which you will be mostly sailing on. If your rafting or fishing spots have sufficient shades, then PVC will probably more than suffice. But, if you like to test harsher waters, while being under heavy sunlight exposure, then Hypalon or other similar materials might be worth the bigger investment.
You may have also encountered the terms “denier” and “dtex” from the catalogue above. Both are units of measurement, but they serve the same purpose, which is to indicate the linear density of a fiber. Denier is measured in lower values than decitex (dtex), which basically means a 1,100 dtex PVC will end up with a lower number when converted to denier.
You do not really have to mind these technicalities. All you have to understand is that the higher the value, the thicker and more durable the material.
If you will be using the raft in rivers or waterways that have plenty of narrow corners, then it is only natural that you go for the models with lower widths. However, you also need to take the length of the boat into consideration, since it also factors in on the number of people and equipment you can bring along.
Passenger and Weight Capacities
These two are easy enough to understand. A larger weight capacity means better gear management, while a higher passenger limit suggests more room for passengers.
Types of Water
Rafts are usually associated with fast-paced currents and endless water splashes. But, this is not necessarily the case for all inflatable rafts. As you may have realized from reading through each product above, not all 10 of them are cut out for high-class whitewater rafting.
There are actually a few of them that are more ideal for fishing, wherein the waters are not as rough. But, if you want the best chance of enduring through the most dangerous rivers, then go for models with the appropriate whitewater rafting score, with 6 being the highest and 1 as the lowest.
Like with most similar vessels, setting up an inflatable raft partly revolves around the number of its air chambers. Obviously, the more there are the more you have to fill up, which essentially means additional pumps. Unless, of course, you use an electric air pump.
Although it involves more work, having multiple air chambers can actually benefit you in worst case scenarios. For instance, if one tube is accidentally punctured, you can still stay afloat with the remaining chambers.
Aside from the accessories that come with the product, you also need to consider your options for future outfitting. The optional fishing and rowing customizations that Saturn and NRS offer for some of their units are excellent representations of such arrangement.
If you are set on using these boats in their default state, then you might want to know what else you are getting aside from the main module. Extras like a pair of oars, an air pump, a carry bag, and repair kits, among others, are always worth looking out for.
D-rings can also offer a lot of utility, so consider their quantity if you see the potential in them. Paddle holders is not exactly the most common characteristic of these inflatable rafts, since you are expected to keep hold of your oars for the majority of the trip in the river. However, if you are buying primarily for fishing purposes, then paddle holders will be of great help.
All this information can be sometimes overwhelming, especially if you are new to the subject. Nevertheless, as long as you take full advantage of all the above-discussed factors, you will eventually find that ideal inflatable raft that can satisfy your standards.