Types of Inflatable Boats

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Inflatable boats have been popular for a long time now, with boaters of all ages and from all works of life switching to dinghy-styled vessels for their affordability and usability. These small vessels are safe and easy to steer even across stormy waters. However, there are different types of inflatable boats best suited for a particular activity. The activity you may likely engage in more often than not should determine the one you buy, and in this article, we want to review the different types.

Please continue reading to learn about the different types of inflatable boats and what they are used for.

Inflatable Raft

One type of inflatable boat is called a raft or an inflatable raft. This small vessel is mostly used in small lakes or rivers, and its main mode of propulsion is paddling. Inflatable rafts are mostly used for recreational purposes. Built with a simple but strong structure, rafts can withstand waves.

You can also use an inflatable raft for transportation and lifesaving activities too. Inflatable rafts come in different sizes, and they are easy to navigate.

Inflatable Pontoon

Pontoons have different features, and an inflatable version is just one of them. Inflatable pontoons have two large air tubes and a single seat for a single person aboard. This seat is positioned in the boat’s center and is either a metal or an inflatable boat. The two air tubes are tied together using a metal frame or curved materials pumped with air.

Pontoons are mostly used for fishing in lakes, streams, and small rivers. While most pontoon boats can only carry one person, there are bigger versions that can carry more than one person. Pontoon inflatable boats are stable and lightweight, making them safe vessels for fishing.

Inflatable Kayaks

An inflatable kayak is another version of the more rigid kayak. This one is perhaps more popular than any other kind of inflatable boat. Inflatable kayaks are used for several purposes such as leisure, fishing recreation, sports, and short navigational voyages. If you are looking to buy a boat that can best be described as a jack of all trades, it must be an inflatable kayak.

This vessel can accommodate one or more people, and it is easy to steer just like the others. Moreover, it is a stable vessel even on waters with strong currents.

Inflatable Dinghy

An inflatable dinghy is another type of inflatable boat you should know of. This one has several air chambers that keep it afloat. Dinghies have different floor types; some have aluminum, others have wooden floors or inflatable floors. Also, the transom of a dinghy is mounted with a motor for more speed.

These vessels have multipurpose value and are quite rugged for rough currents. Moreover, they are also good rescued boats for towing other inflatable or much smaller rigid boats. This is a common vessel used for water sports.

Rigid Inflatable Boat

Also called a RIB, a rigid inflatable boat is a unique vessel with the design of traditional boats with extended buoyancy and a rigid hull. Despite their inflatable feature, RIBs cannot be deflated, folded, or taken apart because their hulls are rigid. This design makes it impossible to sink a RIB. They are mostly used for reconnaissance purposes.

How to choose the right inflatable boat for your activities

 Now that you know the different types of inflatable boats, how then do you choose the right type for your activities? With different options available, this may not be an easy thing to do if you don’t know what they are best suited for. To help you out, we’ve done a quick review and guide to help you make the right decision. Continue to read

Picking a boat based on the purpose

One way to choose a boat is to do so based on purpose. By this, we mean making a choice based on what you want to use the vessel for. Here are the different boats you can pick based on purpose.

For recreational purposes – Inflatable Raft

If you are looking for a boat for recreational purposes, you should buy an inflatable raft. This boat is only ideal for small water bodies, so avoid using one in large rivers.

Due to its simple and petite structure, a raft will not run aground in shallow water, and you can use it in rocky areas as well. It is very safe with multiple air chambers and air valves, keels, and grab ropes. This boat allows you to have all the fun you want on the water.

For fishing – Pontoon Boat

If you are an angler and don’t want to buy a more expensive conventional fishing boat, you can sail to the deep where the fishes are in an inflatable pontoon boat. Pontoon boats are specially designed for fishing which is why anglers prefer them to any other vessel.

They have two tubes tied together to keep the vessel afloat, and the larger the pontoon, the more people it can carry. Note that they are heavier than rafts and are not suited for areas with very shallow water.

Multi-purpose activities – Inflatable kayak

For a boat that can be used for almost anything, we give you the inflatable kayak. Kayaks are one of the oldest small-sized vessels and have been used for centuries for fishing and exploratory activities long before the rise of maritime technology.

Inflatable kayaks are portable and easy to maneuver. You can use it for watersports, especially kayaking, fishing, exploratory activities, short voyages, and general recreational activities.

Watersport – Inflatable Dinghies

Inflatable Dinghies are mostly used for watersports. They are rugged but lightweight. Besides for sporting purposes, they can be used to tender larger boats as well. Some people used dinghies for fishing in shallow waters too.

Patrols – Rigid Inflatable Boat

A RIB is a boat with a rigid hull, so it cannot be deflated. This boat is used by coast guards and other security agents for patrolling an area and for surveillance as well. Rigid inflatable boats are also safe for stormy currents.

Picking a boat based on design

Another way to pick an inflatable boat should be based on the design. To do this, you will have to differentiate them on two basis.

  • Boats with keels
  • Boats without keels

The keel has to do with the length of its metal structure. Some boats have this structure while others don’t. Let’s look at the two categories for Clarity.

Inflatable boat with a keel

An inflatable boat with a keel will give you far more stability than a boat without a keel. Keels make it easy to cut through the water and perform maneuvers in tight spots. Moreover, keels allow you to travel in open waters at relative speed. Overall, this design makes the vessel compact.

An inflatable boat without keels

While boats with keels are compact, those without keels are far more compact and easy to inflate. If you have very limited storage space, you might want to go for this one. As it will only take up very little space in your store. Moreover, non-keel boats are easy to inflate and deflate, but they come with their own disadvantages, like limited speed compared to keelboats.

Picking a boat based on Hull type

Another way to pick an inflatable boat is based on the hull type. There are different types of hulls which include

  • Deep-V hulls
  • Flat hulls
  • V hulls

Deep V-hull

A deep V-hull is a hull mostly used in rigid inflatable boats. This hull is more stable in water than the normal V Hull. It offers the boater more navigation control as it can tilt and swerve. Boats with this hull are more expensive and they are quite slow and do not have a keel. Rather it is made of PVC or any other material. Boats with flat hulls are not very fast and are not so easy to maneuver in tight spots. Rather, they are best for straight-line journeys and short distances at low speeds.

V Hull

A V Hull is a different version with similarities to the deep V hull. V Hull boats have inflatable keels with floors that may either be pumped air or hardwood. If you want a boat that can move at relatively high speeds, this is a vessel you may want to buy. It cuts through water easily and is maneuverable.

Picking a boat based on Fabric

Another way to pick a boat is to do so based on the type of fabric it is made of. This is the method to use if you want to buy one based on longevity value. Let us look at the different fabrics used for modern inflatables.


Polyvinyl Chloride is a plastic, synthetic Polymer used for making inflatable boats. This fabric is affordable, lightweight, and portable. PVCs come in different color ranges and are easy to maintain. If you don’t want to spend too much money on a boat, you may want to go for a PVC boat but note that the material is sensitive and degrades with longer exposure to the sun. Secondly, it is not scratch-resistant, so you need to be careful, so it lasts for a long time.


Hypalon boats are by far the most expensive inflatable boats in the market today because this fabric is the most durable of all. It is a synthetic rubber used for coating nylon or polyester. Hypalon is tear and scratch-resistant and does not degrade as quickly as PVC when exposed to UV rays.

Hypalon is portable and easy to fold. This resilient fabric is highly recommended, but it develops stains quickly and is quite expensive. However, if you go for this one, you are guaranteed value for money.

Types of inflatable boat FAQ

How many types of inflatable boats are there?

There are basically five types of inflatable boats, namely inflatable rafts, inflatable pontoon, dinghy, kayak, and rigid inflatable boats.

Which inflatable boat is best for watersports?

An inflatable kayak is the best boat for watersport

Which inflatable boat fabric has a longer durability value?

Hypalon is a very durable fabric that will last for many years

Final Thoughts

The types of inflatable boats have been reviewed in this article, and we went a step further to show you how to pick the right boat based on different criteria. We hope that when you decide to buy one, you will make the right choice.

Last updated: 13/04/2022

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