10 Best Inflatable River Rafts of 2021 (Reviewed!)

The best inflatable river rafts of 2021 are versatile boats that you can use on an exciting white water trip, a bountiful fishing trip, or a gentle float. In this blow-up river-craft review, we talk about the top products to take you down the river safely. Inflatable river rafts are recreational boats for fishing, whitewater rafting, and outings with family and friends. 

Some of the best inflatable river rafts serve different purposes. In this review, we will talk about the different types of river rafts. We will also talk about river-raft construction, what makes them heavy-duty and durable, and what accessories you need. We will also look at how quickly they inflate and deflate as well as how to store them.

(You might be interested in reading Best Rigid Inflatable Boats)

The Best Inflatable River Rafts Reviews (Editor’s Picks)

The best inflatable river rafts are durable watercraft that are comfortable for adults and children. They are affordable, easy to transport, and quick to inflate. 

1. BRIS 1.2mm 9.8ft Inflatable White Water River Raft Inflatable Boat FloatingTubes

The Bris 1.2mm 9.8 inflatable raft is designed for whitewater trips. The craft has commercial-grade 2,000 Dtex 1.2mm PVC fabric with polyester support, so it is puncture-resistant and abrasion-resistant. The heat-welded seals are durable and will not erode in fresh or saltwater. The raft has a self-bailing feature with removable thwarts. 

This two-person raft is for use on lower classes of whitewater and is smooth on calmer water. It comes with a repair kit, carrying bag, and foot pump. The boat is easy to maneuver and designed for novice rafters.
(You can try reading about the other Best Fishing Floating Tubes)

Pros:

  • Three-year manufacturer’s warranty
  • Made of 1.2mm PVC with 200 Dtex and polyester support
  • Puncture-proof and abrasion-resistant material
  • Self-bailing system
  • Commercial-grade whitewater raft

Cons: 

  • Two-person raft
  • Weighs 88 pounds
  • Occasional quality-control issues with valves and bailing system

2. Intex Mariner 3, 3-Person Inflatable Boat Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump

The Intex Mariner 3 fits three people and has two bench seats and a pair of oarlocks. The craft includes two Boston valves for quick inflating and deflating. The raft has two layers of heavy-duty PVC laminated to a third layer of polyester mesh. Intex designed this raft for recreational fun and for fishing, by putting two fishing-rod holders on it. 

The boat also has a pouch for safety gear and one for batteries. It has an extruded plastic floor to keep the vessel rigid while inflated. You can attach a small trolling motor to the raft by attaching a mount. Intex offers several accessories. It comes with a carrying case. 

Pros:

  • Quick to inflate and deflate
  • Two fishing-rod holders
  • Safety and gear pouches
  • Oar mounts
  • Maximum capacity is 800 pounds

Cons: 

  • Flimsy carrying case
  • Quality-control issues with the oars
  • Three-person raft, with two seats

3. Intex Seahawk Inflatable Boat Series

The Intex Seahawk is a three-person craft with four oarlocks, fishing-rod holders, and fittings for a motor mount. It has three inflation chambers, including a safety chamber. It has a weight limit of 790 pounds. 

The craft comes with two oars and a high-output hand pump. The raft includes two inflatable seat cushions but fits three people within the weight limit. This is a recreational river craft but can be used for fishing, too. 

Pros:

  • Four oarlocks
  • All-around grab bar
  • Thick vinyl
  • Tough to tip
  • Weighs 31.4 pounds

Cons: 

  • Has a soft floor
  • Cushions do not provide back support
  • Quality-control issues with oarlocks calibration

4. Intex Excursion 5, 5-Person Inflatable Boat Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump

The Intex Excursion is a five-person raft designed for recreational use. It has three chambers for buoyancy and safety. It inflates and deflates quickly with the large Boston valve on the largest chambers. To keep the craft rigid, Intex added an inflatable I-beam in the floor. The boat has a fitting for a motor mount, too. 

It comes with a manual hand pump, two oars, and a patching kit. It has vinyl construction, so you should not use it for whitewater rafting. The craft has two inflatable seats and a cushion, four fishing rod holders, and four oarlocks. 

Pros:

  • Four oarlocks
  • Three seats
  • Four fishing rod holders
  • Quick to inflate and deflate

Cons: 

  • Made of vinyl
  • Hand pump is slow
  • Quality-control issues with I-beam floor

5. AIRHEAD Angler Bay Inflatable Boat

The AIRHEAD inflatable raft claims to hold six people, but it does not do it comfortably. The craft is made of heavy-duty vinyl, making it a recreational river raft rather than one meant for whitewater trips. 

The raft comes with an inflatable floor and one seat. The grab lines wrap around, and the vessel has two fishing rod holders. It also has several beverage holders for a relaxing float on your favorite smooth river. The boat measures 140” x 66.5”. 

Pros:

  • Weighs less than 12 pounds
  • Grab lines surround the craft
  • Movable seat
  • Several beverage holders

Cons: 

  • Does not fit six adults comfortably
  • Not intended for rough water
  • Does not come with oars or pump

6. Classic Accessories Colorado Inflatable Fishing Pontoon Boat With Motor Mount

This pontoon raft is a unique craft for anglers who love to fish on rivers. The catamaran has two inflatable pontoons and a padded seat. It is a one-person craft with plenty of spaces for gear and fishing rod holders. It has three oarlock positions, a fillable mesh bag, and pulleys, too. 

The craft is nine-feet long. The lightweight powder-coated steel frame holds the seat and keeps the pontoons together. It is easy to assemble at the launch site. 

Pros:

  • Two-year manufacturer’s warranty
  • 400-pound weight limit
  • Designed for fishing
  • Comes with two oars

Cons: 

  • Weighs 71 pounds
  • The frame takes up significant trunk space
  • Doesn’t come with a pu

7. BRIS 1.2mm 13ft Inflatable White Water River Raft Inflatable Boat FloatingTubes

The Bris 1.2mm 13-foot inflatable raft has 2,000 Dtex 1.2mm PVC fabric with polyester support for safe boating on tough whitewater trips. The commercial-grade raft is one of the biggest on the market and has a stable, removable self-bailing system. It has safety valves so you cannot over-inflate it. It also has two inflatable thwarts, 10 D-rings, a carrying bag, a foot pump, and repair kit. 

The heat-welded seams don’t split, and the floor has footholds, so you have extra support on rough rapids. It holds up to eight people and weighs 128 pounds. 

Pros:

  • Three-year manufacturer’s warranty
  • Made of 1.2mm PVC with 200 Dtex and polyester support
  • Puncture-proof and abrasion-resistant material
  • Self-bailing system
  • Commercial-grade whitewater raft

Cons: 

  • Two-person raft
  • Weighs 128 pounds
  • Occasional quality-control issues with valves and bailing system

8. Star Outlaw 140 Self-Bailing Raft-Gray

The Star Outlaw is a bare-bones river raft. The self-bailing raft comes with two seats and frame-wear patches. The bottom has extra material for added durability. This raft is made for whitewater rafting. 

It has a batten attachment thwart system so you can add thwarts or a frame for paddling. The raft comes with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty. The craft is stable, even when loaded with rafters and gear.

Pros:

  • Five-year manufacturer’s warranty
  • Self-bailing system
  • Thwart system 
  • Six air chambers
  • Stable craft

Cons: 

  • Two-person raft
  • Weighs 143 pounds
  • Does not come with any accessories

9. Outcast Osg Striker Raft (200-F00340)

The Outcast OSG Striker is a river raft meant for anglers. It includes the raft and a frame for two people. It has a self-bailing system and a mount for a small motor. The raft fits in the back of a pickup truck and inflates quickly. 

The unique lean bar in the front lets you look down over the water before casting your rod. The rear seat has an oarlock. It has an integrated gear system so you can adjust where you want your rods. It comes with the frame, raft, two oars, and two seats. 

Pros:

  • Five-year manufacturer’s warranty
  • Adjustable seats
  • Two oarlocks
  • Frame and lean bar
  • 800-pound weight capacity

Cons: 

  • It does not come with rod holders
  • Weighs 102 pounds
  • Expensive

10. Sea Eagle SE9 11-Foot Motormount Inflatable Boat

The Sea Eagle 11-foot inflatable boat raft has 38mm Polykrylar construction that is puncture-resistant and durable. The raft has five air chambers and an inflatable floor, with the option of adding floorboards. The 11-foot boat has a motor mount that holds up to a 3-hp motor.

The five-person raft holds up to 1,200 pounds, making it the strongest craft on this list. It is a recreational raft for trips on calm water. It comes with two bench seats, a carrying case, and two oars. The raft also has a grab bar that circles the entire craft. It is easy to inflate and deflate, and the craft fits into a carrying case that fits into a trunk. 

Pros:

  • Big craft
  • Two seats
  • Customizable with Sea Eagle accessories
  • Deflates and fits in car trunk

Cons: 

  • Recreational craft not for whitewater
  • Not enough seats for five people
  • Does not come with floorboard

Best Inflatable River Rafts Buyers Guide – Your Guide to Selecting the Best Product

When you are in the market for an inflatable river raft, you have plenty of options. Manufacturers make them for specific boating activities, and they do not cross over into other ones. They have a wide range of price points based on their construction and purpose. Some rafts hold several people, and others less than 4-people, like the ones we’ve featured.

Types of Inflatable River Rafts

There are several types of inflatable river rafts. Manufacturers make them for different levels of white water and different river activities. 

White Water River Rafts

If you enjoy hitting the rapids, the white water river craft is for you. This type of inflatable raft is similar to the 6-person rafts in another article. The white water raft is a heavy-duty expedition-level craft that can withstand the currents and power of whitewater. They can hold several people and their gear. 

These are heavy boats and take time to inflate. When transporting them, owners often pull them on a trailer. These are not ideal for calm water, as their shape is suited to bouncing around speedy rivers and maneuvering around rocks and other obstacles. 

Fishing River Rafts

An inflatable river raft designed for fishing might be the right choice for you if you enjoy angling on rivers and calm lakes. These are not meant for whitewater rafting, because manufacturers outfit them with fishing rod holders and swiveling seats. They usually have a spot for a trolling motor. You won’t see that on a whitewater raft. 

The flat hull of fishing rafts makes it possible for anglers to stand up in them and cast their rods, especially if the raft comes with a floorboard. Like white water rafts, owners tend to tow them on trailers because they are complicated to inflate and build on the spot. 

Recreational River Rafts

A recreational river raft is better suited for gentle floats and light white water. These are not as heavy or durable as white water rafts, and you should use them in anything more than Class II white water. They are easy to inflate and deflate, so owners can roll them up and transport them in the trunk of their vehicles. 

These usually come with oars and inflatable seats. You shouldn’t use them on long expeditions, but for river floats on a sunny day. They are less expensive than white water rafts and fishing rafts. Because manufacturers make them for occasional use, boaters find them less likely to capsize than other inflatable rafts. 

Advantages of Using Inflatable River Rafts

River rafts are popular watercraft on rivers because their design makes them less likely to be damaged by rocks, trees, or other obstacles. River rafts are maneuverable, durable, and lightweight. They are easy to transport to and from river launch sites. Many are large and have room for coolers, seats, and other types of gear. 

When you use a hard-hull boat on a river, you have to worry about

  • Avoiding rocks and trees
  • Using a large trailer
  • Paying for insurance
  • Filling it fuel
  • Paying for repairs
  • Registering it with the state

The inflatable portions of the river rafts act like bumpers. When you hit a rock or other obstacle, river rafts bounce off and continue down the river. Hard-hull boats do not do this. Inflatable boats usually have oars because they are easy to maneuver and row down the river. 

Inflatable river rafts are less expensive than hard-hull boats. You do not need to fill them with expensive boat fuel, register them with the state, or insure them. You simply bring your craft to the launch and go. 

Disadvantages of Using Inflatable River Rafts

If you plan to use a river raft on white water, you cannot use a thin raft designed for floating down a calm river. Class III and IV white water can be tough on any craft, and the less expensive rafts will not withstand the beating. So, you have to buy a heavy-duty raft if you plan to use it in a heavy-duty way. 

Inflating River Rafts

Inflatable river rafts need to be inflated, and eventually, they need to be deflated. These processes take time. If you inflate your raft at the launch, you might not have access to electricity to fill it quickly. Blowing them up with foot pumps or hand pumps can be time consuming and exhausting. 

Deflating River Rafts

When you deflate the river raft, you can’t just push the air out and leave the raft alone. They need to be cleaned and rinsed; you would be surprised how dirty rafts get on the river and at the launch site. Then, they need time to dry before you store them for the next time. 

Watching for Pointed Objects

Depending on the denier (thickness) of the material, you must watch for pointy objects while floating down the river. Local or DNR groups maintain some rivers, so they remove trees and other potentially damaging objects regularly. But, waterways that aren’t maintained have objects that could poke through your raft. 

Because sharp, pointed objects can puncture an inflatable river raft, you have to be vigilant in your quest to avoid them. It is also essential to bring a repair kit with you on your floats. 

Weather Issues

If you plan to use your raft when the weather reaches below freezing, think twice about using an inflatable raft. The heavy-duty whitewater rafts might be able to withstand the frigid temperatures because they have durable PVC. The material is flexible, but at low temperatures, the flexibility decreases. 

In cold temperatures, your chances of puncturing your raft increase. If you have a recreation raft made with lesser materials, you should definitely follow the manufacturer’s temperature recommendations. 

Tough to Row

An inflatable river raft is not your best choice if you are planning on rowing around a lake. These are fat boats that do not cut through the water like a boat with a pointed bow. They are clunky, and you will tire quickly, trying to row it through waters without a current.  

Using Your Inflatable River Raft the Right Way

The different types of crafts should be used in the ways they are intended. For example, an inflatable river raft designed for fishing should not be used on white water. You should not use a recreation river raft for fishing. And, the white water raft is not a good choice for gentle floating down a river. 

Features

Despite being made for specific purposes, inflatable river rafts of all types have similar features. Let’s break down these features:

  • Durability
  • Capacity
  • Materials
  • Self-Bailing
  • Oars

Durability

River rafts come with different levels of durability. If you are using your raft for whitewater rafting or for fishing, the raft will need to withstand the possibility of being punctured. Whitewater rafts often have several chambers to prevent catastrophes while floating. 

Inflatable fishing rafts also have several chambers to prevent accidents with fishing rods and hooks. On the flip side, the recreational river raft is often made of the same materials used for inflatable mattresses. They are not designed to be puncture-resistant, because they are not designed to be on rough water or near fishing hooks.  

Capacity

Large white water rafts need to hold several people and their gear. Some people take whitewater river rafts on overnight trips. If gear doesn’t fit, the raft guides will tow it behind in another craft. Some of the large floats hold six or more passengers and a guide. 

River rafts designed for fishing usually hold between two and four people. Recreational rafts generally have the same capacity as fishing rafts. If your raft can hold four people, you might find that when four people are in the craft, it feels cramped. 

Materials

Floating down the river might sound like a safe, gentle activity. But even the calmest rivers can have areas that have quick-moving water or twists and turns filled with obstacles. Inflatable river rafts have durable reinforced PVC outer shells. Many have fabric that enhances the PVC. 

The recreational rafts have vinyl shells that are not reinforced but often have strong seams. Fishing river rafts have shells made of heavier duty vinyl. The whitewater river raft needs to be puncture- and abrasion-resistant. 

Inflatable river rafts of all types need to be reliable valves. They need to take the pressure of continual pumping and remain sealed in a variety of high-pressure situations. Some river rafts, especially the high-quality whitewater versions, have self-bailing features that use pumps, so the valves must be able to work under pressure. 

Self-Bailing

Whitewater rafts designed for use on Class III and higher sometimes have self-bailing features. These are useful choices for rafters who run their boats on rapids on the Arkansas River or Colorado River, to name a few. 

Self-bailing whitewater rafts have drain holes that let water move out of the boat and into the river. This takes away the need to bail your boat with a pail or your hands. 

Assembly

Inflatable river rafts get their name because they have air chambers that you must fill before going asea. Most inflatable rafts have several air chambers. So if you have more than one person around and a handful of pumps, your work speeds up.

If you are close to an electricity source, you should use an electric air pump to fill your raft rapidly. Otherwise, a foot pump is a good option. These have flexible bellows with a rigid plastic shell on the top and bottom. As you step on the pump, the air exits through a hose into your raft. When you take your foot off of the pump, the pump refills for the next step. 

For the best results on the water, fill your raft as directed by the owner’s manual. Most manufacturers recommend filling it to capacity to maximize the weight limit and the buoyancy. 

Maintaining Your Inflatable River Raft

Inflatable boats are relatively easy to maintain. The most important part is never to store it while it is wet. If you have a large inflatable whitewater river raft, you will most likely keep it on the trailer throughout the season. The other types of river rafts are easier to deflate and pack away when not in use. 

No matter what type of river raft you have, when you finish your float, you should clean it. You can clean the rafts when they are inflated or deflated. 

Cleaning is usually as simple as spraying it off with a hose. Remember that river rafts have nooks and crannies that you can easily miss. So, don’t forget to get into those crevices where the chambers meet. Flip the raft over, and spray the bottom, too. After you have cleaned it, you can spray it with a protectant. 

After you have sprayed off the raft, deflate it. Then, let it dry, but don’t leave it out in the sun for too long. Once the boat is dry, put it away. Some river rafts roll up and fit into handy carrying sacks. When you store your boat, keep it in an enclosed area, so the PVC does not get sun damage. 

Safety Tips

Inflatable river rafts provide plenty of fun for adults and for kids. When you follow safety rules, your day on the rapids, out fishing, or on a float can be memorable for the right reasons. There are several important safety tips to consider. 

Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommendations

Always fill the boat to the recommended capacity. Be sure to close the valves when you have finished inflating the boat. Then, inspect the boat for leaks. Look for holes and listen for hissing sounds. It is better to catch them on dry land than out on the water. 

Bring a Safety Kit

You never know what will happen on the water. Having a small, waterproof safety kit with a small patch kit, waterproof bandages, a few matches, and anything else you can fit inside is wise. If you have one that large enough, include a small hand pump and flashlight, too. 

Take Care of Your Raft on Dry Land

If you have to inflate your raft at the launch, look for a spot that is relatively clear of rocks, twigs, and other objects that could puncture it. No matter what type of raft you have, never drag it on the land. 

Use Life Jackets

It doesn’t matter what type of swimmer you are; you should always wear a life jacket while on an inflatable river raft. If you bring children with you, give them life jackets for kids, so they fit correctly. Check out our interactive resource for the US Drowning Statistics, Worldwide Drowning Statistics, and Drowning Prevention.

Follow Local Laws

When you are in public waters, you should follow local laws. Most states have rules about drinking and boating, fishing with a license, wearing life jackets, and more. Be aware of them, so you stay safe. Nothing ruins a trip like being arrested while on the water. 

Accessories 

Inflatable rafts are great little boats on their own, but a few accessories will significantly improve your floats. These are a few must-haves:

Oars 

Many rafts come with a set of oars. If yours doesn’t come with them, a set of telescoping oars are easy to put in the craft for the moments when the river slows. 

Inflatable seats

Recreational rafts and fishing rafts usually have inflatable seats, cushions, or thwarts. They come with differing degrees of rigidity and back support.

Dry bag

If you are bringing your smartphone, dry clothes, and other items on your raft, you will want a dry bag. These are made of flexible PVC and roll closed to keep water out. Always attach it to your river raft with a carabiner, so you do not lose it if your raft flips or you hit intense rapids. 

Carabiners

These little clips let you attach essential items to the raft. It is better to have too many carabiners than not enough. 

Ropes

Having a few waterproof ropes allows you to attach your raft to other boats. They also let you tie up your gear, like dry bags, coolers, and inflatable seats. If you want to keep things while rafting, you must attach them to the craft. 

Clothing

The clothing you wear can make or break your rafting excursion. Most people get wet while rafting and river water can be chilly. Many people like to wear water shoes or sandals that attach over the ankle with velcro. They also put a strap on their eyeglasses to keep them from falling off. Many people wear large-brimmed hats to prevent sunburns. 

Best Inflatable River Raft Comparison Chart

Product NamePriceSize in Ft (LxW)Weight capacity (Pounds)Distinct Features
BRIS 1.2mm 9.8ft Inflatable White Water River Raft Inflatable Boat FloatingTubes$$$9.8'x6'
550Puncture-proof and abrasion-resistant material and has self bailing system
Intex Mariner 3, 3-Person Inflatable Boat Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump$-$$11.5'x4.75'800Has two Boston valves for quick inflating and deflating and 2 layers of heavy duty PVC
Intex Seahawk Inflatable Boat Series$$7.75'x3.75'790Has 4 oarlocks, fishing rod holders and fittings for motor mount
Intex Excursion 5, 5-Person Inflatable Boat Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump$$$12'x5.5'1300Has manual hand pump, two oars, and a patching kit
AIRHEAD Angler Bay Inflatable Boat$$11.6'x5.5'700Has several beverage holders for a relaxing float on your favorite smooth river
Classic Accessories Colorado Inflatable Fishing Pontoon Boat With Motor Mount$$$11.6'x5.5'400The catamaran has two inflatable pontoons and a padded seat
BRIS 1.2mm 13ft Inflatable White Water River Raft Inflatable Boat FloatingTubes$$$9.8'x5'400Has two inflatable thwarts, 10 D-rings, a carrying bag, a foot pump, and repair kit
Star Outlaw 140 Self-Bailing Raft-Gray$$14.1'x7.3'450Self-bailing raft comes with two seats and frame-wear patches
Outcast Osg Striker Raft (200-F00340)$$$9.5'x5'800Has an integrated gear system for easy adjustments of rods
Sea Eagle SE9 11-Foot Motormount Inflatable Boat$$$11'x5'1200Has five air chambers & inflatable floor with the option of adding floorboards

Wrap Up

There is an inflatable river raft for all types of activities. They come in several sizes, and many can be deflated and rolled tightly enough to fit into a car trunk. They come in several price points, but the commercial-grade rafts tend to be the most expensive. 

Inflatable river rafts are excellent choices for people who do not want to invest in a solid-hull boat. When buying a river raft, be sure to choose one that is designed for your favorite activity. Most are highly specific crafts meant for whitewater rafting, gentle floats, or river fishing. 

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