I'll admit that I’m an inflatable boat junkie. I love inflatable boats. Why? Simple, inflatable boats are inexpensive, versatile, portable and usually easy to set up. In other words, the boats provide a multitude of uses, from fishing to recreational floating on a Montana river. How big of a junkie am I? I have three different inflatable boats, and only my budget and lack of storage space prevents me from having more.
|The Sea Eagle 380 Explorer Kayak|
Inflatable boats have come a long ways in their design, capabilities and function. In the bad old days, it was all too common to have an inflatable boat literally rip apart by the seams by summer’s end. And if the boat didn't rip apart, a fingernail, lost hook, coke can top or anything else that was vaguely sharp would puncture the fabric, leading to annoying and sometimes costly repairs.
Well, those types of boats are still available. Wal-Mart still carries a big selection of junkie boats that will be lucky to survive a season on a pond, let alone a long voyage on a Montana river.
Thankfully, technology has struck the inflatable boat market the past ten years. Today, there’s a large selection of high quality inflatable rafts, kayaks and canoes that can last decades—while still being remarkably affordable.
This section of Big Sky Fishing will be all about inflatable boats and will cover them in gory detail. My hope is that this section will provide some helpful information for those looking for a boat - whether for fishing or simple recreational floating - but are confused by the terminology, the different types of boats available and the various functions each type of boat is best designed to do.
The Different Types of Inflatable Boats
There’s a multitude of different types of inflatable boats available today. These boats come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes and prices. Because of this, boat shopping is often a confusing and sometimes frustrating experience.
To learn more about the different types of boats, click on any of the categories below.
|Inflatable Rafts - Affordable, popular and versatile. Great for both fishing and recreational river floating. More Info|
|Inflatable Kayaks - My favorite! Good river fishing boat, but by far the best way to recreationally float rivers, especially if there is whitewater! Superb for long river floats and pretty good for flat water paddling. More Info|
|Inflatable Catamaran Kayaks - A what? A catamaran - you know - a multi-hull boat. Yes, technology has struck again, leading to the neat development of a dual-hull kayak that can run Class IV whitewater! And did I mention that you can even put a sail and/or motor on it too? More Info|
|Pontoon Boats - Primarily used by anglers, pontoon boats are excellent fly fishing and lake fishing vessels. More specialized designs are excellent for running Class IV and Class V rapids. More information about Inflatable Pontoon Boats. More Info|
|Float Tubes - Less a boat than an inner tube, a float tube has one singular function—to provide an angler with an inexpensive and portable way to fish away from the shoreline. More Info|
Articles & Reviews About Inflatable Boats
I can talk forever about inflatable boats. And since I can, I guess I will. The followiing articles should help anyone contemplating an inflatable boat purchase decide what to get, why to get it and where to get it.
Inflatable Kayaks vs. Inflatable Rafts - Let's go over the differences between the two, the pros and cons of each type of boat, and what type of boat you should get - depending, of course, on what you plan on using the boat for! We'll also compare the kayak and raft to more traditional fishing boats, such as the pontoon boat and the float tube.
Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Kayak Review - One of the most versatile of all the inflatable boats you'll find. Superb quality. And very affordable. Handles Class IV whitewater with ease and carries a huge load.
Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayak Review - The slightly smaller cousin to the 380 Kayak, and is the kayak I own and use extensively. Ideal for solo paddlers or for two people out for a day.
Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak - A high quality yet inexpensive inflatable kayak for generall all around use. Why even buy a junkie kayak at Wal-Mart when Sea Eagle practically gives this one away? Perfect for most uses people will do on both rivers and lakes. Just don't use in Class IV whitewater or use in below freezing temperatures.
Sea Eagle 9 Inflatable Raft - A very affordable and high quality raft for river floating and river fishing. Attach a motor if you're lazy while out on the lake.
Sea Eagle 8 Inflatable Raft - I love my Sea Eagle 8 raft. Easy to setup. Durable. Monstrous capacity. And just plain functional. My first "good" inflatable boat. Like a Timex, my SE 8 Raft takes a licking and just keeps on ticking.
What Isn't an Inflatable Boat
OK. Pretty common sense stuff here, but just to be clear let's talk about what is not an inflatable boat.
An inflatable boat is basically, you guessed it, a boat that uses air to inflate and float on top of the water. Without air, an inflatable boat is a sad looking piece of oddly shaped fabric that would quickly sink into the depths of a river.
Thus, an inflatable boat is not a wooden or metal canoe, although both these types of boats can have inflatable air bladders installed to increase buoyancy. Similarly, a row boat or a hard-shell plastic/fiberglass kayak is not an inflatable boat, either.
In the end, an inflatable boat is a boat that would be unuseable in the backyard swimming pool—let alone a Montana river—without being inflated with air.
Where to Buy Inflatable Boats
Sea Eagle - Manufacturer of a wide variety of high quality yet affordable inflatable boats. I own three of their boats and can attest to their quality and durability.
NRS - NRS is the premiere outfitter for adventures that happen "on the water." NRS has its own line of expedition quality inflatable rafts, catarafts and kayaks. The NRS website also carries a large selection of inflatable rafts and kayaks from Aire & Tributary (which is part of Aire).
Inflatable Boats at Amazon - Amazon carries a bit of everything for watersports. They stock an excellent selection of quality pontoon boats and float tubes. For inflatable kayaks and inflatable rafts, their selection - while large - tends to consist of lower quality products, although some good products are found in their listings (including some from Sea Eagle).