Best Inflatable Rafts, Kayaks, And Paddleboards That We Swear By
Want to spend more time on the water but don’t have space to store an entire boat/roof racks for your car/energy to drag a boat into the woods to your favorite lake? Just us?
An inflatable stand up paddle board, kayak or river raft is the perfect way to take your boat with you everywhere—whether you’re a digital nomad living the #vanlife or taking a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.
We’ve asked the team what their favorite inflatable boards, kayaks and river rafts are for every adventure…
…and they did not hold back. Here’s our epic Explorer Chick list of the best inflatable boats so you can spend less time researching them and more time out on the water.
Inflatable Paddle Boards (SUPs)
Is there any better way to spend a sunny Saturday than out on the lake paddle boarding? A traditional stand up paddle board is typically difficult to transport (roof rack, anyone?) and can be difficult to carry with you to off-the-beaten-path paddling destinations, such as hike-in lakes or on camping trips.
Inflatable sup boards are the perfect solution. They’re easy to store, simple to transport, quick to inflate and use high quality materials. In short: these are the best all around sup boards for every adventure.
Bote Wulf Inflatable SUP with Paddle
This Bote Wulf Inflatable SUP with included Paddle is great for beginners and experts alike. Whether you’re enjoying an afternoon on the lake, a morning SUP yoga session, or paddling through coral reefs in Belize, this SUP is the perfect all around board.
One reviewer wrote, “Love how portable and easy to use this thing is. It’s super mega stable, WAY more stable than any kayak I’ve ever been on, and so so so light and easy to haul from the car to the beach, from the garage to the dock, etc. If you’re worried about stability, don’t sweat it at all.”
- Who This Is For: Beginners & experts, anyone who’s short on space!
- Best Activity To Pair With: SUP yoga, camping, road trips
- Ease of Transportation: easy—weighing in at 20lbs. plus includes a carrying backpack
- Material: Drop-stitch PVC
- Capacity: 250 pounds
- Dimensions: 104″ x 33in x 6in (packs down to 38” x 18” x 12”)
NRS Thrive Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard
For experienced paddle boarders ready for a board that’s more customizable and high performing, the NRS Thrive Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard is one of the best all around sups.
With double sidewalls for extra durability, a compact fold and lightweight frame for easy transport, removable fins so you can customize your board based on your activity, this SUP is ready to handle everything from practicing yoga to long distance paddling. Reviewers said that using an electric pump made a huge difference in inflate time!
- Who This Is For: adventurous Explorer Chicks who need an extra durable and stable board for all kinds of water activities
- Best Activity To Pair With: paddle touring, fitness paddling, light river running, camping
- Ease of Transportation: moderate—weighs in at 29lbs but comes with an easy-to-carry bag
- Material: Drop-stitch PVC
- Capacity: 250 pounds
- Dimensions: 128″ x 34” x 6”
Drift Inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard
For Explorer Chicks who want a stable feel and inflatable boards designed for beginners at an entry-level price, the Drift Inflatable Paddle Board is for you.
Its board design makes it easy to stay afloat—even for beginners!—yet is one of the lightest boards for easy transportation and storage. Plus, it comes with all the other accessories (like an air pump and repair kit) you need so you can start paddling right away.
- Who This Is For: beginner paddle boarders who want a stable board at a lower price point
- Best Activity To Pair With: camping, fishing, road trips, beach days, yoga
- Ease of Transportation: easy—packs down to just 19lbs. and comes with a carrying backpack
- Material: Drop-stitch PVC
- Capacity: 250lbs
- Dimensions: 128″ x 33″ x 6″(packs down to 38″ x 18″ x 12″)
Best Inflatable Boats And Rafts
Looking for a packraft that you can take backpacking, can carry your bike or can take you through calm rivers and tough rapids? We’ve found the best inflatable boats for every adventure. The best part is: all of these inflatable rafts pack down tightly and are easily stored in a car trunk or carried on a backpacking trip.
If there’s nothing here that’s just right for you, you can always create a custom-built raft from Alpacka and get an inflatable raft that’s exactly to your specifications.
The Expedition is the perfect all-purpose inflatable raft—tough enough to endure backcountry adventures, whitewater runs and cooler climates, while also lightweight to bring backpacking, camping or just out for the weekend. Plus, Alpacka’s super durable materials make this inflatable raft more heavy duty than average inflatable boats.
- Who This Is For: advanced paddlers who need a higher performance inflatable boat that can carry them anywhere from rafting during a backpacking trip to Class III rapids
- Best Activity To Pair With: camping, backpacking, whitewater rafting
- Ease of Transportation: as easy as it gets—packs down to a mere 7-8 pounds (depending on which size and configurations you purchase)
- Material: Alpacka’s proprietary 210-denier high count nylon hull and 840-denier ballistic nylon floor
- Capacity: 350lbs
- Dimensions: comes in three sizes, from 91” x 36” to 97”x36” (packs down to 17”x7”)
Caribou Raft from Alpacka
The Caribou Raft from Alpacka is best for bikerafting and bikepacking. Alpacka’s custom build means there’s plenty of cargo space to carry your gear AND your bike while you’re rafting, while keeping everything dry and maintaining a stable boat over rivers and running whitewater.
While the weight capacity is high enough to carry everything from fishing gear to your entire bike, it packs down to a super lightweight 5lbs, easily stuffable in your pack or attached to your handlebar roll.
- Who This Is For: bike-packers and ultralight backpackers who have gear to tote while rafting
- Best Activity To Pair With: cycling, bike-packing, ultra-light backpacking trips
- Ease of Transportation: as easy as it gets! packs down to a mere 5lbs
- Material: Alpacka’s proprietary ultralight 210-denier high count nylon hull and 840-denier ballistic nylon floor
- Capacity: 400lbs
- Dimensions: 97”x38”
Kokopelli XPD Packraft
For digital nomads, weekend rafters and newbie paddlers, Kokepelli’s XPD Packrafts combine durability, versatility, compactness and a budget price all in one raft.
With the included manual pump, you can fill the inflatable boat in less than 5 minutes, so you can get out on the water faster, and the flat-bottom hull design makes it extra stable for beginner rafters. Plus, with 6 nylon loop D-rings, you can easily store your extra gear, repair kit, and more.
- Who This Is For: lake paddlers and Class I rafters
- Best Activity To Pair With: camping, road trips, day-trips to rapids
- Ease of Transportation: easy—weighing in at 13 pounds, it’s easy enough to transport almost anywhere you’re headed!
- Material: PVC
- Capacity: 300lbs
- Dimensions: 85”x37” (packs down to 22” x 12” x 8”)
Best Inflatable Kayaks
An inflatable kayak is a great way to tack on more kayaking adventures to your everyday life. Whether you’re just short on storage space and need an inflatable kayak to take down to the river on Saturdays, or are looking for a kayak you can hike into your favorite lakes with, these are the best blow up boats for all your adventures.
Zeppelin Aero Inflatable Kayak
The Zeppelin Aero Inflatable Kayak has all the key features you need for a variety of adventures—available as a single or tandem kayak seat option, light enough to manage on your own but a large enough capacity to carry a friend (or your dogs), a self-draining hull, textured deck pad, and a bit faster to fill.
In short: the all around performance needed for easy rowing and smooth glide for flat water paddling. One reviewer wrote, “I’m a single female and needed something I could manage myself but also have space to bring a friend. This is PERFECT for that.”
- Who This Is For: weekend-trippers who want a packraft versatile enough for paddling on a variety of waters
- Best Activity To Pair With: road trips, camping, canoe trips, kayak tours
- Ease of Transportation: moderate—while the kayak packs down and has a carrying bag for storage and transportation, it’s about 50 lbs. when packed down
- Material: drop-stitched PVC
- Capacity: 600 lbs.
- Dimensions: 150” x 28” (packs down to 38.6” x 28” x 14.2”)
Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak
For more advanced kayakers who are looking for a technically-sophisticated inflatable boat that will take you over any waters (well, up to Class II) that’s still easy to inflate, pack and store, the Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak is a great choice. The narrow design and technical features make it stable for multi-day adventures and a comfortable seat means you can get the miles in without an aching back.
- Who This Is For: kayakers who need a packable boat with efficient glide and tracking for both day-trips and long distances
- Best Activity To Pair With: kayaking trips, camping
- Ease of Transportation: moderate—packs down to 21 lbs, easy enough to take with you camping or out on day trips
- Material: duratex reinforced PVC
- Capacity: 400 lbs
- Dimensions: 156” x 37.5” (packs down to 29.8” x 18” x 16”)
Join us on the water!
The only thing better than hitting the water on your own this weekend? Heading out with some new friends.Join up with other Explorer Chicks for half-day SUP or kayaking adventures in your area, or get ready for the adventure of a lifetime with trips like our Belize Jungle + Island Adventure Tour or our Alaska Hiking, Kayaking and Glacier Tour.
About The Author | Rachel Bicha
Rachel is a hiker, traveler, writer and adventurer. Whether she’s home in New England or halfway across the world, she’s probably just looking for her next mountain to climb. If she’s not traveling or hiking, you can probably find her sketching, taking long walks around town, reading on the porch or perfecting a new recipe.
Favorite outdoor adventure: solo-hiking through the Dolomites in Italy!
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