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Best Rafts for Rivers (6 Options Compared)

Rafting can be a lot of fun, but what some might not know is that different types of rafts are suited for different conditions. For instance, there are rafts suited for white water rafting, some for fishing, and some for a leisurely trip across a calm body of water.

This is, in part what we’re here to help you with today, to choose the right kind of raft for your purpose. We’ve compiled a list of the six best rafts for rivers based on various features and factors. We’ve done our best to choose rafts for every occasion.

Choosing the right raft for your purpose is very important, or else it won’t perform as it should, and even worse, may put you in harm’s way. No matter the occasion, there are a few main features that we always consider when choosing a raft, including its weight, portability, ease of inflation and deflation, the materials and durability, as well as comfort factors and extras.

These are all things that we took into account when reviewing the six best rafts for rivers as discussed below. Let’s take a look at some good rafts for rivers, and what makes them so ideal.

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right type of raft is vital, because one design for leisure won’t hold up in rough waters, whereas one designed for white water rafting may be overkill for a leisurely afternoon.
  • The best inflatable rafts for rivers should be durable, spacious, comfortable, easy to maneuver, and user friendly.
  • Inflatable rafts for rivers can be designed with a number of purposes in mind, whether fishing, leisure, single use, or whitewater rafting.
  • It is recommended to invest a significant amount of money in a high-quality raft that will provide you with great performance, comfort, and safety.

Rapid Raft – Uncharted Supply Co. 

If you need a raft designed for rapid deployment and ease of use, then the Rapid Raft is worth considering. 

Design and Material

This raft is made out of a combination of 200D plain-weave nylon TPU single laminate main tubes, 210Dx235D high-tenacity nylon TPU double laminate with a quick-fill mouth, and a double-laminate floor made out of 400D plain weave nylon TPU (highly durable types of nylon designed for tear and impact resistance).

This is all a really fancy way of saying that this is an extremely durable raft with great puncture resistance. Although it’s not invincible, some sticks and rocks should not pose any problems. It’s also designed in such a way to deploy very quickly, as it inflates in just a few seconds, which is also true for deflating, not to mention that it’s ultra small and lightweight, with portability being a main feature.

Capacity and Comfort

This unit comes in at 72 by 33 inches, which means that it can comfortably fit around two people, maybe three if those people are small. Once again, this raft is designed primarily for quick deployment, not really for capacity or comfort.

Sure, it has a soft floor and soft inflatable walls, but it really doesn’t come with seats or anything else of the sort. It may be durable and convenient, but comfort is certainly not a main selling point here.

Performance

In terms of overall performance, the Rapid Raft works perfectly fine for situations where quick deployment is called for. The thick materials and high-quality valves allow it to stay inflated for several days without losing air. Furthermore, the inflation valve is designed so that you require minimal lung power to inflate it, something that is important as far as quick deployment is concerned.

As for overall performance, we already mentioned that it is quite durable, but keep in mind that it’s not really designed for something like white water rafting or for a comfortable or leisurely afternoon experience. 

Yes, it is stable and should keep you upright in the water, which is what it is designed for, along with ease of use and fast deployment. Simply put, it will get you from one side of the river to the other.

Ideal Use Cases

If you are going hiking or camping, and you just need something quick to get you across the body of water, then this is an ideal raft to consider. 

It’s also perfectly fine for some basic use, such as if your kids want an inflatable raft to use in the local pond or lake. Technically speaking, it may also be used by military personnel who require a rapid deployment river raft. It is a rather impressive raft, even considering the fact that it comes in at just shy of $500. 

Pros

  • Quick to inflate and deflate
  • Tough Design
  • Multiple uses
  • Fair price
  • Stays inflated for a long time
  • Stable

Cons

  • Not overly comfortable

INTEX 68325EP Excursion Inflatable Boat Set

If you’re looking for something a little more spacious, comfortable, and ideal for a leisurely afternoon on calm waters, then the INTEX 68325EP Excursion Inflatable Boat is worth considering.

Design and Material

The overall design of this raft is quite good. It comes in at 3.17 by 1.68 meters, and comes complete with a variety of comfort features, which we will discuss below. In terms of the overall design, it’s made to be extremely wide, which is in part because it’s designed to hold several people. It’s overall width and size make it extremely stable.

What also helps add to its stability is the inflatable I-beam floor for added rigidity, as well as three inner chambers including an auxiliary chamber inside the main hall, which helps add additional buoyancy. Having separate chambers also means that it will stay afloat if a single chamber pops, as the others will remain inflated. 

Overall, the unit is made out of puncture-resistant PVC, so it should work perfectly fine for leisurely use. It’s certainly designed more for leisure than anything else.

Capacity and Comfort

This raft is rated to hold up to five people, two on either of the seats, one of which is front facing and the other of which is rear facing, as well as a small seating pad in the middle. On that note, this raft is designed to hold up to 1100 pounds, which is fairly impressive. It even has some extra space, in case you want to bring along a potentially life-saving first-aid kit.

The raft itself is also decently comfortable, mainly if you’re one of the four people who gets to sit in the padded seats. The padded seats are inflatable in nature, and even feature a back rest, for a bit of added lumbar support. For a raft of this price, it’s certainly one of the more comfortable options around.

Performance

The performance of this raft is perfectly fine, and it’s something that works well for leisurely conditions. It comes complete with a high output pump so you can easily inflate it in just a couple of minutes, as well as a quick release valve for easy deflation.

Yes, it does weigh over 55 pounds, so it’s not the most portable of rafts, but its weight also contributes to its overall durability and stability. 

This is why it works so well for up to five people, and although it’s best suited for leisurely waters, it could handle a slightly rougher current if absolutely needed. Remember, it does come with two aluminum ores to help you control the direction.

Ideal Use Cases

The ideal use case for this raft is a leisurely afternoon with your friends. Although it’s not something we would use for whitewater rafting, it makes for a great afternoon out on some calm waters. For the $313.99 it comes to us at, there’s really not much to complain about! 

Pros

  • Very durable build
  • Spacious
  • Good comfort factors
  • Comes with oars
  • Fast to inflate
  • Quite stable

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Oars could be of better quality 

GZKYYLEGS 10 ft Dinghy Boats

If it’s a small and portable dinghy designed for one or two people is what you’re looking for, then this model from GZKYYLEGS may be right up your alley.

Design and Material

This small raft features a very unique design, one made mainly out of PVC net material, which is lightweight yet durable. Interesting to note is that the floor of this raft is made out of five separate layers of PVC materials, each of which have great puncture resistance to ensure that nothing pokes through from the bottom. .

The non-slip deck pad, the high-pressure finish, and the sunlight resistant coating, along with great puncture resistance, makes this one of the more durable rafts out there, especially for the price point, which is rather low ($269.99).

The shape is also quite unique, as it features a tapered design which helps make it much more streamlined and able to efficiently move through the water. Something else that stands out about the design is that it’s made wide enough to ensure great stability (over 53 inches), even if waters aren’t overly calm.

Something that many people will find really attractive is that this raft technically allows you to attach an outboard motor to it, so you don’t have to paddle if you don’t want to.

Capacity and Comfort

This raft is designed to hold two people. It features two inflatable seats that are quite soft and plush, and should provide hours of comfort. If need be, you may also be able to fit a third person on it, such as a small child.  That being said, there are no back rests on this raft, which may make it unsuitable for lengthy journeys.

Performance

Thanks to its streamlined design, it is very easy to maneuver and to steer, while also being quite stable thanks to its wide and tapered shape. 

It might not be ideal for whitewater rafting per say, but it works well for most other purposes. It’s certainly quite durable, easy to steer, and it’s not overly heavy either (just over 43 pounds). It deflates rather quickly, so it’s portable as well.

Ideal Use Cases

The GZKYYLEGS 10 ft Dinghy Boat is an ideal option to consider for simply lounging in the river, some leisurely relaxation on the lake, or even for fishing.

Pros

  • Safe and stable
  • Durable and puncture resistant
  • Easy to inflate and deflate
  • Comfortable seat
  • Great floor – non-slip and thick
  • Ability to attach outboard motor

Cons

  • Weight capacity appears to be somewhat limited

INTEX 68376EP Mariner 4 Inflatable Boat Set

Here’s one of the bigger, tougher, and more versatile rafts on the list today. Let’s take a look.

Design and Material

The Intex is generally what most people would imagine to be a true river raft. The fact that it’s 57 inches wide helps to keep it stable even on relatively rough waters. 

It’s made out of extremely thick and durable PVC, multiple layers of it, not to mention that it has many separate compartments, ensuring that if one pops, the others will still get you to shore.

The reinforced material used here is so tough that it should be more than puncture resistant and tear resistant enough to get you through virtually any conditions. The reinforced bottom ensures that damage will not occur even if you pass over some sharp objects.

Capacity and Comfort

This raft can hold up to 1100 pounds. It comes with three separate inflatable seats to sit on, which are quite soft and plush, so comfort should not be an issue.

Technically speaking, up to four or even five people could fit on this raft, although if you were to fit five people, they would have to be fairly small.

Overall, the material is designed to be comfortable enough to sit on, while also durable enough to resist damage. We particularly like the grooves in the bottom, as this allows water to flow sideways, so if you’re sitting on the floor of it, you’re behind won’t be constantly soaked.

Performance

As for overall performance, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this raft. Its length and width, combined with its substantial weight (84 pounds), make it extremely stable. 

It works perfectly fine for leisurely conditions and for fishing, but can also perform decently in rougher conditions, such as for white water rafting. 

This is especially the case thanks to its durable design and shape that allows for streamlined movement through water, even if they happen to be a bit choppy.

Ideal Use Cases

The great thing about a raft like this is that it can be used for multiple purposes, with white water rafting, fishing, and leisurely use being just three of them.

Pros

  • Works for multiple purposes
  • Superior durability
  • Great comfort
  • Fast to inflate – pump included
  • Includes oars and fishing rod holders

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Deflates somewhat quickly

Bestway Hydro-Force Inflatable Raft Set

Last updated on May 28, 2024 8:37 pm

The Bestway is a simple yet affordable raft that is ideal for individuals, couples, and small families alike. Let’s see what you get with it.

Design and Material

This raft is designed with puncture resistant PVC, so it should be more than durable enough to resist basic use. It does have enhanced reinforcements located along the floor, so the raft should not tear or take damage if you happen to scrape over some rocks or sticks.

Overall, it’s more than durable enough for basic use. Its design is also ideal, as it comes with a pump that inflates it in just minutes, and is large enough to hold several people (56 x 116 inches), yet also small enough when deflated to be portable and compact (roughly 30 x 15 x 11 inches). The rounded front of this raft also helps add to its performance, which we’ll discuss below.

Capacity and Comfort

The raft comes in at 54 by 116 inches, and can hold up to three people comfortably. Although, if the people are very large, it might only be able to hold a maximum of two.

Furthermore, the bottom of the raft has a soft layer to ensure that it’s comfortable to sit on, although there are no inflatable seats or back rests of any kind.

The walls of the raft act as a backrest. Considering the price it comes in at (Under $130), we would say that it’s more than comfortable enough, and ideal for adults and children alike.

Performance

For the relatively low price it comes in at, we would say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the performance of this raft. It’s very quick to inflate with the included pump, it deflates quickly when needed, and it’s also decent in terms of air retention.

As for performance on the water, it is wide, stable, and heavy enough to ensure that you won’t tip over, and has an ideal shape for slicing through the water. The rounded front makes it quite dynamic and streamlined. It even comes with two aluminum oars to propel you forward.

Ideal Use Cases

Although it might not be a raft that we would take on rough waters, it works perfectly well for leisurely escapades on a lake or other calm waters. It could also be used for fishing purposes.

Pros

  • Portable design
  • Puncture-resistant bottom
  • Stable
  • Ideal for calm waters
  • Quick inflating and deflating – pump included
  • Oars included

Cons

  • No seats or backrests

HIKULA Inflatable Lightweight TPU PackRaft

If you need a small, portable, and inflatable raft that is ideal for white water rafting, fishing, and general transportation, then this is the way to go.

Design and Material

This is definitely one of the more unique looking rafts around, as the front and rear are both extremely triangular. This is a raft designed for maximum efficiency and speed, as both ends are pointed, therefore allowing it to quickly and easily slice through the water with maximum speed and precision in both directions. This is one of the reasons why it makes for such a good white water rafting vessel.

As for the overall durability, it’s made with a combination of 210D TPU, with the bottom being made out of 420D TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane, a durable and elastic type of plastic that is rather perfect for this purpose). 

The bottom also features a double layer to ensure maximum puncture and tear resistance. This allows for use on rough waters and in cases where you may come into contact with sticks and rocks. All in all, this might just be the most durable raft on the list today.

Capacity and Comfort

This is strictly a one-person raft. It comes in at just under six pounds, and is just large enough to fit a single grown person with comfort. The interior space is just 51 x 15.7 inches. It’s certainly not large enough to fit two people, but it’s also not designed for this. 

In terms of overall comfort, it comes with an inflatable seat to sit on, and the rim of the raft acts as a backrest. Although it might not look like much, it’s actually quite comfortable.

Performance

If you need a hydrodynamic vessel that will let you slice through the water with precision, then this is it. Once again, the shape of this raft is specially designed for this exact purpose, so you can easily maneuver even in the roughest of waters.

Ideal Use Cases

This raft is specifically designed for white water rafting, although you could also use it for basic rafting purposes.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Lightweight
  • Quick to inflate and deflate
  • Fairly comfortable
  • Hydrodynamic and easy to maneuver
  • Superior toughness and puncture resistance

Cons

  • Fits only one person
  • Quite expensive

Best Rafts for Rivers. Person carrying a raft.

Best Raft for Rivers: Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about the best rafts for rivers.

What Types of Rivers are Suitable for Rafting?

Calm and leisurely rivers are suitable for rafting, and if you want to go white water rafting, then going through some light rapids is a possibility. No matter the conditions, however, you always want to have a first aid kit with you when doing any such activities.

Can I Use a Single Raft for Different Types of River Activities?

As long as the single raft is up to the conditions that you plan on being in, then yes, you can use a single raft for various types of river activities.

What’s the Difference Between Self-Bailing and Standard Rafts?

A self-bailing raft is defined as a raft where water that splashes into it drains away on its own, whereas a standard raft requires you to empty the water manually.

How Do I Deflate an Inflatable Raft?  

Most inflatable rafts come with some kind of quick release mechanism to allow the air to escape from the inflatable tubes in mere minutes.