This quirky giant inflatable swan holds up to six adults or 1,000 pounds comfortably. Features two built-in coolers and four cupholders. Easy access from the water at the rear. Ropes securely connect to anchor or dock.
Inflation takes time. May require multiple people to set up and transport.
Heavy-duty construction. Two seats provide comfort for one or two people. Insulated floor prevents overheating. Includes a pair of oars and a pump for quick inflation. Durable handles and loops for rope.
Tricky to move around in; not ideal for two people to sunbathe.
Stands up to use in most lakes thanks to its thick PVC vinyl construction. Has fishing rod and cup holders that make it a handy option for fishing excursions.
Though rated to hold 6 people, it may be a tight fit. Not ideal for use in rough water. Pricey. Seats are uncomfortable.
Fits up to 3 people. Made of sturdy PVC vinyl. Features bright colors and attractive design. Can be used on lakes, yet is small enough for use in some pools. Affordable.
Comes with oars but they aren't very sturdy. Not a lot of space once people get aboard. Challenging to maneuver, and not for use in rough currents.
A spacious raft that provides plenty of versatility on a hot day. Connect and tie-off with other rafts, boats, or watercraft. Easy to get on and off. Includes pump, storage bag, and repair kit. Features six stainless-steel handles and four grips.
Lacks back and arm rests. Edges don't prevent water from getting in.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
If you’re looking to enjoy some time in and around the water, you’ll want to invest in a raft. An inflatable raft gives you the chance to relax, play, and even exercise on the water, either alone or with friends.
Inflatable rafts are made of durable polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. This makes for a lightweight and buoyant raft that can withstand the elements and stay afloat. Rafts come in many shapes and sizes, with some designed for staying in one spot and others made for getting around. Some are suited to enjoy on a lake while others may function conveniently in a pool.
A little preparation and maintenance is needed before you climb aboard a raft, and to make your outing on the water as fun as possible, it’s best to think ahead. This buying guide will arm you with the knowledge you need to select a fantastic raft and enjoy it to the maximum. We also offer some specific recommendations for rafts we think are exceptionally great products.
Rafts fall into one of two design schemes: boating rafts and lounging rafts. The design scheme won’t necessarily be advertised as such, but you can tell by looking what the main purpose of a raft is.
Boating: Some inflatable rafts are like small boats designed for movement. They are enclosed along the sides and can carry anywhere from one to four people. Oars or paddles are needed and typically included with purchase. You might use a boating raft in a stationary position for jumping off or fishing. Because of their design, however, these rafts aren’t necessarily the best for lounging comfortably in the sun.
Lounging: Those who want to bask in the sun and occasionally get their feet wet will want a raft designed primarily for lounging. Many inflatable rafts allow you to relax and recline. Smaller versions may accommodate one or two people; larger options welcome up to eight or ten. These larger lounging rafts are sometimes referred to as “islands.” The sides are typically lower for easy entry and exit, and generally speaking, these rafts are crafted for comfort rather than motility.
Consider how much space you want your raft to have. Will others be joining you on it? The maximum number of people that can fit a raft should be specified by the maker. Look not only at the number of people that can fit but also the dimensions of the raft in question, noting that a crowded raft could make for an uncomfortable outing.
Also note that larger rafts take more time to inflate and require more effort to haul in and out of the water.
A maximum weight limit should also be specified on the packaging. Keep in mind that items you bring onto the raft, like food and drink, will add to the weight, and when wet, apparel weighs a bit more. Moving the raft around or jumping onto it also exerts extra pressure that could stress the raft material.
Inflatable rafts need a pump to fill them up quickly and effectively. If your raft doesn’t come with a pump, you will have to buy one separately. Decide whether you want a manual, corded electric, or battery-powered pump. Each offers specific advantages and drawbacks.
If you plan to spend considerable time on the water, opt for a raft with seatbacks. These will make your time more comfortable by providing some support.
Many rafts come with cupholders so you can rest your beverage easily. While cupholders are convenient, be sure to note width and depth. Wider containers may not fit, and tall ones may be too top-heavy in a shallow cupholder. It’s best to bring beverages with lids on a raft, just to be safe.
Some rafts are towable. That is, they can be towed behind a boat or jet ski. Such rafts need a connection point for a rope, and they must be designed to skim easily across the water. Before towing a raft, put on a life jacket, and make sure you know what speeds the raft can withstand.
Inflatable drink holders: GoFloats Pool Drink Holders
Inflatable drink holders are convenient, fun accessories for those times when you’re socializing in the water. We love the varied options from GoFloats, which include flamingo, dragon, and even hamburger styles.
Inflatable pool bars: Airhead Aqua Oasis Insulated Cooler
Keep your drinks chilled and close by with a water cooler. We love this option from Airhead that holds up to 24 cans and also features six cup holders.
Inflatable lights: Solite Design Solar-Powered Light
Add some ambiance to your relaxing evening on the water with an inflatable light. This quality option from Solite Design is lightweight and waterproof, and it provides a warming glow when the sun goes down.
Dry bag: Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bag
A dry bag provides a safe and secure spot to store valuables when you’re on the water. We recommend this durable option from Earth Pak for those times you want to store items without worry.
Inexpensive: You can find a decent raft that holds several people for under $50. These are ideal for lake or pool use and are unlikely to come with any accessories.
Mid-range: Most rafts run between $50 and $100. These products may include pumps, oars, or anchors. Four or even six people may fit on a raft in this price range.
Expensive: For very large rafts, especially islands, expect to pay well over $100 and possibly over $200. These rafts can hold a large number of people and are designed for hours of relaxation and fun.
Q. How do I find a leak?
A. However careful you are, there is always a chance that your raft could spring a leak. While you may be able to tell that one exists, it’s not always easy to find. The best way is actually to put the raft in water. As air escapes, you will be able to see bubbles coming from the leak. If you’re not able to get the raft in water, try listening for the leak. Fill it with air, and then find a quiet place where you can listen for the leak and patch the hole.
Q. How do I patch a leak?
A. All may not be lost if you have a hole in your raft. You can attempt to repair it, though this process must be done carefully and accurately the first time in order to resurrect it. Once you locate the hole, clean the area to free it from dirt and dust. Patch the hole with heavy-duty tape specifically designed for rafts. The tape will adhere to the surface and withstand the water. The tape must be affixed flat on the surface without any air holes or tapered edges. It should be flush to the surface so dirt and water can’t creep under the sides. Let the patched hole settle for a day before heading to the water to test your work.
Q. What are the best conditions for rafting?
A. If you’re in a pool, you needn’t worry about the weather for rafting. On a lake, however, it’s important to consider the wind. While a gentle breeze may be comfortable on the skin, it can create a rocky time on the water, making it difficult to navigate or stay in one spot. Before heading out, you may want to check local conditions, which will inform you of water quality as well.