Best raft

Boating & Sailing

Sitting on a raft in the water is typically cooler than on the beach, but it can also be deceptive. Remember to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated throughout the day.

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Which raft is best?

An inflatable raft on the water offers plenty of sunny-day pleasures, from lounging in the heat to rowing along a river or simply climbing on and jumping off.

Made of durable polyvinyl chloride, rafts come in a variety of sizes to accommodate any number of people and activities. They may be used on a placid lake, lazy river, or a backyard pool. However, proper preparation and maintenance are necessary to make the most of your day on a raft.

Our buying guide details the possibilities as well as the effort required to best enjoy a raft. Our Instagrammable top pick from Solstice is ideal for large groups looking to relax, but read on to find out much more that’s offered.

What to know before you buy a raft

Type

There are two main types of rafts. The first, boating inflatable rafts, welcome one to four people to paddle and navigate a lake or river. They’re enclosed on all sides, making them somewhat tricky to get into from the water. Oars are required and may be included to move around. You may also use these rafts for fishing if you drop anchor.

The other type, lounging rafts, are designed to be stationary so that you can comfortably lay out and relax in the sun. They may feature headrests and cupholders and are usually easy to get onto from the water. Smaller options may be best for two people, while larger units, often known as islands, can welcome up to 10 people.

Size

The bigger the raft, the more people can use it. However, larger rafts require more time and energy to inflate and effort to get to the body of water. Keep in mind that the maximum occupancy listed on a raft may technically be allowed but may not afford the most comfortable experience.

Weight limit

This important piece of information should be noted on the packaging. Exceeding this number may lead to air leaking or puncturing of the raft. Remember that any items (like a cooler) add to the weight of the raft, and that wet clothes are heavier than dry apparel. The limits may range from 300 to 1,000 pounds.

Pumps

Inflatable rafts are blown up by air, and a pump is the best way to get the job done. Some may be battery-powered or require a corded connection. In most cases, this is a separate but necessary purchase.

What to look for in a quality raft

Seatbacks

Some rafts may feature seatbacks to provide a bit of comfort on your outing, which is useful for boating rafts where you’ll be sitting for a long time. Lounging rafts may feature headrests to offer comfort, too.

Cupholders

Most rafts offer cupholders, though they should be used with caution. Check the depth of the cupholder versus the height of your beverage. Rafts may bounce and move, so if your beverage isn’t sealed, expect water to get in. Some rafts may also feature a built-in or attachable cooler where drinks can rest in the water and stay cold.

Towables

Some rafts, particularly boating rafts, may be designed to be towed behind a motor water vehicle for some added fun. These feature a point of connection on the front of the raft for a rope or cable to hook onto. Exercise caution when being towed by wearing a lifejacket and establishing communication lines with the driver.

How much you can expect to spend on a raft

Smaller size rafts may cost less than $50 but expect to pay upwards of $100 for more durable, sizable options for both lounging and boating adventures.

Raft FAQ

How do I find and repair a leak?

A. The best way to find a leak is to inflate the raft and submerge it in water. You should be able to see and hear bubbles coming out from the hole. It can be repaired with heavy-duty, water-resistant tape specifically designed for PVC rafts. Clean and dry the area first, cover it efficiently, and let the patch set for a day or two before using.

What are the best conditions for rafting?

A. For loungers, it’s best to use the raft on a windless day so the raft doesn’t shake. It’s advised to use an anchor, so you stay in place. For lake or ocean usage, check local conditions, paying attention to water contamination, wind, and tides.

What are the best rafts to buy?

Top raft

Solstice’s Super Swan Oasis Island Inflatable Raft

Solstice’s Super Swan Oasis Island Inflatable Raft

Our take: Large, spacious lounging raft for having fun in the sun that’s sure to get some attention.

What we like: Giant swan raft is eye-catching. Holds up to six people or 1,000 pounds. Includes two built-in coolers and four cupholders. Easy to get on and off.

What we dislike: Inflation takes time; getting it into the water requires assistance.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top raft for the money

Best rafts

Bestway’s Hydro-Force Treck Inflatable Dinghy Raft Boat

Our take: An effective and reliable two-person boating raft for rowing and fishing.

What we like: Easy to set up and use. Comfortably fits two people. Includes oars and a pump. Good value.

What we dislike: Not enough space to move around or lounge.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Happybuy’s Inflatable Floating Dock

Happybuy’s Inflatable Floating Dock

Our take: Sizable and versatile floating dock for playing, lounging, or fishing.

What we like: Spacious raft can be used on its own or tethered to others. Easy to get on and off. Includes a storage bag, pump, and patch kit.

What we dislike: Water will get in easily.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Anthony Marcusa writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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