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Inflatable Boat Vs. Canoe 101

Inflatable Boat Vs. Canoe 101

Is it time to replace your boat (or maybe add to your collection)?

Maybe you’re thinking about getting a canoe or an inflatable boat, but you’re curious about the differences and benefits of each type of boat.

Maybe you’ve heard of inflatable canoes and want to find out more.

How can you decide which boat is best for you?

Keep reading to find out!

What is an Inflatable Boat?

a white inflatable boat RIB

If you have any experience with boating, you’re probably familiar with the genius of inflatable boats. These boats come in many shapes and sizes; some are basically oversized pool floats, while others are heavy-duty fishing or emergency boats.

The main thing that all inflatable boats have in common is the air chambers. Every inflatable has at least one inflatable air chamber, and most have more than one. These air chambers are what give inflatable boats their buoyancy.

The two main classes of inflatable boat are known as “rigid’ and “air floor.” Rigid inflatable boats have a hard floor and transom, usually made of aluminum or marine plywood. Air floor boats have a soft inflatable floor.

There are other types of inflatable boats as well, most notably, inflatable pontoon boats. These boats are usually designed for one or two people and are smaller than typical pontoon boats.

What is a Canoe?

a red canoe with 2 paddles

Like inflatable boats, canoes are highly recognizable and easy to identify even if you’re not much of a boating expert.

Canoes are long, narrow boats, wider in the middle and tapered to a point on each end. They are lightweight enough to be carried by one or two people and are usually paddled with a single, double-sided oar.

All canoes have the same basic design, though some may be more handcrafted and personalized than others. They are great for fishing calm ponds or lakes but are also a good choice for navigating rivers.

Canoes require deeper water than most inflatable boats due to their V-shaped hulls. That said, they can be launched easily from the shore and, depending on how much extra weight they’re hauling, will float in as little as a few feet of water.

Canoes are most often made of aluminum or fiberglass, though some handcrafted canoes are made of wood.

What are the Benefits of Inflatable Boats?

dad and son are fishing on a lake with a white inflatable boat

Inflatable boats have a few perks over canoes. Let’s take a look at some of the top benefits of owning an inflatable boat.


Depending on your own unique boating habits, you can probably find an inflatable boat that is specific for what you need.

Spend a lot of time fishing off-shore in the ocean? A heavy-duty rigid inflatable has you covered.

Enjoy taking a couple of friends or family out on the lake from time to time? Go for a large air floor inflatable.

Looking for the perfect pool float? There are many small air floor inflatables that will serve you well.

Inflatable boats also work well as emergency boats because you can fold them up and carry them along on camping or fishing trips.

In short, when you’re looking to buy an inflatable boat, you have options. Lots and lots and lots of options.


Generally speaking, inflatable boats are some of the most affordable boats on the market.

Of course, because there are so many different kinds, the price you can expect to pay will vary widely. Rigid inflatable boats are typically more expensive than air floor inflatables, but they are also more heavy-duty and durable.

Pool float boats will, of course, be the cheapest of all, but you wouldn’t want to take one of those out on a lake or ocean.

When looking for an inflatable boat, it’s good to shop around a bit and try to identify what you want in your boat. Then, aim for buying a boat that is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive.

That said, if cost is a factor for you, inflatable boats are some of the most cost-effective boats you can buy.


Inflatable boats can, of course, be deflated and folded up. This makes them incredibly convenient to transport to and from your favorite lake, as well as to store during colder weather.

Even large inflatable boats can often be transported in the back of an SUV or pickup truck–no trailer necessary. You can inflate it once you reach the lake, then deflate it again once you’re ready to go home.

Plus, if you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, you don’t have to worry about leaving your boat out in the weather or taking up a ton of space inside. Folded up, some inflatable boats will fit easily on a shelf or a desk.

What are the Benefits of Canoes?

a couple paddling on a red canoe

Of course, canoes have their own set of advantages. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of owning a canoe.


The main problem with inflatable boats is that they’re relatively easy to puncture. If one of the inflatable chambers gets damaged, your boat will leak air, which in turn may cause your boat to capsize.

With canoes, you don’t have that same risk. The rigid aluminum or fiberglass hull is strong and durable, able to take quite a beating from river rapids and unseen obstacles in the water.

That’s not to say canoes are completely impervious to damage. Even the most durable of boats can be punctured. But it does take a lot more force and much bigger obstacles to damage canoes as opposed to inflatable boats.


Canoes all have the same basic shape, but depending on whether you buy a handcrafted or mass-produced canoe, you have plenty of opportunities to make it your own.

Some people build their own canoes according to their style and appearance preferences. Others have a customized canoe built for them.

Even those who buy a pre-made canoe have options to choose from in terms of color, material, and even size. Once you’ve bought your canoe, you can repaint it to your preferences, add any number of mounts for equipment and fishing poles, and even add or embellish the bench seats.


Canoes are iconic, stylish boats, reminiscent of pioneer days and exploration. Some people may just want the experience of paddling down a river in a classic-looking boat.

Plus, canoes are great for camping, fishing, testing your skill against river rapids, and many other adventures. They are a great all-around boat for any number of experiences.

What About Inflatable Canoes?

an inflatable canoe with its trailer

Inflatable canoes are just what their name suggests: canoe-shaped boats that are inflatable. They provide the best of both types of boats: classic shape, customizable design, lightweight convenience, and inexpensive price tag.

Some inflatable canoes provide extra stability in the water over traditional canoes. They also tend to be more buoyant and sit higher in the water, which means they will float in more shallow areas than the traditional canoe.

Of course, the main drawback of inflatable canoes is the risk of developing air leaks.

That said, inflatable canoes as well as other inflatables are relatively more durable than they used to be. Technologies and materials used for making these boats have greatly improved over time. Many inflatable canoes are rated to handle even the most challenging rapids.

SOAR Inflatable Canoes are some of the best you’ll find on the market. Made of tough, high-quality materials, they come at premium prices, but they’re built to last. Plus, each SOAR canoe comes with a 5-year warranty.

Which One is Best for You?

So now we come to the main question: which type of boat would work best for your own personal needs and circumstances?

Of course, you’re the only one who can fully answer that question. But you might ask yourself the following questions to help you make that determination.

  • Where do I plan to use my boat the most? A pond, a lake, a river, the ocean? What are the usual water conditions I encounter?
  • What is my budget? Does it make more sense for me to invest a little extra for a more heavy-duty or durable boat?
  • Do I plan to use a trolling motor with my boat? Not all canoes or inflatable boats support trolling motors.
  • What will I likely be using this boat for the most? Fishing? Exploring? Taking a small group of friends or family out on the water?
  • What are some things I definitely want in a boat? Plenty of storage space? A classic design? Convenience? Durability?
  • Do I have adequate storage space?

If you can identify ahead of time what’s important to you and what your priorities are, you can better determine which type of boat is right for you.


And there you have it!

Inflatable boats are diverse when it comes to style, size, and potential uses, whereas canoes are more classic and consistent in appearance. Inflatable canoes merge the two boat types, creating a hybrid with many benefits over other inflatable boats and canoes.

Deciding which type of boat you want can be a bit of a challenge, so it’s best to shop around and see what’s available before deciding on a particular boat.

It also might help for you to ask yourself some questions to determine your own priorities and what’s important to you when choosing your new boat.