Rafting Boats: How Are They Different From Regular Inflatable Boats

Rafting Boats: How Are They Different From Regular Inflatable Boats

Rafting adventures across rivers and rapids can be the most memorable experience for just about anyone.

This thrilling activity has become really popular since it can be enjoyed by people of all experience levels and ages.

If you are planning another trip into the water, making it an enjoyable and memorable can be easy if you have the right boat!

Rafting boats are specially designed to make sure that you can safely adventure on the river. They are different from simple inflatable boats, and it is important to understand this difference.

To have a successful rafting adventure, ensure that you have a good rafting boat.

What Exactly Is Rafting?

Rafting Boats: How Are They Different From Regular Inflatable Boats 1

White water rafting and simple rafting are recreational activities.

You’ll need a proper inflatable rafting boat to navigate across any body of water of your choosing. Rafting is often performed on whitewater or different kinds of rough waters.

Rafting involves nifty teamwork and a thirst for adventure. You may even have to deal with a degree of risk; it’s just part of the experience.

Rafting has become a popular adventure sport since the 1950s. In the beginning, individuals used to paddle in 10-14 feet rafts. They used paddles with double blades or had oars to steer rafts through the water.

Now, the multi-person rafts are propelled by paddles with single blades. They are usually steered by the rafter at the stern of the raft. Oars are still used to this day, though.

It is important to consider the levels of difficulty offered by certain sections in the river. In some rivers, it is considered an extreme sport that can prove to be fatal as well.

If you are a beginner, you should avoid these kinds of spots. There are plenty of sections in different rivers that will not be that difficult or extreme. You can try your hand on those.

It is also a competitive sport that is played across the globe. There are World Rafting Championships that tens of nations participate in from all around the world.

There is even the International Rafting Federation (IRF) that oversees different aspects that concern the sport.

What Kind Of Boats Are Used For Rafting?

What Kind Of Boats Are Used For Rafting?

There are many kinds of boats that are used for rafting, but you have to be careful of what each boat’s purpose is. They are all used in different conditions and for different needs.


Kayaks are one of the most popular and well-known among rafting boats. There are two main types of kayaks that are used for rafting: whitewater and sea.

Sea kayaks are less maneuverable and longer. They work well in water that doesn’t flow quickly but has plenty of waves to deal with.

Whitewater kayaks are designed especially for water that tends to flow onto the deck of the rafting boat. They are more maneuverable to make it easy to go across rapids and are shorter in length too.

They stay stable in turbulent water, which makes it easier to navigate. Whitewater kayaks are also designed in such a way that they can be righted easily through Eskimo Rolls in case they flip into the water.

They even come with plenty of storage area so that your belongings are safe and don’t need a lot of muscle to navigate the water.


Rafts are common types of watercraft that are used by most rafting trip companies as well.

They are used because of their increased stability over kayaks. They are equally less maneuverable, though, which is perfect since you should guide the boat, not the water.

Such rafting boats are made with inflatable material. High-strength fabrics are used that are often coated in Neoprene, Urethane, and PVC to increase their durability and reliability.

A lot of rafts are big enough to handle multiple passengers, which can be more fun and interesting. There are plenty of single-person whitewater rafting boats that you can use as well.


Catarafts are made from similar material as inflatable rafting boats. However, they have a special addition of a metal frame, called Shredders.

Usually, they are designed with double inflatable pontoons that are placed on either side of the boat. The Shredders are bridged in the middle of the boat by a frame that keeps the boat steady and rafters safe.

The seats are placed on the frame and can hold a few passengers at a time for the rafting adventure. Only one person rows on the cataraft at a time.

The passengers don’t have any responsibilities and can enjoy the ride. A spotter guides the oarsman to make sure that the whitewater raft can go through difficult rapids or obstructions with ease.

While they can be any size, Catarafts are usually smaller than inflatable rafts to increase maneuverability.


A lot of people choose canoes as their rafting boat when they want to experience the traditional and oldest means of rafting.

Canoes were first made from tree trunks; now, they come in all sorts of plastic, Kevlar, and fiberglass. People also add spray covers to keep water out of the hull, which makes it look more like a kayak.

Open canoes also have foam pieces or large airbags on the sides that can help clear out the water when it becomes too much. The canoe’s top rim also has holes in it in case the raft begins to gather water.

You can tip the raft on the side to let the water escape from the holes. You can also roll the canoe in case it flips over like a kayak, but it can be a little difficult to do.


C1s are similar to whitewater kayaks, but you have to kneel in them instead of sitting. The paddles for C1s rafting boats are also small.

They only have a single paddle. They are longer than kayaks but shorter than canoes. Thus, they are less maneuverable than kayaks but more than canoes.

The McKenzie River Dory

The McKenzie River Dory

The McKenzie River Dory is a hard-sided traditional rafting boat. It has flared sides, pointed sterns, flat bottoms, and flat but narrow bows.

The design of the rafting boat allows it to spin at the center, making it a highly maneuverable vehicle. If you are going across running rapids where you need high maneuverability, you will need such rafting boats.

It allows you high positioning, which can be quite helpful in turbulent stretches and difficult obstacles.

River Bugs

River bug rafting boats have highly minimal designs out of all rafting boats. Basically, they are glorified tire tubes. The raft has a similar shape to a horseshoe.

The rafter sits in the middle of the boat, and the feet are pointed to the open end of the raft. The boat has a plastic or mesh seat to keep the rafter in place as they row.

It even has a comfortable inflated backrest where you can lean back on to make sure that you don’t get struck by flying rocks while rafting.

River bugs require you to paddle with your hands and feet, but they are less maneuverable than you may think at first. However, you won’t need a lot of steering since you can essentially let the river torrent carry you through the ride.

Why Are They Inflatable?

Why Are They Inflatable?

The most common rafting boat is the inflatable kind. They are lightweight boats that can carry rafters with ease.

They usually have super flexible tubes with pressurized gas on the bow and sides to make sure that you can steer through the water easily.

Boats that are around 10 feet usually have a floor made up of aluminum sheets of rigid plywood plants that are fitted between tubes. This increases the buoyance of such rafting boats.

Transoms of such boats are rigid, which can be great to mount outboard motors to make it easier to navigate the water.

A lot of inflatable boats can also be packed after disassembly, which makes them highly portable and transportable. When the rafting boat is inflated, it can be kept in rigid cross-ways too through a foldable thwart.

This ensures that the inflatable boat can be used as life-rafts for aircraft or ships, too, as well as recreational or travel.


Rafting is a really fun activity that you shouldn’t miss out on. As long as you have the right kind of rafting boat for the waters you are about to head into, it can be the most exciting and fun experience of your life!