Swim Raft On a Sunny Beach

Best Inflatable Swim Raft in 2020. Review and Buying Guide

Why a Swim Raft?

You want to be in and on the water, and a swim raft will enable you to do that.

You can make the most of your time on the water, especially if you live by a body of water, and a swim raft is ideal for helping you do just that.

There are numerous inflatable swim rafts on the market these days, so there are several things to consider before purchasing.

What you need to do first is to determine what one would be the best, and what would suit your needs.

Swim RaftCapacitySpecial Feature
Solstice Inflatable Floating Dock3-5 personCan be Anchored
Big Joe Island Float250lbsFour Holes to Connect to Other Big Joe Islands
Airhead Gang Plank6 peopleZippered Connection System
FINIS Floating Island (Large)n/aFlexible Design
Aquaglide Airport3 peopleHeavy Duty Attachment Points with Stainless Fittings

Our Top 5 Swim Rafts Reviewed

1. Solstice Inflatable Floating Dock

This floating dock will accommodate several people, in the ten by ten-foot size, along with a lounge chair or two and a cooler.

If you have a foot pump, it will take only about 10 minutes to inflate fully.

When inflated, it is rigid and sturdy.  It tends to be slippery when wet, but that is to be expected. 

Pros:

  • Durable activity platform that is made from high-pressure drop stitched material
  • Has a capacity of 8 people
  • Great for water play or lounging
  • Features a compact tote bag has four stainless heavy-duty corner D rings, and two center D rings for securing cooler or other items.
  • Available in three sizes:  6’X5”, 8’X5’, and 10’X10’

Cons:

  • The pump is not included
  • Not easy to stand on

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2. Big Joe Island Float, Blue

You’ll be quite happy with this purchase. Keep in mind that this island float is entirely different from the last review. 

This float is shown being used to hold drinks, as there are four holders, one in each corner. 

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It will hold one or two children or a 75-pound Goldendoodle and miniature schnauzer. 

Pros:

  • The Island is suitable for laying on or standing on
  • The float can be used for lakes or swimming pools
  • The float is light and easy to take in and out of the water
  • Can use as a floating table
  • Has a 4.9 star out of 5 stars with 20 reviews
  • Holds up to 250 pounds

Cons:

  • It is hard to find a negative with this float, but keep in mind: it is not a raft as such. It can be accommodated comfortably by one adult or two children

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3. Airhead Gang Plank

This swim raft doesn’t curl up on the ends like others, and it doesn’t catch the wind either.  Stash the deflated planks on your boat and use them wherever you tie-up.

Pros:

  • Up to 5 people can lay on the plank
  • Four grommets tether the plank to the lake bottom, to your boat or the shore
  • Reversible color…white on one side and blue on the other
  • You can connect planks via a zippered connection system

Cons:

  • There have been some complaints of it deflating easily
  • Not suitable for rough play, like a group of nine-year-old boys

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4. FINIS Floating Island (Large)

This floating island is perfect for teaching kids to swim and getting them used to the water. 

It can be used for swim lessons for kids, and students can practice kicking three at a time on the island. 

The holes in the mat are great for little hands to grab onto. 

Pros:

  • Allows children to gain experience and confidence about being in the water
  • Can be folded into a tunnel for swimmers to go under
  • Lets water seep through the float, abling young children to be introduced to the water

Cons:

  • This will not support the weight of an adult
  • May be on the pricey side for what it is

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5. Aquaglide Airport Classic Inflatable Swim Platform

You can use this swim platform in your pond. It can hold ten or more people and it can also be paddled, like a boat, around the lake.

Also, it is great to take camping.  You can use it as your own personal dock while in the campground. 

Pros:

  • Use as a lounge or platform
  • The design includes mesh drains for excess water
  • Heavy-duty attachment points
  • Quick inflation and deflation
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Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Does not include a pump
  • Need to use UV spray on the cover to keep the sun from drying it out

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Floating Raft Buying Guide

What to Look For

Inflatable Swim Raft Best Use

Consider how you will be using the raft, and how often.  Think about what temperatures and weather conditions will you be in. 

It is also important to know what size will you need, and keep in mind the weight you want to accommodate. 

If you are going to be taking the raft back and forth, you will want to choose one that is lightweight and easy to compact for storage and for transporting it.

Inflating a Swim Raft

You will also want to make sure that you have a way to quickly inflate the swim raft once you arrive where you are going. 

You could inflate a swim raft manually, that is if your goal is to start at the beginning of the season. Or you can have it inflated by the end of the season. 

Depending on the size of your swim raft, use an air compressor to inflate the raft, so you don’t miss out on the season. 

Several types of compressors are small and portable that will do the job for you.

Whatever you get should be durable enough to be able to last through the seasons. 

The Main Advantages

The advantage of an inflatable raft is that they are portable, easy to move around, and you can take them wherever you go.

You can choose the size, or have several in various sizes. 

There are different ways to use an inflatable raft, but remember that towing behind a boat is not one of them. 

The material is not made to withstand the speed and friction of the water when being towed. 

The History of the Inflatable Swim Raft

The Beginnings

Ever wonder who first came up with the idea of an inflatable raft?  We did.  And we’re about to share with you the surprising things we found out.  

They’ve Been Floating Around for a While

We would never have thought it, but inflatable rafts have been around for thousands of years. 

Just goes to show how short-sighted and “today-focused” we have become! 

So, to get on with it, the first inflatable rafts used cow or goat skins as an air-tight bladder.

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What we could not find out is how these bladders were filled with air.  we might not have known that inflatable rafts were that old, but we know for sure there was not the handy dandy little air compressor around that we keep in our trunk. 

A Significant Investment

We also found out that in 1842 Captain John C Fremont used a rubber raft while he was exploring the American Rockies.

He purchased the raft for $150 (which would have been a considerable amount back then) from an inventor.  

The raft was made of inflatable cylinders with beveled ends.  They were lashed together to form a square.

The floor was a rubberized sheet that was wrapped around and over the cylinders. 

In the early 1940s, Lt. Peter Halkett from England designed and built an inflatable raft using Macintosh cloth (this was a rubberized fabric). 

This was in a design that is more familiar to us, as it was a continuous oval cylinder.

It had four separate air compartments along with a waterproof floor, sail, and splash deck.  Lt. Halkett took his raft on numerous trips down the Thames. 

A More Successful Swim Raft

Apparently, Halkett’s inflatable raft was a successful venture as Sir John Franklin took a Halkett raft on his expedition to find the Northwest Passage. 

Other explorers in the 1840s through the 1850s used Halkett’s raft. 

During World War l, the interest in inflatable and compact rafts increased when flights over water in aircraft became common. 

The first U.S. patent for a life raft, which touted it could also be used for “water sports” came in 1923. 

It was titled as a pneumatic life raft and used a laced on the floor. 

There is an account of Commander Richard E. Bryd’s failed trans-Atlantic flight and his use of an inflatable raft. 

In 1925 they ran out of gas off the French coast, forcing them to ditch the airplane. They used their inflatable raft to paddle to land. 

The last tidbit we have for you is another survival story. In 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, along with others, spent three weeks on inflatable rafts after their B-17 crashed in the Pacific. 

So, when you are lying on your inflatable swim raft, soaking up the sun and enjoying life, cast your thoughts briefly back to what came before, and then go back to enjoying the rays. 

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