Emergency Rafts & Inflatable Boats for Floods & Severe Weather

Inflatable boats are the best transport that you can keep stored away for when a flood occurs. One quick look at Houston and you can already see the widespread devastation and impact a flood can have and how useful a quick, ready-to-go boat that has been sitting in the garage can be in these types of disasters.

In this environment an inflatable boat is going to save you without a doubt. First, it is a necessary way of water transport. When you are in a flood you are already on food rationing and walking through water is draining on a person no matter what fitness they have. Second is the risk of disease and illness. Stale floodwater is a sponge for hazards as it collects sharp objects, dead wildlife, human waste, typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis just to name a few.

Staying healthy and safe is your priority so you are going to want to stay out of that water. A short walk down the street in floodwater could cause a cut on your leg and a rampant infection. So it’s something worth avoiding.

If you live in a floodplain, you should look at getting an inflatable boat just for the purpose of having it sit in the bottom of the kitchen cupboard or the garage to use a s a backup for when and if a flood happens. Sure, this is basic prepping, but isn’t it also a bit of common sense and safety?

What to know about inflatable boats

The first thing you need to know is that one boat will not cater for every situation. Say your area has a shallow flood (1m deep) and the boat you are using is a recreational fishing boat, if it isn’t a flat bottomed boat, you’re not going anywhere. Other thing to think about could be the weight of a boat, the material, make of the boat and the size required.

Inflatable boat used as veterans help save lives in Houston.
Veterans help save lives on an inflatable boat in Houston

For emergency situations like a flood there are seven things your boat should have:

  1. The size should be small enough to go into buildings if necessary
  2. A hard bottom to avoid tearing or holes being made by flood debris
  3. Easily cope in shallow waters
  4. Has ample space for storing and holding gear
  5. Has enough weight limit to hold yourself, gear and a few family or others
  6. Capable of having a motor
  7. Light enough to be pulled into a tight area, onto land into a secure area


Things to consider when buying inflatable boats

How is the boat powered?

You need to look at how an inflatable boat is driven. Can your five-person boat be rowed by one person? What about if it is full of supplies or someone’s precious homewares that you have helped them save from getting wet?

When it comes to flooding areas there are going to be some issues that you need to think about beforehand when it comes to the movement and powering of your boat. These are:

  • When the survivors you have picked up who are weak and not able to row, will you be able to make the boat move with just you rowing?
  • Will you be able to move the boat against tides, waves or heavy winds?

Quality inflatable boats come with mounts for a motor which would be a good investment if you are worried about the movement of the boat in those conditions mentioned above. Most inflatable boat motors are electric and boat batteries can be can be rechargeable and give about five – 15 days of power on a full charge.

If you use the batteries made for inflatable boats that average 12 volt power then there is no issue with them shorting out in contact with water or any risk of electrocution, but you need to make sure you handle batteries safely as with any other battery.

What type of motor and battery you need

The first thing you need is a motor mount kit for your inflatable boat. This will allow you to attach a small motor to the rear of the boat and is made to connect and disconnect easily. As some boats don’t have battery compartments already you can look at getting a power center to store a battery securely and have external terminals and a battery meter. For the battery itself you should be using a rechargeable battery so that you do not need to carry extra batteries. As mentioned above, use a battery that is made for inflatable boats like a Light Trolling Motor Battery to ensure that you have something that is not too heavy and can operate well in flood conditions. A small portable battery charger is useful if you have a generator or access to power to recharge your inflatable boat’s battery.

For the engine, you don’t need anything too big. Preference should be given to anything made specifically for inflatable boats as you don’t want something that is too powerful and battery draining or too heavy. Minn Kota is a brand to keep an eye out for as they make specific trolling motors for small fishing trips in small inflatable boats and is used by many kayak and small boat fishing enthusiasts.

Is the boat durable?

The first place you need to look at for your flood-worthy inflatable boat is its bottom. A lot of the time in a flooded area you are not going to know what is underneath the muddy water. This could be sharp metal debris, large branches or shallow water with jagged sharp material. If you are using something that is not durable, it is a sure-fire way to end up with something as good as a plastic bag in water.

Signs your inflatable boat is durable for a flood:

  • Underneath the boat should have something like an aluminium flooring or a marine grade plywood flooring.
  • The bottom has a V-keel design to reduce water resistance, add speed and protect it from impacts
  • Has a crash barrier all around the boat with heavy duty lining
  • Separate air chambers so that if one of the side panels is deflated, the boat is still functioning

When you are buying an inflatable boat, make sure it has these signs of durability so that when you need it the most, you are sure it is going to help you and anyone else who might need your help with it.

Does it have space?

Rescuers using an inflatable boat
You need to make sure your inflatable boat has enough space

The spacing of the boat is second to durability, but it is also important for a number of reasons. You are going to need a boat with bench seats that you can store a suitable first-aid kit under, a spare battery for the motor, a child’s life vest or flotation device and a short supply of clean drinking water and food (energy bars or protein bars). With these contents you have just become a life-saver for anyone in need (further down there is an extensive list of essentials you should have in your boat in a flood).

You are also going to need something with ample space for other people, say if you rescued a family or you have your own family that you need to transport to dry land. So make sure that the boat has a sufficient carrying weight to cater for this.

The maximum weight on some of the boats I have used or have had reviewers use are 610lbs for a two-person inflatable boat, 660 for a three-person and 860lbs for a four-person. Keep this is mind as while your people may not weigh much, the gear that you are carrying might fill that weight gap.

How does it inflate?

A lot of the quality inflatable boats available on the market already come with a foot pump on purchase, you can choose to buy an electric pump which can be used with a battery if you want to. I have personally found with inflatable boats and kayaks that the included foot pumps work quite well, however it may be an idea to check on the quality of your pump when you purchase it to make sure you can use it in an emergency.

Three inflatable boats that you should consider buying

Now that we know what we need to be buying, let’s take a look at some of the competitive and quality inflatable boats available on the market that are durable and can be used in a flood.

Ancheer Inflatable Boat

This Ancheer 7.5-foot inflatable boat is the most cost-effective boat we have tried available online. The model comes in a 9.8ft and 10.8ft size so you can get the appropriate size that fits your needs for whether you are traveling alone or with a pack.

Does it have what we need to be a reliable vessel and captain floodwaters? Yes it does. The Ancheer has a non-skid aluminium flooring so it will be fine with any underneath debris or jagged edges you might come across and a triple-layered puncture resistant PVC material to keep the top from getting any tears or holes. It also has:

  • Battery box tie-down
  • Oar lock set
  • Flooring side joiners so you are able to stand on the boat without too much disturbance
  • Rear pontoon extension so that the boat doesn’t flip when turning
  • Aluminium bench seat, foot pump, repair kit, aluminium oars
  • Max load for the 7.5ft is 616lbs
  • V-keel design and four air chambers

The boat itself is well constructed and built for durability. It is the sort of boat you would expect emergency services to use. Being one of the cheapest aluminum bottom inflatable boats on the market and the most quality this one is at the top of our list for a reason.

The HydroForce is one of the most popular inflatable hard-bottom boats on the market. Instead of using an aluminium bottom this one has marine-grade plywood floorboards that are assembled out of the boat pack.
It has a lot of the specifications we are after in a good, durable, inflatable boat such as the four seperate PVC chambers and a heavy grade PVC skin to withstand stresses from sunlight, pollutants and sharp objects. It has safety grab ropes, oarlocks, a drain valve and an extra boosting on the sides to bolster direct impact damage. The bottom flooring also performs well against rocks, with sharp ones only leaving a small bump in the marine plywood.
The boat itself takes some time to set up but once it is in the water it is a very multi-purpose vessel. A lot of people use it for small creek trawling and shallow water fishing just because of its good size and manoeuvrability. One point to note might be that depending on the size you are after this boat might not be suitable. The boat is suitable to carry three adults and one child with a maximum load capacity of 1058lbs, but personally I think the boat is more suited to two adults and relevant supplies and equipment. If you are after more space you can try the bigger brother of the Caspian which is the Mirovia.

This inflatable 9.8′ sports boat is a nautical inflatable boat Porsche with its advanced engineered design and very resilient body. When we look ‘under the hood’ of this one we can see it is definitely a durable boat, and so it should be as it is almost twice the price of the previous two competitors. Let’s take a look at what it has:

  • Thick .9 mm, reinforced PVC material is UV, oil stain, and puncture resistant
  • Extended rear pontoons for more maximum weight and large motors with stability turning
  • Aluminum flooring and seats
  • Welded seams guaranteed to last in fresh and salt water
  • Removable seat cushion and bag
  • Two aluminum oars with lock-in holders
  • Designed in California, U.S.A based company
  • Inflatable keel and V hull
  • Max Load: 1158 lbs, Max Persons: 5

The portability of this huge boat is something to be admired too. It packs up to be about 45″L x 23″W x 10″H so it’s something that could easily fit in a car or in the shed and doesn’t take up too much space.

Because of the make and shape of this boat it can easily fit a family of four, the maximum load of 1158lbs is a lot in comparison to other inflatable boats that are this size. The PVC welding is also one of the biggest bonuses that quite a lot of inflatable boats fail to have. The welding of seams instead of gluing makes it last a lot longer at is a lot more durable against impacts.
Ideally, if you are willing to spare the money, this boat is one you should definitely consider if you are in a flood area as it fits a lot for its size and is an extremely durable and stable inflatable boat.

Extra equipment you should be carrying on your inflatable boat in a flood

If you already have an inflatable boat and are in a flood-prone area you are probably going to have some sort of kit that is helpful to yourself and others in flood situations.

So what do you need? 

Everyone should be having a suitable medical kit with them. In a flood you’re going to need a lot of sterile gauzes and sterile wipes just for the purpose of keeping any wounds, cuts or grazes clean until you get back to a shelter or your home to patch things up. The priority in a flood would be to stop any floodwater causing harm to your open wound causing an infection, bacteria or disease.

Other essentials you should look at keeping in your inflatable boat are:

Another great item to pack in your kit which takes up a bit more space is a second emergency raft. An Intex Explorer is a great backup to have in your bigger inflatable boat for the purpose that if you find a number of survivors and don’t have the space in your own boat, you can fit quite a few more in the backup boat and tow them. Equally as such, if you are in a flooded area where you are gathering supplies and also have a number of people with you, a back-up boat can be used as a supply boat while your passengers sit in the main inflatable boat.

My finals thoughts on the need for inflatable boats

As we have seen in recent flooding disasters not only in Houston, but also in the UK, Australia and India, there is a definite need for inflatable boats primarily because floodwater is rampant with bacteria and disease and is the number one risk to your health in floods.

When a flooding occurs, no matter how great your car, 4WD, truck or monster on four-wheels is, there is a risk that you can drive into a hole, a deeper area, or get washed off the road in strong tides. Driving a vehicle in floods is a bad idea and will result in endangering your life and the ones who are with you. This is why there is no doubt you should invest in an inflatable boat. Those boats mentioned above are safe and durable for the conditions that a flood imposes, so it is important to keep this guide in mind when you purchase your inflatable boat.

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