Your kids might get just as excited as you do about a camping trip. Unfortunately, it’s a hard truth that many things fun for the whole family (dinners out, long hikes, wineries/breweries, 8 hour drives,…) are just a little less fun with kids. Thankfully, there are exceptions!
Unless you were hardcore about paddling and throwing barrel rolls off water falls… paddling around your local lakes and rivers doesn’t have to be any less fun. If you can find the right boat there’s fun to be had paddling with kids of any age in your local lakes and rivers. We chose the Intex Mariner 4 inflatable boat and have had a great time.
We are not very experienced paddlers. I’ve had some sort of paddle or oar in my hands maybe a dozen times at most. Suffice to say that we are not highly discriminating in our choice of boat but we wanted something portable and safe we could all enjoy together. The Intex Mariner 4 inflatable boat seemed to fit the bill.
If you are skeptical of a boat made by a company that’s best known for inflatable pool crocodiles I get it but trust me on this one. Go to YouTube. There’s guys standing in these, putting wooden floors in them, installing bimini tops, and mounting seats for fishing. There’s even mounts on the back for an electric boat motor and a waterproof bag for your battery. I was immediately smitten by the idea of a customizable inflatable boat.
Our delivery was delayed and we didn’t have the boat in time for our camping trip at Atsion Lake in Wharton State Forest. However, a week later all 90lbs of this ridiculous joyful thing landed on my door step and got unpacked immediately.
The only criticism I have is that the boat comes with a single massive storage bag. It’s 90 lbs. The bag must be two feet wide. Imagine holding 90 lbs a foot away from your body. Now imagine how you walk while trying to balance that weight. This bag is ridiculous. I’m not an athlete but at well over six feet and 250 lbs I’m big enough that nothing should be hard to carry.
Thankfully the contents can be separated. Roughly a third of the weight is the semi-rigid floor so I am considering buying a separate duffel bag for it.
I’ve lived half my life within a quarter mile of the Manasquan river so it’s fitting that we launched the boat up in the tail end of it where a dirt road marked only by a sign indicating “wildlife management area” neglects to make any mention of the primary use: small boat launch.
This is where the fun begins. What started as a silly Amazon purchase for a lake front camping trip draws us out of our routine. We are sharing new experiences and for our daughter this is what defines her world.
What we really like about the Intex Mariner 4 inflatable boat is how stable it is. Since all the buoyancy is in the perimeter this thing doesn’t rock. This makes it a great choice for paddling with kids. Canoes are incredibly tipsy. Kayaks are more stable than canoes but try swiveling around in a tandem kayak to tend to your three year old with sunblock, snacks, and water.
Aside from its stability the very construction of the Intex Mariner 4 makes our family feel safe. The boat has four air chambers filed through Boston valves, an inflatable keel, and three inflatable seats. The four chambers and strong Boston valves gave confidence that we would never suffer a loss of all air pressure. The air chambers on the Intex Mariner 4 are so firm and wide thst we never felt our little girl might fall out or even be tempted to reach down over the sides.
We’re now contemplating how to fit this massive piece of gear into our routine camping gear and looking forward to exploring all the calm waters in our area. Have you tried inflatable boats? Let us know in the comments below how you paddle when you go camping! What works for you kids?