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How to Stock the Best Life Rafts in 2024

Multiple people entering a life raft

Life rafts are necessary safety items that come in handy when consumers find themselves in a pinch during their watery adventures. Anything could happen when on a boat, from sinking to fire accidents—but life rafts keep consumers safe until there is a rescue effort.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers tend to go cheap on their life rafts, which can harm the integrity and sales of an average retailer. Nevertheless, this article will show businesses what to look for when choosing high-quality rafts to increase consumer safety in 2024.

Table of Contents
Life rafts: How profitable is the market in 2024?
Types of life rafts
Necessary factors to look for when selecting life rafts
Understanding USCG and SOLAS certifications
Bottom line

Life rafts: How profitable is the market in 2024?

In 2022, the life raft market was worth about US$ 1 billion, and it’s expected to keep growing at about 4.4% every year. By 2032, experts think the market will be worth over US$ 1.5 billion. Most of the demand for life rafts comes from the commercial sector, which accounts for over 50% of the total revenue share.

Experts also say the total life raft sales in the U.S. reached US$ 164.4 million in 2022. The country achieved such growth due to the increased availability of customized rafts for various activities and competitive pricing. They also consider China one of the most profitable life raft markets, with experts projecting the country will create a US$ 67.8 billion opportunity over the forecast period.

Types of life rafts

Compact (coastal) rafts

Many people waiting on a life raft

If consumers want a raft perfect for inland adventures with a small crew (like six people or less), they will love compact rafts. They are the smallest and most budget-friendly option out there, which is great news if consumers just hope to prepare for emergencies on their inshore cruising, even up to fifteen miles out.

Compact rafts may not come with all the bells and whistles (like safety kits and canopies), but they’ll do the job when consumers are in a pinch. Plus, its compact size makes it a breeze to stash away and whip out whenever adventure calls. And here’s the kicker: coastal rafts are incredibly easy to bust out. Consumers must only yank the interline, and the raft will fully inflate in 30 seconds.

Offshore rafts

Man resting inside a canopied life raft

Offshore rafts are the real deal regarding rough waters and nasty weather. First, they’re a bit pricier than coastal rafts, but for good reason. These rafts are built to handle serious storms and keep consumers cozy for over 24 hours. Offshore rafts can fit up to 12 people, offering supported canopies, insulated flooring, and double buoyancy tubes. If consumers are looking at survival for four or five days out in the open sea, these are the rafts for them. But wait, there’s more! These rafts also come with survival kits packed with all the essentials. Hand flares, repair kits, first aid gear, paddles, and flashlights—you name it!

ISO life rafts

Offshore rafts can handle some terrible conditions, but there’s a limit to what they can handle. For the gnarliest of offshore conditions (like crazy high seas and fierce winds), Type 1 ISO rafts are the best products for the job. Manufacturers make them with double tubes, two entrances, and inflatable ladders for easy access. More importantly, they have gear packs lasting over 24 hours.

On the other hand, Type 2 ISO rafts are the more mellow options for chilling inshore or hitting up coastal waters. Although they come equipped with gear packs, they are only perfect for situations where rescue is likely in 24 hours.

Necessary factors to look for when selecting life rafts

Construction and materials

A yellow life raft floating

When businesses are selecting life rafts to sell, the most important factors revolve around the materials used and the construction methods employed by manufacturers. Therefore, determining the quality of a life raft involves investigating four key aspects: the composition of the buoyancy tubes, the assembly process, the inflation mechanism, and comprehensive testing procedures conducted on both the materials and the final products.

Traditionally, life rafts have been crafted from rubber or neoprene, offering a classic option. However, for consumers seeking higher-end options, sellers can elevate these rafts by using special double-coated nylon fabrics. In the past, rafts were inflated utilizing a combination of CO2 and nitrogen gasses. However, modern advancements have led to adopting regular air for inflation, resulting in quicker inflation times and prolonged inflation duration regardless of weather conditions.

The significance of this shift lies in the fact that modern life rafts inflate faster and maintain inflation longer, thus enhancing safety. Additionally, consumers can now monitor the air levels within the rafts using a gauge, providing them with added peace of mind—another feature businesses must prioritize when choosing life rafts.

Storage options

People jumping into a yellow life raft

Regarding storing life rafts, there are two main options: soft valise packs or durable fiberglass canisters. If consumers plan to keep their rafts below deck, they will want a soft valise pack. These packs are flexible and can fit into tight spaces. But if they store their rafts on deck, the sturdy fiberglass canister will be the better option. Canisters are built to withstand tough conditions and are mounted on special cradles—releasing the raft from canisters only requires a simple pull on the shackle pin.

For extra safety, sellers may offer canisters with hydrostatic release. Why? This device automatically releases the raft from the cradle and brings it to the surface if the boat sinks and consumers can’t reach the raft themselves. While it might be tempting to offer valise packs for on-deck storage, it’s not a good long-term solution. Valise packs aren’t designed for constant exposure to the elements and won’t last as long if consumers store them that way. So, make sure to offer the right storage option based on where consumers will keep their raft and how they plan to use it!


Capacity determines how many people life rafts can safely hold in an emergency. Essentially, it’s like ensuring enough room on a lifeboat for everyone who might need it. Imagine if a raft had space for only four people, but ten were aboard a ship. That would be a big problem if the boat sank! So, when selecting life rafts to sell, it’s essential to match the capacity of the rafts with the number of people who might need to use them.

Manufacturers typically specify the capacity of life rafts based on factors like the raft’s size, the number of inflatable compartments, and safety regulations. While it’s great to offer the right capacity, sellers shouldn’t go overboard because bigger isn’t always better for life rafts. Offering a six-man raft to a cruising couple would affect the weight/square foot ratio, increasing the chances of the raft capsizing in high winds and waves.

Understanding USCG and SOLAS certifications

One question that may arise is whether life rafts have SOLAS or USCG certifications. However, these are just fancy ways of saying that rafts meet certain safety standards set by international or U.S. Coast Guard rules. But here’s the thing: just because a raft is certified doesn’t mean it’s automatically the best. It just means it’s different, especially regarding the survival gear inside and how many people it can hold.

In truth, many life rafts made for luxurious boats might be even better than ones with SOLAS or USCG certification. Manufacturers build such rafts with extra care, which may work better in emergencies. So, when it comes down to it, SOLAS or USCG-approved rafts are mostly meant for big ships and commercial use.

Bottom line

With more people understanding the benefits of life rafts, these products have gained increased momentum—and Google data proves it. Life rafts went from 135,000 searches in January to 165,000 inquiries in February. Since they are essential for maritime safety, it’s no surprise they are exploding in popularity in this safety-focused era. While the market is lucrative, businesses must still make attractive offers to enjoy more sales. So, be sure to look at the three important factors discussed in this article—they’ll help you to choose amazing life rafts that will keep your consumers safe in 2024 and beyond.

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