Pontoon boat ladders, along with the anchor and motor, are the essential part of every pontoon boat out there. Or any boat for that matter. It is a piece of equipment that has been around for over 10,000 years and that you absolutely have to have. Today I would like to talk about what I think are the safest and best pontoon boat ladder.
Not only are ladders a matter of safety and legality, all the while enabling far greater convenience for yourself, in the long run, it is simply a practical thing to have. Whether you use it for helping passengers aboard or helping them off it, one thing remains true: it is very likely that your state, too, necessitates ladder use as a mandatory boating law requirement.
I am sure that both you and your passengers greatly enjoy your boat. Do not let something as embarrassing as being caught on a very easily preventable legal technicality take that away from you.
Furthermore, someone at some point during your epic boat adventure will love to take a swim. As an excellent captain, it is your responsibility to accommodate every passenger aboard your pontoon. Who would you be to get in the way of that? Indulge them. Let them swim!
There is one minor thing though… and that is that there is a good chance they will want to re-enter the boat at some point too. That is where your new and trusted boating accessory comes in.
Owning a quality ladder will indubitably make the process of getting in and getting out of the water significantly easier.
The first and most important no-brainer to keep in mind when looking into a new ladder is you must make certain that your ladder is long enough to extend below the surface of the water. Make sure that you have at least two rungs underwater and—unless you are limber and able to reach a high rung while also bobbing up and down in the water. Four would make for an even more ideal experience.
When in doubt, simply understand that it is in everyone’s best interest when handrails and rungs are thicker, rather than thinner. Handrails and rungs should allow plenty of gripping room and hopefully a non-slip surface with good traction for wet hands and wet feet.
“But what if I have the longest arms of anyone I know,” you ask? If you are convinced, you need not use the ladder to go deep underwater to reach it, think of everyone else—like us—who are without such a luxury. Think of all your potential guests! As a fail-safe, longer is better for anyone who happens to be not as lanky.
In addition to length, however, several other factors would be wise to consider when purchasing a new pontoon ladder. Let us look through all of the various options here now.
- 1 Types of Pontoon Boat Ladders
- 2 Ladder Materials
- 3 How to Mount Your New Pontoon Ladder
- 4 Extra Ladder Hardware and Accessories
- 5 Final Word
Types of Pontoon Boat Ladders
Permanent or Removable Pontoon Boat Ladder
When you decide on a ladder, you should also decide whether you would like to permanently mount it, or opt out for a removable pontoon boat ladder. Some people prefer being able to move their ladder across several platforms or sides of the pontoon.
Permanent pontoon boat ladders have their benefits. For instance, you will never need to fetch a ladder again. Furthermore, actually getting the permanent ladder ready for use is far simpler and quicker than just about any other variant—you simply drop it into the water. Another plus is that this route will not take up any further storage space under your benches, or in the sides of your boat.
Although a removable pontoon boat steps can take up your storage space, there are many different, sophisticated models out there capable of folding flat. I like the compatibility of these ladders as it minimizes the space needed to store them away. These types are also usually more lightweight. Even though they are designed to be removable, they can also be installed, mounted and left in place as semi-permanent pontoon boat ladders for the duration you require.
Because the bottom rungs are not constantly sitting in the water, removable pontoon boat ladders are less prone to wear and tear. This generally means that they will last much longer.
Folding Pontoon Ladders
Ask just about any boatman about which ladder is arguably the easiest type to use, and there will be a very good chance they will tell you all about the folding ladder. This type of ladder slides up into its mounting hardware when you are in the water. Likewise, simply retract it back up, folding it, when you leave the water.
One very decent such model is the RecPro marine 4-step folding ladder from Amazon.
The RecPro has mounting slots for the gunwale. It unfolds to rest on your pontoon with a set of plastic legs. When it is not in use, you can also use the built-in clip that comes with it to fold the rungs up and hold them in place.
The JIF Marine angled folding ladder from Amazon is also another reliable variant.
This one is a popular model and you probably already have a good idea of why: its large and slightly angled stairs offer maximum convenience as far as steps go. Thanks to this slight incline, swimmers have a much easier time climbing up onto the deck.
Under Mount Ladders
In hunting for that perfect ladder you are looking for, you will also likely stumble across the option of the under a mounted ladder. You will find that most under mount ladders are positioned at the front of the bow, just under the bow.
The Extreme Max under mount pontoon ladder from Amazon is a safe bet.
What might be most notable about this model is how it is made of aluminum and attaches to your pontoon under its boat ladder’s front deck. It stows easily with a rubber strap when not in use. When you are ready to use it, you simply deploy it by unhooking the strap and sliding the rungs out into the water. These grooved rungs have excellent traction, which makes it especially easy to grab onto for both kids and adults.
Another reliable way would be to go with the Garelick/Eez-In under mount sliding ladder from Amazon.
Install it under swim platforms or under the deck by the bow.
Telescoping Pontoon Ladder
No, these next pontoon boat ladders variants sadly will not help you observe planets and stars with greater clarity. Nevertheless, much like the actual telescope that would serve you better for such a feat, they do retract and expand into the water and out the same way, a telescope opens and closes.
Telescoping steps are however permanently installed on your pontoon. There are two stainless steel options out there, which are particularly awesome for use out on the ocean water: The Amarine-made 3-step or 4-step telescoping ladders from Amazon.
Dive steps are easily recognizable by their unique designs. They typically featuring one single, the central rod with rungs on either side protruding outward, as opposed to the rungs placed in the middle, framed by the left and right braces.
If you are someone who tends to do a lot of diving in a lake or have shallow ocean waters nearby where you go swimming, snorkeling or diving, this choice is ideal for your needs.
The fact alone that the rungs are specifically placed to offer maximum convenience and support in climbing while wearing finned feet should let you know everything you need to know about what this ladder is, and what it is used for.
You can attach this Garelick/Eez-In Under Platform Double Tube Telescoping Ladder to the diving or swim platform as well.
Full disclosure, I do not have any pets. I’ve had a dog back when I was a kid, but these days pets are too much work. However, if you have pets you probably want to make their life easier. So get them their own ladder so they don’t crowd yours.
There are different variations of pets ladder but they all lean toward dogs. I don’t think your cat will like the water.
The prices range from $50 to almost $500 but I will recommend Paws Aboard Doggy Boat Ladder and Ramp which falls in the middle of the two price points.
Just like the myriad of other items and accessories, you might feel the need to get for your boat, what exactly the material ladder is made of, and how strong it is, should be the most important deciding factors.
For instance, do you take your pontoon boat out in saltwater, or does it stay primarily in freshwater lakes? You have to take this particular environmental detail into consideration. Salinity could very easily rust or corrode your steps over time. You have to take that into consideration when picking the right material for you.
Aluminum is the most common and popular ladder type. This is probably because it is the less expensive option of the two available materials.
Furthermore, it is a lighter load to carry on board, as well as lift both to and from the mounting hardware on your platform. Nevertheless, due to the weight, they can and do still flex and bow under significant weight. If heavier people use your ladder, it is in your best interest to use a stronger material.
What you will notice immediately with the stainless steel ladder variant is that they are typically more expensive. That being said, they are also better for your boat.
Unlike the lightweight aluminum ladders, they are much sturdier and can handle the weight of a heavier swimmer. Another benefit is that they also have a higher corrosion resistance.
How to Mount Your New Pontoon Ladder
As a pontoon boat owner, you will eventually have to decide where to mount and attach the ladder. The decision is more difficult when you consider the location of the pontoon’s diving platform. You can place pontoon’s diving platform on either the bow or stern of the boat.
On The Bow
When you go with the bow route, you have an additional two choices. You can:
- Either install a removable hook ladder if the bow has a diving platform, or,
- You can install a center under mount will go in between the ‘toons.
At the Stern Entry
You can also place an under mount ladder at the stern on either side of the engine. This is typically the better place for your ladder if you find yourself loving to ski or go tubing. It makes it much easier for any exhausted passengers to climb onboard.
On the Gunwale
Gunwale pontoon boat ladders, also known as side mount ladders, are the more common ladder type. You will recognize these sorts most easily by their hook-like shape. Using this advantage of shape, they latch to the side of the pontoon over the gunwale, where the pontoon usually has at least on side gate entrance.
Moreover, some owners also find side mounts helpful in being able to grab the pontoon sides for support when coming out of the water. Most install a removable system for the side mount ladders because, repeatedly, they conveniently lift up off the gunwale when docked.
Do take extra precaution when going with the removable steps. A lot of the time you will have a difficult time deploying the ladder while in the water.
Extra Ladder Hardware and Accessories
Other than the ladder itself, here are a few extra accessories that could come in handy in terms of easy mounting capabilities or simply overall safety.
If you have kids or even a pet, you already know that this is a great additional accessory. This particular guard covers the hinges of the ladder, giving any parents or pet owner some peace of mind. These guards usually also have a rounded top that prevents any passenger from being cut by the sharp edges of metal. More importantly, the hinge guard prevents the fingers of small children—but let us be real; we adults would love this feature just as much—from being caught and pinched.
These definitely were not invented around the time when I was a kid. If they were, I probably would not have all these memories of so many countless awful pinches today.
In addition, these guards are also typically made out of a marine-grade composite. That means that they will have no problem withstanding freshwater, saltwater and anything in between.
There may be a spot where you decide to place the ladder, however, that may not have a way for your passengers to lift or guide themselves out of the water. In this case, I would highly recommend a boarding handrail—especially so if some extra upper-body strength sounds real good right about now.
Mounting cups make for really nice additions for quick mounting and removal of your gunwale ladder. The basic idea is that your removable pontoon ladder hook ends drop back into the cups.
Some pontoon owners, when out on the water, have a hard time mounting their ladder to the boat. They are just not sure what the right spot is. I say forget about such worries! You can place these keyhole mounting sockets in various places on your pontoon. This way, you can guarantee the option of placing a ladder at the safest spot on the pontoon.
Stainless Quick Release Hardware
This accessory is for quickly mounting and unmounting your steps. Even more important than that, however, is that this means you can mount your ladder in multiple locations. Say you want one at the gunwale and another at the bow’s platform. Similar to the keyhole mounts, you can get this additional piece of hardware for the sake of flexibility.
Best pontoon fishing boats & accessories article has some additional accessories for your pontoon boat if you are interested in that.
If you are thinking of purchasing a pontoon boat in the near future, remember that the price range for a ladder can run you anywhere between $200 to $500. It is important to factor this into your pontoon boat’s overall cost. However, the price does not determine the best pontoon boat ladder you can buy. Do the research, see what fits your needs and go with that.
In any case, regardless of that price, the ladder is something you cannot ‘toon without!
If you want to read more about the essential equipment that you need on your boat you can read about. what I think, is the best pontoon boat anchor.