Whether you call them step ladders or boat boarding ladders, they are an important part of your pontoon boat, giving easy access into and out of the water.
They are an essential accessory to have, not just from a practicality perspective, but also as a safety aspect and possibly as a legal requirement in your state.
But which step ladders are best for a pontoon boat?
If you are thinking about buying a new one, and want some recommendations then I’ve got some below, but there are some considerations you will need to take first being you purchase.
Firstly, having a good quality and sturdy ladder is going to make entering and exiting the pontoon boat a whole lot easier.
Whether you have kids who need this type of assistance, or are a heavy-set guy with bad knees, then it’s essential that you choose the best boat boarding ladder (or step ladder) to suit your requirements.
Secondly, you need to think about the type of ladder that will suit your pontoon boat.
Do you need a permanent ladder, a removable one, one that folds, an under-mount model, a telescopic one, or a dive ladder?
This guide is going to help you through that decision-making process in how to choose a ladder for your pontoon boat.
Considerations in Choosing a Pontoon Boarding Ladder
Before we get into what the best ladders are, I have some initial guidance which you should follow before you choose the right boarding ladder for you.
- Always choose one which is high-quality and will take the weight and activity you predict that it will have to endure.
- Make sure that it will be long enough to extend under the water so that your passengers can climb in and out easily without having to be pulled up by hand.
- The best ladders will have at least 2 rungs underwater, and ideally 4 so that kids and people of all shapes, sizes, and heights can easily climb in and out of the water.
- Choose a boarding ladder with the thick rung and handrails with a non-slip material or grading so that wet limbs don’t slip, leading to injury.
- If you have short legs or bad knees, then choose a 4-step ladder with wide treads as you will find them a lot easier to use.
- Aluminium ladders will be cheaper and lighter, but they can buckle and corrode quickly. For something that can take more weight and will last longer choose a stainless steel one.
Should You Choose Permanent or Removable?
The biggest consideration other than the quality and size will be the type. You can choose either a permanently mounted ladder or a removable ladder which can be placed anywhere around the side of the boat within seconds.
But which should you choose?
For me, permanent ladders are good if you want something that’s always going to be there. Sounds obvious I know, but it means you won’t need to rush around the pontoon if there’s an emergency to take it out as it will already be mounted into place. It also won’t take up storage space underneath your seats.
But, removable ladders are my favorites because whilst they will need to be stored, you can place them anywhere on the boat and are not constrained by a permanent installation. They tend to be light, and many of them will fold up anyway, so providing you have the space, for me, it’s a better choice.
One final consideration too; removable ladders won’t always be in the water. That means the will not degrade as quickly and should last a longer giving you a more economical solution that hopefully won’t need to be replaced anytime soon.
The Best Rated Pontoon Boat Boarding Ladders
So now for some recommendations. What I have done is list one or two option depending on the type of boarding ladder you want to buy.
Best Under-Mount Ladder
In the majority of cases, this type will be placed under the bow at the front of the boat, but not always. You can see a photo of one that I have used in the past here.
It’s called the Extreme Maxx Ladder (see on Amazon). It’s really very good.
The reason that I love this boarding ladder as it can take the weight of up to 300 pounds, making it one of the more robust ladders on the market. It slides onto a track using a rubber strap under the deck for easy storage so won’t get in the way either.
When you want to use it, all you do is unhook the rubber strap and slide it out.
It’s got grooved rungs on it, which you can’t really see in my photo so well, but these offer great grip for kids and adults alike.
Best Telescoping Ladder
These work just like the name suggests as you can extend and retract them in a telescopic fashion, giving them a great advantage for storage and space – but they are permanently fixed to the pontoon boat, despite what you might think.
Do I like them?
Not so much.
For me they aren’t as strong and sturdy as others on the market, and I don’t quite trust how they would not only stand up to heavier passenger weights, but also the telescopic mechanism might break over time.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good telescoping boarding ladders on the market though, it’s just I’ve not used one myself personally.
The Best Ladder for Heavy People or Kids
Whilst the boarding ladders I have recommended to so far are great for pontoon boats, they tend to be quite narrow, and most will have rungs to step on, rather than actual steps.
If you are a heavier-set person or someone who has manoeuvrability issues then I would consider buying something with a more traditional flat step design, rather than a rung-based step ladder.
They’re more like stairs rather than a ladder, with big wide treads rather than an uncomfortable bar to step on. They make for an easy way for both big guys and kids to get up and down.
You can take a look at their heavy duty ladder on Amazon, which has a weight load limit of 350 pounds, coupled with wide and deep steps that will give you so much more stability when entering and exiting the water.
The Best Dive Ladder
I’ve don’t do much diving myself, but a close friend does, and he loves it.
In truth, a ladder is a ladder, so you don’t always need a specialist dive ladders for pontoons. Instead you could just choose something that is going to be fit for purpose.
But if you do a lot of diving in the lake or sail into shallower waters, then it’s probably going to be a good investment to buy a purpose-built dive ladder. They have a single rod with rungs on both sides as you can see from the photo – so they do look very different to standard boarding ladders.
For me the best dive ladder for a pontoon boat would be a telescoping one, with the Garelick company actually selling ones that are designed for divers.
Take a look at the Garelick Eez-In ladder on Amazon. It takes weights of up to 400 pounds, has a locking plate, and the unique design makes it easy for divers wearing fins to climb up and down from the pontoon. You can attach it easily to your pontoon diving platform.
How to Mount Your Pontoon Boarding Ladder
Assuming you now have a good idea on what type you are going to buy, you will need to mount or affix it to your boat.
If you are buying a permanently fixed ladder, then where you place it is another decision you are going to have to make. It could be that you are going to place it on the diving platform, but they could be at the bow or stern.
One person recently asked me if mounting a ladder to the front of the pontoon would be an issue in choppy water or windy weather. In my personal experience of pontoon boats, this has never presented an issue.
So with that in mind, there are 3 different places you can mount your ladder:
- On the bow
- On the stern entry
- On the gunwale
If you are going to place yours on the bow, then you have two further choices; whether to use a removable hook ladder if you have a diving platform, or you can fit under-mount ladder that fits between the two pontoons.
You can also place a boarding ladder at the stern, on one of the engine’s sides. If water skiing and tubing is your thing it’s a great location because the riders can easily climb back on board after their ride – great if they are tired out after bouncing around on the water.
And finally, the gunwale option. These ladders are also referred to as side-mount ladders and attach to the side of the pontoon over the gunwale… typically where the boat has at least one side entrance gate.
Handy Hint: Some ladders will have tough edges and can be a little sharp. What I have done in the past is smooth then down with a grinder which takes about 10 seconds.
What Else Might You Need?
Why stop with just buying a ladder?
There is a wide range of accessories that will make your boarding ladder not just safer, but also more comfortable for your passengers.
Here’s a quick list of additional items that you may want to consider if buying a pontoon boat step ladder or diving ladder.
- Hinge Guard – These help to cover hinges, protecting injury to little fingers so they don’t get pinched or cut.
- Boarding Handrail – Great for helping your passengers get back into the boat, as they can pull themselves back up easier.
- Mounting Cups – They will help you to quickly mount and remove a gunwale ladder, as the hooks end connect into the cups. They don’t cost much – see Amazon prices.
- Keyhole Mounts – If you aren’t sure where to place your ladder, then you can fit an easy release keyhole mounting system (see on Amazon) in different places on your pontoon.
Quite simply, you can’t do without having a ladder on your pontoon boat. If you don’t have one, get one now.
A great boarding or dive ladder will increase the fun and leisure activity you can have on your boat, but the bottom line is that you’re going to be a lot safer with one, than without one.
I hope that this guide to the best ladders for your pontoon has given you some great ideas and inspiration on what you should buy and why.