There are plenty of choices out there when it comes to inflatable boats, and it could be a bit overwhelming. If you are thinking about buying an inflatable boat, there are a few things you need to consider before diving head-first into a purchase. PVC or Hypalon? Roll-up, air floor, or rigid hull? These are the questions you need to answer, and we’ll help you select the one that’s right for you once you’ve explored the options. Now, let’s go over what distinguishes one inflatable boat from another, because they’re not all made the same.
While manufacturers can decide on several several types of materials employed to produce the tubes with an inflatable boat, we will focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. Both of these fabric types are utilized by every major inflatable boat logo and are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – way to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was actually a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, put on the outside of the fabric. While the Hypalon brand is no longer made by DuPont, the idea lives on using their company manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, and the neoprene coating on the interior assists with sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and as they are stronger, they are more expensive than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant against several different things, including oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. Due to being so hardy, they’re considered suitable for boating in extreme conditions or perhaps for boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for around five years or longer with 10 years being the customary warranty for Hypalon/CSM boats.
PVC is a kind of plastic coating laminate around a nylon fiber core. They may be assembled by hand, but are more frequently carried out by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally less expensive than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is quite tough and is easy to repair. It is far from quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates will require extra effort to keep up. Utilization of a boat cover is recommended, in addition to liberal use of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for those utilizing their inflatable in cooler climates such as in Seattle as well as the Pacific Northwest, and are ideal for recreational use.
There are three different hull types available: roll-up, air floor, and rigid hull. A roll-up boat typically has a removable floor system, composed of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured inside the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers act as the backbone of the boat. There have been inflatables which use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, which are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are usually lighter than the rigid hull boats, but heavier than the air floors. Assembly can be difficult, specifically for folks who are independently. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is normal.
Air floor boats work with an inflatable bladder because the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. What this means is there are many small strands of fibers within the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can seem to be as rigid as wood, and simply supports the body weight of various adults and their gear! The air floor remains within the boat for storage, and rolls up with the tubeset. Preparing the boat for use is very easy, as all you need to do is get air in to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is needed. Air floors are also very light weight and will be inflated on deck, even over hatches or any other obstructions that could make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are typically more costly than roll-ups but less than gbpman hulls. Air floors can be replaced if damaged or worn. Inflatable keels are typical, with inflation sometimes plumbed into the floor making for extremely easy setup.
Rigid hull inflatables (commonly called RIB’s) give you the best performance, and not merely as they are usually rated for higher horsepower outboards than comparable length roll-ups or air floors. The RIB has planing characteristics much like traditional hulled boats; quick to obtain on step and can be used for a number of purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all of the brand name luxury inflatables are RIBs. Hull construction can be created from Inflatable Drop Stitch, with a keel guard suggested for durable defense against rocks and beaching. Buying a RIB almost guarantees the necessity for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in mind when you shop. There are a few smaller RIB’s (across the 10′ size) that provide a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for any low profile.