There are a lot of choices out there in terms of inflatable boats, and it could be a bit overwhelming. If you’re planning on 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 that you must 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 choose from several various kinds of materials employed to create the tubes upon an inflatable boat, we are going to focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. Those two fabric types are used by every major inflatable boat brand name and really are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – way to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon had been a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, placed on the outside of the material. Whilst the Hypalon brand name is not made by DuPont, the concept lives on using their company manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, and also the neoprene coating on the interior helps with sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and because they are stronger, they cost more than boats created from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant to many different things, like oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. Due to being so hardy, they’re considered ideal for boating in extreme conditions or boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for around 5 years or longer with a decade being the customary warranty for Hypalon/CSM boats.
PVC is a type of plastic coating laminate around a nylon fiber core. They could be assembled by hand, but they are more often carried out by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are usually less than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is quite tough and it is very easy to repair. It is really not 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 suggested, in addition to liberal use of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for those making use of their inflatable in cooler climates like in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and are ideal for recreational use.
You can find 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 in the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers act as the backbone in the boat. There were inflatables that use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, and these are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are generally lighter compared to rigid hull boats, but heavier than the air floors. Assembly can be tough, specifically for folks who are on their own. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is typical.
Air floor boats make use of an inflatable bladder as 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 easily supports the body weight of countless adults along with their gear! The air floor remains inside the boat for storage, and rolls with the tubeset. Preparing the boat for use is very easy, as all you need to do is get air into the floor and tubes; hardly any other installation is required. Air floors can also be very lightweight and may be inflated right on deck, even over hatches or some other obstructions that could make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are generally higher priced 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) provide the best performance, and not merely because 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 get on step and can be used a number of purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all the brand name luxury inflatables are RIBs. Hull construction can be made from Inflatable Drop Stitch, having a keel guard suggested for durable defense against rocks and beaching. Buying a RIB almost guarantees the need for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in mind when you shop. There are several smaller RIB’s (round the 10′ size) that offer a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for a low profile.