There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to 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 think about 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 choose 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 various kinds of materials employed to produce the tubes upon an inflatable boat, we are going to focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. Both of these fabric types are employed by every major inflatable boat logo and really are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – approach to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, placed on the exterior of the fabric. As the Hypalon brand is no longer produced by DuPont, the concept lives on off their manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, and also the neoprene coating on the interior aids in sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and since they are stronger, they will cost more than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant against many different things, such as oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, along with other chemicals. Due to being so hardy, they’re considered suitable for boating in extreme conditions or boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for at least five-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 may be assembled manually, but are more often performed by machine, so they’re not nearly as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are often less than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is very tough and is easy to repair. It is far from as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates will require extra effort to keep. Use of a boat cover is recommended, as well as liberal usage of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for anyone using their inflatable in cooler climates like in Seattle and also 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 includes a removable floor system, comprised of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured inside the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone of the boat. There has been inflatables designed to use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, and those are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are usually lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to the air floors. Assembly can be tough, specifically for people that are on their own. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is typical.
The environment floor boats use an inflatable bladder as the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This implies there are thousands of small strands of fibers inside the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can seem to be as rigid as wood, and simply supports the weight of several adults along with their gear! Air floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls on top of the tubeset. Preparing the boat to be used is very easy, as all you need to do is get air to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is required. Air floors will also be very light weight and can be inflated right on deck, even over hatches or some other obstructions that will 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 could be replaced if damaged or worn. Inflatable keels are typical, with inflation sometimes plumbed in to the floor making for extremely easy setup.
Rigid hull inflatables (commonly called RIB’s) supply the best performance, and not simply 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 a variety of purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all of the brand name luxury inflatables are RIBs. Hull construction can be made from Inflatable Drop Stitch, with a keel guard suggested for durable defense against rocks and beaching. Purchasing a RIB almost guarantees the requirement for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in mind when shopping. There are several smaller RIB’s (around the 10′ size) offering a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for a low profile.