There are tons of choices out there when it comes to inflatable boats, and it could be a bit overwhelming. If you’re 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 that you have to answer, and we’ll help you pick 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 utilized to produce the tubes upon an inflatable boat, we will focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. Both of these fabric types are employed by every major inflatable boat brand and certainly are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – method to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was actually a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, applied to the outside of the fabric. Whilst the Hypalon brand name is not made by DuPont, the concept lives on from other 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 since they are more durable, they are more expensive than boats made from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant to many different things, like oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, as well as other chemicals. As a result of being so hardy, they’re considered ideal for boating in extreme conditions or for boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for about five years or longer with ten years being the customary warranty for Hypalon/CSM boats.
PVC is a form of plastic coating laminate around a nylon fiber core. They may be assembled yourself, but they are more frequently carried out by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally cheaper than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is extremely tough and is also easy to repair. It is really not quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and choosing a PVC boat for hot climates will require extra effort to maintain. Usage of a boat cover is usually recommended, in addition to liberal utilization of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for all those using their inflatable in cooler climates such as in Seattle and 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, comprised of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured inside the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone in the boat. There has been inflatables which use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, and these are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are usually lighter than the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to the air floors. Assembly can be tough, particularly for folks who are independently. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is common.
The environment floor boats use an inflatable bladder because the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This implies there are many small strands of fibers inside the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can feel as rigid as wood, and easily supports the load of various adults as well as their gear! Air floor remains inside the boat for storage, and rolls with the tubeset. Preparing the boat for use is simple, as all one should do is get air to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is necessary. Air floors are also very light weight and will be inflated directly on deck, even over hatches or any other obstructions that would make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are typically more expensive than roll-ups but under 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 just since 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 have on step and can be used for many different purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all of the brand name luxury inflatables are RIBs. Hull construction can be produced 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 under consideration when shopping. There are some smaller RIB’s (round the 10′ size) offering a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for a low profile.