There are a lot of choices out there with regards 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 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 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 select from several various kinds of materials used to make 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 used by every major inflatable boat logo and certainly are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – method to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, placed on the exterior of the material. While the Hypalon brand name has stopped being created by DuPont, the reasoning 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 because they are more durable, they cost more than boats made from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant to many different things, including oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. As a result of 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 typically guaranteed for around 5 years or longer with a decade being the customary warranty for Hypalon/CSM boats.
PVC is a kind of plastic coating laminate around a nylon fiber core. They can be assembled manually, but they are more frequently done by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally cheaper than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is quite tough and is very easy to repair. It is really not quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates will take extra effort to keep. Utilization of a boat cover is suggested, in addition to liberal use of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for anyone utilizing their inflatable in cooler climates such as in Seattle and also the Pacific Northwest, and are perfect for recreational use.
You can find three different hull types available: roll-up, air floor, and rigid hull. A roll-up boat typically features a removable floor system, composed of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured in the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone of the boat. There have been inflatables that use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, which are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are typically lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier than the air floors. Assembly can be tough, especially for folks who are by themselves. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is normal.
The environment floor boats work with an inflatable bladder as the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This implies there are millions of small strands of fibers in the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can feel as rigid as wood, and simply supports the body weight of countless adults along with their gear! Air floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls with the tubeset. Preparing the boat for use is simple, as all you need to do is get air to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is necessary. Air floors are also very light-weight and may be inflated 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 more expensive than roll-ups but lower 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) supply the best performance, and not just because they are usually rated for higher horsepower outboards than comparable length roll-ups or air floors. The RIB has planing characteristics similar to traditional hulled boats; quick to have on step and can be used for many different purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all 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. Investing in a RIB almost guarantees the need for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense under consideration while shopping. There are several smaller RIB’s (across the 10′ size) that provide a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down to get a low profile.