There are plenty of choices out there in terms of 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 think about 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 choose from several several types of materials utilized to make the tubes upon an inflatable boat, we will focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. These two fabric types are employed by every major inflatable boat logo and are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – way to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, put on the exterior of the fabric. While the Hypalon name brand is no longer 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 aids in sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is very labor-intensive, and as they are stronger, they are more expensive than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant against many different things, including oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, as well as other chemicals. Due to 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 at least five years or longer with a decade 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 are more frequently done by machine, so they’re not nearly as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally less than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is very tough and is also easy to repair. It is really not quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates is going to take extra effort to keep up. Use of a boat cover is suggested, as well as liberal utilization of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for anyone using their inflatable in cooler climates like in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and are perfect for recreational use.
You will find three different hull types available: roll-up, air floor, and rigid hull. A roll-up boat typically has a removable floor system, made up of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured in the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers serve as the backbone from the boat. There were inflatables which use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, and these are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are usually lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to air floors. Assembly can be tough, specifically for folks who are on their own. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is common.
The environment floor boats use an inflatable bladder since the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This means there are many small strands of fibers within the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can feel as rigid as wood, and easily supports the weight of various adults as well as their gear! The environment floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls up with the tubeset. Preparing the boat to be used is very easy, as all one needs to do is get air into the floor and tubes; not one other installation is necessary. Air floors will also be very light weight and can be inflated 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 more costly 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 merely as they are usually rated for higher horsepower outboards than comparable length roll-ups or air floors. The RIB has planing characteristics comparable to traditional hulled boats; quick to obtain 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, with a keel guard suggested for durable protection from rocks and beaching. Buying a RIB almost guarantees the necessity for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense under consideration while shopping. There are some 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.