There are a lot of choices out there with regards 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 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 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 decide on several different types 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. Both of these fabric types are employed by every major inflatable boat brand and are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – way to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was actually a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, put on the outside of the fabric. As the Hypalon name brand is no longer made by DuPont, the reasoning lives on from other manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, as well as the neoprene coating on the interior aids in sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is quite labor-intensive, and as they are stronger, they cost more than boats made from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant against several different things, such as oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. Because of being so hardy, they’re considered suitable for boating in extreme conditions or for boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are normally guaranteed for at least five-years or longer with 10 years being the customary warranty for Hypalon/CSM boats.
PVC is a kind of plastic coating laminate around a nylon fiber core. They could be assembled by hand, but are more regularly done by machine, so they’re not nearly as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are usually less than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is quite tough and is simple to repair. It is far from quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates will take extra effort to maintain. Utilization of a boat cover is suggested, as well as liberal usage of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for all those 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 has a removable floor system, comprised of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured within the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone from the boat. There has been inflatables which use a hinged floor system that rolls on top of 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, specifically for people that are by themselves. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is normal.
The air floor boats use an inflatable bladder since the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This means there are millions of 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 body weight of various adults as well as their gear! Air floor remains inside the boat for storage, and rolls up with the tubeset. Preparing the boat to use is very simple, as all you need to do is get air in to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is required. Air floors will also be very light-weight and will 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 typically higher priced 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 to the floor making for extremely easy setup.
Rigid hull inflatables (commonly called RIB’s) give you the best performance, and not just as 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 a variety of purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all of the brand name luxury inflatables are RIBs. Hull construction can be created from Inflatable Drop Stitch, using a keel guard suggested for durable protection from rocks and beaching. Purchasing a RIB almost guarantees the need for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in your mind while shopping. There are a few smaller RIB’s (across the 10′ size) that offer a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for any low profile.