There are tons of choices out there with regards to inflatable boats, and it could be a bit overwhelming. If you are 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 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 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. Those two fabric types are employed by every major inflatable boat brand and really are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – way to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon had been a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, applied to the outside of the fabric. As the Hypalon brand is not made by DuPont, the reasoning lives on using their company 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 very labor-intensive, and as they are more durable, they cost more than boats made from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are immune to several different things, such as oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, as well as 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 normally guaranteed for at least 5 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 could be assembled by hand, however are more often done by machine, so they’re not nearly as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally less expensive 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 selecting a PVC boat for hot climates is going to take extra effort to keep. Utilization of a boat cover is usually recommended, along with liberal utilization of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for those using their inflatable in cooler climates such as in Seattle as well as 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 in the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers serve as the backbone from the boat. There were inflatables that use a hinged floor system that rolls up with the boat, and those are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are typically lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to the air floors. Assembly can be difficult, specifically for people that are by themselves. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is typical.
The air floor boats work with an inflatable bladder because the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This implies there are many small strands of fibers within the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can seem to be as rigid as wood, and easily supports the load of countless adults as well as their gear! The air floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls with the tubeset. Preparing the boat to use is very easy, as all one should do is get air to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is required. Air floors will also be very lightweight and may be inflated directly on deck, even over hatches or any other obstructions that could make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are generally more costly than roll-ups but lower than gbpman hulls. Air floors may 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 simply because 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 get on step and can be used as a variety of purposes, including pulling a water skier. Virtually all the name brand 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 in mind when you shop. There are a few smaller RIB’s (around 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.