There are plenty of choices out there in terms of 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 consider before diving head-first into a purchase. PVC or Hypalon? Roll-up, air floor, or rigid hull? These are the questions that you must 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 utilized to create the tubes with an inflatable boat, we will focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. Those two fabric types are employed by every major inflatable boat logo and certainly are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – approach to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, put on the exterior of the material. While the Hypalon brand has stopped being produced 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 helps with sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and since they are more durable, they will cost more than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are resistant against many different things, like oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. Because 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 normally guaranteed for about 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 could be assembled yourself, but they are more regularly done by machine, so they’re not nearly as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are usually less expensive than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is quite tough and is easy to repair. It is not quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and choosing a PVC boat for hot climates will take extra effort to maintain. Utilization of a boat cover is usually recommended, along with liberal usage of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for those utilizing their inflatable in cooler climates like in Seattle and also 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 includes a removable floor system, comprised of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured within the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers serve as the backbone from the boat. There has been inflatables which use a hinged floor system that rolls up with the boat, which are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are usually lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to the air floors. Assembly can be challenging, particularly for people that are by themselves. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is typical.
Air floor boats work with an inflatable bladder because 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 seem to be as rigid as wood, and simply supports the body weight of several adults and their gear! The environment floor remains within the boat for storage, and rolls on top of the tubeset. Preparing the boat for use is simple, as all one needs to do is get air to the floor and tubes; hardly any other installation is necessary. Air floors can also be very lightweight and can be inflated right on deck, even over hatches or other obstructions that will make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are typically 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 into the floor making for extremely easy setup.
Rigid hull inflatables (commonly called RIB’s) provide 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 the brand name luxury inflatables are RIBs. Hull construction can be made from Inflatable Drop Stitch, using a keel guard suggested for durable protection from rocks and beaching. Investing in a RIB almost guarantees the necessity for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in your mind when you shop. There are several smaller RIB’s (round the 10′ size) that offer a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down to get a low profile.