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 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 select from several different types of materials utilized to create the tubes on 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 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, applied to the exterior of the fabric. Whilst the Hypalon name brand has stopped being made by DuPont, the reasoning lives on from other manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, and the neoprene coating on the interior aids in sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and since they are stronger, they are more expensive than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are immune to several different things, including oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, as well as other chemicals. Because of being so hardy, they’re considered ideal for boating in extreme conditions or perhaps for boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for at least 5 years or longer with ten years 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 by hand, but they are more frequently performed by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally cheaper than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is extremely tough and is very easy to repair. It is far from quite as durable as Hypalon, however, and choosing a PVC boat for hot climates is going to take extra effort to maintain. Use of a boat cover is recommended, along with liberal utilization of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for all those utilizing their inflatable in cooler climates like in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and are perfect for recreational use.
There are three different hull types available: roll-up, air floor, and rigid hull. A roll-up boat typically includes a removable floor system, composed of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured within the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone of the boat. There were inflatables designed to use a hinged floor system that rolls on top of the boat, which are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are typically lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to air floors. Assembly can be challenging, especially for folks who are by themselves. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is normal.
The environment floor boats make use of an inflatable bladder because the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. What this means is 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 load of countless adults and their gear! The environment floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls with the tubeset. Preparing the boat to be used is very simple, as all one needs to do is get air to the floor and tubes; no other installation is necessary. Air floors can also be very light weight and may be inflated directly on deck, even over hatches or any other obstructions that would make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are typically more costly than roll-ups but under gbpman hulls. Air floors can 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) give you the best performance, and not merely 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 have on step and can be used a number 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, using a keel guard suggested for durable defense against rocks and beaching. Purchasing a RIB almost guarantees the necessity for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in mind while shopping. There are some smaller RIB’s (across the 10′ size) offering a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for any low profile.