There are a lot of choices out there in terms of inflatable boats, and it could be a bit overwhelming. If you are thinking about 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 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 different types of materials used to make the tubes with an inflatable boat, we will focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. Both of these fabric types are utilized 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, applied to the outside of the material. Whilst the Hypalon brand is not produced 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 helps with 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 created from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are immune to several different things, such as oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, along with other chemicals. Because of being so hardy, they’re considered perfect for boating in extreme conditions or boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for at least five-years or longer with ten years being the customary warranty for Hypalon/CSM boats.
PVC is a type of plastic coating laminate around a nylon fiber core. They can be assembled manually, but they are more frequently 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 also simple to repair. It is really not as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates will take extra effort to keep. Usage of a boat cover is suggested, in addition to liberal usage of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for anyone utilizing their inflatable in cooler climates such as in Seattle and 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, made up of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured inside the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone from the boat. There have been 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 than the rigid hull boats, but heavier compared to air floors. Assembly can be difficult, especially for folks who are by themselves. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is typical.
The air floor boats work with an inflatable bladder since the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. What this means is there are thousands of small strands of fibers inside the bladder that prevent ballooning. When properly inflated, air floors can feel as rigid as wood, and simply supports the weight of countless adults along with their gear! The environment floor remains inside the boat for storage, and rolls on top of the tubeset. Preparing the boat for use is very simple, as all you need to do is get air to the floor and tubes; not one other installation is needed. Air floors can also be very lightweight and may 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 usually more expensive than roll-ups but under 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) give you the best performance, and not simply as 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 as 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, having 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 your mind when shopping. There are a few smaller RIB’s (around the 10′ size) that offer a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for a low profile.