There are plenty 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 choose from several various kinds of materials used to create the tubes upon an inflatable boat, we are going to focus on the two most durable fabrics: Inflatable Floating Platform. These two fabric types are utilized by every major inflatable boat logo and certainly are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – method to build an inflatable.
Fabric types – Hypalon was actually a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, placed on the exterior of the material. Whilst the Hypalon brand has stopped being produced by DuPont, the idea lives on off their manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, and the neoprene coating on the interior assists with sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and as they are more durable, they are more expensive than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are immune to many different things, such as oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. As a result of being so hardy, they’re considered perfect for boating in extreme conditions or for boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are usually guaranteed for about 5 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 can be assembled manually, but they are more frequently done by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are usually less expensive than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is quite tough and is also easy to repair. It is not as durable as Hypalon, however, and selecting a PVC boat for hot climates is going to take extra effort to keep. Use of a boat cover is recommended, along with liberal use of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for all those making use of their inflatable in cooler climates such as in Seattle as well as 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 has a removable floor system, comprised of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured in the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone in the boat. There has been inflatables designed to use a hinged floor system that rolls up with the boat, and those are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are typically lighter than the rigid hull boats, but heavier than the air floors. Assembly can be tough, specifically for people that are on their own. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is common.
The environment floor boats make use of an inflatable bladder as the floor, typically with drop-stitch construction. This means there are many small strands of fibers inside 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 countless adults along with their gear! The environment floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls on top of the tubeset. Preparing the boat to use is very easy, as all one needs to do is get air into the floor and tubes; no other installation is required. Air floors are also very light-weight and may be inflated right on deck, even over hatches or any other obstructions that could make assembling a roll-up inflatable difficult or impossible. Air floor boats are usually 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 to the floor making for extremely easy setup.
Rigid hull inflatables (commonly called RIB’s) provide the best performance, and not simply since 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 get on step and can be used for 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 defense against rocks and beaching. Purchasing a RIB almost guarantees the need for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense in your mind when you shop. There are some smaller RIB’s (round the 10′ size) that offer a folding transom for easier storage; just deflate the tubes and fold the transom down for a low profile.