There are plenty of choices out there when it comes 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 must 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 produce 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 used by every major inflatable boat brand name and certainly are a proven, time-tested – and battle-tested – way to build an inflatable.

Fabric types – Hypalon was a proprietary synthetic rubber coating from DuPont, put on the outside of the material. As the Hypalon brand is no longer created by DuPont, the concept lives on off their manufacturers. This coating – called CSM – provides surprising strength, as well as the neoprene coating on the interior assists with sealing. Hypalon/CSM boats are hand-glued. Because building these boats is fairly labor-intensive, and since they are more durable, they are more expensive than boats produced from PVC. Hypalon/CSM inflatable boats are immune to a number of different things, like oil, abrasion, harsh temperatures, gasoline, and other chemicals. Because of being so hardy, they’re considered perfect for boating in extreme conditions or perhaps for boaters who won’t be deflating their boats repeatedly. These boats are typically guaranteed for about 5 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 yourself, but they are more regularly carried out by machine, so they’re not as labor intensive. Therefore, boats made using PVC are generally cheaper than Hypalon inflatable boats. PVC is very tough and is easy to repair. It is far from as durable as Hypalon, however, and choosing a PVC boat for hot climates will require extra effort to keep. Usage of a boat cover is recommended, as well as liberal usage of 303, a UV ray protectant. PVC provides great value for those utilizing their inflatable in cooler climates like in Seattle as well as the Pacific Northwest, and are ideal for recreational use.

You will find three different hull types available: roll-up, air floor, and rigid hull. A roll-up boat typically has a removable floor system, composed of Drop Stitch Fabric and secured inside the boat using aluminum rails called “stringers”. The stringers work as the backbone of the boat. There were inflatables which use a hinged floor system that rolls with the boat, and those are seldom seen. Roll-up boats are typically lighter compared to the rigid hull boats, but heavier than the air floors. Assembly can be challenging, specifically for folks who are on their own. An inflatable keel for planing and tracking is typical.

The air floor boats work with an inflatable bladder as 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 seem to be as rigid as wood, and simply supports the weight of several adults and their gear! Air floor remains in the boat for storage, and rolls on top of the tubeset. Preparing the boat to use is very simple, as all one should do is get air in to the floor and tubes; no other installation is required. Air floors are also 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 usually more expensive than roll-ups but less than 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) provide the best performance, and not merely 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 get 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 produced from Inflatable Drop Stitch, using a keel guard suggested for durable defense against rocks and beaching. Investing in a RIB almost guarantees the necessity for a trailer for transport, so keep that added expense under consideration when you shop. There are a few 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 any low profile.

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