The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Perfect Inflatable Boat
The growing interest in aquatic amusement and entertaining activities has witnessed a spur in demand for inflatable boats. These boats are commonly used these days either as lifeboats or for recreation.
Even though modern-day inflatable boats are made from materials like plastic or synthetic rubber, similar kinds of vessels made from animal skins existed in ancient times. Though these were smaller, pre-historic carvings prove that these boats were inflated with air blown by the mouth and were mainly used for transportation on mall water bodies.
At present, inflatable boats are lightweight, versatile, affordable, and convenient to use. These serve multiple purposes, and users buy them considering various factors.
Continue reading to understand what factors users should consider before buying an inflatable boat.
How to Choose the Best Inflatable Boat?
Based on Use/Application
These are the five different types of inflatable boats:
Recreation Purpose: Inflatable Raft
It is the most popular inflatable boat and gets used as a lifeboat for recreation and transportation purposes.
Typically these are used only on small water bodies because their layouts and designs are not favorable for strong sea currents. Bigger rafts have enhanced features, including safety valves, fishing rod holders, inflatable keels, grab ropes, different air chambers, and more.
Depending on the quality and make of the rafts, the prices differ.
Fishing Purpose: Inflatable Pontoon Boat
This type of boat serves the purpose of fishing and is commonly known as Catamarans. Due to the nature of work, the boat has a higher weight capacity.
The design consists of two sides made from flexible air-filled tubes with a metallic frame or a curved air bladder connected to the sides. The design makes for easy maneuverability while the tubes enable smooth movement on the water.
In between, there’s a seat in the center, either the inflatable type or a metallic frame boat seat offering an enhanced view around.
The larger versions can accommodate about 2-4 people simultaneously, but these need to be towed by trailers.
All-Purpose Boats: Inflatable Kayak
The inflatable kayak is quite a common choice as it is versatile and serves multiple functions. Inflatable kayaks are usually the first choice, from lake boating to fishing and undertaking longer journeys on rivers.
Irrespective of the kayak type, these are user-friendly, lightweight, long-lasting, and safe.
Sporting Activities: Inflatable Dinghy
Inflatable dinghies are robust, lightweight, and usually last long even under tough & rugged conditions. Available in varied types, the flooring material is the differentiating factor.
Notably, the quality is high-class and sometimes gets used on the sea. Operable via a mounted outboard motor, these boats can accommodate a single person
Patrolling & Surveillance Purpose: Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB)
The RIBs have a rigid hull that blends a traditional boat with an inflatable one. Due to this, the boats are unfoldable and cannot be dismantled. Also, they can work on the seas and are usually unsinkable.
Due to the nature of work, you can easily operate these formidable vessels.
Based on Design
The functional aspect of the boat, along with its speed, is determined by its design. Generally, when considering the boat’s design, there are two choices – with and without a keel. The backbone of the boat, running longitudinally along the center of the boat’s bottom, offers resistance and stability to the vessel.
A keel in the inflatable boat enhances its performance on the water as it can move through smoothly. Keels make the boats adaptable to all kinds of water, including oceans and seas. The inflatable boat with a keel is usually costlier than its counterpart.
Typical examples are inflatable tenders and Rigid Inflatable Boats.
While boats without a keel may lack robustness, they can be set up or inflated and deflated easily and are portable and compact. The price is also comparatively less and is more user-friendly, especially when entering the water from land. Thus, these are great carriers on small water bodies where water is flat and suitable for shorter trips.
There are multiple drawbacks, though; for example, the vessel’s speed and scope are limited. In addition, these boats are usually tricky to board.
Based on the Hull
The hull is the watertight boat body saving the occupants and cargo onboard from flooding, weather, and damage. The hull influences the boat’s efficiency; that is why it is an important consideration. There are multiple types of hulls serving varied purposes and functionalities.
Made from either CSM or PVC, flat hulls are without a keel. That is why the vessels are unstable, complex to maneuver, move at medium speeds, and perform poorly when moving through planing. Therefore, these suit smaller water bodies, shorter distances, and lower speeds.
Made of CSM or PVC, these inflatable hulls come with inflatable keels. The floor is either made from hardwood or high-pressurized air that empowers the keel to move smoothly through the water.
Compared to flat hulls, these are faster, more stable, and can move swiftly on plane. These assist in fishing and diving activities, as well as in wildlife adventures. The V hulls are costlier than flat hulls.
Deep V Hull
The best hull type of all the three, these are mostly found on RIBs. These are highly stable and perform brilliantly on calm water or waves. High speed is not a challenge, and maneuvering is equally easy. For these reasons, the deep v hulls are the costliest of the lot.
The only disadvantage is that they can get unstable during winds though they are made for rough waters.
Based on the Fabric Type
One of the best materials, CSM Hypalon, is a synthetic rubber material that is resistant to wear and tear and abrasions. It is used as a polyester coating and is resistant to temperature variations and harmful UV rays. In addition, the lightweight material is portable, foldable, and does not depreciate or get brittle when kept for long hours in the sun.
The durable material is resistant to chemicals and can be repairable with a patch. Since Hypalon is costly, the boat is expensive. The material fades with time, and the porous finish makes it prone to get dirty quickly.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
The best part about PVC is that it is cheaper than Hypalon. Thus, inflatable boats are affordable. The other distinct advantage of PVC is that it is lightweight. Thus, the boat is portable and easy to repair. Available in a plethora of colors, the seams of the material are bonded or glued thermally.
On the con side, PVC materials have a short life span. Since they are not resistant to wear-and-tear or external conditions like UV rays, temperature variations, and chemicals, the boats are prone to depreciate fast.
Based on Floor Type
The floor type determines the boat’s performance, like mobility, compact design, and storage.
1. Roll-up Foor
Inflatable boats with roll-up floors are entry-level vessels as the price is the least compared to boats with floors of other materials. These floors are aluminum-made or wooden; hence not steadfast and have shorter lives.
Even though the boats are portable, compact, and a breeze to set up and use, these are best suited for shorter trips at a slower speed. Roll-up floors are mostly part of boats without keels and are available in multiple dimensions and quality.
2. Hard Flooring
Hard-floored boats have enhanced hull shape that influences the speed and performance of the vessel. The sturdy flooring material increases the cost of the boat but is quite popular as they are best suited for bigger water bodies.
The floors facilitate smoother rides even in harsh conditions. It is simple to inflate and deflate boats with hard floors.
3. Air Floor
As the name suggests, these floors are filled with air, helping reduce the boat’s weight. In addition, they are suitable for shorter water bodies as these floors cannot handle rough water.
The air-filled floors offer incredible speed, stability, and improved performance but are prone to punctures. Nevertheless, due to their versatile nature, these boats are favored by boating enthusiasts.
4. Self-bailing Floors
Self-bailing floors are the ones that have holes on their sides so that if water enters the boat, it can flow out through the holes. Typically, boats come with non-bailing floors, in which case, the water has to be collected manually and then thrown out.
Boats with self-bailing floors are ideal for white-water river rafting, where water is bound to enter the vessel.
Besides the features mentioned above, it is imperative to know about the water body and the surroundings where the boat will be used. Furthermore, whatever the activity type, it is pertinent to carry the necessary tools during rides and ensure timely maintenance. Also, it would be best to store boats in an appropriate place to ensure longevity and negligible wear and tear.
Inflatable boats serve multiple purposes. From industrial usage to recreational purposes, they can be conveniently used and are economical.
Some credible boat manufacturers design and engineer inflatable boats with varied flooring materials, shapes, and sizes. I hope above tips help pick the right boat as per your requirements.