Storage, environment, and purpose are all factors you should consider when choosing your inflatable. Some fabrics and designs are better suited for certain conditions. The following questions will help you determine which type of inflatable is best for you.
• How will I be using the inflatable?
• Where will I store the boat when I’m not using it?
• Am I going to use the boat in an area constantly bombarded by extremely harmful UV rays?
• Do I have an outboard motor that I would like to use with the inflatable?
• Will I be primarily using an outboard motor or rowing the boat?
Hypalon® and Neoprene Coatings
(Synthetic Rubber Coatings)
Hypalon is a synthetic rubber material patented by DuPont. Hypalon has many applications in many industries: holding contaminated wastewater, a roofing material, cable covering, and other uses where high temperatures, oil, and UV rays could weaken other materials. The majority of inflatable boat manufacturers choose Hypalon as an exterior coating, and neoprene to coat the interior side of the fabric. Neoprene was the first synthetic rubber and has been in use over 70 years. It has proven itself as a material with excellent air holding capabilities and oil resistance.
PVC (Plastic Coatings)
PVC is a vinyl polymer chemically known as polyvinyl chloride. It has several applications in the leisure and construction industries: making inflatable pool toys, mattresses, beach balls, above ground pools, capping for soffits, and more. In the inflatable industry it is used as coating on polyester or nylon to increase the strength and tear resistance. Because it is a type of plastic, it can be thermobonded or glued. This allows the manufacturer to mass produce the boats on a large scale with machines and unskilled labor. But repairs can be difficult on PVC boats because thermowelding is not feasible outside of the factory and it is very hard to repair even a pinhole leak in a seam.
Hypalon is mainly used as an exterior coating for inflatable boats worldwide, as it has the best properties for resisting abrasion, extreme temperatures, UV degradation, ozone, gasoline, oil, chemicals, and environmental factors like mildew and fungus. When manufacturers use neoprene as the interior coating the blended fabric only gets better. The neoprene increases strength and tear resistance and provides the ultimate in air holding ability. Hypalon coated onto polyester or nylon fabric with an interior coating of neoprene is the most reliable and durable inflatable boat fabric available and can last for more than a decade even in the harshest environments —which is the reason for warranties of five and 10 years. Inflatables with external protective coatings of Hypalon have been chosen for the toughest duty by the U.S. Military and Coast Guard.
PVC was designed to maximize the portability, durability, and convenience of many products. PVC coated fabrics come in a larger array of colors than Hypalon® or neoprene coated fabrics—and that’s why pool toys and floats have such wild, bright patterns. While some manufacturers have developed strains of PVC with “memory” —allowing products to return to their original size after deflation—and some are strengthened to be more cold resistant, PVC fabrics are not as resistant to chemicals, gasoline, temperatures, abrasions, and sunlight as Hypalon-coated fabrics. All of these factors are common place in boating environments.
The seams in Hypalon boats are either overlapped or butted, and then glued. Butted seams produce an aesthetic, flat, airtight seam, without the ridge or air gaps left by some overlapped seams. However, butted seams are more labor-intensive, thus the boats are usually more expensive. It is always wise to look for an inflatable boat with seams that are double-taped, and are glued on the both sides. In stress tests, Hypalon and neoprene glued seams are so strong and reliable that the fabric will fail before the seams.
The seams of PVC-coated inflatables can be fused together using several different welding techniques. Some manufacturers use either high heat pressure, radio frequencies (RF), or electronic welding. Large, specially developed welding machines must be used to fuse the fabric together. Again, this makes it easier and faster to produce PVC-coated boats, especially over handcrafted Hypalon boats. Despite many technological advancements, the heat used to weld the seams is not always distributed evenly across the seams—which creates pockets where air may escape—and welded seams tend to become brittle over time. PVC seams are also glued, but the process of gluing PVC seams can be extremely difficult—skilled workers and practiced techniques are the only guarantees of a strong seam. Fabrics coated with PVC are also more difficult to repair than those coated with Hypalon.
Because Hypalon-coated boats are extremely resistant to environmental caustics, they are recommended for use in severe climates, for boaters who plan on leaving their boats inflated, or for those who plan on using them frequently.
PVC boats are generally good as limited-use boats that won’t be subjected to the sunlight or elements for any sustained amount of time.
Inflatable Boat Design
There are many designs and types of inflatables available in the marketplace today. From rigid to roll-up floorboards, hard transoms to soft—inflatables come in just about every combination you can imagine.
Dinghies are smaller, lighter boats with soft transoms that can be used with oars, a paddle, or even a low horsepower motor if a motor mount is used.
Sport boats are inflatable boats with a hard transom, and a sectional floor made of wood, fiberglass, composite, or aluminum. They also have inflatable or wood keels. These boats can be rolled up once the floor is removed.
These boats have a hard transom that can be rolled up with the floor remaining in the boat. The floor can be made from any material. The boats perform very well, almost identically to traditional sport boats. The main benefit is easy assembly and storage.
Inflatable Floor Boards
Inflatable floor boats usually have hard transoms, inflatable keels, and high-pressure inflatable floors. This decreases the weight of these boats and makes them easier to handle if you must inflate/deflate your boat often.
Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs)
RIBs are more like traditional boats, with hulls supported by a rigid material, usually fiberglass or aluminum. The main benefits of these boats are superior performance and easy assembly (just inflate the tubes). However, storage can be a problem because they can’t be made smaller than the rigid portion of the boat. Since a RIB is heavier, a davit system is usually required to bring it back onto your boat.
Post time: Apr-21-2022