Inflatable Boats – Affordable Boating Fun for Everyone
If your budget is more in line with inflatable boats than traditional hard-hulled boats, you have cost savings as well as many more advantages to look forward to. Besides being easy to maintain, these boats are portable and can be inflated in a matter of minutes. Just unfold it, pump it up — and launch it!
Buying an inflatable will depend on a number of factors, such as where you plan to use the boat and for what purpose, what type of hull fabric used, and how many people will be onboard.
Let’s first look at the basics.
What Classifies as an Inflatable?
An inflatable is a lightweight boat that gets its buoyancy from pressurized air chambers that make up the hull. If the boat is to have an outboard motor, it will need a reinforced transom to mount the motor.
Small inflatable sports boats have a high-pressure inflatable floor, and larger boats will have hard floorboards that are inserted between the tubes before inflation (see Sea Eagle’s SportRunabouts for an example). These boats might also have an inflatable V-shaped keel (the Sea Eagle 10.6 SR RIK which has a Rigid Inflatable Keel design) that helps the boat with tracking and planing, as well as taking on waves with less jarring to occupants.
Sea Eagle Inflatables – Factory Direct
A final category of inflatables are known as RIBs or Riged Inflatable Boats. These have fiberglass or aluminum hard-bottoms and transoms, with air chambers for the rest of the hull.
What are You Looking for in an Inflatable?
Before you can choose the type of boat you need, you must first determine what will be its primary use, that is, kayaking, tendering, fishing, or a combination of uses.
It will help your decision to consider the following criteria:
- Select a boat based on how and where you will use it the most
- Select a model based on its fabric and hull design
- Select a size and length based on its weight (deflated) and capacity (when inflated)
- Fabric: Choose Hypalon or PVC
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There are two main types of fabric coating used in the production of good quality inflatable boats: PVC and Hypalon. PVC is a vinyl plastic and Hypalon is a synthetic rubber. Hypalon is usually preferred since it can handle rough use and abrasion better, and it is more resistant to harsh elements such as direct UV sunlight and saltwater. PVC is a cheaper material but still performs well. It can last for years if the boat is to be lightly used and will be stored out of the weather.
Size, Portability, and Storage
Many inflatable boats weigh less than 50 lbs and are easy to get in and out of a car trunk, while larger boats that weigh up to 200 lbs will be more challenging for one person to handle alone. As for storage, most inflatables will fold down to the size of a large duffle bag and can be stored on a shelf.
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Even though storage and portability are factors to consider, you don’t want to go too small since length and capacity are extremely important when you are out on the water.
Step Up in Size If Possible
While the inflatable’s large tube sides are comfortable to sit on, the reason many people do so is because of the lack of volume (floor space) inside the boat. Fishing gear and a cooler, as well as an extra guest, can take up a lot of room.
Even more important than interior space is the performance of inflatables: larger boats simply handle better than smaller ones do. For models powered by motors, this length issue is even more pronounced as shorter models are not as easy to get up on a plane at speed and will seem more sluggish in the water.
Consider all these factors of owning and using inflatable boats before you start shopping. Once you have an idea of the style you are looking for, you’ll narrow down the possibilities in a short amount of time. Check out our reviews to see how affordable these amazing boats are.
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