Being out on the open water is a dream which most of us have, and few of us are able to realize. One of the main reasons for this is that most of us do not live near open water and we do not have the means to transport a boat to open water (let alone afford one). Improvements in technology are about to change this.
Prepare to be dazzled by the some of the best inflatable boats on the market. With an inflatable boat, you do not have to worry about transporting your craft to the water. Inflatable boats pack up so small that they can fit in the trunk of your car, while still being big enough to transport up to 6 people.
They are also incredibly cost-effective, with the lower-end models coming in at under $100. Inflatable boats are great for recreational trips on a lake, fishing excursions, and even have the capacity to add a motor should you want to really get up to speed on the water.
With an inflatable boat (from our list), you do not need to worry about your safety. If you take care of the boat, it will take care of you. They are as safe as regular boats and boast many of the same features.
How To Choose An Inflatable Boat – Buying Guide
What Type of Inflatable Boat is Right for You?
The quick answer is, it depends on your needs. It is true that inflatable boats are a relatively new option on the market. When we think of inflatable boats, we often think of the small single-person dinghies which lose air quickly or take a puncture easily. With advances in technology, there are many options for those who want to purchase an inflatable dinghy.
The first thing you will want to know is the number of people who are going to be using the inflatable raft. If it is only for yourself, then you will want to go for a smaller dinghy. If you are part of a large family, then you may want an inflatable dinghy which is rated for 5 or 6 people (make sure to check how much weight it is rated for too).
You will also want to know what you are using the inflatable raft for. If you are an avid fisher and will be using the inflatable boat to catch fish, then you will want to look into the features of various inflatable boats. Rod holders are great for fishing.
If you want a craft which will get you places quickly, then you will want to make sure that you have a place to mount a motor and that the inflatable boat is rated for the environment you will be taking it into.
To be honest, the choice starts with you. If you know what you are going to be using your inflatable boat for, then you have already narrowed it down.
How Often Will You Use Your Inflatable Boat?
I am sure that your answer is, regularly, but take the time to really think about it. Will this inflatable dinghy be used every day? Is this a dinghy which will only be used on your summer fishing trips? Is this an inflatable boat for the kids to use on the lake? Unless you have all the money in the world, you can make a compromise between price and quality.
If you are buying an inflatable boat which will be used a lot and for long periods of time, then you do not want to skimp. You want a inflatable boat which will last. It is worth investing a few more dollars to get something which will not fall apart after a few uses.
On the flip-side, if you are buying a dinghy which will be used on the lake two weeks a year, then you do not need to buy something which will break the bank.
Catarafts or Regular Inflatable Boats?
While a traditional inflatable boat features many air chambers which come together to surround an inflatable or fabric floor, a cataraft has two separate inflated tubes joined by a platform usually made of aluminum and webbing. The rower will sit on this platform, usually in an included inflatable seat.
As a cataraft has less presence on the water, it is more agile and responsive than a traditional inflatable boats. Catarafts are also stronger and can bear more load. This is especially great if you want to attach a motor or have a lot of gear to transport.
Due to the rigid construction, however, catarafts do not pack down as small and light as traditional inflatable boats.
If you can afford to purchase a cataraft and have the space and means to transport it to the water, then it can be a great craft. If you want something which packs down smaller and will have more space for passengers, then a traditional inflatable boat will be the way to go.
Almost all of the inflatable boats you will come across are made of PVC. PVC is a relatively cheap material and is strong and tough. If you want an inflatable raft which is cost-effective, durable and packs down small, then PVC is the way to go.
If you have the money and want to invest in a more solid and longer lasting inflatable dinghy, then Hypalon may be the way to go. Hypalon is a heavier material, but it is one which will have you coasting through the water better and will last longer. The tradeoff is, of course, the price.
The other material you may come across is aluminum. If there are any rigid parts in the inflatable dinghy you are looking at, you should make sure they are aluminum. You should also choose aluminum oars when you can. Aluminum is light, durable, cheap, and will last in an aquatic environment.
Decking Material and Design
What is underfoot in your dinghy will also be somewhat important. They will come in two styles: inflatable and non-inflatable. If you want something which is cheaper and more comfortable, then an inflatable floor will be for you. The tradeoffs are the threat of puncture and the added time to get the inflatable dinghy water-ready.
The second option for inflatable boats is a non-inflated floor. This may come as a solid fabric floor or an interlocking floor (usually aluminum). These floors are not as comfortable, but they will allow you to glide through the water more easily and they usually include self-bailing mechanisms.
Q: How to repair inflatable boats?
A: As most inflatable boats are made from PVC, we will be dealing with repairs for that material. If you do have a Hypalon boat or find damage in the aluminum or other materials, then we would recommend consulting a professional. Here are the steps for patching a PVC inflatable boat:
- Locate the hole to be patched and make sure that you dry it thoroughly. Mark the hole so that you do not lose its position should you be called away to another task.
- Find your PVC (after purchasing an inflatable boat, you should purchase some PVC in case of punctures unless there is an ample supply which comes with the inflatable boat).
- Cut your PVC so that it will cover the hole and extend two inches in each direction from it. When you are cutting your piece, you should make the piece more rounded that square to get better adhesion.
- Place the patch over the hole and position it so that the hole is in the center. Draw around the patch so that your dinghy is marked.
- Using a very fine sandpaper (180 grit), sand the PVC around the hole and inside the marking. Sand the side of the patch which will be adhered to the puncture. Clean the surfaces with a cleaner and allow to dry.
- In a well-ventilated area, apply adhesive to the area around the hole and the piece of PVC which will patch it. Place both surfaces together and make sure that the patch is in the correct position.
- Use a roller to roll over the entire area of the patch to remove air bubbles and to ensure that the adhesive covers the whole area.
- Allow to dry for 24 hours before inflating.
Q: How fast do inflatable boats inflate?
A: This really depends on what you are using to inflate your boat. If you are using a hand pump, then it may take an extremely long time. A foot pump will be quicker than a hand pump, but an electric pump will be quickest and can have your boat inflated in a few minutes.
The other thing which will affect the inflation time is the size of the inflatable dinghy. The bigger the boat, the longer it will take to inflate.
If you have a boat with a single chamber, then you can inflate it quickly and easily. The more chambers a boat has, the longest it will take. You will need to move the pump between different parts of the boat.
I recommend an inflation time of 10 minutes for most inflatable boats.
Q: How long do inflatable boats last?
A: Again, this is something which depends on you.
The cheapest and lowest-quality inflatable dinghy can last a lifetime if you take good care of it and monitor the waters it is taken into. You can have the most expensive boat in the world, made from premium materials and have it fall apart by taking it into roaring rapids constantly.
A decent quality inflatable boat will start to break up after a year if you do not take care of it well. If you treat your boat with love and care, kept it clean, keep it dry when out of the water, be sensible with it, and make repairs when needed, then you can expect your inflatable boat to last 5-10 years.
Globo Surf Overview
An inflatable boat is a great way to get out on the water without the costs of an actual boat. Inflatable boats have the advantage of low-price and low-volume (when deflated). With a great inflatable boat, you can go almost anywhere a regular boat can (though we do not recommend any trips out into the middle of the ocean). An inflatable boat from our list will have you out on the water in no time, and you will wonder what you did before you had an inflatable boat.
- Boat Safety, uscgboating.org
Have you ever had a inflatable boat yourself or are you just considering trying one for the first time? What kind of inflatable boat do you have, if you already own one? Share your experience with the Globo Surf community in the comment section below.
Globo Surf Inflatable Boats Review