Inflatables are cool, inflatables are practical, but the choice is confusing. We’ll tell you how to make the right purchase decision.
In the best case, inflatables are the Swiss knives of the dinghies: Practical, compact, stable, packable and portable, also easy to transport, very versatile, sometimes even quick and cheap to operate. In the worst case, however, they are exactly the opposite: Heavy, clunky and in the way everywhere, whether in the garage or in the locker.
You should think about the possible disadvantages at the beginning in order to eliminate them from the outset if possible. Where to store so that the boat can be used quickly? What to do with the stinking petrol tank and the outboard motor, from which fuel and oil often leak? And veteran dinghy riders know: Carrying an inflated boat is easier than carrying an airless one that is rolled up. And when it comes to the water, you should be particularly careful with small hose lines because they tend to twist and let the bow rise quickly when you are alone, sitting far back and accelerating. With a lot of wind and steep waves, you can easily be thrown around by the elements. Viewed objectively, these problems have less to do with the boats themselves, but very often simply with the fact that the wrong vehicle has been chosen for the intended purpose. This is to spare you that with these tips that explain how to choose the right boat for the purpose.
PVC or Hypalon?
Most boats have tubes made of either one or the other material. PVC is popular because it’s cheaper and lighter, easy to fold, and relatively strong, at least if you look at the newer boats. Some PVC hoses even have a woven fabric whose resistance is measured in dererniers. The higher this factor and the more densely woven (e.g. 6 x 6 per cm instead of just 3 x 3), the better. But PVC remains vulnerable to UV radiation, heat and moisture. Hyplaon, on the other hand, is heavier and more expensive, but also much more robust and is therefore primarily chosen for commercial use, i.e. for boats that are constantly being hit hard. In plain language: The decision as to whether light, cheaper, but less durable PVC should be used, or at least expensive, heavy but robust Hypalon, should not only be made according to the budget, but also according to the intended use of the boat.
Inflatable floor or slatted frame?
It’s been a while since hard inflatable bottom hoses were a novelty. And that was no wonder back then, because it keeps the boat light, is easy to inflate and can be rolled up again just as quickly after use to disappear in the sack. It is also quite comfortable to kneel, sit or lie on such floors. The compromise: little torsional stiffness. So if you want things to go faster and rigidity or a better conversion of engine thrust into speed is desired, you should opt for a floor made of interlocked wooden or aluminum slats. But be careful: you can pinch your fingers painfully!
Even a beginner’s budget should cover important accessories such as oars, seats, pumps, repair kits, handles and a pannier. From a safety point of view, however, several air chambers would also be desirable and a transverse throat for additional rigidity. Boats that have a flat bottom but an inflatable keel provide more directional stability, and additional fins and trim tabs can improve handling even further. You should also invest in a slip trolley that greatly simplifies the process of getting in and out, e.g. B. on the beach or on the ramp. Instead, you can get rubber dinghy wheels from the various boat outfitters, which are mounted on the stern and when folded down, take on the function of a slip trolley. If you are considering a small motor, you should also consider using an electric outboard motor that is quieter, cleaner and, above all, lighter than the smoking, smelling and roaring cousins who burn gasoline. But in any case, a tiller extension helps shift your weight forward to get into planing faster and enjoy a more stable, smoother ride.
The rigid hull option
Such boats, also RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats) are an indispensable part of everyday life, because they combine the advantages of a normal hose with those of a solid hull. Better performance, more seaworthiness, superb stability thanks to its large width and endless permutations in terms of size and style – with a center console and even a cabin. They are almost as easy to transport as much smaller inflatable boats, because the air hoses are left out for road transport, which means that the boat can be reduced to legal trailer width. Read our reviews of different models: Mercury 320 Sport Enduro, Highfield OM 540 Hypalon, Technohull SV 909, Brig Falcon Rider F570L or Nuova Jolly Prince 23 Cabin