Nowadays, inflatable boats have become a common sight at almost every marina. Tied to a cleat, bouncing back and forth against the dock lazily with each passing wave, they’ve become so common they almost feel like they belong there. Also known as zodiac boats, inflatable boats are used for a wide range of outdoor activities, including fishing, rowing and everything in between. Due to the fact that they can be easily inflated and deflated, you can store them in a small space or tie them against a ship or an RV, which makes them some of the most seaworthy crafts of their size.
An inflatable boat offers a great best balance between durability, price, storage, capability, load capacity, weight and performance. Space availability and convenience are the two most important considerations when purchasing any type of boat, and inflatable models provide both. They’re also relatively light compared to other types of boats, which makes them ideal for any type of lifestyle. When maintained properly, you can use them safely for years to come.
Types of Inflatables
Inflatables can be categorised in many different ways, but the most common way to do so is by the floor material used in their construction. So, what are zodiac inflatable boats made of?
Air Floor Inflatables
Lately, air floor inflatables have become one of the most popular types, thanks to the development of drop stitch fabrics. In the past, they featured an inflated bladder floor, and these floors were more susceptible to punctures and offered less rigidity than the advanced drop stitch floors found on air floor inflatables today. Drop stitch floors provide a great balance between durability, quality and portability in a single package. They’re easy to roll up for storage and light for transport. The air floor makes them lighter without compromising on performance. However, not all air floor inflatables are made equal, so make sure when you’re looking for inflatable boats for sale, you’re paying attention to whether they still use a bladder or drop stitch floors.
While air floor inflatables are quite versatile and can be used for various applications, they do have limitations. They can hold high-pressure, but they can’t handle rough water like hard floor inflatables can, for instance. This is mainly due to their higher centre of gravity and reduced weight, which makes them less stable at higher speeds. While their floor is quite stiff, it still can’t keep the boat 100% rigid and allows some flex, which makes them not suitable for travelling in rough waters and for speed addicts.
Hard Floor Inflatables
Hard floor inflatables offer great durability and performance thanks to their V-shaped keep and heavy-duty hard floor that’s typically made of wood or aluminium. Their hard floor offers stability as a direct result of the low centre of gravity, providing support for the keel and creating a better hull shape. This allows the boat to handle big waves, rough waters and high speeds with stability. Hard floor inflatables are made of high-quality materials such as CSM or PVC, although oftentimes TPU is used as well.
Of course, this also means that hard floor inflatables are more expensive than their air floor counterparts. Regardless, they are still easy to inflate and deflate, but that may require more effort and time. If you’re familiar with these boats, you can assemble them alone in about 15 minutes easily, depending on the ease of floor installation and the pump. One of the most important considerations that you’ll have to take into account when shopping for an inflatable boat of this kind is its weight, which is about 25% bigger than the one of air floor inflatables.
Roll-Up Floor Inflatables
This is the most basic type of inflatables available nowadays, and they oftentimes lack a keel and come in a wide variety of sizes, materials and quality. They’re the most affordable type and their roll-up floors make them convenient for transport and storage. However, they do lack rigidity and durability. They’re usually comprised of a series of lateral slats with gaps in between, which makes them difficult to damage. Roll-up inflatables are ideal for short trips but aren’t suitable for longer excursions. If broken, the slatted floors can damage the fabric, which makes them prone to leaks or tears. And since simplicity is the primary focus of these boats, it comes at the cost of performance.
Additionally, these boats lack a keel which means they have issues with directional stability, especially when navigating through rough and choppy waters, and when turning. They’re too weak to support a keel and typically lack the ability to get on a plane, which greatly limits their speed.