How to choose an inflatable boat

You decided to buy an inflatable boat today and went online. But after 10 minutes you realized that choosing a boat is not simple! There are so many options that you don’t know where to look! Which type of bottom is best? What is the purpose of the flooring? How to measure the cockpit size? We answer these questions in our article.

Types of boats

Inflatable boats are divided into 3 types: rowing, motorized and motor-rowing.

Rowing boats are a classic option for fishing. They are light, durable, usually designed for 1-2 people, rarely for 3-4 people. You can move on such a boat only by muscle power and oars, so it will be difficult to sail far. Moreover, on steep waves, the boat can easily be overturned.

The advantages of such boats include low price (from 30 BYN), low weight and compactness. They are easy to carry even by hand in special bags-cases.

Motorized boats have stiffer and more stable sides than rowing boats. They can accommodate from 1 to 8 people, and the presence of a motor significantly increases the distance of water travel. The choice of motors by power and design is great, so finding the right option will not be difficult.

The disadvantages of such a vessel include high price (average price without motor 800 BYN) and large weight, which complicates transportation to the water.

On motor-rowing boats, you can move both with the help of oars and with an outboard motor. Such boats can accommodate up to 8 people, but they are easier to transport than motorized ones. Due to their versatility, this is the most common type of boats, the cost of which starts from 170 BYN.

The disadvantages of such models include incompatibility with powerful motors and dependence of luggage space on the diameter of the sides.

When choosing motorized and motor-rowing boats, the main characteristics are the power of the motor and the transom.

The transom is a wooden attachment with iron pins, which serves to attach the motor to the boat. The transom can be built-in or outboard.

The outboard transom is usually used in motor-rowing boats and is suitable for low-power motors up to 5 hp. For motorized boats with a built-in transom, it is possible to use engines of higher power.

Shape and material of the bottom

The shape of the bottom determines the speed and maneuverability of the boat. There are two types of bottoms that have been known since ancient times: flat and keeled. Interestingly, flat-bottomed boats are still used in competitions between English students from Cambridge and Oxford.

Flat-bottomed boats are indispensable in shallow water, in coastal waters and in places with a lot of aquatic plants. They are easy to control, and no turning is required to move in the opposite direction. Also, “flat-bottomed” boats are cheaper than “keeled” ones.

Keeled boats are more stable and maneuverable due to the keel. It is an additional inflatable compartment that makes the bottom triangular from the bow to the stern. Thanks to this shape, the boat does not slide on the surface of the water, but cuts through it, which reduces the risk of overturning and increases the speed. Also, the keeled bottom allows gliding (sliding over the water).

It is harder to launch such a boat into the water than a “flat-bottomed” one, because the keel will scratch the sandy bottom for some time. And on the shore, the keeled boat will always lie on its side.

In addition to the shape, the material of the bottom affects the maneuverability and speed. According to this criterion, boats are:

with a soft or non-inflatable bottom. It is made of PVC. Such a bottom will reduce the noise when moving, but will not allow you to stand in the boat; with an elastic inflatable bottom, which provides stability. These boats are great for water walks and relaxation; with LPIB, or low pressure inflatable bottom. It is made of two-layer material, welded together in the longitudinal direction. The keelness of the LPIB is given by fabric partitions, which increase in height closer to the longitudinal axis. The waves hit the bottom softer, which improves control and comfort. The boat with LPIB is easy to clean and transport. Life hack: when choosing the shape and material of the bottom, think about how often and where you will fish? Or maybe you need a boat for romantic walks? If so, then in your case the principle “the cheaper, the better” will work 100%!

Flooring options from A to Z

For a comfortable ride and increased bottom stiffness, different types of flooring are used in inflatable boats. They are made of plywood, aluminum and fiberglass.

Plywood is the most economical, popular, cheap, but not the most durable flooring. Aluminum is light and strong, but a “noisy” material that can scare away all the fish. Fiberglass is as light and strong as aluminum, but without creating noise!

For small boats, the optimal solution is a flooring made of slatted slats, or a mat-slat. This flooring is made of several plywood plates 6 mm thick, fastened together with fabric. It has enough stiffness to stand in the boat. The mat is easy to fold and weighs up to 2 kg. However, for use in large multi-seat boats, the stiffness of the slatted slat is not enough.

A locker-book or a mat-book is a structure consisting of several parts, usually made of plywood. The plates in the “books” are wide, attached to each other by a fabric base or special aluminum profiles.

The flooring is easily inserted into the boat and completely covers the bottom. But when gliding, the boat experiences shock loads, and the mat-book does not always have enough stiffness to withstand them. The flooring starts to “walk” and disrupts the balance of the boat. It is best to use a locker for a flat-bottomed small boat and leisurely walks on the water.

The stiffest floor is the flooring with stringers. Sheets 12 mm thick are fastened together with aluminum profiles (stringers). The flooring easily withstands shock loads and loads when gliding. It is more difficult to mount it than a folding “book” or “mat-slat”, because every time you have to do a full installation from scratch.

Note that there are models without flooring. Due to this, they are cheaper, lighter, more compact and more convenient to transport. But you won’t be able to stand in such a boat: the bottom of a thin layer of PVC will bend and you will lose your balance. Moreover, the bottom without flooring is easy to puncture, so you have to use such a boat carefully.

Hull and seat

The hull of an inflatable boat is most often made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which can be reinforced or non-reinforced. Polyvinyl chloride is not afraid of UV radiation, but high temperatures and chemicals have a negative effect on its condition.

Reinforced PVC is made of polyester or nylon. It is stronger and more durable than non-reinforced, but also costs more, of course. The density of PVC usually varies within 750-1100 g/m2. The denser the hull of the boat, the more wear-resistant it is, but it also weighs more.

Some boats are made of rubberized fabric, but these models are not very popular. They quickly deteriorate and delaminate. They need to be thoroughly dried after each use to prevent mold.

There are also boats made of composite material. In them, the inner coating is made of elastic, but not very strong hypalon, and the outer coating is made of strong and elastic neoprene. Models made of this material have a long service life, but are quite expensive.

The hull is the hull, but you should also think about the seat, as this directly affects your health and comfort.

Inflatable seats are made of the same material as the hull of the boat. They do not require special installation, as they are fused with the hull. Hard seats are more popular than inflatable ones – they are more comfortable to sit on. They are wooden boards or plywood that are attached between the sides.

The seat mounts can be stationary, rigidly fixing the seat in one place, or on guides, which can be moved.

Side and cockpit dimensions

You can choose the width, length and height yourself. Here everything depends on your preferences and requirements. It is harder to understand what the diameter of the sides depends on and what the “English” word cockpit means.

The diameter of the side is the diameter of the inflatable tubes that keep the vessel floating. They influence the speed and maneuverability of the boat. The diameter of the sides can vary from 32 to 47 cm. It directly depends on the size of the boat itself.

The cockpit is the space inside the boat where the driver and passengers can sit. Its size depends on the size of the side and the boat itself. The distance from the stern to the inner wall of the bow is the length of the cockpit. It can vary from 173 to 236 cm. The width of the cockpit is the distance between the inner walls of the sides. It ranges from 62 to 80 cm. The cockpit should be big enough to be comfortable for the driver first of all!

3 simple features

Usually, all attention is focused on the main features: type of boat, engine power, shape and material of the bottom. Therefore, you can accidentally forget about the simple, but no less important ones! To prevent this from happening, we remind you about the capacity, load capacity and number of air compartments!

The capacity can range from 1 to 8 people. If you see that half (0.5) is added to the number of seats, it means that the manufacturer indicates the presence of a place for a child or cargo.

When choosing the load capacity, pay attention that you need to take into account both the number of vacationers and the weight of the motor (if any) and equipment. Different models can withstand from 95 to 720 kg.

The number of air compartments can range from 2 to 5 air cylinders. If you accidentally damage one of the compartments, the boat will remain on the surface because they are separated from each other.


Initially, the boat can be equipped with a different number of useful gadgets, which at first glance may seem superfluous. But it is better to take care of them right away, so that you don’t have to do a “round-the-world” shopping!

A fishing rod holder is a useful addition for lonely fishermen who need to release the rod from their hands from time to time. A lifeline is used to rescue drowning people and secure various items on board. To avoid losing the motor in an emergency situation, a safety ring was invented.

The automatic pressure relief valve, also known as the vent valve, is responsible for the safety of the vessel and the “sea crew”. It releases excess air from the boat’s cylinders. In the hot summer, it is better not to ride without such “automation”!

The repair kit usually consists of waterproof glue and several patches, but sometimes it is equipped with additional tools. It will not hurt to buy a pump for it, in case of force majeure on the water.

Fishermen should think about the anchor. The length of the anchor rope should be twice the maximum depth of the fishing spot. The optimal thickness of the rope is 6 mm, and the weight of the anchor is 4 kg.

Handles for carrying and bags for storage and transportation are invented for convenience and cleanliness of the trunk of your car.

To make the boat trip “dry” and comfortable, it is worth taking models with a drain valve, which will allow you to drain excess water even while driving.

If there are oars, pay attention to the presence of oarlocks for them. It seems not the most important “thing” when you stand on the shore, but how it helps when you row!


Finally, we provide a brief list that will help you choose a boat quickly and correctly:

Decide on the type of boat. Rowing boats are the simplest and most budget-friendly. Motorized boats allow you to move over long distances at high speed. Motor-rowing boats combine the qualities of the first two types.

Pay attention to the power of the motor and the type of transom. In motor-rowing boats, outboard transoms and motors with a power of up to 10 hp are used. In motorized boats, the transoms are almost always built-in, which allows the use of more powerful motors.

Decide which bottom will be ideal for you. A “keeled” boat is more maneuverable and faster, a “flat-bottomed” boat is easier to control, especially in shallow water. The material determines whether you can stand in the boat. The flooring adds stiffness to the bottom.

Think about the material of the hull and seat. The optimal option is durable boats made of PVC. Vessels made of rubberized fabric are less durable and require more careful care. The most wear-resistant and expensive material is composite. The seat affects the comfort of the trip and the convenience of transportation. There are hard and inflatable ones.

Consider the size and other characteristics of the boat. The diameter of the sides, the size of the cockpit, the capacity, the load capacity and the number of air compartments are parameters that should be chosen based on the planned number of fishermen or rafters.

Don’t forget about the equipment. Along with the boat, there may be oars and oarlocks for them, a lifeline, a pump, a fishing rod holder, a repair kit, a bag for easy transportation, etc.

It’s time to make your fishing-sea dream come true and finally buy a good boat!

Read Also:

  1. Sea kayaking, Water safety rules
  2. 8 Reasons to Get Paddling
  3. Your First Steps in Kayaking

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