inflatable dinghy

Inflatable Boat Buyers' Guide

When choosing an inflatable dinghy, it is important to look at a few key aspects before coming to a decision - size, weight, tube material and floor/hull type. Find out which is right for you…




Getting a boat that is the right size is essential, and while one school of thought is ‘the bigger the better’ actually we often need to store and transport these boats so not getting a boat that is too big to fit in your locker or car boot is a good idea too. Each boat has a Recreational Craft Directive (RCD) rating for the maximum number of people (or weight of cargo) the boat can safely carry. We publish this information wherever it is available, and it often comes in the form of ‘2+1’ or ‘4+1’, the first number being adults, and the second being children. So for example a boat rated as a ‘3+1’ is designed for a maximum of three adults and one child. While these figures are a good guide, if you intend to go further than just from your boat to the beach, it may be worth selecting one that will carry slightly more than you intend to allow room to move around and for some luggage.



Different boats are made from different fabric types, which can affect the weight of the boat. These boats are sometimes stored down below on yachts, or in deep lockers, so getting a lightweight boat may be a priority. We publish weights for all of our boats, so you can make an informed choice, and it’s also worth looking at the type of carry bag the boat comes with, a rucksack style bag can make carrying the boat easier than one that just has handles.



One of the key decisions when choosing a boat is what material you choose the tubes to be made from. In its most simplistic form, tubes are either made from PVC or Hypalon. This isn’t where the story ends though, as differing material thicknesses and brands can affect both weight and durability. In terms of weight, PVC is generally lighter than Hypalon, particularly as it is often thinner, but this in turn can make PVC boats less durable than Hypalon. Hypalon is also a much more UV resistant fabric, so is almost always used in larger RIBS that simply cannot be folded away when not in use. PVC is, however, a great fabric choice for boats that can be stored out of the sun when not in use, and will not be used day-in, day out like a commercial RIB may be. PVC also offers a great price advantage over Hypalon, so it’s really worth thinking about how you intend to use the boat, and how long you want the boat to last, before making your decision about material.


Floor/Hull Type

Inflatable boats are available with a variety of different floor and hull types, again depending on your intended use, storage situation and budget. We’ve listed the most common types below, along with some advantages and disadvantages of each type.



A slatted floor offers a durable surface that is more resistant to punctures than an air deck and can be a good option if you are intending to carry sharp/heavy objects regularly. 


A drop-stitched floor that becomes rigid when inflated. These offer a very convenient way of making a boat lightweight, easy to fold, and also rigid when in use. These floors require quite high pressures to achieve this rigidity, so a good pump is a must, but once inflated they offer a great all-round performance on most sizes of inflatable boat.


These work in a similar way to a standard airdeck, but add an inflatable tube underneath the airdeck floor to give the boat a 'V' shape underwater profile. This helps the boat to plane when under engine power, and assists with directional stability when rowing. This setup is great for those looking to travel slightly larger distances under engine power, or at slightly higher speeds.



(Or often called a ‘VIB’) - This type of boat uses two drop-stitched air decks divided down the centreline to create a proper 'V' shape. As the V shape is both inside and outside the boat (unlike the airdeck with keel, which has a ‘V’ on the outside but a flat floor on the inside) you feel more secure in this type of boat as you sit lower down in it. They offer superior interior space to an airdeck with keel, and children and pets are less likely to fall out when underway. They also offer great rigidity and performance under engine, this type of floor general gives a more pronounced ‘V’ shape that the airdeck with keel, making it smoother through choppy seas and waves.



This type of boat has a solid, welded aluminium hull that is great if you want to drag it up a beach or put it on a trailer. They are fantastic under engine power, with a deep ‘V’ shape to the hull they plane easily and are completely rigid. They handle choppy sea with confidence and provide a great feeling of security. These can't be folded (although the tubes can still be deflated to make the significantly smaller), but offer the best performance under engine and the most durable hull type. The weight of these boats is bot as heavy as you may think, certainly when compared to similar fibreglass RIBs, and the aluminium will not rust or wear easily.




Happy Sailing!

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