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December 05, 2022 15 min read

A question that we get asked a lot is how do True Kit inflatable boats compare to other inflatable catamarans or other inflatable boats in general.  So let me wind the clock back a bit to when we started and what our goals were for True Kit.  As a professional yachtsman most of my life, I fortunately get to spend a lot of time around all sorts of different types of boats.  I have been lucky enough to partake in many design meetings with some of the top naval architects of our generation and learnt a thing or two from them.  Being part of Americas Cup teams really gives you a sense of striving to achieve the very highest level of excellence in all facets of yacht design, build and then ongoing development to achieve the very fastest yacht within a set of parameters.  When we started True Kit we took those values of quality and design excellence and probably for the first time ever, applied them to small inflatable boats.

Our focus was on small yacht tenders, small boats for motorhomes and rvs, small boats for fishing.  

Our design brief went like this:

1. Must be lightweight so people can handle them reasonably easily.  Light and strong but certainly not underbuilt and lacking features.  Light because the best materials and construction is used.

2. Must be stable.  I expect to be able to stand up in a dinghy when needed.  Sometimes you have to when you climb on and off a boat, or you may need to move around.  A stable boat is a safe boat.  We have all been in tippy dinghies and we certainly didn't want that reputation for our boats.

3. Must perform well.  An efficient well performing boat means you can use a smaller outboard.  Small outboards are lighter and cheaper so it makes sense all-around to have an efficient platform.

4. Must be portable.  So portable in fact that you can pack your boat down into the trunk/boot of a car.  While this is not important for everyone, it is for many people.  Being able to pack a boat away means if you aren't using it for a while, you can store it fully protected so it will last much longer.  It also means you can go places that other boats can't get to.  This was to be a foundation of our True Kit designs.

5. Must be top quality.  Now everyone says their products are top quality but are they really?  When you built a product you have decisions to make: where will we source our materials from?  Where to do the assembly?  What manufacturing techniques do we use and are they the best and latest technologies?  We wanted our True Kit customers to get many years of enjoyment from our inflatables.

With that demanding set of requirements and our beautiful New Zealand coastline as our testing ground, our True Kit inflatable catamaran range was born.  Well, not exactly born.  More like designed, tested, redesigned, tested, refined, refined refined... into the extraordinary fleet we have today.  So what makes our True Kit inflatables better than (insert other brand name) all the other options out there?  Read on to find out...

Who is True Kit?

True Kit is a privately owned company based in New Zealand.  We design and produce our own unique series of boats and only sell them directly to our customers.  Each and every True Kit is sold, checked and delivered by us to you on an order by order basis.  This means we have full control over what goes out every step along the way.  It also means you get what you want.  You can call or message us to ask questions about which model and accessories will suit your needs before you buy.  And we can guarantee that our answers will be backed by our personal first-hand experience in the boats. 

We aren't a drop-shipper.  We don't have to pay distributors and dealers so this means we can offer a much better value and quality of boat for a similar price when compared to our competitors.  Our customers are always surprised at the value for money they get with their True Kit purchase.  We are your one-stop shop for the best inflatable boats and accessories.  Everyone in the True Kit team is a passionate boatie like you.  We are the largest inflatable catamaran seller in the world.  Our boats are now enjoyed in nearly every waterway in nearly every country.  The chances are, you have probably seen one near you!

True Kit team - we are boaties too!

True Kit Designs - the inflatable catamaran

The early catamarans and other multihull variations (Proas etc) were first used down in our part of the planet.  The Pacific people could see certain advantages with the extra stability and lower drag when compared to the monohulls at the time.  Those same advantages still apply and are the reason all True Kit inflatables are based on a catamaran platform.  With our inflatable catamaran designs we pay careful attention to the bow shape.  You will notice that unlike other cats, our designs all curve up gently towards the bow creating a dry ride.   The bows on our Discovery models also offer a unique option to climb back into the dinghy over the bow - much easier than climbing over the high buoyancy tubes.

True Kit Discovery showing all the details of the boat including the aluminium transom, landing craft bow design and other fittings

At True Kit we have our own in-house design team 

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

What Materials Do We Use?

We did extensive research when looking for the best fabrics to produce our boats from.  Everyone will have seen problems with poor quality inflatables and certainly that wasn't an option for us.  Key attributes for the fabric for our inflatable boats was durability - especially in hotter and harsher climates, weldability (see below), lightweight - something we are always conscience of for our customers, and flexibility - a fabric that will handle the folding and unfolding over it's lifetime. 

We settled on the German-made Valmex® fabric.  Valmex® is made by a large textile company that also produces similar type textiles for stadium roofs and curtain-sider trucks.  As you can imagine, those uses demand absolute durability in the elements even to a higher level than an inflatable boat!  And the great thing about Valmex® is that it is specifically designed to be joined at the seams by thermo-welding.  Could we have used cheap fabrics out of Asia? We sure could but they have been proven to lack the durability that meets our True Kit standards so they were quickly not selected.  Hypalon is a very durable fabric but also extremely heavy.  That's not a problem if the boat is always to be carried on a trailer and winched in and out of the water.  But if you are manhandling your dinghy around, keeping it light is something you will never regret! 

The Mehler company that makes our world-leading Valmex® fabric has been operating for over 70 years.  Ask other boat manufacturers what brand their fabric is and where it is made and compare this to what True Kit uses.

True Kit dinghies use Mehler Valmex fabric and thermo welded seams

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Construction Methods

When it comes to putting together an inflatable boat, there are two systems:  you can either glue the seams together or you can weld the seams together.  By far the cheapest and simplest method is to glue the seams.  However, this is a short-lived system.  The air holding seams in an inflatable boat are under constant pressure (from the air inside 3-4psi).  This pressure along with the heat from the sun softening the glue will lead to the inevitable glued seam failure.  Often this will happen in quite short period of time.  The alternative system is to thermo-weld the seams.  This method fuses the 2 layers of fabric into 1.  It is a mechanical bond (as opposed to a chemical one).  In fact the welded seams on a welded-seam inflatable boat is stronger than the fabric itself.  It is not affected by sun and will last the lifetime of the boat.  Some brands who used glued seams will offer an explanation that glued seams are better because welded seams become brittle.  Although a clever marketing message this is in fact completely false.  Welded seams are equally flexible but vastly more durable.  Other industries that use similar type fabrics like curtain-sider trucks only EVER use welded seams - in fact you cannot get a warranty on the fabric if welded seams aren't used due to durability issues.  

Thermo-welded seam construction used on all True Kit inflatable boats

Check out our glued seam v thermo-welded seam demonstration with heat below (be aware it is long, unedited and probably boring but is a realistic if sped up display of what heat does to glue under pressure)

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

We Design our boats from start to finish

At True Kit we have our own in-house design department.  You won't see another boat that looks like a True Kit.  Each boat is designed from top to bottom by us and while there are imitators (copycats?), there is only one True Kit.  All our boats and components are tested by us on the water.  We do welcome anyone to compare the details of our True Kit boats to other brands. We are confident that True Kit will come out on top versus any other inflatable catamaran.

True Kit Navigator drawing showing all the features of our inflatable catamaran tender

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Stability of an Inflatable boat

One of the great things about inflatable catamarans is that all the buoyancy is on the outside.  This creates an instantly stable platform.  If you compare this to a standard v-shaped hull, the boat will tip on that centred of buoyancy until the pontoons on the outside get immersed in the water.  This creates a much less stable platform.

This stability advantage is particularly noticeable when you are climbing in and out of the dinghy or when standing up in the dinghy.  In fact, we have coined the phrase "stand up stability" for our boats and it's something you won't want to do in many other inflatable boats.  This also really works in your favour if you are standing up to cast while fishing, or standing up to help land that big fish!

The incredibly stable True Kit Navigator can handle people standing up in the boat

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

The Lightest Dinghies

The lighter a dinghy is, the more convenient that dinghy is.  This is true for nearly everyone.  Whether you are pulling a tender up onto your foredeck or swim platform or pulling the boat up the beach beyond the high water mark so you can leave it for a few hours - you will be thankful if your dinghy is light!  We keep our True Kit inflatable boats light through careful attention to design and construction.  We put everything necessary into the boat to keep it's durability and functionality, but we don't add anything unnecessary.  Our other secret is in the Valmex® fabric we use and the thermo-welded seams - this keeps our inflatables light yet extremely durable.

The incredibly lightweight True Kit Navigator yacht tender being carried easily by a child and an adult

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Portability of a boat

Many True Kit inflatable catamarans around the world are stored in motorhomes and rv's, they are often packed away on yachts and powerboats as stowable tenders, and many are taken away on camping expeditions.  In all of these situations having a very portable boat is crucial.  Our True Kit models and designed right from the start with stowage in mind.  The high pressure floor folds neatly away, the oars are 2-piece for convenience and everything will fit in the back of an average car.  5 minutes is a typical time to pack a boat away but allow a few more for the physical job of pumping up your True Kit!

Discovery transported by helicopter to a remote South Island beach

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

True Kit Discovery put into Marine Survey

True Kit may have the only portable inflatable boat in the world that has undergone stringent survey testing so the boat can be used for commercial purposes.  A New Zealand company the uses sonar to sound the seabed needed a stable, portable platform from which to operate their expensive and delicate equipment.  After extensive research they decided the True Kit Discovery was the perfect platform for their mission.  But first the Discovery had to undergo some rigorous testing by a Qualified Marine Surveyor.  These tests included freeboard tests, swamping tests, structural tests, stability tests, deflation tests plus much more.  As expected, the Discovery passed all tests with flying colours to now be certified for these commercial operations.

True Kit Discovery has passed all the rigorous tests required for Marine Survey

Accessorise your Inflatable Boat

At True Kit we design and build all sorts of useful accessories to make our awesome boats even better.  In fact our accessories are so good we get other boat manufacturers asking us to supply them for their own boats on a daily basis!  From our highly sort after True Kit bimini tops to our uniquely removable QuickLok Dinghy Wheels to everything in between, there is something for everyone to personalise the boat to their own needs.

True Kit Bimini

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Easy Boarding back onto your True Kit inflatable

The unique landing craft bow on a True Kit Discovery model gives our inflatable boats a special advantage:  it allows much easier access back on board from the water.  This is handy if you are spearfishing, swimming from the boat or trying to get the dog back on board!  The diminished buoyancy due to the taper of the bows of our inflatable catamaran allows the front of the boat to be pushed down closer to the water.  Does this mean these boats get lots of water over the bow?  Definitely not.  We have designed this taper with a very subtle upwards curve in the sheer to provide an extremely dry ride - this is unique to our True Kit Discovery models and sets them apart from all other inflatable catamarans.

Ready for Discovery Package - easy boarding over the landing craft bow on a True Kit Discovery

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Transoms Provide the Power Transfer

The transom on an inflatable boat provides the means of transferring the thrust from the outboard to the tubes of the boat.  Any flex or weakness in the transom means you lose some of the horsepower provided by the engine.  We see this a lot in lightweight portable boats - in many cases with poor transom design up to 1/3 of the power from the engine is lost.  Remember that when you are carrying that heavy outboard around!  That's why we have put a lot of design and testing time into providing a lightweight yet very rigid structure to give you the power transfer you need.

Tru-Alu aluminium transom make the Discoverys stand out from any other inflatable boat

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Bravo Airlock Valves

The third component that creates the air-tightness qualities that True Kit inflatables are famous for (after the fabric and the seams) is the valves.  There are several generic made valves that will do the job (for a while) and one market leader in the field - they are made by Bravo.  Bravo (an Italian company) specialise in making components for inflatable products - namely valves and pumps.  While a Bravo valve may look the same, the durability is all in the detail.  The way the valve seats into its position, the strength of the spring, the quality of the plastic and rubber components - these are all critical to how the valve does its job of holding air in an inflatable boat.  These push-push valves are so simple to use.  Push once and the valve is open, push again and the valve is closed.  No twisting components to fail.  We have tested them all and only use the best.

Bravo Airlock Valves are standard on all True Kit inflatable boatsBravo Airlock Valve cap

Railblaza Ribports

Our partner and fellow New Zealand company Railblaza came up with these beauties - the Railblaza Ribport.  They are so good that all our boats have 2 Ribports mounted on the top of the tubes as a standard feature.  These ingenious inventions are for clipping your oar rowlocks into.  When you are not rowing you can also clip in rod holders, bimini tops, cup holders, phone holders or nearly anything else into them.

Railblaza Ribports can hold rod holders, navigation lights, fish finder screens, cup or phone holders

Oar rowlocks lock into the Ribports on a True Kit inflatable

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Stainless Steel 316 D-Rings

At True Kit we don't believe there is any place on a boat for stainless steel 304.  In stainless steel lingo stainless 304 is non-marine grade and 316 is marine grade.  For all our fittings we only use marine grade stainless 316 (unlike many other boats!).

Stainless 316 D-rings

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Easy Wheeling with our QuickLok Dinghy Wheels

There is no need to drag your dinghy when you can easily roll it with a set of QuickLok Dinghy Wheels.  We typically do the installation for these in our factory so when you receive your True Kit, you simply clip them on to use them.  We designed these wheels specifically for our True Kit range of boats and they work brilliantly.  One person can move the boat with motor on around on their own! Our customers rave about them!  To the best of our knowledge there isn't a single other boat manufacturer worldwide that has come up with a wheel system to rival our QuickLok system.

QuickLok Dinghy Wheels by True Kit

QuickLok Dinghy Launching wheels made by True Kit

Aluminium Bench Seats (thwarts)

All our boats have either one or two aluminium lock-in seats.  Solid and comfortable to sit on and also provide the opportunity to use a padded seat bag using the space underneath for storage.

Aluminium bench seat (thwart) in a True Kit inflatable

True Kit Premium Seat Bag under aluminium bench seat

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Internal and External Oar Holders

When you are not using the oars, they can be safety stowed out of the way in the cockpit.  This leaves a low profile RibPort on the tube.  Compare this to most inflatables where the oars are permanently locked into the tubes right where you want to sit!

Internal Oar Holders in a True Kit inflatable

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Toughgrip by Valmex

Our True Kit floors use the finest drop-stitch fabric available.  On top of the drop-stitch floor we bond Valmex® Toughgrip non-slip diamond-pattern fabric.  Many of the cheaper non-slip fabrics are actually quite slippery and offer very little also offer very little durability to resist damage from dogs, gear etc. Surprisingly to us, many comparable inflatable catamaran brands do not have any durable cover over their drop stitch floors at all.

The True Kit brand stands for quality.  Toughgrip by Valmex is used for the floors

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

High Volume Pontoon Ends (not cones)

Many people wonder why waste all that space behind the transom having the pontoons (or tubes) sticking out the back?  The pontoon behind the transom is actually a very important detail for the performance of an inflatable boat.  This part of the tube provides the buoyancy which supports the engine and helps keep the bow from rising too high. They also help with the tracking characteristics of an inflatable.  At True Kit all our inflatables use welded-seam round pontoon ends rather than pointy cones.  The reason for this is pointy cone ends do not provide the necessary buoyancy for boat performance.  Also, the cones are a susceptible point of failure and are also difficult to fold up when stowing your boat away.

Round pontoon ends on a True Kit inflatable gives tracking, stability and the ability to handle the weight of an outboard

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Rubbing Strakes

Our side rubbing strakes have a dual purpose:  1. They provide rubbing protection between your inflatable boat and your yacht or jetty.  2. They also provide spray protection via the specially designed deflector lip.  All our boats also have a wide rubbing strip on the bottom of each tube to provide extra abrasion resistance when the boat is sitting on a beach.

The rubbing strake on a True Kit inflatable sheds water

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Bravo Hand Pump

We tried every version of a hand pump and foot pump and there was only one that we found that was suitable - this Bravo Hand Pump.  So we include one of these as standard in every boat package.

The Bravo hand pump that comes with every True Kit inflatable boat

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Multiple Air Chambers

When tubes are divided up into separate air-tight compartments or chambers it gives an extra level of safety that most boats don't have.  Including the high pressure inflatable floor all True Kit inflatables have either 4 or 5 separate chambers.  What this means for you is that if you have an accident and puncture in one area, you will have enough buoyancy to get back safely to shore.  While the welded baffle (the divider between compartments) is almost invisible because of the quality of our boats, you can rest assured knowing that the boat is much safer.

All True Kit inflatable boats have multiple air chambers for safety purposes 

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

Our Boat Bags

Our boats come with 2 bags.  The main bag is an envelope style bag that fits the main boat component.  This is important because if this bag is a zip style bag and the boat is not folded perfectly and you try squeezing it into the bag, you will blow the zip out.  The second small bag holds the floor.  The bags are heavy duty polyester fabric.

True Kit boat bag

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

High Frequency Welded Handles

Our handles are manufactured from the same high quality Valmex® fabric as the rest of the tubes.  The handles are made using a particularly strong process called high frequency welding.  This process produces a handle you can trust.

True Kit brand stands for quality

What do True Kit Customers say?

True Kit Discovery 330 - 5/5 Stars

I live in the UK and fish the English Channel, Kent /Sussex coast. With everything that is going on in the UK at the moment I did have concerns about buying a boat that is manufactured on the other side of the world. I need not have worried. From the moment I contacted Fergus until the Discovery arrived the whole process was flawless. It could not have been smoother. I was kept informed throughout the delivery process. 

Clive Jones

The best purchase I have ever made - 5/5 Stars

The people at True Kit are great and the boat is fantastic. I really could not be happier. Money well spent. My hobbies include spearfishing and surfing and really anything on the ocean. Countless times I've looked into purchasing a boat it has always been far out of my price range. Finally after some researching online I found True Kit. I ordered their 4 meter boat with all those railblaza accessories and everything has been a dream. I got myself a Suzuki 20hp four stroke. Shipping took some time because of US customs to clear everything, but everything arrived well packaged. Honestly I was shocked at how easy everything was to setup. First time using the boat and within an hour I was off. I've been taking my friends out and now everyone wants one. This is a special item because it has unlocked access to the ocean, in a fun and approachable package, at a very reasonable cost. In a world with insanely high cost of entry for marine travel, this is absolutely spot on. It's practical and it rips. 10/10 would buy again.  

Michael DePalma

True Kit vs The Other Cats (how did we do?)

COMPARISON CHECKLIST 

TRUE KIT VERSUS OTHER CATS CHECKLIST