We know it is hard sometimes to distinguish between different inflatable boats. They all look much the same right? So you have to dig a bit deeper to really see what's going on. What are the boats made of? Where does that fabric come from, does your boat supplier even really know? How are they put together? What valves are in the boats? What pump comes with the boat?
There is so much that go into our range of boats that it is often hard to get across in a single product page. So we plan to give you as much information as possible so you can make an informed buying decision. Read along to find out more...
Materials - the stuff it's made of
The main fabric of our boats comes from a large German textiles manufacturer called Mehler. This company has been around for over 70 years! We use their textiles designed for the marine industry but they also manufacture huge stadium roof coverings which are exposed to the weather all year round. They design fabrics that will last. The one we use is called Valmex®. Valmex® is a premium fabric that not only has extremely good UV and abrasion resistance, it is also weldable. This is a very important quality to us because that leads to durability not only of the fabric but also of the seams. If you ask most inflatable boat suppliers where their fabric comes from they won't even be able to tell you. If you press them often the best they will come up with is somewhere in China or Korea! It is important to know what your boat is made of.
Valmex® fabric with a thermo-welded butt seam.
Seams of your inflatable boat
There are two main methods of bonding the seams of an inflatable boat. One way is to glue the seam. The other way is to weld the seam. Only some fabrics can be welded. Hypalon (and it's various brand names) for instance is a long lasting fabric but cannot be welded, it can only be glued. Many PVC fabrics will literally disintegrate when you apply the necessary heat for welding. Valmex® however is a fabric that is actually designed from the start to be welded. High heat and pressure is applied to the two layers of fabric that fuses them into one. Unlike a glued seam, a thermo-welded seam is not affected by heat (from the sun) or UV. Glues soften in the sun and with the air pressure from the inside of the tube, the softened glued seam will fail. Don't be fooled by marketing-speak about "cold welded" seams either. That is actually a glued seam and is a term designed to mislead the consumer. Our recommendation is to use Hypalon for large inflatable boats and Valmex® with thermo-welded seams for small inflatable boats.
True Kit seams are precision cut by plotter and thermo-welded
Check out our inhouse testing on heat effect on glued and welded seams in this video
Inflatable Boat 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 called 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 it's position, the strength of the spring, the quality of the plastic and rubber components - these are all critical to how the valve does it's job of holding air in an inflatable boat. We use their push-push valves as they are so simple to use. Push once and the valve is open, push again and the valve is closed. No twisting components to fail.
True Kit inflatables use Bravo valves
Floor in a True Kit Inflatable
Our floors use a specialist manufactured fabric for the Air Deck called drop-stitch fabric. Another name for it is double-walled fabric. It is 2 layers of fabric with thousands of high tensile fibres connecting the 2 layers. The drop-stitch floor can be manufacturer in different thickness for example 5cm, 7cm, 10cm, 20cm. It also can be manufactured to different stiffnesses with varying denier counts. Our True Kit floors use the finest drop-stitch fabric available. On top of the drop-stitch floor we bond a Valmex® non-slip diamond-pattern fabric (called Valmex® Skid-proof). Many of the cheaper non-slip fabrics are actually quite slick and offer very little non-slip characteristics.
Valmex® Skid-proof fabric provides a tough non-slip surface
All our boats have 2 Railblaza 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 a rod holders, cup holder, phone holder or nearly anything else into it. 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!
Raiblaza RibPorts are standard on all True Kit Inflatables
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!).
Only stainless 316 belongs on a boat
Rounded Pontoon Ends
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 helps keep the bow from rising too high and also helps with the tracking characteristics of an inflatable. At True Kit all our inflatables use weld-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.
Rounded pontoon ends really help an inflatable boat performance
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. It is important to ensure this is a strong bond. Transom to tube connection can be a point of failure on some inflatable boats. We use a belts and braces mentality with our transom bonding. The transom has full contact with tube along the radius of the transom, using extra bracing as well as mechanical fasteners. Our boats have a scupper in the base of the transom to release the water. Our transoms are made of high quality marine plywood and things like transom wheels, rod holders and towing eyes can be fixed to it using stainless fittings and a quality sealant like Sikaflex Marine 291.
A scupper is located in the base of the transom, lets water out not in!
Handles for Carrying and Holding On
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.
High frequency welded handle provides strength you can trust!
Our side rubbing strips have a dual purpose: 1. They provide rubbing protection between your inflatable boat and your yacht. 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.
Rubbing protection and spray protection
Multi-chamber Tubes Standard on all True Kit Inflatables
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 one area, you will have enough buoyancy to get back safely to shore. While the 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.
The baffle between the chambers is barely visible in this photo of a True Kit Navigator
Aluminium Lock-in Seats
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.
You can fit a seat bag underneath the aluminium seat
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.
Envelope style bag fits the True Kit inflatable
We have tested nearly every foot pump and hand pump on the market. Based on this we chose the hand pump that we liked using the best - a trusted Bravo hand pump. Bravo, that Italian company that make our boat valves make the best pumps available.
Tunnel-Hull or Catamaran Design
Our True Kit range of inflatable boats all have a catamaran platform. While it is not always obvious and many people think the boats have flat bottoms we only do catamarans. Why? There are many benefits to a catamaran platform for a boat. Firstly, having all the buoyancy on the outside gives great stability. When you step into a True Kit inflatable you will notice a big difference compared to v-hull style dinghies (your typical inflatable design). You don't get that tippy feeling climbing in and out of our boats like you normally get. Another great advantage of a cat-style hull shape is less drag. More drag means more horsepower required to push it along - more horsepower means more weight to move around. Many boaties have found once they have tried a catamaran, they never go back to a v-hull.
You can see the tunnel hull style of this True Kit Navigator - as well as the benefits of a lightweight dinghy!
The stability of a True Kit inflatable is instantly noticeable
Scintillating performance is just one of the benefits of an inflatable catamaran
To summarise here, it is worth going into the detail when considering your choice of inflatable boat. Make sure you are getting what you think you are getting. Ask some questions about the details. Here's a few to ask:
1. What type and brand is the fabric the boat is made of?
2. How are the seams bonded together?
3. What brand are the valves?
4. What is the oar/rowlock system on the boat?
5. What seats come with the boat?
6. What pump comes with the boat?
7. Are the handles strong?
8. Does the boat have high buoyancy rounded pontoon ends?
9. Are the stainless fittings all 316?
10. Is the boat light, stable and well performing?