Fishing Information

Caring for Your Inflatable Boat - Common Sense & Consistency Are the Keys

Thousands of years ago, the first inflatable boats, made from animal skins, were used for transportation. People used them to cross rivers, ferry goods to other locations, and move military troops. Over time, inflatable boats were adapted for recreational use as well, and for rescue operations. Today there are many types of inflatable boats and over a dozen ways they are used around the world.

Different militaries across the globe helped bring inflatable boats to the public attention, and today the government still uses inflatable boats for troop transport, special military operations, and drug and other law enforcement activities. In addition, inflatable boats are also used in search and rescue operations, fisheries patrol and security patrol. They are also used as tenders on large yachts and ships.

On the recreational side, inflatable boats can be used for diving, fishing, pleasure boating, river rafting, water skiing, and many other water activities that involve a boat. Consumers can also purchase inflatable kayaks, canoes, and sailboats.

Because there are so many different types of inflatable boats and a variety of ways they can be used, it is important to be familiar with the specific operating instructions for your particular model and situation. However, there are a few general use guidelines that apply to most, if not all, inflatable boats.


? When inflating your raft or boat, many manufacturers recommend filling each air chamber in a clockwise pattern around the boat, just until the craft takes shape. Then work your way back around the boat filling the chambers to the pressure level indicated for that particular boat.

? If the floor of the boat is inflatable, add air until the pressure relief valve releases a small amount of air.

? Don't overfill. A properly inflated boat should have just a bit of give.

? Be aware that air temperature causes changes in the air pressure in the inflatable chambers. Many boaters fill their inflatable boats in the morning when the air is cool. But as the temperature increases over the course of the day, the air in the tubes expands, increasing the pressure. If a tube or chamber becomes too pressurized, it can explode if struck by a sharp object. You may have to let some air out at different points throughout the day if you operate your inflatable boat or inflatable kayak in the hot sun.

? Most inflatable boats deflate simply by opening the air valves.

Standard Precautions

? Because punctures are the main concern with inflatable boats, it is important to protect if from sharp objects. Use care when transporting diving knives, spears, fishing hooks, and other objects that could puncture the skin of the inflatable boat. Watch for barnacles and sharp metal or wood when tying your boat to the dock, and avoid dragging the boat over rocks and shells when landing on a beach.

? Even dull objects such as oars, ropes, or coolers can cause abrasion and deterioration of the coating material if allowed to rub for an extended period of time.

? It also is important to rinse out your inflatable boat or inflatable kayak after each use. Sand and gravel can cause abrasion and plug air valves. If left to soak into an inflatable boat, salt water can cause the material to deteriorate.

Caring For Your Inflatable Boat

? Cleaning: Armorall and other oil-based products can damage the rubber or fabric over time and prevent patches from sticking. Mild dish soap is best for cleaning your inflatable boat. There are also several cleaners designed specifically for inflatable boats.

? Storage: Because uninflated boats are more vulnerable to damage, many manufacturers recommend that you store the boat partially inflated and covered with a tarp. If this is not possible, completely deflate the boat and be sure it is dry and clean before rolling and storing in the carrying bag. If you plan to store your inflatable boat on a trailer, be sure there are no bends or kinks in the boat.

? Repairs: Sometimes, even with the best of care and safety precautions, your inflatable boat can develop a puncture or leak. Unless you have a major and obvious accident, it may be difficult to determine the location of the leak. While the boat is inflated, wipe it with soapy water and watch for bubbles to form on the surface of the boat as a result of escaping air. Don't assume there is only one leak. Check the entire boat with soapy water to be sure before setting out on the water.

Many manufacturers recommend that you bring your boat to a professional for larger repairs, because it can be difficult to get a good seal with a patch. However, if you have a small puncture or are in a situation where you need to make immediate repairs, follow the directions on the patch kit. Some basic tips include:

-Ensure that the surface is clean and dry before applying the patch -Be sure the adhesive is sufficiently tacky before applying the patch -Choose a patch that extends at least three inches beyond the rip in all directions

If your inflatable boat has rough or cracked areas that are filled with tiny pinhole leaks, this is an indication that the coating on the material has aged or become damaged by sunlight, saltwater, overheating or some other type of wear and tear. While you may be able to patch some of these leaks, it is best to replace the inflatable boat if other areas show signs of wear.

Inflatable boats, canoes, and kayaks have many advantages over traditional watercraft, however, because of their special design and materials, they can require more care and maintenance. But as this article describes, it is not difficult to care for an inflatable boat, and most problems can be avoided by using common sense and by developing a consistent routine. If properly cared for, inflatable boats can provide you with years of service and recreational fun without the expense associated with traditional watercraft.

About the Author:

C.J. Gustafson is a successful writer for, providing consumer information on inflatable boats and kayaks, inflatable catamarans and boating accessories. She and her family make frequent fishing trips to Canada's backcountry. The numerous portages required to reach some of the smaller lakes have made her especially appreciative of the lightweight, compact design of most inflatable boats.

Copyright 2005

Permission is granted to publish this article on your site only if the author's byline is included and all links are hyperlinked.

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