Understanding Heavy-Duty Inflatable Boat Air Chamber Materials And Specs


Paddling / Friday, April 16th, 2021

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Have you been looking at heavy-duty, inflatable boats produced by different manufacturers?

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at an inflatable kayak, inflatable canoe, inflatable boat, raft, river tube, fishing tube, SUP, or other inflatable boats. Understanding the specifications can get confusing, especially when you’re comparing the materials used to construct the air chambers.

If you have seen any specs such as, “44oz/1000-Denier PVC material” and are confused. You’re in the right spot.

What do all these specifications mean?

Let’s start with the term denier.

What is Denier?

Denier or Decitex(metric) is a unit of measure for the linear mass density of fibers.

Different fibers of the same length will have different weights and a different tightness of weave can be used in making fabrics.

Fabrics with a high denier count tend to be thicker, sturdy, and durable.

In the inflatable boat industry, the fibers used are typically nylon or polyester. Heavier fibers like cotton and wool would make inflatable boats too heavy and hard to manage.

Synthetic Polymer Coated Fabrics

The majority of heavy-duty, inflatable boats use 800 to 1200-Denier as a backing for some sort of synthetic polymer-coated material such as PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) coated fabric or PU (polyurethane/polyester urethane) coated fabric.

Synthetic polymer-coated fabrics are perfect for building heavy-duty, inflatable boats. They offer high-tear strength, resistance to punctures and abrasion, and durability in appearance.

Understanding Inflatable Boat Material Descriptions

Different inflatable boats not only vary in denier (the linear mass density of fibers) but also in the description of weight or thickness of the synthetic polymer-coated material. The boat manufacturer might give you the thickness measurement of the fabric in Mil (Mil is thousandths of an inch) or the Coated Fabric Weight measured in ounce per square yard (oz. / sq. yd.).

Example of Material Thickness:

Example of Coated Fabric Weight:

  • STAR River Tubes are made with 44oz/1000-Denier PVC material

Did you notice that these real-life examples don’t even tell us if the material is made from nylon or polyester?

So, how do you convert Mil(s) to Ounces for a direct comparison?

You don’t. They are two completely different references.

Mil tells thickness and ounces tells weight. There is no direct conversion because we don’t know the density.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to compare inflatable boats from different manufacturers without more information.

Conclusion

I hope this tidbit of information has given you a little better understanding of the material that goes into inflatable boats and how their specifications are reported.

Too often the specifications provide too little information to provide a direct comparison of boats between manufacturers. The specifications more so tell us the general quality of materials used in manufacturing.

A red, inflatable boat on a calm river surrounded by mountains. The graphic says... Inflatable Boats Materials and Specifications.