How long do inflatable kayaks last?

If you take care of it it will last upward of twenty years. Don’t leave it in the sun for extended periods of time. This is probably the most important factor in inflatable boat longevity. Also, knowing the material your boat is made from is important in determining the best cleaners to use.

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Materials used in High-performance boats

When it comes to inflatable kayaks, the demand and popularity have increased as has the durability. The materials used today far outlast materials of the past. Materials like high-pressure fabrics for example. These materials come in 1000 to 1100 denier thickness for high-pressure use. Denier is referring to the thickness of the individual fibers used to make up the threads of the fabric used along with a PVC coating creating a waterproof, airtight seal. This omnidirectional material is also tear-resistant and puncture-resistant. This high-performance material is formatted with special additives to guarantee long term distance to ultraviolet rays, gasoline, oil, and other chemicals. Kayaks made from this material will last upwards of twenty years. The good news is that inflatable kayaks are rarely stored in the sun which keeps them lasting a long time.

Materials used in lower coast boasts

Cheaper inflatable kayaks are usually made with unsupported Fabrics which are easier to manufacture and mass-produced. Think air mattress. Typically you see this used with a zippered-fabric outer sleeve. The outer material can be heaver because it doesn’t have to be air holding, giving one more layer of protection to the air-holding chambers.

The issues here are things like zipper failure, accumulation of mud, and moisture between the shell and the air chamber, making it harder to clean and dry. Drying is one of the most important considerations for an inflatable kayak and is one of the leading factors in the longevity of inflatable kayaks. These more inexpensive kayaks will last 2 to 8 years. Again, storing these kayaks in the garage instead of on the dock should increase its lifespan.

Hypalon CSPE - The best

By far the longest-lasting materials used in inflatable boats, Hypalon or CSPE. This material has the best UV protection and will last longer than any other inflatable kayak. This is the most expensive material used and will increase the coast of your kayak by a lot. This is the material used in U.S. Military and Coast Guard boats. Now if you plan on leaving your kayak out in the sun for weeks at a time then you should consider this material.

Hypalon vs PVC - How to tell the difference

Hypalon CSPE (chlorosulfonated polyethylene ) PVC
Resistant temperature
Yes.
Not as much.
Resistant to UV light
Yes.
Not as much.
Resistant to abrasion
Yes.
When dry, it is less abrasion-resistant.
Durable
Yes.
Yes: High-performance materials that use PVC coating not kept in the sun
Cost
Most expensive coated material.
Costs less than Hypalon.
Lifespan
Lasts longer than PVC when exposed to prolonged periods of direct sunlight.
It won’t last as long as Hypalon especially when exposed to direct sunlight.
Convenience
Heavy
PVC is lighter, better for travel kayaks
Maintenance
Quite porous gets dirty fast.
Easier to clean

Cleaning and maintaining Inflatable Kayaks

Cleaning Kayaks

You have to clean after every use. Unfortunately, our waterways are not clean and free from oil, gasoline, and other chemicals, which if not cleaned off the surfaces, could eat away the coatings. When washing your boat make sure you close all the valves. You don’t want water lingering in the tubes causing mold and mildew buildup inside the air chambers. Definitely wash off all saltwater asap as it will corrode the material.

Products never to use for cleaning your inflatable are solvents, MEK, toluene, acetone, bleach, ammonia, highly alkaline cleaners (anything with a pH greater than11.5), abrasive scrub pads, steel wool. They will weaken, damage, and discolor the fabric and attack the adhesives.  Do take note that soaps and detergents may leave residues that attract dirt and serve as food for mold and mildew, so rinse thoroughly. Aurora Boat Care Products are a good place to look for some good kayak care products.

Recommended Cleaners for PVC

3MC cleaner3M Marine Vinyl Cleaner & Restorer. It’s a fast cleaning formula, preserving the appearance of vinyl in order to keep it looking new. Cleans stains from mud, bird droppings, oil, and many others.

Recommended Cleaners for Hypalon (CSPE)

NRS Inflatable Boat Cleaner. Greatly improves the whites.

Dissolves dirt, white oxidation, diesel smudges, oil, stains, and frame marks.

Safe for Pennel Orca®, Hypalon®, boat materials.

Storage

Once you’ve cleaned the boat properly it must be dried completely. The slightest bit of moisture will lead to mold and rot. Store your kayak in a dry place away from direct sunlight or cold conditions. It needs a stable climate when storing. You can store it either deflated and roll up tight in its caring bag, or you can store it semi inflated and kept dry. Leaving it fully inflated can cause stress on the seams and valves, especially if the temperatures rise and the air expands. Do not store outside if you want to preserve your boat’s inflation integrity.

Again sun and its damaging UV rays are the number one reason your boat won’t last.

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Do not over inflate your kayak

More is not always better. This is the case with inflatable kayaks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t go overboard with the pressure. In extreme swing conditions if you pump up the boat when it is cool out and throughout the day the heat rises, could lead to overinflation. So make sure you allow for some expansion when pumping up the boat initially. This is really important when using an electric pump.

Will they Last?

Inflatable kayaks,(the good ones) are not as fragile as some might think. I’m not talking about the $300 – $400 pool toys. There are some great products out there and a lightweight, and a roll-up kayak is a perfect choice for travelers, RVers, senior citizens, anglers, and anyone else who needs a lightweight, on-the-go watercraft. It’s so nice to have something to get out on the water, packed away, and have it where ever you go.

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