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PVC vs Hypalon Fabric

PVC Inflatable Boats vs Hypalon Inflatables

The choice of going with PVC inflatable boats over the more expensive hypalon boats will depend on your needs. As just about all inflatables are made with either of these excellent materials so your task is to find out which one is best for you.

Let’s first take a look at what they are, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

What are PVC and Hypalon?

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. As a cheap and popular choice for inflatable boats, it is a multi-layer fabric which is far tougher than the single-layer plastic used in pool toys. You’ll find that PVC is the material of choice in many lightweight inflatable kayaks, canoes, and boats from makers such as Advanced Elements, Aqualine, Outcast, Sea Eagle, and even Zodiac pleasure boats (but not the pro or military models).

Hypalon is the Dupont trademark name for an exterior coating on neoprene rubber and vinyl fabric. It has all-around good properties in that it is extremely durable in both freezing temperatures as well as hot tropical climates. It is unaffected by UV light and salt water, and is resistant to oxidation. You should be able to determine if the boat is made from hypalon since it will be emphasized in the specifications — and the boat will be much higher priced than an inflatable made from PVC. Professional search & rescue crews, Navy Seals, and the Coast Guard, all use hypalon boats.

Newer Technologies Make Better PVC

Things that you have read about PVC inflatable boats over the years, or experienced yourself twenty years ago, may no longer be an issue as new technology has made PVC a much more rugged and reliable material, albeit still not in the class of hypalon.

With that in mind, let’s review some pros and cons of PVC inflatable boats vs hypalon boats –

Pros of PVC:

  • PVC is economical and significantly less expensive than hypalon

  • It is lighter and more portable than hypalon

  • Seams can be either thermobonded or glued

  • The material is standard in air floors

  • It is the best choice for boats that will be rolled up to be stored

Cons of PVC:

  • Shorter life expectancy (hypalon boats can last up to 20 years)

  • Not as UV resistant: PVC does not hold up well to prolonged exposure to direct sunlight if left unprotected

  • Does not respond as well as hypalon in extreme temperatures

  • PVC inflatable boats are not as resistant to chemicals, gas, oil, and abrasion as hypalon boats

Which One Fits Your Needs

Hypalon may sound like the better choice but the fact is that both materials are very good products. Just be advised that even among hypalon boats, the quality can vary significantly, so be aware that just because it costs more doesn’t mean it will be a better boat.

The bottom line is that if you plan to leave your boat inflated most of the time and use it frequently, then a quality hypalon boat from a good manufacturer is the obvious choice.

However, if what you want is a lightweight boat that can be rolled up, stored in a bag, and carried anywhere (portability being the key feature of inflatables after all), then go with PVC inflatable boats. Pick a brand name with a proven record for quality, technology, and offering a solid warranty, and your PVC boat or kayak will give you many years of enjoyment.


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