Building strength: Base Fabrics
Having a base fabric is what sets quality inflatable rafts and kayaks apart from cheap inner tubes and boats suited only for flat water and the local pool.
Denier and decitex are terms that describe the weight or fineness of the thread or fabric per unit area. Decitex is the metric equivalent of denier and 1000 denier is equal to 1100 decitex. The 4000 decitex floor fabric used in our self-bailing rafts could also be called 3600 denier floor fabric. Higher denier fabric will be stronger but it will also be heavier and more rigid than lower denier fabric. Many light duty inflatables use 420 or 840 denier fabrics while commercial boats use 1000-1500 denier fabrics and higher.
Vanguard Inflatable Whitewater Rafts and Kayaks use a polyester base fabric ranging from 1000 denier to 3600 denier.
Holding air and protecting the fabric: Fabric Coatings
The fabric coating of an inflatable boat is what most people refer to when describing the material a raft or inflatable kayak is made of. The fabric coating of an inflatable is what allows the boat to hold air, but it also influences the durability, drag, rigidity, abrasion resistance, and appearance of a boat.
Vanguard Inflatables utilizes high quality PVC in all of our rafts and kayaks.
Looking good and performing great: Boat Designs
The design of a whitewater raft or inflatable kayak is critical to how it performs on the water. Quality design is what makes a raft handle like a sports car while looking great. In addition to the design decisions surrounding base fabrics and coatings, there are hundreds of other decisions that go into designing a quality raft or inflatable kayak. The best way to evaluate the design quality of a raft is to ask these questions:
■ How does is handle?
Ask friends, outfitters, and dealers about how the boats perform.It’s important to specify how you intend to use the boat (paddle boat on Class II rivers vs. heavily loaded gear boat on the Grand Canyon)
■ How does it look?
We all know that looks aren’t everything, but you can tell a lot from how a raft looks. Look for irregular seams, fabric irregularities, valve placement, color choices, etc.
Vanguard Inflatables has designed its river rafts and kayaks using Integrated Structural Design (ISD).
ISD is a result of forty years of continuous inflatable design and manufacturing experience.
Putting it all together: Seams, valves, D-rings and handles
The details can make a significant difference in your enjoyment of a new river raft.
There are currently two major methods constructing an inflatable boat: welded and glued seams. Glued seams on a PVC boat are fundamentally different than glued seams on a rubber (Hypalon/Neoprene) boat.
Vanguard Inflatables uses glued PVC seams for all whitewater rafts, inflatable kayaks, and boats.
Problematic valves can make an otherwise great boat useless.
○ Leafield – The most common valve in modern inflatables. They are low profile, durable, and stand up to abuse. They utilize a low profile plunger to allow for easy filling.
○ Halkey-Roberts – An older, but still common style. These valves come in both high and low profile models and also use plungers for easy filling. Unfortunately, the plunger is attached to the valve boot with small pieces of plastic. These attachments have been known to break.
○ Military Valves – These valves are typically made of metal and screw in to close. They are very durable, but tend to leak and get stuck. Because they don’t use a plunger, they can also make inflating your boat more difficult.
The most critical aspect of D-rings is where they are placed. A dozen D-rings that aren’t place properly for your frame and rigging style only server to add weight and bulk to your raft. With a little bit of preparation it’s easy to customize the D-ring placement on your raft.
We’ve found that four handles (two on either side) is the ideal setup for most boaters. Fabric handles are light weight and comfortable enough to carry your raft for short distances.