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PVC vs. Hypalon: Which is the Better Inflatable Kayak Material?

PVC and Hypalon are two of the most common materials used in inflatable kayaks, but which is best?

Inflatable boats are a great way to go if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional hard-shell kayaks. They’re lightweight, easy to store, and can be used in any body of water.

But when it comes time to choose which material is best for your boat’s construction, there are a few things that need consideration.

Hypalon lasts longer, but PVC is less expensive. Read on to find out which is right for you.

If you’re a newbie to buying an inflatable kayak, it can be really confusing. There are so many choices that it’s hard to figure out what to buy.

And since these boats cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, making the wrong choice could mean spending more money on repairs later if your boat doesn’t hold up over time.

We’ll help you make sense of all this by comparing PVC vs. Hypalon for manufacturing inflatable kayaks.

What is Hypalon fabric?

Hypalon (common name) is a synthetic rubber noted for its resistance to abrasion, UV light, and heat. As a result, it doesn’t degrade when exposed to harsh chemicals or fluctuations in temperature like some other materials do.

It’s been around since the early 1970s and is relatively easy to work with. This means it can be used for commercial purposes, as well as projects at home.

Hypalon is a more supple, lightweight material that is more abrasion and UV resistant, which has a material air holding lifespan ranging 20-30 years on average.

Hypalon was developed by Dupont and has since become a popular choice for inflatable boat manufacturing. It’s used in marine, boating, aerospace, and construction industries around the world.

What is PVC fabric?

Today, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) fabric is one of the most widely used materials by inflatable kayak manufacturers. PVC is easier to work with (welding) than Hypalon and is a cheaper option for inflatables.

PVC fabric is created by treating polyvinyl chloride with additives to make it more durable. PVC is a great option but is heavier, less supple, and has a material lifespan typically ranging from 7-15 years.

Inflatable boats made from PVC have a tendency to deteriorate more quickly over time, which is the main reason why inflatable kayaks made from Hypalon are priced higher than those made from PVC.

Comparing Hypalon vs. PVC

The main difference between the two materials is that PVC fabric deteriorates more quickly when exposed to chemicals, UV rays, and high temperatures. As a result, inflatable boats made from PVC also tend to have a shorter life span than Hypalon.

Hypalon is rubberized, whereas PVC is plasticized. PVC is a cheaper option for inflatable boats because it’s easier to manufacture, but Hypalon proves to be more durable over time.

On the other hand, Hypalon is the more expensive choice. Inflatable kayaks made from this material have a longer lifespan and are generally better when considering all factors involved while you are out on the water.

Investing in a kayak made from Hypalon is a smart move if you plan to use it extensively, but PVC ones may be more economical for infrequent users and beginners.

If you’re concerned about your kayak lasting for years and want something that will go the distance, it might be worth investing in an inflatable boat made from Hypalon, especially if you’re planning on using it a lot.

There are some differences in handling, with PVC being stiffer and Hypalon a little more forgiving.

Which is better, Hypalon or PVC?

If we had to choose, our recommendation is to go with Hypalon.  It’s a superior material and will hold up better over time than PVC fabric.

Hypalon is lighter but requires more work on the manufacturing side than PVC fabric, but if you’re in the market for an inflatable kayak that will last for years and won’t get damaged easily, it may be worth the extra money.

Ultimately, it comes down to your budget and how you intend to use the kayak. Hypalon kayaks have a longer lifespan, but PVC is the more affordable option.

Can You Still Get Hypalon?

Inflatable kayaks are typically constructed with either PVC or Hypalon/CSM fabric. Dupont discontinued Hypalon and it is now sold under a slightly different formula and a new name, “CSM” or Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene Rubber.

This means that it is now virtually impossible to buy a new Hypalon vessel.  Although you can still purchase boats made from the old, original Hypalon material if you’re shopping for a used kayak.

For instance, NRS uses Pennel Orca, which is their version of Hypalon. 

Can you repair PVC and Hypalon?

What about repairing a damaged PVC inflatable kayak?  It can be done, but it’s not the easiest thing to do in the field.

The process for repairing any inflatable boat is similar: locate the hole using soapy water and mark the spot. Next, cut a piece of material (PVC or Hypalon) to patch the hole.  Following this, apply a fabric glue or sealant to the area and allow it to dry completely.

These guys can show you way better than I can explain it!

Repairs follow the same process and are generally the same level of difficulty on both materials.

Care and maintenance of PVC and Hypalon

It is vital to protect your inflatable kayak, so you can also take some preventative steps to prolong the life of your kayak.

Using a spray like 303 Protectant can help preserve the material and increase the lifespan of your inflatable kayak.  Generally speaking, you can apply a protectant at the beginning and end of the season. 

It is also good to clean the kayak regularly and let it dry thoroughly before storing it long-term.

Here are some tips on cleaning and storing an inflatable kayak.

Why choose an inflatable kayak?

Inflatable kayaks are becoming popular among both professionals and amateurs alike. They’re great for kayaking in flat water bodies and rivers, but they can also be used on lakes or oceans.

They’re easy to bring along when you travel because they’re compact and lightweight. You can store an inflatable in your car trunk or even carry them onto a plane as checked baggage if you want to.

If you are interested in purchasing an inflatable kayak, click here to read more about one of our favorites.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to buy an inflatable kayak, it can be challenging to decide which material is the best. PVC and Hypalon are two different materials that have their own strengths.

If durability and longevity are important factors, we recommend going with Hypalon because it will last longer. But if you just want to get out on the water without worrying about your boat’s lifespan, PVC is a solid choice.

The main difference between Hypalon and PVC is the lifespan of the material, Hypalon will last longer, but PVC is much less expensive. 

The choice will be largely dependent on what matters most to you in terms of price and longevity. We hope this blog post clarified some things for you!

References:

Thank you to the fine folks at NRS for help researching this article!

Steve Morrow Founder of Paddle About
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve is an avid kayaker and founder of Paddle About. When he is not on the water, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and hiking with his family. Read more.

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