Packraft versus cheap dinghy

To most people a packraft looks much like an inflatable dinghy you can get on ebay for £30. The difference is in the design and materials: bigger diametre tubes enlarged front and back mean more buoyancy plus an upturned and narrowed bow to better ride over waves. It’s also lighter, less bulky and tougher than an ebay dinghy such as the Intex Seahawk 200 pictured above (235cm x 114cm, 220kg claimed payload) which manages weighs 6kg I’ve since discovered when I persuaded a mate to buy one.
An Intex ‘pool boat’ like the blue boat, right, will be made of PVC plastic like a beach ball. Alpackas, IKs and the like are made of urethane- or rubber-coated fabric – that is the big difference. It’s like having a tent made out of bin bags versus a tent of PU-coated nylon or whatever. A bin bag tent will keep the rain off but won’t last so long. Pakboats can be pumped up stiff – critical to good performance – while retaining a pre-determined form and won’t burst when they heat up a bit in the sun or at the sight of texrolloxsome nettles. Closer examination of the Intex Sea Hawk II hull suggests an underlying fabric covered in PVC coating, but in fact it’s just the texture of the PVC – there is no fabric underlay which is why the boat is so squidgy like a balloon, even at full pressure.
Build quality less good, but it’s still a boat that floats. Is performance and durability related to price, or are old PVC dinghies the packrafts we never knew, and packrafts the ‘glorified inner tube for yuppies‘ quoted elsewhere? Summer 2011 we found out, when a mate in an Intex and me in the Yak did the Ardeche in France: short version, the Intex lasted 5 minutes…


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