Internationally there are around a million soft bottom inflatable boats (also known as SIBs).

They are used for a multitude of purposes from fishing to camping, and most seem to agree that the big advantage of the soft bottom is that they can be deflated and packed into a confined space and then inflated when required.

In Australia, there are a few with a negative view of soft bottom inflatables.

The criticism is not warranted – please let me explain.

In the 1990’s there were a number of prominent inflatable boat manufacturers manufacturing soft bottom boats such as Avon, AB Inflatables, Zodiac, Sylinger, Norwhal, Valiant, and Beaufort to name a few.

They are made from different fabrics and were generally all well made and people had confidence in the quality and longevity.

The problem was they were expensive due to high labour and material costs in the United States and in Europe where they were mainly based.

In the early 2000’s the much less expensive inflatable soft bottom boats from Asia started to arrive as some of the Asian countries began to expand in manufacturing.

These new low cost SIBs produced by a number of Asian countries looked very similar, and their boast was they were just as good as their European and American counterparts at around one quarter of the price.

The American and European manufacturers could not compete on price and in a relatively short space of time either ceased to continue to manufacture soft bottom inflatables, or they went out of business altogether.

Although they looked very similar, the difference was with the very cheap Asian soft bottom inflatables was made with an inferior cheap PVC that was of a very poor grade with little or no UV stabilization, and the seams were glued with glue was of a poor quality. There were also in inferior valves, and poor quality rubstrake and fittings were used.

The result was that within a relatively short timeframe of being used, they started falling apart.

Some fell apart with the unpacking out of the box.   Within a few years the reputation of soft bottom inflatables was badly damaged. It was regarded as a cheap and nasty Asian produced “throw away” that had safety issues.   Many people started avoiding them due to their bad reputation.

Thankfully, things have now changed.

It is now possible to obtain a very good quality , soft bottom inflatable made in either Europe or the United States of America, that are technologically advanced, well made, safe, and can be expected to last.

They are also price competitive .

Automated manufacturing in high tech plants, together with competitive pricing of good fabrics and components have now ensured that SIBS are now much better quality and the Asian manufacturers have simply not been able to match this level of quality.

Fabrics are now vastly improved allowing more abrasion and are also puncture resistant. There are new methods of manufacturing with welding of PVCs and PUs which has resulted in vastly improved tubes –  including being able to hold pressure, which in turn has resulted in better performance

In Australia, RIB Force Inflatables is proud to sell and recommend the Aurora range of soft bottom inflatables which are made in Europe by Adventure Inflatables using European made components. The advanced technology and improved methods of manufacture includes high tech welding.

Adventure has a long history of manufacturing inflatable boats for the military, police and surf rescue. Their products are tried and tested.  A soft bottom inflatable boat is a perfect addition for a 4 x 4, caravanning , camping, fishing , diving and general leisure and the Aurora range will provide fun knowing it is safe and will last.

For more information contact RIB Force Inflatable Boats on 1800 RIB FORCE or visit