As temperatures drop and snow falls, this is a good time of year to give your inflatable kayak or paddleboard a little extra love and attention. Although inflatables are incredibly durable, a little extra elbow grease and maintenance will ensure peak performance for the lifetime of your vessel. Here are some basic care instructions to maximize the longevity of your vessel.
It’s important to hose down your inflatable boat or board after each use. Removing grime and grit is key in preserving the integrity of the PVC, thermoform, or any polymer an inflatable is composed of. Spray your boat down with water after each use and use your hand to rub off any mud or debris. A medium to high pressure hose nozzle can be useful here. Occasionally wash your vessel with boat cleaner. This is an important step because grit, even microscopic, can wear into creases on your boat or board and cause weak spots or leaks when folded up, overtime.
Washing off your boat is also a best practice to avoid bringing micro fauna from one waterway to another. This is also known as transporting invasive species and is the reason for many states moving to requiring an invasive species permit.
After a good wash, before storing for the winter or a long period, 303 your craft. 303 is essentially a sunscreen and a hydrating agent that helps keep vessels from cracking or drying out. Best practices suggest waiting until the craft is 100% dry, then spray and rub on an even coat with a microfiber towel. After application, wait 15 minutes, then buff out remaining liquid with a second, dry, microfiber cloth. Find 303 at any river supplier and microfiber cloths at any auto parts store.
Manufacturers recommend treating your craft with 303 every 3-5 weeks depending on volume of use, season and sun exposure.
Once the vessel is completely dry, roll her up and place on a shelf, in a cupboard or in the original transport backpack. Keeping dust and grime off your now clean and treated craft is critical for longevity. Alternately, you can leave the craft inflated but at a low psi so as not to over stretch the seams.
Krystal’s Personal Maintenance Tips
- While preparing boat or board for storage, keep the craft on a clean surface such as a tarp. This way, when it’s rolled, it won’t pick up grime off the floor.
- A very soft brush can be used to wipe away grit.
- While cleaning the craft, look for air bubbles or listen for gurgles to identify potential leaks. The soapier the water, the easier to spot.
- If you can’t get your hands on boat cleaner, diluted Dr. Bronner’s has been known to do the trick. Mix .5 tablespoon to 1.5 quarts of warm water.
- Close all the valves before washing and while boating.
- Apply 303 during the season as needed. Remember, 303 is like a sunscreen to boats. In sunny, arid areas, you may want to do this as often as once a month.
With these maintenance tips, you will be able to keep your inflatable in top shape for years of paddling. We’ll see you on the water!