Are Expensive Inflatable Paddle Boards Worth The Money?

Inflatable paddle boards have a lot of benefits over a traditional, solid one for sure. Aside from their portability and ease to store, they will definitely get you out on the water without needing a truck. They come in a variety of sizes, color schemes and prices. In this blog post, I am going to answer one of the most popular and valid questions: Are the expensive inflatable paddle boards worth the money or are the less expensive ones just fine?

Let’s get into the main things that you should consider when deciding how much money to spend on your inflatable paddle board and whether the higher price tag is worth the benefits.

My BOTE HD Aero 11′ 6″ I got for $1,149 – Image Source: Erica Fischer/

Overall Cost of the Inflatable Paddle Board

The cost of an Inflatable paddle board will typically range anywhere from $200 up to over $2000. Generally, the cost will depend on a couple different things, specifically brand, size of the board and quality of material used. In most, if not all cases, the cost of the inflatable paddle board should also include:

  • Travel/Storage Bag
  • Manual Pump
  • Removable Fin
  • Adjustable Paddle
  • Repair Kit
  • Coil Leash

There are also extra costs to add additional accessories that may not come included in your inflatable paddle board “kit”. For example, swapping the included manual pump for an electric pump will run you anywhere from $89 to upwards of $180 depending on the brand. You can learn all about inflatable paddle board pumps in this post I wrote: Inflatable Paddle Board Pumps

My manual BOTE hand pump that came with my HD Aero 11’6″ – Image Source: Erica Fischer/

If you are looking to listen to some tunes while out on the water, you’ll also need a waterproof, bluetooth speaker, which can run you anywhere from $40 all the way up to around $180. Here are some more added accessories that you may consider adding on:

  • Inflatable Paddle Board Anchor: I have the Gradient Fitness Marine Anchor (3.5 lb) which I bought for $35.99 on Amazon.
  • Dry Bag: This will come in handy for keeping your personal items dry. Personally, I have a Gecko Waterproof 30L light backpack that I paid $40 for at the local Divers Direct.
  • Paddle Board Rolling Cart: Although inflatable paddle boards are fairly light weight, it can still get pretty cumbersome having to carry your inflated paddle board a distance to the water. Paddle board carts are great assistants for this and typically range between $55 – $170.
  • Personal Flotation Device Belt: What’s to say other than this is an excellent accessory to have for added safety, especially if you will be navigating in deeper or harsher waters. Typically, these will run around $60 – $150
  • Many More! At the end of the day, there are plenty of additional accessories to choose from to help you enjoy your adventure even more. No matter what extra add-ons you choose, make sure to factor the additional costs into your budget when considering your purchase.
BOTE HD Aero 11 6 Bug Slinger Bonefish Inflatable Paddle Board Fishing Package ~$2,000 MSRP – Image Source: BOTE Boards

Board Composition: Drop Stitch Technology

Drop stitching helps give the board its shape and structure and is essentially what allows you to deflate your paddle board and roll it up for easy storing. It also helps allow you to then inflate it back up when you are ready to go back on the water.

Generally, there are 3 types of drop stitching techniques used on inflatable paddle boards:

  • Single or double layer drop stitching
    • Less expensive boards will generally be made with single layer drop stitching
      • Inflatable paddle boards with single layer drop stitching tend to be more on the spongy side and don’t maintain the same firmness than higher end boards with more durable drop stitching. This can also make your board more vulnerable to punctures, ultimately turning your inflatable board into the Titanic, which nobody wants. 
  • Fusion drop stitching
    • While the single and double layer drop stitching lack in providing the optimal thickness needed for a sturdy, durable board, the fusion technique brings a solid balance of not only combining the drop stitch fabric and plastic coating of single and double layer stitching, it also brings the much needed, added component of woven fabric. This technique ultimately results in an inflatable board that is lightweight while also providing optimal comfort and performance
  • Dual Layer
    • Aside from using the drop stitch and woven fabrics, inflatable paddle boards built using dual layer stitching include not 1, not 2 but 3 layers of plastic coating (unlike the previous 2 options) along with the added benefit of having an adhesive layer as well. Not only are the insides lined with the single layer construction, it is also laminated with an additional sheet of PVC coated fabric which creates maximum durability ensuring you can enjoy your adventure without having to worry about your board getting easily punctured, etc.. Inflatable paddle boards used with dual layer drop stitching can generally weigh up to 5 pounds more than other inflatable boards that may use one of the other techniques. Regardless of the  stitching technique used, most inflatable boards are fairly lightweight.

Inflatable Paddle Board Durability

Generally, all inflatable paddle boards, regardless of the cost, are made with a military grade PVC material that is layered and covers the drop stitch core of your inflatable paddle board. PVC was first discovered in the 1800’s but wasn’t actually used in commercial application until the early 1900’s when it was first patented by a German chemist, Eugen Baumann.

This patent didn’t come without flaws however, which led numerous companies around the world to essentially work to fill in the holes to try and bring broader awareness to the benefits and many uses of this “new” synthetic plastic. In the early 20th century, Brazil dominated the rubber industry as they were one of only a few countries that exported rubber. Due to a combination of labor scarcity, lack of competition and a few other things, the price of rubber in early 1900 was pretty high. This leads us to B.F. Goodrich, you got it, the tire company. They ended up hiring a specialty scientist named Waldo Semon, to help come up with an alternative, more affordable synthetic material to use in production.

Waldo Semon – Image Source: University of Washington Alumni Magazine

There were some struggles, especially as time moved into the Great Depression but ultimately, this scientist found his “a-ha” moment: using PVC as a water-resistant coating for fabric type materials. From here, things really took off, leading to the adaptation of PVC as insulation for wiring on military ships during the second world war. Now, bringing it back full circle to today with inflatable paddle boards. All inflatable paddle boards are made with this material as I mentioned earlier, however, not all inflatable paddle boards are made with the same amount of PVC layering. In short, here’s how durability breaks down when it comes to PVC layering and inflatable paddle boards:

  • Cheap Inflatable Paddle Boards
    • One PVC layer = less durable
  • Expensive Inflatable Paddle Boards
    • Two or more layers of high quality PVC in fact, the most durable inflatable paddle boards use up to 4 layers!

Ultimately, I suggest NOT compromising on quality. It comes down to the old adage “you get what you pay for”.  If you want something that is higher quality, has more rigidity and will last you longer, consider putting some extra money aside to invest in a mid-range to higher-end inflatable paddle board. Regardless of which ride you choose for your next adventure, enjoy it and make it yours!

If you’re interested in more articles I’ve written on inflatable boards, check out the Paddle Boarding section of this websiteEnjoy your adventures!

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