How to Inflate Your Raft
You’ve invested in a good boat; you want to make sure it lasts a long time. Proper inflation techniques go a long way toward protecting the raft’s seams, and the baffles between chambers, from strain and damage.
In this video, Josh from NRS Repairs goes over the steps for pumping up to recommended levels while keeping equal air pressure on both sides of each internal baffle. It’s simple stuff, but doing it right is important to your boat’s longevity.
Between each of the raft’s inflation chambers, there’s a round baffle that’s glued in place. Unequal pressure on one side of the baffle can cause that glue bond to fail, resulting in a “blown baffle.” Fixing this is very difficult, often requiring a professional repair. So, the best plan is to prevent that from happening by being careful when inflating and deflating the boat.
Lay the raft out flat. If you need to install thwarts, add them before inflating the side tubes and floor. Then, inflate the floor. Floors with a pressure relief (PR) valve can be fully inflated until the PR valve releases at 2.5 psi.
Now, go around the boat filling the side chambers until they are fully formed but not tight. Then go back around the boat a couple of times adding air to the chambers until they all reach 2.5 psi. If you don’t have a pressure gauge, when you can depress the boat material approximately one-half inch with your thumb, you are quite close to 2.5 psi. You can “calibrate” your thumb by trying it on the floor that’s fully inflated, to that 2.5 psi.
You need to take the same care when deflating the boat as you did when inflating it. If you’re by yourself, go around the boat letting a little bit of air out of each chamber until the pressure is mostly exhausted. If you have help you can coordinate opening the side tube valves all at once.