Here's Why Raft Underinflation is Common and What You Can Do About It


It’s June, and you’re running big early season water. It’s been an exhausting day, but you’re not quite done. One big move left to make. You line up for the pull, knowing that if you miss, a wrap or a flip is the likely consequence. You drop the oars and start your pull, but your boat just feels sluggish and slow. You try to brace your feet on the floor, but it’s no good, the floor is deflated and dragging in the water. You look up and see that your boat is headed exactly where you don’t want it to go...

Most people don’t know that a properly inflated boat handles and tracks much better than one that is floppy and underinflated. Manufacturers specify inflation pressure for their boats for a reason; they want you to have a good experience. Inflating to the recommended pressure gives you the best performance possible. Usually the recommended pressure is 2 to 2.5 psi, however most of the time, boaters run much lower than this. Why? Because they are afraid of overinflating and damaging their boat. The problem is that chamber pressure can change dramatically depending on air temperature, water temperature, elevation, and sun. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know exactly how tight the tubes really are. So, you just underinflate to be safe, and then live with a floppy slow boat that tacos in the first decent sized hole.

Can you push on a tube and tell whether it’s a safe 2 psi or dangerous 3 psi? Probably not. A lot of boaters rely on the “punch test” or the “thumb test” or the “drop a small pebble on the tube test” to determine the pressure in their rafts. This technique has been handed down through generations of boaters who’ve really had no better method. But, this is not an accurate way to inflate your raft. Most manufacturers recommend an pressure gauge, like our friends over at NRS.

It’s actually very difficult for people to determine pressure using the thumb or slap or rock methods. We’re just not built for it, so it’s easy to underinflate one chamber and overinflate another. When chamber pressures are not balanced, your baffles may get stressed or damaged, and your boat may not perform as you expect.

So what can you do about it? You could continue to guess, pumping your boat every morning and letting air out every afternoon, just to be on the underinflated safe side. Or, you could get an airCap pressure gauge.

At TRīB Outdoor Tech, we were tired of guessing, but never really knowing our boat’s pressure. We were tired of poor performance, taco boats, and constant pumping and deflating. So, we created airCap, the world’s first valve-integrated pressure gauge. An airCap on each chamber gives you a complete and accurate understanding of your boat’s pressure, preventing underinflation, uneven inflation, and unecessary pumping and deflating. It’s different than other pressure gauges; it replaces your valve cap and stays on your boat all the time.

airCap LF - Not Just a Pressure Gauge; It’s Part of Your Boat

airCap LF - Not Just a Pressure Gauge; It’s Part of Your Boat


Unsure about the recommended pressure for your raft, inflatable kayak, RIB, or other inflatable? We’ve got you covered with our online pressure tool. Not sure if airCap fits your boat? We’ve got you there too; check out the online valve identification tool to determine what valve is in your boat.

No more guessing about boat pressure. No more worrying about overinflation. Next time, keep your chambers evenly and fully inflated and just enjoy the water.