Choosing the Right Boat Fender

Choosing the right Boat Fender or Boat Bumper

There are a growing number of options when it comes to selecting a boat fender. From traditional cylindrical inflatable fenders, to molded EVA foam fenders, such as the FatSac fender, round or sphere boat fenders and the recent introduction of NautiCurl’s Foam Flat Fender. Each have their unique benefits and advantages. We’ll provide an overview of fenders and let you choose what best fits your boating lifestyle.

What’s the difference between a Boat Bumper and a Boat Fender?

Often, the terms Bumper and Fender are often used interchangeably, but there’s a distinct difference. Boat Bumpers are attached to the Dock, where Boat Fenders are attached to the Boat. Products such as the NautiFender can be used in both applications, designed to attach to a boat cleat or rail, as well as to a dock pipe, dock beam or dock cleat.

Traditional Cylindrical Fenders:

Most boat owners are familiar with the double-eyed inflatable cylindrical fender. Cylindrical fenders are flexible and can provide protection for most boat types. Cylindrical fenders work best against a flat surface such as a pontoon wall, but when used on wakeboard boats, fishing boats and other runabout leisure boats, the cylindrical shape doesn’t contour well to the hull and often rides up over the dock or rail. We recommend the cylindrical fender for pontoon applications where style is not a priority.

Benefits: Low price point, variety of available color options

Disadvantages: Unsightly, can roll-up eliminating protection, often deflates over time, not best when used with curved fiberglass or aluminum hulls, bulky and difficult to stow

Foam Flat Fenders:

One of the latest innovations in boat fenders. Flat fenders such as the EVA Foam Fender by NautiCurl provides a number of advantages in comparison to traditional fenders. Flat Fenders are constructed from a compressible, mold-resistant, durable EVA foam providing long-lasting protection for most boat styles. Flat Fenders easily contour to curved hulls providing trusted protection without rolling or riding-up. Flat Fenders also allow for a lower connection point due to the integrated dock line pass-through that leaves the cleat available for tie up. The flat fender can also be used as a Boat Bumper (attached to the dock) with the 8-point rope system making attachment to a dock pipe, beam or cleat possible. Flat fenders also easily stow under a seat, in a compartment or can be used as a seat cushion.

Benefits: Stylish and modern, easy to stow, works with curved hulls, lightweight, affordable price point, used as a fender or bumper, cleat access for boat tie-up, longevity, and durability

Disadvantages: Narrow profile may not provide protection for larger vessels

Molded Fenders:

Another recent innovation is the molded foam fender. Molded fenders are typically shaped to contour to the hull of a wakeboat or runabout adding a flare of style and durability. The FatSac Foam Fender for example has a stylish shape designed primarily for wakeboard style boats. With multiple rope attachment points and it’s heavy-duty design, contoured fenders provide sufficient protection for even the roughest water conditions.

Benefits: Style, heavy duty protection, cleat access for boat tie-up, contours to curved hulls

Disadvantages: Higher price point, bulkier than flat fenders

Open Water Tie-up Fenders:

Tie up fenders are fairly new to the boating industry and replace the need for multiple fenders between the hulls of boats. Due to the variability in rail height between boats, traditional fenders need to be adjusted and located properly to provide sufficient protection when boats are tied up in open water. The FatSac Inflatable Party Bumper for example, is a long cylindrical fender that provides carefree tie-up without the fear of moving and shifting fenders.

Benefits: Protection for numerous conditions, easily inflates/deflates with typical air pump

Disadvantages: Size, requires inflation and deflation

Round Fenders:

Round fenders are commonly used for yachts and large vessels with concave hulls. With a sphere shape and integrated eye, the round fenders provide the large distance of separation for boats. The inflatable sphere comes in numerous sizes and colors. As with cylindrical fenders, when used in many applications, the round fender can roll or ride up and is difficult to store on board due to its large and awkward shape.

Benefits: Protection for large vessels, easy to deploy

Disadvantages: Size, difficult to stow, can roll or ride up boat hulls or docks

What Boat Fender is best for you?

We’ve outlined the difference between Boat Fenders with distinct advantages and disadvantages. If price is king for you, the traditional cylindrical fender may be your best option, but with an affordable price point and the most flexibility and style, the Foam Flat Fenders provide the most bang for the buck.


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