How to Choose Boat Ballast Bags
As the heart of the ballast system, a ballast bag is the critical piece to get correct when setting your boat up for the best performance. Read along as we review the most important characteristics of a ballast bag so you can make an informed decision when shopping for your next ballast solution.
Table of Contents:
Ballast bags really come down to three main components, construction, design, and features. How those three interact will determine the quality of the product you get and the outcome you achieve behind the boat from a wake, or wave standpoint.
Ballast Bag Construction
First up, let's take a look at construction. Modern balance bags at their core are constructed from a similar set of materials and processes. The foundation of every modern ballast bag is PVC knife coated textiles, with a nylon base, for strength and durability. Although the PVC formula can vary from one brand to the next, they all feature similar characteristics in terms of the following:
- abrasion resistance
- puncture resistance
- UV stability
Durability comes from both the woven nylon base, which prevents the material from stretching, deforming or tearing, and the dual coated application of PVC on both sides. Inherent here is a trade off between durability and usability. The thicker the PVC coatings, the more durable the bag construction, (especially against abrasion and puncture resistance) but the bulkier, harder to fold, store and manage the bag will be.
After material, the construction process is comprised of generally two operations. The first is a radio frequency welding process that uses high frequency energy to heat and bond similar materials. In this case, that process is used to place the port connection into the panel of the bag for installation of fittings and connectors down the road. This process is shared by all ballast bag manufacturers, so this isn't a differentiator from one brand of ballast bag to the other.
The second process is the hot air welding process, which is used to join the panels of the ballast bag together. This is similar to sewing sections of a garment, but instead of using thread to make a mechanical bond, the hot air welding process heats the material. Hot air welding uses pressure while the material cools to form a uniform mechanical connection between the various panels of the ballast bag. Here is where there is a difference in construction quality, both in terms of process and materials: the leading bags use a one inch seam for additional strength as well as more tolerance and forgiveness, so that is our recommendation to look for when considering your new ballast bag's construction.
Ballast Bag Design
Perhaps the most important aspect of a ballast bag is the design and specifically how that bag fits into the boat where it will be used.
In general, you have two fundamental types of bag designs:
- Universal bags: generic geometric shapes, typically rectangles that may or may not fit well in a given boat
- Specific-fit solutions: bags that are designed specifically for an individual boat or boat generation (make/model/year range)
WakeMAKERS FIT series products consist of three different fit options for specific-fit solutions:
- ExactFIT: Our most technologically advanced ballast bags available. Based on our proprietary structured laser scanning process that allows us to capture all of the 3D geometry of the boat, our ExactFIT Series bags fit perfectly, with no wasted material or space, giving you maximum capacity while also minimizing the chances of damage to the bag or the surrounding surfaces of the boat.
- DirectFIT: Ballast bags are designed for our DirectFIT Series are based on dimensions provided to us from specific sources, typically the boat manufacturer directly, or from bags that have been sent directly to WakeMAKERS for our engineering team to deconstruct and build an exact replica
- CustomFIT: Ballast bags built to fit your exact specifications are part of our CustomFIT Series. Choose the length, width and height and the location and number of ports.
Much like purpose-built formats for your vehicle, these specialty built ballast bags give you perfect fit for optimized capacity of the ballast bag, storage in the boat and to prevent any type of damage to the boat from occurring. If you have the choice to select between a universal off the shelf ballast bag, or a fit specific ballast bag, you're always better off to choose the option that is intended and designed specifically for your boat.
Ballast Bag Features
Finally, you have the features of the ballast bag. These are things like the size and type of port connection, any type of additional add on value, like fitment guides, or serial number applications that can make the ownership process better, over time, and easier from an installation and use standpoint.
Also, be aware of the type of connection that's being made to the bag and what it will be used for as that will vary depending on the application. So it's important that you select a ballast bag that will support the type of connection that you're looking for, whether that's integration into an existing ballast system, a new automated ballast system, or used with a portable pump.
Effectively, all ballast bags can be used in any of the above applications. With the caveat being certain bags have a proprietary connector for the portable pump application they'll be used with that, much like an iPhone and Apple's proprietary lightning cable. Depending on the brand of ballast bag you select, you'll be limited as far as the brand of portable ballast pump that you're able to use to fill and drain that bag.
Outside of that, most bags give you the flexibility both in terms of the type of connector that's available to thread into the port in the bag, as well as the locations of the port on the bag to accommodate really any application that you're likely to encounter.
If you're unsure, again, making use of a fit specific bag that's designed for your individual boat will ensure that you have the correct quantity and location of connections to integrate into the plumbing that exists in the boat for easy installation. Looking for a specific upgrade? Check out our Boat Finder Tool for ballast applications specific to your boat.
Hopefully that helps give you an overview of ballast bags, how they're designed, the materials that are used, and the processes for construction, as well as the features and connections that are utilized.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to reach out to a product advisor. You can email us, @supportwakemakers.com. Call us at 888-338-6085. Live chat with us on our website, or leave a comment on this article.