Gumotex Solar 300/Solar 1
We bought a Solar 300 in 2006, mainly for the v-light and short g-friend. Weight is 11kg (25lbs), length is just over 3 metres (10 feet) and width is 71cm (28″). It’s not self-bailing like the similar looking Safari, but is a lot more stable than the original model Safari Mk1 I had (newer ones are said to be better).
They stopped the 300 ages ago; the original Twists were the replacement. The 300 was tough little boat, even for my size of person, and especially with the improvements I made (see here). After nine years it still held air for weeks on end and never gave a single problem, I can’t see it ever wearing out and I hope the new owners enjoy it.
Coming out of the longer IK, it feels much more nippy but without being tippy. G-friend took the Solar down the Tarn in 2007, and I used it again in 2010 alongside my new packraft and occasionally since then. As you can see, my mate Yves pictured below left also took quickly to the Solar, first time out in an IK.
Our trip down the Tarn Gorge proved it was no worse in white water than the Sunny, but of course it lacks the packing space for longer trips. With no WW experience at all, g-friend soon got the hang of it after a couple of early swims and even developed the feel for skeg-free paddling. It can be done, although I found one time on a Thames training run I wish I’d remembered the skeg as I just wanted to move fast and not bother about correcting finesse. As said elsewhere, with a skeg you can power on regardless.
At 1kg a full-coat Solar is pretty heavy when it comes to lugging it around on public transport for a day paddle, but once on the water it’s a great boat and is of course a lot faster than my packraft. In summer 2010 on the currentless Thames near Oxford and with a strong headwind, I managed 9 miles in 3 hours, including rests and a couple of locks, though after 5 hours of paddling I was pooped.
Looking closely at the Solar while drying it out, I was struck how it’s built like a tough commercial raft so will last for many, many years, like all full-coat Gumboats. It still looked in great shape when I sold it in 2015 after I finally got round to greatly improving the seat and footrest and skeg, ideas which will work on many similar IKs. Details here.