Tag Archives: Sevylor Trail boat

Supai Flatwater Canyon II packraft review

Full trip report here (mostly walking)
June 2015: Supai Matkat review

supai196At a verified 670g (23.6oz) including an added grab line, Supai Adventure Gear’s Flatwater Canyon II ($300/€290) must be among the world’s lightest and most compact boats. Before a winter storm blew our plan off supai01the map, the trip we’d lined up in northwest Scotland was ideal for the Flatwater: short crossings saving lengthy detours or risky deep wading, but no extendedor exposed paddling.

Fabrication
Examining the deflated raft beforehand, it became clear it was ingeniously composed of just four pieces of flat material: the top and bottom ‘rings’ which define the hull shape, an inner hull wall joining the top to bottom, and the floor fixed under the completed ring. You could almost make one yourself were it not for the heat-welded seams of at least half an inch (one inch on the floor).
su-msrfabdromoNo fabric details on SAG’s website, but the Packraft Store states: ’75 denier polyester with single, innerside urethane coating’. This whole denier thing can be a bit misleading, the raft fabric looks and feels similar in thickness to my MSR Dromlite water bags (right) made from 200 denier, PU-coated Cordura (nylon?), but the Flatwater polyester has what looks like a reassuring ripstop texture (visible left). And as we know from our studies in IK hull fabrics, polyester stretches less than nylon and so is more suited to inflatable boat applications than compact water storage.
su-tabsu-floorspotsWhere the seams overlap on the outside edge they’ve included seven reinforced tabs (right) to use as attachment points (a weak point on my non-ripstop Dromlites, even with an eyelet). The floor is made of the same weight fabric and shows what look like ‘spot welds’ along the inch-wide seam (left).
supai03That’s it, apart from a big threaded inflation port onto which screws a white cap fitted with a 18-inch hose topped with a blue twist-lock valve (left). You blow the boat up by mouth (took me about 45 breaths) then top up to operating pressure with the twist lock, like on an Alpacka. But unlike an Alpacka the long hose means you’re able to further top up the pressure from the water where inflatable boats initially sag as they cool. Plus you could potentially manage a slow leak in the same way.Sevylor TrailBot
The hull form tapers and narrows towards the bow to resemble a blunt wedge, similar to old Sevylor Trail Boat (right). Like all packrafts and even slackrafts, the added buoyancy (tube diameter) in the stern counteracts the mass of the paddler’s weight. There’s no seat and a new boat comes with a repair kit with full repair instructions on the SAG website.

The dimensions I’ve come up with are:
• 157cm long
• 92cm wide
• 106cm long inside
• 41cm max inner width
• 17cm wide at the feet
• 28cm high at the back (= tube diameter)
• 22cm high at the front (≤ tube diameter)

supai-packraft-dimensions

candimsSome of my measurements (checked several times and now confirmed by the Packrafting Store) vary greatly from those still posted on the SAG website in mid-2015 (snapshot above right) which have their Canyon over 10% bigger, inside and out. Even if they’re factoring in ‘paddler squidge’ making more room inside by pushing on the hull, that won’t make the boat seven inches longer. If this large discrepancy matters to you I’d suggest you contact the vendor before buying.
As for buoyancy, SAG quote ‘250lb’ (113.4kg) while the Packraft Store suggests a more realistic 95kg. Robin briefly paddled the raft with his pack which we thought added up to about 95-100kg. That felt like the limit once a light breeze came up the valley, and required gentle paddling to avoid too much cyclic bobbing and possible swamping.
supai99With the weight; the Store states 633g, SAG quote 24oz (680g). As mentioned, with a grab line and traces of dirt, our boat comes in at 670g on the IK&P calibrated kitchen scales (left). I won’t quibble over 40 grams; to be able to paddle across a loch in a boat weighing less than my trousers is quite something.

On the water
supai04su-mapThe air was calm but temperatures were close to freezing as we set off to cross the eastern narrows on Loch Lurgainn below Stac Pollaidh mountain.
We’d originally planned to come over in the other direction from the Culnacraig shore, but the storm which went on to wreak havoc across Britain nixed that plan (story here). So today we were just taking a 10-mile day trip with a short paddle, from Stac car park southwest back to Altandu.

supai06

I tried to get directly over the two boats to get an equal perspective but I still think this shot makes the Supai appear a little smaller than it really is. I make the Yak ~42% longer.

‘Fragile and small’ had been Robin’s first impressions after Sven from the Packraft Store in Germany sent us the raft to evaluate. Robin had recently upgraded to a couple of Gumotex Twist IKs so may not have been impressed by the Supai’s thin fabric. I had more faith in that, but as for the size, I too anticipated that SAG had cut it a bit fine with the Flatwater II, even if it lived up to their motto: ‘where every ounce counts’.
Supai-and-Exped-Schozzel-PumpbagDown on the loch shore, even with a helpful breeze to fill my Yak’s bag, inflation time for both boats was actually the same, although by the end of it Robin was staggering around a bit. As Tim Evans found on his trip, other inflator bags (right) can be adapted to avoid passing out.
Now, laid alongside my Alpacka Yak (same width but 66cm or over two feet longer), to me the Flatwater’s proportions rather too closely resembled a slackraft I skinned from a Sevylor pool toy a year or two back. I knew that with my weight of about 100kg in gear, I’d be pushing this boat’s limit. Without a drysuit I didn’t want to risk it.
supai10It took some prodding to get packrafting newb Robin (80kg + clothes) in the Supai and I’m not sure I blame him. A sudden move could see the stern dip down and douse the butt. supai08After fitting his closed cell mat to keep warm and protect the thin floor, he set off for a quick spin and soon realised there wasn’t so much to worry about. Paddling gingerly with his home-made paddle (a broom stick, two sawn-down buckets and zip ties) he did a few loops while learning to control the annoying yawing you get with short packrafts and slackrafts, as well as managing the less welcome bobbing which might amplify into a back-end pour over. Yawing keeps the speed down which may be just as well. Start paddling too fast and the bow will rise with a corresponding drop at the stern when slowing down, again risking a pour over in wavy conditions.
supai14Having established he wasn’t going to sink with all hands, I lowered Robin’s 10-kg pack onto his legs then hopped into my Yak. The pack’s added frontal weight should minimise the Supai’s yawing – at least that’s the effect on my Yak. But it’s well known that first time in a new packraft, especially a short one like the Flatwater, paddling efficiently is an acquired knack. Our extra chilly scenario (not helped by his experimental B&Q paddle) meant that Robin couldn’t really relax or bomb around in the Supai. (I tried hisBQ B&Q but soon sent it back as it brought in unwanted splash all over my boat). A gust rolled up the valley, rippling the loch’s surface, adding further to the feeling of anxiety in the Supai. From my PoV it looked like the stern was more than half sunk at times – and half sunk on a round tube makes pour-overs all the easier.
supai18I skimmed over to the other side and got out to get some long shots and was reminded yet again what a great boat my Yak is. No worries about getting in clumsily, sudden winds or carrying Robin’s pack. Sat here a day earlier when a gale was ripping through at an average of 35mph and gusting to twice that, it may have been a different story, but my long-bodied, yaw-suppressing, high-sided, tough hulled Yak inspires confidence, even without the spray skirt.
fullyakThe price you pay is weight and bulk. Ready to paddle, at 3.1kg with seats, heel pad, pack attach and lead,plus other straps and some mini krabs, my boat is 4.5 times heavier than the Supai as tested, and even more bulky when you add in the blow bag, skirt and repair kit: the red bag shown right.
Robin slowly waddled over to the south edge of the loch and got out with care before pulling the plug and rolling it up. As on any inflatable, the floor is vulnerable and we discussed ways of getting round this. One problem is the Supai’s floor glues to the hull ring above the lowest points in the hull tubes which means the undersides of the hull are actually lower than the floor (until you sit in it on the water). Using a thicker floor panel supai20won’t eliminate all possible wear. Robin is a versatile home-fabricator (as his B&Q paddle proves) and we decided the least invasive way of protecting the entire underside – hull and floor – would be to string a sheet of whatever you like from the peripheral half-inch hull seam (the seven reinforced tabs not being quite enough to do the job). No messy, irreversible, crease-inducing gluing required, just a line of holes along the seam plus a drawstring. Pre-emptive protection is something I’ve done to my Alpackas’ ballistic nylon floor and although it won’t look too neat, a floor sheet would enhance the less robust Supai’s undercarriage, despite a weight penalty.

Our conclusion
supai21
He may have got used to it over time, but the Supai felt too skimpy for 80-kilo Robin. Ill-dressed on the day and over-fed in general, I didn’t even try to get in. Build quality is great and the fabric I could live with; it’s much better than slackraft PVC and the extra care needed in handling is well worth the weight saving over an Alpacka. Factoring in experience, company (support), weather conditions and operator weight, the Supai felt right on the limit. Initially you’re reluctant to paddle normally for fear of swamping which could turn exponential. Alongside a Yak it’s a pretty slow too, although I don’t think that’s a flaw. My Yak is slower than my IK which in turn is slower than … As long as it makes progress, a boat is as fast as it is.


alpacka-scoutAlpacka’s Scout might be a fairer comparison with the Flatwater II. According to Alpacka stats it weighs 1450g, is 4.5cm narrower, 2cm shorter inside and 26cm longer overall, while costing at least $200 more in the US. That still puts the Supai well in the ballpark on weight and cost.
Although it looks to have been designed for the canyon lands of southwest USA, for the lighter paddler the Supai could a great packraft for less predictable Scottish conditions involving short, flatwater crossings. The negligible weight really opens out the options and means you don’t have to get too fanatical about the rest of your gear which can translate into greater comfort.
supai11I knew this even before I saw the boat, but what I’d love to see is a Flatwater XXL more closely matching my Yak’s (or my) size. I’d happily trade the extra 8cm of width the Supai has at the hips for fatter and higher tubes all round, plus another 10cm added to interior length. It’s hard to think that would add up to much more than a kilo overall, but would reward the portlier or overnight-equipped paddler with a more versatile boat able to deal with dodgier conditions. Let’s hope this is part of Supai’s game plan.

Photos also by Tim Evans who writes:

I got interested in packable boats as I love both walking and being on the water. My first major trip was in an Alpacka Yak from Whistler to VancouverI hiked for 2 days, paddled the Cheakamus River for a day (with some easy whitewater), then paddled 24 miles of ocean inlet back to Vancouver. This trip was only possible because of the packraft. Then I bought a Supai and did 35km through a lake system north of Vancouver that included a number of portages. I saw a pair with a canoe which they pushed on a trolley through the portages with 200lbs of gear. It took them hours to go a few km. I did the 4-day trip with 16lbs of gear including food, just to see if it could be done (it can). I could have jogged through the portages with my little boat tucked under my arm. The Supai was a light as it gets, but SLOW for any sort of distance.

Read about Tim’s superlight IK here.

Packrafts; alternatives to Alpacka

Updated summer 2018. Did you miss the general packraft intro?

supai22For sporty rivers, inshore use and touring, Alpacka’s comprehensive and innovative range lead the field for many years, but several alternatives are now on the market. Some copy the original Alpackas closely, some are ‘crossrafts‘ suited only to calm rivers, short crossings and flatwater. They prioritise ultra light weight over durability which can be a gamble outside of shallow, tropical lagoons. As in Alpacka’s range, others are designed to carry heavier loads, be as light as possible or for all-out white water
slackieslackersDon’t forget that at any waterside holiday resort you can always buy cheap PVC ‘slackraft’ pool toys that are OK while they last. Slackrafts get their own page on IK&P and are a great way of investigating the packrafting experience before you splash out on the real thing.

pakGTbannerMost of the boats described below I’ve only seen and evaluated from pictures, but in 2015 we tested four packrafts from MRS, Aire, Nortik and Supai alongside my 2014 Alpacka Yak. To read more about our actual observations and conclusions (as opposed to this page’s web speculation) click this or the banner on the left.S1 - 44

See also the MRS Nomad S1 kayakraft (right)


A word about denier – a unit of measurement used to describe the weight (not the thickness) of a material. It is calculated on the mass in grams of a single 9000m strand using one 9000-m long strand of silk as a reference for one denier). It’s a mistake to think a fabric made from 210D nylon will be three times thicker and three times stronger than 70D. The thread or yarn used ought to weigh three times more so will be stronger and more resistant to tearing, but not as a factor of the D-rating.


Crossrafts
What have been dubbed crossrafts are sub-category of packrafts – very light rafts or ‘trail boats’ made from nylon or polyester with a coating onside (like your tent or backpack) as opposed to much more durable exterior coating found on TPU; the shiny stuff of a normal packraft.
They are best suited to crossing calm bodies of water rather than paddling alfa - 4along them, far less tackling white water, though this doesn’t seem to stop people trying. The low prices and light fabric enables weights of well under a kilo, making the link between slackrafts and packrafts. But because of the fabric you do lose out on durability, performance and response from the stiffer TPU hulls found on packrafts like an Alpha XC (left) which still weighs much less than 2kg and gives you more peace of mind when travelling along in remote locales.

Supai Flatwater Canyon II
supai-packraft-dimensionsAs the name suggests, the 670g Supai Flatwater II is an ultra-light trail boat suited to crossing small lochs, canyoneering or following calm rivers. With its narrowed and tapered bow, it resembles the much admired Sevylor Trail Boat – the Lost Prince of Slackrafts – and at the time appeared to be a more sophisticated and notably lighter take on the FlytePacker (below). The Supai’s dimensions as measured by me added up to 92cm wide, 157cm long and 106cm inside. We tried one – read about it here. A couple of years later we also tried the fatter Matkat version too.


NRS Packraft nrspackraft
NRS’ tough MaverIK introduced me to inflatable kayaking in Idaho all those years ago – I nearly bought one right on the spot. A while back they added a packraft to their line up. At 203cm long and 91cm wide (33cm x 142cm inside), the NRS Packraft is a roomy boat weighing 3.35kg with the removable floor, or 5.6lbs / 2.54kg without, so it’s too heavy to be a true crossraft.
Like a Supai it’s made from PU-coated nylon: 70D in the tubes and a floor in 210D. There’s a seat pad too to get your bum higher than your feet, necessary for a comfortable and efficient paddling posture. Like the discontinued Feathercraft BayLee (bottom of the page), the NRS has two chambers with simple one-way Boston valves as found on £20 slackrafts and many packrafts now. An inflation bag is an extra $30.
But check out the NRS website reviews – not such glowing reports with regards to durability. It does seem a rather half-backed effort which is a shame as NRS IKs and rafts are famously tough. This guy took his down a rapid-strewn river in Oregon. You may want to skim down to the last few paragraphs. And this guy in the UK bought one in 2015 for more recreational paddling to which the NRS Packraft may be better suited.


Flyweight Designs
FlytePacker-1Supply comes and goes and perhaps may have gone for good, but Flyweight Designs produce an ultra-basic 200-D coated nylon FlytePacker (right) for about $315.
Stats are 1270g, 107cm wide and 178cm long, with a claimed payload of 140kg.
 This version is less wide and a bit longer than the original FlytePacker and so compares with the Supai Matkat we tested in 2015.
FWDFWD’s other boat is the more conventionally proportioned CrossFlyte (right). FWD use the inner tube plus outer skin approach, both from 70D coated nylon. An inflatable floor may fit in there too. Weight is 1590g and it’s 185cm long, 101-104cm wide – nothing special when you compare it to Anfibio’s TPU Alpha XC which I bet is more robust. There are four attachment points on the bow as well as tape rowlocks on the sides.
Looks like both boats use Boston valves, a simple and cheap way of getting more than lung pressure in there and still works with an air bag. Even then, I have a feeling these inexpensive, thin-skinned rafts make for very light but saggy and unresponsive boats – in other words a crossraft to merely get you to the other side.

rutaRuta Locura make a licensed 75D version of the LWD that Klymit used to make (LWD stands for ugly duckling, btw). It weighs under 800 grams (left) and so puts it between the Supais. Me, I’d skip a cup of coffee and take on the extra few hundred grams or just save up and again, get something like an Alpha XC, a ‘thin-tubed’ Anfibio which weighs 1800g all in.
LWDDODavid O from Oregon was last seen persevering with his Klymit, and after trying to make his own packraft from bin bags (right) has set about adapting his Klymit LWD for heavy-duty ops. More here or in the vid below which contains scenes some viewers may find unnerving.


Advanced Elements Packlite
aepacklitePackraft attempts to meet kayak with a splash of slackraft graphics: behold the Advanced Elements Packlite ‘splackraft’Fabric is a similar ripstop PU-coated polyester as used on the Supai (denier unknown). What they call ‘military valves’ (i.e.: IK valves as opposed to Boston valves) are used on the two-chamber hull so the thing ought to pump up firm. That might be the problem as they sem to burst.
The I-beam floor is inflated with a regular twist lock valves to avoid over-pressurisation. The deck net becomes a carry bag and there are a few D-rings, plus the AE signature moulded rubber handle. You won’t get far without that.
Price is $299 and it has to be said this looks like a great combination of interior space, shape and weight, and claims a realistic 250lbs/113kg payload, but you can’t help equating those naff ‘world map’ graphics with a crap pool toy. Tubes look a bit slim and low and it needs a bulky pump, but overdo it and you risk leaks or outright bursts. The video below features an eminently svelte paddler; you wonder if it would sprint so briskly with a bloater like me in it. As is often the case – the genuine reviews on amazon tell the full story. Caveat emptor on this one.


alfa - 83fibsAnfibio
The Anfibio Packraft Store in Germany offers many brands of packrafts and collaborates and sells MRS from China (we tried the MRS Microraft). Lately the Store has co-designed their own brand of Anfibio packrafts which are among the lightest in anfisigmatheir class. We tried the Alpha XC (above left). From just €470 + seat, a great deal for a light paddler.
The range includes the Delta MX and Sigma TX, a compact double (right) which is 1.6m long inside, weighs just over 2kg, is rated to carry 220kg and goes from €680 plus seats.


Kokopelli
With a small range of models from lightweight to white water, as well as tandems (two models are sold in Europe by Packrafting Store), the distinctively angular shape of US-made Kokopelli packrafts sets them apart. Another distinction is the use of a Leafield valve you’d find on a IK or whitewater raft which inflate to higher pressures with kokoleafpumps. And yet Kokopelli packrafts still inflate with regular air bags and then top off with a detachable mouth tube. It seems like overkill. See this video where they say you can inflate up to 2psi. A K-Pump will easily do that but it’s probably not possible by lung unless you’re 1970s muscleman Franco Columbo who managed to blow up and burst a hot water bottle.
Certainly for paddling efficiency you want as firm a boat as possible, especially once a packraft gets beyond a certain length. But over-inflate it (or leave it in the hot sun) and it may well rupture a seam. (I did that with an IK once.). So lung pressure is safest.
kokonirvThe Kokopelli range includes the Nirvana white water boat (left) which comes as a self-bailer or with a deck. Decked packrafts are two-a-penny now but self-bailing is a more unusual solution to white water packrafting, more common on big white water rafts where you sit on thwarts high above the wet floor.
In a self-bailing packraft or kayak a thick inflated floor pad is needed (or just big fat seats) to get you above the water that will always be present kokoflooraround the floor. Holes round the edges (small picture right, and like the discontinued Baylee, below) see excess water flow out. What pours in over the sides flows right out the draining holes until the water level reaches equilibrium; the boat cannot get swamped.

selfbfailer

 

cropped-ikbailers11.jpg
I know from IKs that self-bailing can mean a higher centre of gravity due to the thick floor or seat which can lead to instability, but just as with full-size rafts, with wider, flat-bottomed packrafts that’s probably much less of an issue. Depending on how fast it drains, for whitewater I think I’d prefer a bailing packraft to a deck and skirt, but that’s partly why I also prefer open IKs.
twainKokopelli’s other main boat is the more sedate and roomy tandem Twain, over 3 metres long weighing nearly 7kg with all the bits including a front seat with a proper backrest, but with 225cm or well over 7 feet of length inside. Two tall adults and gear will not be cramped.
Unusually again, the Twain features the Leafield valve, an inflatable floor but also a removable skeg at the back like an IK. You’d think a long boat like this would not have tracking issues any worse than regular sized packrafts.
A packraft like this, as long as a kayak but running on lung-pressure psi, will need all the help it can get to be rigid and not paddle like a soggy Sevylor. Blow it up as hard as you can but I’m not sure a regular low-psi floor will add that much. It’s known that the best packrafts can take much more pressure than we can fill them with – up to 6-8 psi I’ve been told before something goes. Are we already knocking on the door of longer packrafts with high-pressure drop-stitch floors? A detailed Twain review here.


KraftOver in Australia or New pakraZealand? Then look up PacKraft who make their own boats to order and also sell Kokopelli.


sputnixSputnik packrafts
Latest on the scene are Sputnik sputlogpackrafts found on ebay from under £600. Looks like an Austrian design or brand that’s made in Russia by TimeTrial.
There will be a certain kudos in having enigmatic Cyrillic on your boat but, not unlike the German-designed/Russian made Nortiks (maybe even the same factory?), from 3.7kg for the Sputnik 1, these are relatively heavy boats using tough 420-D sputnikpkkhulls with heavy 650g/m2 PVC floors when most others use 210D hulls and 420 TPU floors. Remember: heavy does not always equal sput3robust and durable, as with MTBs it can just mean cheaper.
Sputnik 1 numbers are: 250cm x 100cm, 30cm tubes, a very generous if not perhaps baggy 40cm width and ballpark 125 inner length with a load capacity 150kg. The range goes right up to a Sputnik 3 (left) which is a true double at no less than 3.5m long (2.25m inside) with a quarter-ton payload weighing in from 5 kilos.
It says they come with a basic inflation bag valve (like old Alpackas) or the Boston-like one-way valve which you can pump up to a little beyond lung power (a better choice IMO, especially for the longer tandem), as well optional fitted kayak decks for white watering.

Longshore International EX280. Click this

cropped-longdims.jpg


Feathercraft Baylee River Runner: Feathercraft have stopped making boats
FCBL1The naming is a bit confusing but Canadian portable kayak makers Feathercraft produce a couple of packrafts under the BayLee River Runner label. Several years ago Alpackas were actually made under contract at the FC factory in BC, so something like this was bound to happen as packrafting caught on.
Their one-person BayLee 1 River Runner is packraft that comes as a standard open boat (above right; 2.95kg; $1050); with a spray skirt (left; 3.4kg) or with a self-bailing floor (4.54kg – $1400 – see below).
As far as I can work out they’re all based on a 2m x 94cm hull with big 30cm tubes. There are larger self-bailing BayLee/River Runners called the Bolder and Beast, but these models weigh up to 9kg so can’t really be considered packrafts. All of them come with optional skegs which are probably more useful for rowing the larger omnidirectional versions.
ebayleefcinflaterAll BayLees are made with two air chambers, left and right, and each chamber is RF welded and then glued and taped together so there are only visible seams at each end giving a much smoother look and less chance of bad seams turning leaky. They also feature chunky, one-way Halkey Roberts rafting valves on each chamber, as well as twist lock top-off valves. Rafting valves may seem like overkill but do mean that with a pump rather than an airbag you can get a good, firm pressure in there (and which does make the twist-locks redundant). Indeed the self bailing BayLee (below) does come with a pump.
The self-bailing BayLee (left and right) drains fast, just like big, white water rafts. Although this adds about a kilo over the skirt version (based on the specs above; FC claim less), it has a higher seat making the boat marginally less stable. Note the rudimentary leg brace on the left, too – presumably it unclips easily. For pure white water packrafting this self-bailing system is probably better than the Feathercraft’s basic spray deck. Alpacka’s Alpackalypse which came out a couple of years later has a more sophisticated, creek boat-like solution to the interminable packraft deck problem.

pakghostAlpacka Ghost Withdrawn
For 2015, Alpacka make no bones about the fact that the new Ghost crossraft is not as durable as their regular boats. It’s small too – about six feet long or the size of their Scout, and 10-inch tubes means not as buoyant. But you’d hope the 20D TPU fabric might be tougher than PU-coated nylon. Their 2000-gram Curiyak (see below) in the same fabric might make an interesting crossraft for the larger person with gear