Tag Archives: supai adventure gear

Packraft Group Test: Supai Matkat

Packraft Test Intro  • MRS Microraft  • Aire BAKraft • Nortik Trekraft • Alpacka Yak • Summary
Like ultralight? See Anfibio Alpha XC

pgtMAT10Among other things Supai Adventure Gear (moto: ‘Where every ounce counts‘) makes what have become to be known as ‘crossrafts’, ultralight packrafts suited to gentle flatwater floats, canyoneering or crossing lakes while avoiding any kind of rough handling. In other words it’s like a slackraft pool toy, but at a fraction of the weight and made from fabric, not PVC film.
We were a bit unlucky with our Matkat so bear that in mind when reading what follows. We assumed the previous user had given our example a hard time and managed to put no less than two holes and a split in it. That’s two more punctures than I’ve collected in ten years with IKs and five years of packrafting. The Packrafting Store has since been informed by Supai that that boat was part of a batch with production flaws. Blowing the boat up out of the box revealed a puncture under the stern (not unexpected in that position) but once that was fixed another leak emerged  from a split seam.
pgtMAT02hotsunThe seam may well be a manufacturing fault, or the black boat could have been left out in the hot sun for too long (right) – a lesson I’ve learned the hard way with a previous IK and one reason I did this to my current kayak.
Had the Matkat been my boat I’d have either sent it back or hot-ironed the split shut (as I’ve successfully done on an old Alpacka seat). But I didn’t want to risk inadvertently melting a hole in the test raft, so I played it safe with some Bostik 1782. That done, the raft still seemed to lose pressure – or was it just me? I checked the cap and valve and then tried to check the exterior seam for other leaks in the bath, but the Matkat’s bulk makes this awkward to do unless you have a bathroom out of an Imperial Leather advert. So I decided I was being fussy. These ultralight crossrafts are always a bit floppy, aren’t they?
pgtMAT16But now, ten minutes downriver from Tonbridge Town Lock I wasn’t being fussy as the boat got soggier and soggier and my arms strained with the effort of hauling it through the water. Even getting in saw the boat fold up under my weight and take on water; that’s why I’d brought a bailing pump.
pgtmu-09Another ten minutes downstream and I had to call in a top-up (I couldn’t reach the short tube for fear of swamping). As air was slowly lost the boat didn’t actually get lower in the water. Instead you sank lower into it as the raft collapsed in on itself. Your backside sags at least six inches below water level making paddling the metre-wide raft even more awkward (you’ll want a long paddle with this one – even with no leaks). Pumped up it was briefly much better – or as good as a Matkat can get, but I needed another top-up before the next chute and a welcome raft change over.
pgtMAT18pgtMAT19Looking at the photos it doesn’t look that bad, does it. But that’s because, like a slackraft, the weight of a person on the water gives the the boat form. Step out (above right) and it became unnervingly limp.
fx2-jpadIt was the same for everyone in what we christened the ‘Bin Bag’. I now know how my mate Jeff felt a couple of years back, paddling his execrable slackraft for nearly a week along far northern Australia’s Fitzroy River (right). Paddling a wide,  soggy, unresponsive boat is as much fun as cycling on flat tyres. But like a slackraft, even at full pressure I doubt a Matkat’s thin fabric can’t attain rigidity of a conventional packraft. That’s the price you pay for an inexpensive boat that can almost fit inside a large jacket pocket and weighs less than my lightest carbon schmarbon stick.

supai196Robin and I briefly tested Supai’s Canyon Flatwater II (left) in late 2013 and, while both attracted to the ultralight crossraft concept, came away unconvinced. The Flatwater floated with 80-kilo Robin in it, but lacked reassuring buoyancy once anything other than the gentlest of paddling was called for. Robin was inches from shipping water over the stern and settling it off into a bobbing cycle could see it swamp (The near-freezing conditions and inappropriate clothing may have influenced our paranoia). The black Matkat is Supai’s answer to the ‘XXL version’ we hoped to see.
pgtMAT17Back on the Medway over lunch I finally tracked down a tiny hole in the top of the raft near the inflation port. I’d expect damage underneath and maybe another seam to blow, but this was the last place I’d look. So however it happened, it does make you wonder if 75D polyester is pushing things a bit too far for the realities of wilderness adventuring rather than goofing about. su-msrfabIncidentally our Matkat’s fabric didn’t look the same as the red Flatwater II we tested – there’s no embossed diamond pattern. Instead it has the same texture as the MSR water bags I compared the red boat to (right), though I can’t say the Matkat felt any thinner than the red boat.
pgtMAT20We’d hoped (and even suggested that) Supai make a longer boat with fatter tubes, something more suited to grown men carrying gear. Instead the Matkat is simply a Canyon with 8cm oversized tubes. Now at least a metre wide and 43cm wide where you sit, we weren’t even sure it would fit down the first chute out of Tonbridge. That makes it wider than the Aire BAKraft but you’re sitting up to a foot lower down, well below water level. That’s made worse with no seat. Knowing that I brought an old Alpacka seat base for everyone to use. Bare that in mind in the pictures. Above left is Lois; at 65kg the trim is just about level but she’s sitting some 4-inches higher than normal.
pgtMAT01Like the Canyon, the Matkat has seven reinforced attachment points punched out from extension tabs along the peripheral hull seam (left). They may all be better used to thread in a perimeter grab line than for attaching heavy gear. Or maybe tie gear off a grab line to avoid a thin line’s direct force on the tab’s hole. More so than other packrafts, the extremely light Supai’s will take off at the slightest gust – and if that happens on the water following a capsize you could be in trouble. Hence the suggested grab line if not even a tether when paddling in windy conditions.
pgtMAT11All day the Matkat languished at the back of the pack as each stoically endured their spell in the Bin Bag, periodically asking “how far d’you say to the next chute?” A shower hosed us down and as we neared Yalding tea shop Hannah on her second spell was getting lower and lower in the water until just her head and arms were visible above the sides. It was decided to abandon ship and enact an on-water emergency evacuation. We unclipped the Aire’s bulky backrest, Hannah crawled onto the BAKraft and with Lois they shot off downstream like a skimmed pebble. The Matkat was aired down and stuffed into a raft.
pgtMAT15CanyonvsKatI said as much when the Matkat’s dimensions were announced a couple of months agoBy taking the easy way out and using the same floor pan and internal section, Supai missed a trick by making this a fatter, wider raft (100 x 175cm, but see the intro) rather than a slimmer, longer one. As it is both Supai models could easily lose 5cm of width inside; it’s not like you’re going to be bracing the thing through Grade III whitewater. It reminds me why the Alpacka-style extended stern works so well: it adds buoyancy where it’s needed but without width – and it lengthens the water line for greater speed.
Suapi-PhotosThere is a place for an inexpensive sub-1000-gram crossraft. I could have used one myself in Turkey the other month where the 3kg weight and bulk of my Yak became a chore over 200kms. But no matter how flat the water – be it Scotland or Alaska or the Lycian shore – alone you want to feel secure mid-river, estuary or lake if a gust comes up, a swell rolls in or an oil tanker’s wake surges towards you.
The 792-g Matkat has the added buoyancy the Canyon lacks, but the claimed payload of nearly 150 kilos feels improbable in the real world; the momentum of that weight against any wave will see it plough in. The Matkat is now so wide for it’s length it paddles little better than a tractor inner tube wrapped in string (click one back in that slideshow to see what happens to Supais when used too hard).
pgtMAT06supai06And with this estimated 30% added volume over the Canyon (right) you could really use an air bag, even if they make it an optional extra. (More on inflation – and a suggested solution – in the intro). A  seat can be up to the user: they could to sit on a pack or buy a 150-gAlpacka for $25.
Sevylor TrailBotpgtMAT21To be fair a full day on a calm river is not a leaking Matkat’s forte, though it’s interesting to note it handled all the chutes, including the steep Sluice Weir, (left) without shipping any more water than the other rafts, including my snazzy Yak. As I mentioned in the Canyon review, what we wanted next was the same boat but just bigger all round (not unlike the long lost Sevylor Trail Boat, above right) because it looks like that would work. Perhaps a 75D crossraft couldn’t contain a longer hull without folding. Whatever the reason, if it ends up weighing 1106 grams, is made of a more rugged fabric and comes with an air bag, then so much the better. For other crossrafts see this.

gpt-dimchart

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.