Submitted: 04-23-2007 by srs029
I researched long and diligently before buying this boat. Thanks to those who posted their opinions here--it's tough to demo inflatables in my part of the world (I got to lift a Safari at Canoecopia last year, but that's the closest I could get) so reviews like these were very helpful.
I wanted an inflatable for the space and transport advantages, but I could see that much of what was on the market might pack well but paddle poorly. I hoped to avoid that with the Safari, and it looks like I've been successful. I also wanted something versatile--I'll never paddle class IV with it, but the idea of using the same boat for mild whitewater and flatwater appealed to me.
The first few times, I took it out without the skeg in the upper Mississippi (current but no rapids) and it was very responsive. It made the mild eddy turns I tried almost by itself, and it ferried easily too, although I think back ferries are going to take a little more practice. Both upstream and down, it tracked better than I expected, leading me to think that maybe with enough practice the skeg would never be necessary. I've since changed my mind about that. I took it out on one of our larger lakes on a challenging day, with winds 20-30 mph and a deep, hectic chop. On a whim, I bolted the skeg on first. Wow. It's a whole different boat. Even while sliding over the whitecaps like a soap bubble, it holds a course in a beam wind better than my (unskegged) 14' hardshell. Running downwind, it never offers to broach. Upwind or quartering upwind can get a little wet, but I had expected that. The self-bailing feature quickly eliminated any water that came on board. You're fairly exposed in this boat so wear some neoprene and drybag your groceries if the water is big and cold.
On the subject of groceries, I have high hopes of being able to use the Safari for overnighters. The difference between my 175# and the 220# rated capacity is a little more than I carry when backpacking, so it should be possible. A 10 or 15 liter drybag fits in front, and at least a 50 liter in back.
The main worry I had was that I wouldn't fit the boat but at 6'2" with fairly long legs, I have plenty of room.
Setup, packing and daily maintenance seem easier with this boat that they would be with some others, notably the Aire, Stearns and other bladder-in-skin designs. It's easy to wipe dry and it makes a very compact package. I got the K-100 pump from K-Pump, and it fits easily in the pack with the boat and PFD.
Kudos to Tim at Innova for excellent and timely customer service. It's getting less common these days, and we should do what we can to reinforce it.