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Submitted: 08-31-2009 by DougYak
I bought a pair of XK2 (tandem) inflatable kayaks for a multi-day trip down the San Juan River in Utah this summer. We had a party of seven paddlers and the river featured rapids up to Class III, which were a tad nastier than normal because of the lower-than-usual water flow. The lower water also presented a lot more rocks and snags than are typically found there. In short, this was a good place to test the XKs and put them through their paces. Although most of our group gear was hauled on a pair of larger and tougher SOAR rafts, we still ended up using the Sevylor XKs to haul 2-3 dry bags and/or jerry cans each, AND carry two paddlers. In short, we really beat the crap out of these kayaks, working them down moderate white water and dragging them across rocks and shoals while fully loaded. They were also subjected to that most-treacherous of all river threats: teenagers. Our youngest paddlers thrashed them through and through without mercy. As a baseline comparison, we also had one of the cheaper, vinyl Sevylors along as an extra "duckie." The difference between these two lines of products is otherworldly.
In a nutshell, the XKs performed extremely well on the San Juan. Granted, the San Juan isn't a Class VI white water death-ride, but if you've ever been on it during late summer you also know it offers ample surprises and "gotchas." We really worked these kayaks hard and the Sevytex material held up superbly. The material is not as robust as Hypalon, but damn near it. Abrasive wear was minimal at the end of the trip, and we never sprung a single leak (although the cheapo, vinyl duckie did leak, as expected). Handling with the XK is reasonably responsive for a two-person inflatable; certainly for white water it's fine if both paddlers know how to work together. The seats and foot rests are very well designed and comfortable, although you can expect a wet butt on any kind of white water, with or without the scuppers closed. On the other hand, the lower ride and center of gravity are what give this kayak its stability. Before trying to install the foot rests, be certain to wet them; otherwise, they are hard to work with. The cargo rings are robust and worked well as tie-downs -- none pulled out or weakened.
Under the category of "minuses" I would place first the scuppers, which did keep our paddlers dry while closed on flat water stretches, but which are awkwardly designed and difficult to configure. (A simple, screw-on/screw-off cap would be better.) The other thing which peeved me was the crappy pump hose that comes with the otherwise-excellent pump; the hose crimps easily. These seem like minor problems alongside an excellent design, but little things DO matter, especially when you're miles from nowhere. The kit comes with a manometer, which seems like an unnecessary luxury and expense. (I simply squeeze the pontoons and listen to valves to check my air pressure--it's quick and sufficiently accurate.) I would much rather see Sevylor ditch the fancy manometer and put in a decent pump hose.
To summarize, the XK represents a major advancement over the cheaper "pool toy" tier of vinyl Sevylor inflatables--stay away from those on rivers. The Sevytex construction material is all that Sevylor says it is: extremely tough, rugged stuff. The seams, being welded rather than glued, are extremely strong and did not leak once on our trip, despite the snags and numerous rocky encounters. I am looking forward to using these again on future river trips and would recommend them to anyone needing to accommodate extra paddlers on a multi-day river outing. I would also trust one of these for a lightweight "floating backpack"-type trip without all the heavy group kitchen gear, etc. They are reliable and--compared to many inflatable kayaks of this class--an unbeatable value for the money.
[My experience level (to qualify this review): 30-plus years of outdoor treks; five years as a professional guide; 8 kayaks/rafts owned.]
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