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Submitted: 12-16-2010 by jeremy

Alrighty then. Here we are with the Innova Traveller. First, I'd like to say that I'm a BIG Innova fan. I love Innova's Boats and currently own three models (Innova Safari, Innova Junior, and Innova Traveller). All are very strong, lightweight, wear resistant, and packable. Second, I'd like to say that this is a first impressions review. It's snowing outside and 19F, so I'm not going out just yet. Now, on to the review...

Wow, looks really neat! The boat packs up nicely, but is a tad larger and heavier than the Innova Safari (my favorite boat! see my reviews on it!). The Traveller is essentially a decked version of the Safari and has an identical hull to the Safari with the exception of the bail holes which are of course missing on the Traveller by design. Just this fact means that the rating on this boat has to start at 8 without even a single paddle stroke!

Now, I'm incredibly cheap and I would not pay list for this boat, it's just so much more than the Safari in price, and I could not justify it. Having said that, I also have to say that even at list price it is the least expensive quality decked inflatable on the market and the most accessible. The Incept Sally and the Grabner Jump are both many multiple times the price. Because of the price, the Traveler is also more of a safety compromise, having a smaller cockpit opening and being quite a bit softer (based on pump-up pressures, not experience) which does lend some credit to theories of entrapment during a wrap in whitewater. But, paddling is inherently risky, and the buoyancy of a decked inflatable design should mitigate some of the entrapment risk.

    Now, for some quality "issues".
  1. The spray skirt that comes with the Traveller is a nylon type that is unsuitable for heavy whitewater use. Innova should save the cost of this item and not include a skirt at all. Be prepared to purchase a 1.2 opening size quality neoprene elastic sprayskirt in addition to the boat.
  2. Innova drilled holes in the bow and stern for carry handles. These were not sealed up to prevent water entry and may allow some water in the boat during surfing. This can easily be rectified with some caulk or patch if you notice a problem with water entry.
  3. There is no seat, only a backrest. You sit directly on the floor which is pumped up hard. It is noticeably more uncomfortable than the Safari seat. Soften it up by gluing on a nice piece of neoprene to the seat area or pad your bum.
Now, I've talked to "The Boat People" about their review of this boat in whitewater and I have talked to Innova North America directly. Despite all the talk of entrapment, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of it actually happening. As a matter of fact, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that anyone has paddled this boat at all (at least on the internet). "The Boat People" paddled it years ago, but Innova has since enlarged the opening and made other changes to the design, and "The Boat People" have not paddled it since evidently due to slow sales.

This being the case, I intend to paddle the boat shortly and provide a review here. I expect the boat to paddle better, surf better, and be more stable and faster than the Safari because the floor is 2" thinner, the center of gravity is lower, and there is no drag or water weight added to the hull from self-bailing holes. I also expect to be drier, recover quicker and be able to run larger and stickier holes than the Safari can due to its closed design. Innova's water rating (Class IV) justifies these expectations since the Safari is rated for Class III whitewater.

I'll provide the paddling review when I've done the paddling, but for those of you who may be tempted by the current sale price of the Traveller, I have no real bad news to offer. The build quality of this boat is exceptional, you feel locked into the boat just as firmly as a hardshell (the thigh straps are actually kind of redundant), but you can easily exit. You can hip snap like nobody's business and this boat responds, I fully expect that it will execute eskimo rolls. And, last but not least, every paddler who sees you with your performance boat in a pack on your back goes... WOW! AWESOME! I'll be back later with the MUCH NEEDED paddling review on this boat.

In the meantime, be sure to read Innova Safari reviews (this boat has the same hull) and factor in your need for a decked boat that adds some bulk (30lbs to the Safari's 24lbs) to your decision. If you already own a Safari, this is a good cold water addition. If you already have a hard shell, this is a good travel companion. If you own no boat at all, I'd wait for my paddling review before committing to the Traveller or buy a Safari if you can't wait. I expect to paddle the Traveller when the ice breaks up and the water rises, so keep your eyes out for more.

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