Submitted: 03-16-2011 by jeremy
I'm back for another Innova Traveller review.
Readers be advised that my rating on this boat is based upon my modifications for properly outfitting the boat as described in this and my previous reviews, so be sure to fully read all of my reviews and be prepared to modify your boat similarly to get your perfect "10" boat. If you want a boat that you do not have to worry about the outfitting, then buy the Innova Safari. However, the Safari can only go into whitewater up to class III, but the Traveller WITH MODIFICATIONS is capable of a better whitewater experience at any level, so read on.
I have now added cockpit rim bracing and rear deck padding to firm up the Traveller, adding a wealth of rigidity and capability. To make the modification, cut a piece of firm plastic 3/8"-1/2" thick to match the area of "floppy fabric" just behind the inflatable front deck. Cut and shape to match the area from just behind the inflatable area to just behind the front of the cockpit rim. Once shaped, take some 1" thick closed cell ethafoam, cut it to fit the entire "floppy fabric" area from just behind the inflatable portion of the deck to the widest part of the cockpit rim (skirt coaming). Cut a slit in the foam in the area where your plastic brace is, making the foam 1/2" thick above and below the area of the brace. You're going to make a plastic/foam "sandwich". Coat the brace and the inside area of the foam with contact cement and allow to dry. Slide the plastic brace into the ethafoam slit and press the foam onto the brace to complete the bond. You should now have a firm plastic brace/foam "sandwich" package that conforms to the "floppy fabric" area and looks somewhat like a "C". Email me if you'd like for me to send you some pics, as I took many while making the modification. Optionally, you can add a second layer of plastic to the center of the brace to add additional rigidity, put on a "D" ring to hold your car keys or other small item (I did). Of course you'll need to screw the two pieces of plastic together. Check your brace for alignment and comfort inside the boat. Once satisfied that the brace is firm enough and comfortable enough, paint the "floppy fabric" area where the brace will reside liberally with contact cement. Also, paint the top of the brace. Once dry, insert the brace and press the boat fabric onto the foam/plastic sandwich. Run a screw from the front tip of the cockpit coaming (the gray semirigid strip where you secure your spray skirt)into the brace to secure the center of the brace to the cockpit rim. You may want to put in more screws as you see fit. You should now have a very firm brace to hipsnap against and the boat will feel much more like a hardshell creek boat.
To firm up the rear area without adding much bulk, I found that you can contact cement a cheap foam pool noodle to each side of the rear compartment. Lightly pump up the boat and cut the foam to fit in the area where the top of the sidetube and the rear deck material are joined. When you press the foam noodle into this area, you will instantly see the rear deck lift and firm up. You can also run the noodle on up to join with the rear of your plastic brace. If you do this, the noodle will protrude slightly into the cockpit area, but it will make the skirt coaming very firm, firm enough to place your body weight against it without deforming it. Choose how much noodle you want, trim it up, and contact cement it into the boat. You only need to put contact cement on the 1/2 circumference of the noodle that will be glued into the boat. Be advised that the more noodle you use, the sizier the boat will be when packed.
Speaking of that, I was hoping that my modified boat would fit in the manufacturer's backpack when the modifications were complete, but the boat was a tight fit straight from the factory, and the modifications made it an impossible fit. In order to "fix" that problem, I cut the backpack straight down the back and sewed a 6" wide strip of vinyl material in the back to widen the backpack. Now, the modified boat fits in just fine and is much easier to get in and out than the original outfitting was. Now, for the paddling experience. Be forwarned that the paddling capability described below is for a Traveller that has been modified as described in these (jeremy) reviews including aftermarket footbraces, aftermarket neoprene skirt, a homemade plastic/foam deck/cockpit rim brace, and additional foam in the rear deck.
With these modifications, the Traveller goes from a "this is no fun" boat to the BEST WHITEWATER INFLATABLE EXPERIENCE ever! The Traveller without these modifications only GENEROUSLY musters an "8" at best and I would NEVER take it into serious whitewater. My Aire Force XL now takes a back seat to the MODIFIED Traveller. My Innova Safari also takes a back seat.
I took the MODIFIED Traveller down Tennessee Laurel creek (TN/VA) this past weekend. The Tennessee Laurel is a creek with 80ft/mile gradient that is rarely run due to fast runoff and near flood level water requirements. We have had lots of rain, and the little stream was moving nicely. The stream consists of continuous Class III with one Class IV rapid occurring at the TN/VA state line. The MODIFIED Traveller performed flawlessly with the firmed up deck providing lots of control and the boat feeling very much like a warm, comfortable hard shell kayak without all of the harsh rock impacts. The boat surfed marvelously, boofed marvelously, and had fantastic control, good stability, and good j- leaning and carving capability. The Class IV rapid was ran without incident although admittedly I paddled a terrible line. Control through the rapid was never in question, the MODIFIED Traveller, like the Safari, goes where you paddle it, not where the current takes you. The Class IV State Line rapid consists of an entrance rapid, and three 4' drops in an "S" turn with a nasty hole in the second drop. My buddy in his Aire Force XL got trashed bad in the first drop and swam through the next two. He didn't recover for our planned trip down Whitetop Laurel the following day.
I was amazed at the capability of the MODIFIED Traveller and consistently took the most outrageous lines through each rapid. The MODIFIED Traveller punches through holes instead of getting swallowed up like other inflatables and feels just like a hardshell in running rapids and surfing holes. I was also able to test the boat for wrapping around a rock (to a point). Funny thing is, when the MODIFIED boat begins to wrap, the cockpit actually opens up and your knees naturally pop out. The plastic brace makes the cockpit coaming stretch FORWARD, making MORE ROOM to escape the boat in a wrap. The only real entrapment risk then comes from "tacoing" the boat. Most "tacoing" is temporary, coming immediately after a steep drop on impact with a rock. I didn't experience any "tacoing" with this boat as it is much more rigid after these modifications, and is infinitely more rigid than any open inflatable. A side benefit to the plastic brace is that in the event that the deck loses air, there is little disadvantage. Without the brace, the disadvantage is obvious.
I heartily recommend the MODIFIED Traveller, now that these modifications have been made. The modifications (not including the neoprene skirt) costs under $50 for foot braces, a piece of plastic, a screw or two, some closed cell foam, and a couple of pool noodles. These materials and some of your time can transform the Traveller into the best whitewater inflatable boat you can own for a reasonable price. Yes, the Grabner Jump and the Incept Sally do exist, but the price tag will knock the wind out of you faster than entrapment. Remember, Class IV/V whitewater should only be attempted by those with experience not only in whitewater, but also with the boat they intend to use.
This boat AS OUTFITTED BY THE FACTORY I DO NOT recommended for use on strong whitewater. After making sufficient modifications however, the boat is a whitewater delight. Be advised that whitewater paddling IS INHERENTLY RISKY, and I assume NO RESPONSIBILITY for any of my statements here. IT IS ALWAYS THE PADDLER'S RESPONSIBILITY to ENSURE THE SAFETY of his/her equipment, skill level, ability for self-rescue, and peers' ability to rescue your sorry tail in the event that you find yourself over your head. Never paddle alone and always send out a "probe" (newbie who'll try anything) prior to running the really rough stuff (just kidding) I'll report back when I get to check out the "rollability" of the boat. Tennessee Laurel wasn't the place to roll considering the water was coming from melting snow and the stream bed was strewn continuously with rocks. By the way, the Traveller stock seat seems to work just fine. Just be sure to push the plug in firmly because if you lose seat pressure, you will not have a good day on the water. Happy Paddling. Get out there now, quit reading and paddle!