Submitted: 04-21-2003 by emptysea
When I first heard of the SVX 200 I was enticed by the description of this duckie (and the $500 price), but skeptical due to Sevylors reputation of making cheap, un-reinforced PVC "pool toys" that were infamous for ripping and blowing seams. These boats were relatively new on the market and there was precious little information available from people who had actually used one. I couldn't find a single dealer here in Alaska who had one in stock that I could look at. After two months of "research" I finally located a dealer with a good return policy and decided to buy one sight unseen with the idea that if I didn't like it, I could send it back. Before I get to the details, let me say that Sevylor is finally making an IK that is capable of handling serious whitewater and seems to be acceptably durable.
Construction: The outer hull is made of 1000 denier fabric re-enforced PVC with machine welded seams. Top quality boats are usually made of fabric in the 800 to 1500-denier range (hypalon or PVC), so this material falls well within an acceptable range. The inner bladders and floor top are made of un-reinforced PVC. I would prefer a floor top of reinforced fabric for added durability. Time will tell how serious a weakness this really is. Valves are the Boston style, which are definitely low end. That said, I paddled the boat a total of 10 hours and did not experience any air leakage whatsoever. When the SVX arrived, I left it inflated in my living room overnight with no noticeable change in firmness. Still, long-term durability may be an issue. Valves are easily replaced, however, and I will carry spares on all extended trips. The factory welded seams are overlapped about 3/4 of an inch and rather sloppily done. Workmanship is vastly inferior to my other inflatable, an Innova Helios. But then Innova is known for high quality hand-welded seams. Still, the seams on the SVX appear strong.
Design: The SVX 200 is designed for whitewater use: moderately rockered hull, fairly narrow 32" beam( for an inflatable), low above-water profile and self-bailing floor. The rockered hull is similar in shape and dimensions to the Aire Caracal. There are a total of 20 bailing ports in the dropped floor. These can be closed with stoppers for flat-water paddling. Two nylon-covered foam seats clip in to D-rings. The boat can be rigged as a single or a double. Footrests are foam covered plastic tubes and slide into nylon sleeves stitched to the floor. There are four additional D-rings (two fore and two aft) mounted on the side tubes for tying down cargo. It's no lightweight and not easily backpackable. The actual weight of the boat is close to 50 lbs., more than the advertised weight of 40 lbs something. With practice, it can be folded rather small. I managed to pack it into a 42x18x15 duffle with seats, pump, lifejacket, repair kit and a pair of river shoes.
Performance: The SVX inflates very firmly with a foot pump and can be fully assembled in about 15 minutes. In a 20-mile test paddle on the Colorado River it proved to be very stable and maneuverable in Class I-II+ water. A moderately vigorous forward or reverse sweep will spin the boat within it's own length, yet surprisingly it also tracks very well. Tracking is improved by 18" flexible rubber strakes mounted midway on the hull. Correcting strokes are seldom needed to keep the boat going straight and veer is minimal. When properly inflated, the hull is very rigid and cuts well through waves and wash. The boat is so stable you can actually sit on a side tube with your feet dangling in the water and not flip over. I did manage to flip the SVX once while trying to surf a hole, but the boat's stability allowed me to re-enter rather easily while swimming in a 3 mph current. Bailing is adequate: After shipping a boatful of water in steep waves, the SVX drained in about 20 seconds. Not great, but acceptable for the Class III water I will be paddling. The shape of the inflatable floor has one serious drawback: the groove down the center holds water that has no way to drain out the bail holes. This presented no real problem as the seat keeps your butt above water; still the design is poor. I go 6'2", 220 lbs. With 30 lbs. of gear the bail hole did not allow an excessive amount of water into the boat. Other reviewers have pointed out that with two large adults, the inflatable floor of the SVX is not thick enough to keep the paddlers butts out of the water. I suspect this is true. I seriously doubt Sevylor's claim that the SVX 200 will haul 650 lbs. efficiently. This is a guess, but I would say an optimal load is in the range of 300-450 lbs. Like any inflatable, the SVX 200 is slow. My Innova is a lot faster (but less maneuverable). Still, it's no barge, like some other IKs: Sea Eagle, Hyside, SOAR. I had no trouble keeping up a 3.5 mph pace (measured by GPS). In a boat that can be used for fly-in trips on Class III-IV rivers, this is very acceptable. The low, above-water profile of the SVX 200 catches less wind than most other IKs. The hull is much harder and more slippery than my Innova. After skidding over several rocks, the hull sustained just a few, barely visible, superficial scratches.
Pros: Price!!! Maneuverability, tracking, stability, fair load capacity, slippery hull material. This is a good whitewater IK up to Class III.
Cons: Sloppy welding, poor floor design, un-reinforced PVC floor, cheap valves. Bailing feature is not adequate for continuous Class IV and up.
Recommended: Yes, for up to Class III.