I have paddled this boat for a couple of years now and love it! I am 6' 320lbs and have trouble finding boats to fit me. That having been said this boat is very comfortable for me! It is very responsive, has good secondary stability and rolls relatively easily. It is also rather fast for a creek boat. It seems to have a slight suggestion of a V-hull kind of thing on the bow that allows it to cut through and ride over waves without digging the nose in. It also resurfaces well after drops or seal launches. The aft compartment is nice to have for easy access and packing, and the cover seems to attach solidly with the attached bungee cord. The bulkhead between the cockpit and the Stern hold is solid and thick and seems to be water proof though the hatch cover is not water proof as it is made of spray skirt material with a plastic cover bungeed on top, but I wouldn't expect it to be anyway and I do like this set up. I always use a dry bag for items that MUST stay dry and you should always do this anyway. The forward bulkhead is comfortable on my feet and is made out of boat plastic covered on the face with standard boating foam. The boat is supplied with a second forward bulkhead in a smaller size (so it will fit further up into the bow) for paddlers with longer legs. The forward brace is made of plastic with steps molded in, and is also a nice touch for escape during possible pins or wet exits. The lip around the cockpit is substantial enough to give your skirt a solid hold but seems to release well enough with a tug on my skirts handle. here are two drain plugs, one behind the cockpit on the port (left) side before the bulkhead and one on the Stearn. these seem to seal off positively and drain fast. the small plastic tab that the plugs attach to could be beefier though (I broke one) but this is really kind of nit picky and the plugs can easily be tied to one of the rescue handles as there is one beside both plug holes.
Overall a great boat and should be good for beginner to advanced. The only difference in the Expedition and the large Solo is the Stern hatch and if you are a smaller paddler I would demo the medium and the small just to see if they feel different for you. I give nine out of ten!It is important to realize that this review is influenced by the fact that the Fluid Solo Expedition (large) was the incorrect boat choice for me. As a beginner paddler in Australia where there was no pro-shop to check out, the boat was bought on the internet, sight unseen. The price was excellent! You can see already that such an arrangement can be hazardous to all concerned. In blissful ignorance I figured that the little streams locally were creeks, hence the need for a creek boat! The boat I bought is an extreme creeker designed for top paddlers in class 5 creeks!
The main problems I encountered at 178 cm and 73-75 kgs was size and as a novice, a lack of ability. I was too small to boss it through rapids, and lacked the technique to finesse it through. Defensive techniques resulted, rail-roading was common. Further, in muscle terms, I was too weak to carry its amazing weight - 23 kgs without gear - for long! So, with my inabilities now openly stated, the following pros and cons summarize my thoughts after 18 months of paddling it in class 2 and class 3 water.
- Very strong! An extreme boat built for very steep creeks in expert hands.
- The luggage compartment in the stern allows for extended trips.
I have tried very hard to be fair here. I hope it helps somebody make the correct choice for them. Definitely not a bad product, just the wrong boat in the wrong hands!
- Needs a large, strong and capable paddler.
- Too slow for river running due to the exaggerated rocker.
- Without expert paddling it is very hard to steer and control due to its weight and large volume.
- The bulkhead between the cockpit and luggage compartment is very poorly sealed.
- Without luggage weight to counter-balance the high volume stern the boat is harder than normal to steer.
- Very heavy to portage.