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This boat handles fantastically in the ocean and rough rivers going against the current, straight as a dart and a lot of fun paddling! nfortunately it rides the waves going with the current and I'm never sure if I'm going as fast as I think I am because of this so be prepared for that.
I bought thigh braces and use them when I don't use my rudder and it helps make me feel more secure. I am jumping the wakes of speed boats in the Potomac as much as I can which is a ton of fun! You will get wet paddling in this boat though even with a good technique because you sit so low. I'd recommend a pump but I haven't bought one yet!
Setup and tear down are fairly easy once you've done it a few times. There is a trick with the rudder rope though, you don't put it through any of the holes from the back of the rudder on the boat like you'd think because it doesn't really work at all then so the side ropes that connect to the foot pedals should go right from the rudder assembly to the pedals around you, there is no other way to do this and get a good use out of the turning with the footpetals. You'll need to readjust on the water.
This is a good exercise boat for open water and you'll enjoy paddling BUT you won't want to do more than a few miles. I just bought an Advanced Elements Expedition to get a touring boat to have something more fun for open water. It is nice to have a second boat so friends can come now too!
The skin is tough as nails. I took my baby to Harpers Ferry and the Shenandoah Rivers and got caught up on lots of rocks because of the low water level and had to really punish my bottom of my boat to get off by shifting my weight. She held up nicely and I have no holes. Make sure the bailing holes are closed securely though as they'll leak if they aren't completely closed! I take my boat out and dry her each night after I've used it to avoid mildew.
She'll spin on a dime which is nice but it is tough to keep up with hard shelled! My longest trip was a 10 mile excursion on the Shenandoah River with friends who all rented and they did better because I sat on rocks a lot because of the really low water level. I wouldn't take her back to that river at this water level, maybe the spring!
I'm 6 foot and 225 and I don't feel cramped in my boat.
It gets great marks for ample supply of D-rings and the thigh straps. It hauls 400 lbs. and inflates to a rigid form. I find my biggest problem is when maneuvering a rock garden in a fast current, getting broadsided by large submerged rocks cause the boat to stop and the rider to want to keep going. A top heavy rider may find it too unstable. I have scarred mine and have had to do some minor repairs where some glued edges have given up. I probably overinflated on too hot of a day and caused that problem myself. The repair kit seems to have enabled my fixing the issue.
From what I hear about the newer versions of this kayak, if you could take the best features of both, you'd have a great kayak. It is a boat for a big paddler as a fully inflated floor will help keep your butt off of the rocks. Of the 4 or 5 inflatable and hardshell kayaks I've owned, this is the only one I've gotten tossed from (see early broadsided comment). The tubes are slippery when wet and slightly impede deep water reentry. If you inflate the floor before the side tubes, your base will be wider and you'll gain some stability. It is rated for class IV white water or whatever you dare attempt. I doubt I'd take it past class III due to stability issues.
I have to give this kayak a 10 on cost, a 9 on features, a 9 on durability, a 5 on tracking, a 6 on stability, and a 6 on speed/drag for an overall rating of 7.
My kayak arrived at my home and I promptly set about putting the kayak together, test inflating it and seeing how it performed in my swimming pool.
Yesterday I took the kayak to the Esophus Creek in the Catskill Mountains of New York. This is a somewhat steep rock strewn creek with class II-III whitewater. The kayak performed very well and it was easy to maneuver around rocks and caught eddies very easily.
There were a couple of large standing waves where I was able to test out the self bailing floor. The River X does bail very slowly with larger whitewater and becomes a bit heavy until the water drained out in about 15-20 seconds.
The outer hull seems very strong and I was able to inflate the floor to a high degree of firmness. The only downside to the kayak that I can see so far is the use of cheap pool toy boston valves. These valves make inflating and deflating the kayak a lot more of a chore than with the Aire and Vista kayaks that I own.
Overall this is an excellent inflatable kayak for the money, and I hope to use it for many years to come.
If you are looking, consider paying for a 2003 model because there have been some changes. Thigh straps and a foot brace now come standard (thigh strap easily added/removed). I assume that six d-rings have been added also, because they are not present in the photo ads, but they are on mine. They are nice for securing coolers, gear, etc. I am quite pleased with the quality of the outfitting, sturdiness, and the feel of the boat in general. I am 5:11, 160 pounds, 33 waist. My hips are nice and comfortably snug in this boat, but those with MUCH larger torsos might need to think twice before buying.
I donít have many negatives to offer. If you like to buy American, forget this boat. Itís made in China and the company is French. I suspect Chinese labor costs are largely responsible for the low cost and high value, however.
Documentation is virtually non-existent. If you are new to rafting, you will have to figure it all out yourself. Fortunately, it isnít rocket science. I would not expect the greatest customer support at this price, but I did have a question and I received a prompt response via e-mail.
When I first tried to inflate the boat (there are 4 air chambers), two of the rings that attach the cap to the inflation port popped off way too easily (much like the way some gas caps are attached to the car so you donít lose them). I donít really consider this to be a quality problem, but it is a concern. I reattached them, but until I had time to work on it, I kept the loose caps in one of the drawstring mesh bags on the back of the seat.
This boat comes with a mesh carry bag, but there is no way I could get the boat folded to fit well inside it. Instead, I use it just for the seat, straps, foot peg and other gear. The boat folds easily into a space of about Ď2 x Ď2, 8Ē x 7Ē with only four folds. Good enoughÖ It is no longer worth the stress on me (or the boat) to try to compress it to a smaller size. Material is very stiff and hard when cold, so it would probably be worthwhile to bring it inside to warm up some before inflating/deflating or folding.
My Stearns Mad Dog tracks much better and is faster. Probably because It has a fin. More comfortable, too. But my Stearns is not self bailing and conversly doesn't do white water well. I got the River X just for whitewater.
I took my new River X down the upper American River last weekend. I was with a guy who had an Aire Force so it was a one one one comparision.
The River X is shorter and narrower than the Force and not as stable. I did get dumped but I think I had more fun than the other guy. It is very maurverable. It is rated for class IV, but you better be a real good ww paddler, or a real good swimmer.
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