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Old 04-06-2009   #11
DurangoSteve's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 1,907
I own a Tomcat and have paddled a Padillac. If I had it to do over, I'd go with a Padillac. It felt more stable with its bigger tubes. Ultimately, it depends on your budget and what kind of water you intend to run. As far as the self-bailing aspect, you're going to sit in cold water unless you take the PackCat route, which admittedly looks pretty damned sweet.

You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you. - Heraclitus of Ephesus
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Old 04-06-2009   #12
Colorado Springs Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 254

How does your rig do on tight, technical stuff? Seems like a great big water or easy water rig but it looks like a barge for catching tight eddies in fast Class 4 (or harder).

I think bailing speed is a big negative issue for IK's in continuous water. Filling the boat with floatation much like a WW canoe helps tremendously. I even put a bag under my knees.

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Old 04-06-2009   #13
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 582
I have mainly paddled the AIRE IK's over the years, so the info below is biased.

Summer before last we rented a few Hysides (wide rafty type) and the paddlers (small adults/teens) had a hard time because they sat low and the IK was wide and has wide/tall tubes, making it difficult for the paddlers to paddle and control the craft. The trade off is they were very stable. The folks using my Aire Caracals did not have paddling issues, but were not as stable as those in the Hyside.
Even the Aire Lynx is not as deep/wide as the Hyside.

The downside to Aire IK's is the price. Even their "entry level" IK (Tomcat) is now at $650. I'm too big/tall for the Sevylor XK1, but for the smaller adult/kid it's quite the performance boat for a great price.

Peformance: Aire Force and Force XL. The best peformance IK IMHO. Has the thighstraps for great control, and bow/stern section space is filled with airbags (bad description) which keeps the boat from being loaded down with excess water. You can even roll them. Having spent 95% of my water time in a hardshell, I think the peformance of the Force is excellent, including carving into/out of eddies, surfing, even some enders.

The Sevylor XK1 performance is similar to the Aire Force performance and size.

The Lynx is less high peformance, but better all around (longer trips, loading gear, bringing a kid, etc). Doesn't have the bags fore/aft so it can load up on water with previously stated drain times.

Durability: You get what you pay for. My cousin has used the Aire Force and Lynx IK's for the past 10+ years. They've been through plenty of abuse on low water runs and they've held up well very well.

I went the economical route and picked up a couple Aire Caracals (Tomcat predecessors) a couple years back and while the performance is good (similar to the Lynx), the durability is definitely lacking. Fortunately it has the inner bladder system, otherwise they'd be scrap by now.

Stability: wider/deeper is going to be more stable - Lynx more stable than Force, Hyside more stable than Lynx, etc. The thighbraces can make a huge stability difference. Experience is also a big factor.
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Old 04-06-2009   #14
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 159
Well I don't own any but have paddled the NRS Mavrick w/thigh straps/foot pegs and at 240lb it was a nice ride.

We rent the Mavrick and find that it holds up well in the rental (read that abuse and neglect).

Confluence Kayaks
"I just stood there and watched the whole thing happen!!!"
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Old 04-06-2009   #15
Chip's Avatar
SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
Originally Posted by Mike Hartley View Post

How does your rig do on tight, technical stuff? Seems like a great big water or easy water rig but it looks like a barge for catching tight eddies in fast Class 4 (or harder).

I think bailing speed is a big negative issue for IK's in continuous water.
It doesn't handle as well as a short 'kayaky' IK in supertight rock gardens and pushy water. I've run narrow pool/drop streams in the Winds, but the only maneuvering involved is to keep from going sideways, or getting your hand between the paddle and a boulder. Not technical, but more adrenaline-based.

I've run lots of rocky III and III+. Without a gear load, it ferries as well or better than most ducks, since there's no suction on the floor. With a gear load, it handles more like a Padillac or other beamy duck.

I've not tried thigh straps, preferring to hook my toes under the footbar when things get weird. Basically, anything that'll flip you in a ducky will flip you in a Pack Cat. You fall out: no problem.

But on extended trips, I can rig more gear (and beer) than the duck-meisters, and the seating arrangement is excellent: I had a really touchy back when I started boating and the Pack Cat was the only boat I could sit in for days on end.

Running continuous III and IV with paddlers in ducks, I've had to stop and wait while they drain. I think they were more impatient than I was.
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Old 04-06-2009   #16
Wirednoodle's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 114
Running continuous III and IV with paddlers in ducks, I've had to stop and wait while they drain. I think they were more impatient than I was.
That gave you the time to thin out that incredible beer load eh? =)
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Old 04-07-2009   #17
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 168
While I don't have anywhere near the time on a Pack Cat/Fat Cat as Chip, I too must sing their praises. They are certainly lots of fun in Class 3 water and haul gear (along with my fat ass) quite well.

My wife and I bought Fat Cats 2 seasons ago and have enjoyed them on day trips and some multi-day river trips. They are stable and much warmer for the early season (no sitting in cold water all day). Probably not the boat to go for if you are looking for hard boat like performance, but way fun and easy to paddle.

They are also quite the conversation starter on rivers where you get a lot of non boaters. Whenever we paddle the Racecourse run on the Rio Grande with our kayaker friends the people at the put in and all the commercial rafting customers ask us tons of questions. We just tell them we are the motherships for all the "cute little kayaks".

Even if a Pack Cat/Fat Cat is not your thing because you want more performance for everyday paddling they are the perfect boat for longer trips or for new paddlers. If you want your friend/spouse/love interest to have a fun time and follow you down some class 2+/3 water their first time out you could not pick a better boat.

George Marsden
Los Alamos, NM
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Old 04-07-2009   #18
Land of Lovin, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 1,449
I have an NRS Maverik, bought it used from The Mountain Shop when they closed down, love it.

It's super stable, I've run many class 3 runs and the only times I've swam I was dinking around with equipment or trying to show off and ended up sideways in a hole. I've even had it completely sideways against a rock wall and as long as you hold onto the high side tube you eventually pop out still in the boat.

I think it's pretty durable since it was a rental boat before I bought it and it has no patches, no holes and does not leak though the floor valve does lose air slowly.

I'd recommend it for any beginner kayaker, it's easy to paddle seems to be very durable and is, again, very stable.
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Old 04-07-2009   #19
The Box, ~
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 199
Personal Review


A little more info on your budget and aspirations would allow folks to mostly point you in the right direction. I have four IK's at my house. 1 AIRE Lynx 2, 2 NRS Bandit 2, Tributary Tomcat.


This is my preferred boat for trips. The numerous straps secure the equipment easily. The Lynx tracks a little better on the long flat water section than my Bandit. Very stiff and responsive. The only problem I've had was with the PRV. They don't put the $1.50 screen on it, because they have it covered under the zipper. Sand still made it in and slow leak on the PRV. I contacted AIRE and they sent me a brand new PRV w/ the screen in a couple days for free and hassle free. Over the years I've repaired a couple AIRE's on the river and by far the fastest and easiest to patch and go. The down side is getting back home and washing and drying the boat. It takes days for my AIRE's to dry out. I know a lot of folks who've had these since the 90's with a ton of use/abuse and still going strong with no major problems.


This is my preferred boat for daily use. The bandit handles the best in the whitewater. Slides smoothly across lines, whereas my Lynx would be a little catchy in the same spot. The Bandit does not track as nice as the Lynx in flat water. I feel that the durability is on par with the Lynx and maybe even a little more durable. This is the boat that gets strapped to back of the raft and gets pulled of the shelf the most. Back at home it dries out in hours and packed away before I go to bed. If I could only keep one the Bandit would be it.


This is mainly my loaner boat. Tracks better on flat water than the Lynx, but does just fine in class 3 water. My wife likes the Tomcat for daily use and I contribute this to it being a one-person and smaller than my others. It has the same problems of getting it home as my Lynx. The Tomcat is pretty durable. One of my buddies who owns an outfitter service has rented these for a few seasons and not one of them has been patched and the side-stitching is solid on all of them. They've had hundreds of days of use. These rental Tomcats do stink a little, because they never get a chance to dry out. I don't have this issue, because I dry my stuff and take care of it. I feel that the Tomcat is the best budget boat.

I'm going to share my thoughts on some boats friends own and that I've paddled:

NRS Mavrick 2:

Almost identical to the Bandit, but in Hypalon. It has a single i-beam floor verses a double i-beam on the Bandit. The Mavrick has two big bumps on the floor and slightly less comfortable than the Bandit. I've noticed that the Mavrick floor is slightly more catchy than the Bandit. These differences are minute!

Achilles KSB-116:

This is one of the best IK's I've ever used! Very stable, but responsive. Best of both worlds! Made of Hypalon. Full wrapped floors. The two-person is slightly smaller than my Lynx 2. If I could go back, I would have probably purchased this over my Lynx.

Sevylor (high-end models):

I have a lot of friends who have one of these in their garage. These are my least favorite IK's. The flat drop-stitch floor is comfortable to sit on. I'm a larger/tall guy and these are submarines compared to the other boats I've paddled and always wet. One of these always shows up on one of the low water trips every year and seem to need to be pumped a couple times a day after a bit of use. All of the Sevlor's with good use seem to have slow leaks. They also have a lot more patches than the higher-end boats of about the same age. The fabric and valves are on the cheaper end. I would suggest saving a little bit longer and getting a Tributary Tomcat for those on a budget.
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Old 04-07-2009   #20
Chip's Avatar
SE, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,098
Good reviews—

One option with Jack's tubes is to get a Cutthroat (16" tubes) which has a rowing frame—

Shown here with the stock frame. Then buy a Fat Pack Cat frame set (the boat with the blue tubes I posted earlier in this thread), that fits on 16" tubes. That way you can row or paddle with one set of tubes. Only difference is the rear end cones and dees (i.e. not much).

I built a wider frame for the Cutthroat tubes— a bit more stability and load capacity for trips. The tubes have optional top chafes and 4 dees rather than 3.

I think JPW sells a spacer kit that adds about a foot of width. You can rig a hard seat for rowing trips.

I'm obviously keen on the JPW stuff, but have boated with people who do amazing things in ducks. Nice to try more than one sort of boat before buying one.

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