Jackson Villain Review - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-24-2010   #1
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Jackson Villain Review

Got a Jackson Villain (L) last week, thought I would share some thoughts. Previously I have paddled a Dagger Nomad 8.5 and Liquid Logic Jefe Grande. I'm 5'10", 200lbs, paddle IV/V. I'm not sponsored or affilliated with any manufacturers and thought folks might be interested and an average paddler's review.

The short story is that the villain is an excellent creeker that is stable, predictable, comfy, and performs well on the water whether its steep micro creeking, big fluffy hole puching, or pushy ferries on higher volume flows. I love it!

Right of the bat the villain impressed me with its stability. Very good primary stability thanks to a wide semi-displacement hull and a flatish spot under the seat. Great for keeping you upright in busy and choatic water. The secondary stabilty is amazing, and a true gem of the boat. Very stable on edge, and the more you put it on edge past about 30 degrees, the more the bouyancy of the boat resists further edging. What this means is that when you want to edge (eddies and ferries) the boat is very stable, but when you are flipping or bracing, the amazing ability to resist tipping over past 45 degrees helps to keep you upright. This is a huge advantage for boaters wanting a stable and forgiving boat.

The performance of the villain is great. I think Jackson achieved a perfect compromise on the soft edges on the boat. Enough edge to give you some control when you want it, but soft enough to not feel trippy in boily water, cross currents or on rocks. The edge really helps to hold a line in ferries or on pushy cross current moves, places that I felt the displacement hull boats like the grande were lacking. The smooth rocker profile of the boat and the volume of the boat make it ride high over features you want to stay on top of. The nose of the boat has a little less bulbous of a nose, which gives it the ability to pierce features when you want to (ie hole punching or subbing through drops). Resurfacing after subbing out is smooth and controlled. The boat handles like a solid, area of a thigh hook to connect to the boat width, the Jackson bump offers a much larger surface area to connect with yielding a stable, comfortable, and powerful leg connection with the boat. The comfy happy seat, easy to adjust hip pads, and great knee/thigh area all work together to make a very comfortable, well connected, simple and easy to outfpredictable creekboat.

I really like the outfitting of the Villain, and think that this is one department where Jackson has done some good innovation that sets them apart from others in the industry. The no holes for outfitting concept is a great idea. Your boat stays way drier, which is very nice. The sweet cheeks are the most comfy seat I have ever had. The built in knee bumps are another great Jackson design feature. Your knees and leg fit perfectly in the bump and the bump is padded out for comfort and extended surface area contact. Instead of having a smaller surface of a thigh hook to latch on to, you have a much larger surface in the knee bump which gives you greater contact with the boat, and more stability and power. I feel like my villain was custom made for me and fits perfectly, even though its just the basic stock outfitting. There is also ample room for bigger creek shoes. I wear size 12 canyoneer boots and have plenty of room.

The plastic durability and warranty is a factor that got me really excited about jackson. Crosslink specs show its stronger than linear plastic, and its nice to see a manufacturer trying to make stronger boats. I loved the nomad hull, but abandoned the boat after breaking 1-2 a year and seeing progressively thinner and weaker plastic from 2004-2008 (sorry dagger, but I'm not the only one who noticed). Add in the warranty that jackson stands behind, and you can have some peace of mind that you aren't going to drop $1200 on a creekboat and be SOL if it craters after 20 days on the water. Most of the market seems to be moving towards better warranties, with LL and Jackson seeming to stand out at this point. I think this is great.

Some folks raise their eyebrows at the length and volume of the L villain. I think they call it 8'8" and 92.5 gallons. I took it down homestake creek which is a tight, fast, manky creek and the villain did great. If its maneuverable enough to make it down a steep micro creek, its certainly nimble enough for any type of boating you want to take it on. The boat has enough volume to stay on the surface and keep you stable and out of trouble, but it also has good turning and handling capabilities. It feels like a nice compromise between the nomad and the grande to me. The nomad held a line, but was hard to turn. The grande had trouble holding a line, was easy to turn, but was also easy to get spun out. The villain holds a line especially when paddling hard, but turns easier than the nomad, and has way less tendency to spin out than the grande. Its sort of the best of both worlds as turny and holding a line are usually not found in the same boat.

Jackson has made a great creeker with the villain, and I'm very happy with it. I should also note that two buddies on the lighter weight range were in a new prijon pure and a wavesport habitat. They both were loving the new boats too. Its great to see that there are good boats on the market that cater to a variety of paddler weights, sizes, and boating preferences.

I'd highly recommend the villain!

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Old 05-24-2010   #2
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Jackson, Wyoming
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I also loved the Villian for all reason above, nice post. Glad people are out there getting it, be safe
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Old 05-25-2010   #3
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How'd you think the hull speed compares to the grande and nomad?
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Old 05-25-2010   #4
denver, Colorado
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Good review. Would you say the stability is on par with the Nomad?
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Old 05-25-2010   #5
Denver, Colorado
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I can't say that I really noticed the speed difference between the villain, nomad 8.5, or jefe grande. Perhaps if I paddled a really slow boat, I would notice the speed difference. Speed doesn't seem to be a significant enough differentiator between these 3 boats for me to notice how it impacts paddling. On the other hand, stability, edging, turning, and outfitting all had significant enough differences between the 3 boats to make it noticeable.

With that said, the villain is likely a fast boat relative to the overall market. I found myself closing the gap on boaters in front of me even when I was just floating and not paddling. Had to manage spacing and take some backstrokes in the boogie to keep my spacing.

Another thing I like about the jackson is the foot brace bulkhead system. I took a fairly violent vertical piton going off a 5-6ft drop with no speed (operator error). Completely penciled, and immediately hit rock, instant jacking and torso thrown forward as I came to a complete stop. I didn't feel a thing in my ankles, no soreness, no tweaking. I've strained my ankle and limped around after lesser pitons in other boats in the past. I think the big foaming on the bulkhead and the slight give in the system is an ankle saver. Good design in my opinion.
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Old 05-25-2010   #6
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Moscow, Idaho
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I can also attest to the ankle-saving goodness that is the Jackson creek bulkhead. I took a really big piton last week (operator error) and the bulkhead compressed away to absorb most of the impact. Also, the bow of the boat held up just fine. The dent from the 'ton popped out after five minutes next to a small fire.

Nice review, glad you're liking the boat. I'm loving my Villain S for similar reasons.
"A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes writing for the majority in New Jersey v. New York
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Old 05-25-2010   #7
Denver, Colorado
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Lostboat... I loved the nomad's stability. Jefe felt tippy in comparison, which I didn't really care for. The villain makes me feel stable again, similar to the nomad. There are slight differences though.

The nomad has less volume, has a low center of gravity cockpit, and I feel like the low center of gravity and hull combine to make the nomad super stable. The villain has more volume, rides higher, but the slightly wider and flatish hull make you feel similar primary stability as the nomad despite a higher stance.

The villain has more secondary stability than the nomad, but this is where the boats differ. The nomad has way less edge and a rounder sidewall, so the boat has no resistance to edging and is still stable on edge. The villain has a more pronounced edge and a steeper sidewall, so the boat offers some resistance to hard edging because you put more of the boats sidewall volume underwater. The benefit of this is that the more you edge the villain, the more it wants to float you back upright. This feature acts like an auto-brace or auto-righting feature which will really help you when you are on the verge of flipping. The other side of the coin is that you will have to put a little more effort into keeping the villain on edge with a slightly more energetic j-lean.

I think this is where the villain has struck a great design compromise. The hull is rounded like a displacement hull with a soft edge. You can still grind rocks and transistion edges on rocks while sliding, like a displacement hull, but you have enough edge to help with ferries and threading cross current lines in bigger and pushier water. You might give up a little performance on steep creeks vs. a pure displacement hull, but I think its worth it for the increased performance on bigger pushier flows. I tend to split my time equally between low volume steep creeks, higher volume bigger creeks or small rivers, and some bigger volume rivers. I want one boat that can handle all of the above with ease, and I think the villain is perfect for it.
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Old 05-25-2010   #8
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I've heard rumors of people having high swim percentages with the villan. Care to comment/confirm/deny?

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Old 05-25-2010   #9
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FRST, Colorado
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Hey Deepsouth... have you ever paddled a Rocker or Mega Rocker? I ask because...

I paddle a regular sized Rocker and have been considering a Villain as my next boat. I am 6'/168lbs (depending on Pabst intake) and even though I am on both sides of the weight range for the Rocker I went with a regular size because the Mega just seemed, well, MEGA. That is a huge boat and I just didn't know if I could handle it.

Problem is... the Villain S has less foot room than the regular Rocker and my paddling shoes didn't fit in there at all. Unless I wanted to seriously re-engineer some foot room into the S model's bulkhead, I would probably go with the large Villain, which has just a half gallon less volume than the Mega Rocker. I just wonder how big the boat feels. Did you consider the S model at all? I feel like the Mega Rocker is HUGE compared to the Rocker and was just wondering if the same was true for the Villain models.

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Old 05-25-2010   #10
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Got my Villian a few days ago.
It's great. Best Boat paddled to date.
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