After running the wilderness section of the Chetco River last June I was inspired to design a new SOTAR inflatable kayak that could carry overnight gear. I also wanted a boat that would act more like a small raft rather than a traditional inflatable kayak. My friend Billy Miller paddled an Alpaca on our trip and I noticed some advantages to the larger and non-diminishing tubes.
My first design goal was to make the boat as maneuverable as possible, so this inflatable kayak is shorter and wider much like modern hardshell kayaks. It has a blunt end that will make it better for running large drops and more predictable while running big holes.
The second design goal was to design a boat that could easily carry several days of overnight gear. This was accomplished by choosing larger 12" tubes for flotation and stability while loaded. The blunt ends also allow more interior space and therefore more volume for gear. The tubes are full size all the way around the boat, so gear can be packed in the ends of the boat and remain stable.
We chose PVC for the material to make it less expensive, lighter, and easier to repair. To further reduce weight (and expense), there is only one air chamber for the outside tubes. This is not allowed on some permitted rivers, so SOTAR can make this boat with an extra valve and baffles upon request.
There are a few other advantages of this design. Since this kayak is designed like a raft, the fabric is cut in smaller pieces. It's much more efficient to cut from the raw material, one of the biggest expenses in boat design. This boat is also designed to pack small for flying on airplanes or hiking into remote places. There are small d-rings inside the boat made for tying down dry bags and other gear. We're also adding bomber handles to the bow and stern that will make it easier to portage, even with a full load of gear.
Last week we returned to the spectacularly beautiful Chetco River. This mighty river has it's headwaters in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and flows 56 miles to the Pacific Ocean. We are lucky to outfit and guide a few intrepid groups down this river each year. Anyone who has been down the Chetco will talk about it's amazingly clear water, jaw dropping scenery, and the hard work it takes to get there. Developing the techniques and equipment to run this style of trip has been a fun project...
Since my first trip on the Chetco River I've been looking for a lightweight inflatable kayak for hiking into remote and challenging rivers. Last year AIRE introduced the BAKraft Hybrid, a 7 foot long boat constructed with a urethane bladder and protected by a Spectra outer layer. This was a step in the right direction, but not big enough to run difficult whitewater with overnight gear. Recently AIRE has been designing and prototyping a 10 foot, 10 pound version of the BAKraft called the "Expedition." The...