My partner and I are mostly flatwater canoeists, but since moving to the Southwest, we’ve been forced to leave our comfort zone to get out on the water. Most of what we’ll be tackling will be class 1-3 rivers so we’re looking for something a bit more portable and robust than our fiberglass canoe. We don’t think we’ll like the enclosed feeling and necessity to roll out of a plastic yak, so we’re leaning towards inflatable duckies. I’ve narrowed it down to four:
I have no experience with any of the three, but I do have an Aquaglide Chelan 140 which is very, very similar to the Driftsun Rover 220.
The Star Outlaw II seems to be a whitewater specific boat. It has minimalist seats and rigging, and it looks like it’s got enough holes in the hull on either side of the dropstitch floor board to self-bail at a useful rate. But that means a wet ride on casual flat water days, where the holes also slow you down. And there’s no skeg, you’d have to glue on a removable skeg mount.
I’d call the Driftsun a recreational kayak. Given the similarity to my Aquaglide, I suspect those 6 little scupper drains are there for marketing cred and can’t empty the boat fast enough to be useful. It doesn’t seem like the best choice for tackling class II and class III water. The AE Straitedge appears similar except for the shaped bow entry. I can’t see its self-bailing system.
One thing I noticed about all 3 boats is that they’re around 12’, which is short for a tandem. Hopefully you and your partner find it easy to stay in sync. If you’re OK sticking with your canoe on flatwater and class I, maybe you could get two smaller whitewater kayaks for playing in the bigger stuff.
Out of those three the star will do best in ww but could be slow on the flats. You might also want to check out rocky mountain, saturn duckies. They are also on the cheaper end of things. The key with inflatables is good current or keep the distances very short . One advantage to a tandem is you will get a bit more glide even if you run it solo. If your duckie is wet to sit in and doesnt have closable scupper plugs, put some duct tape over some of the scupper holes toward the middle of the boat. It will drain slower but your butt may stay drier. My saturn tandem is very slow to drain in ww. On the metolious in oregon we filled that boat up like a bath tub on the first little drop. Not much maneuvering can be done.
The Sea Eagle 380 or the Saturn OK-420 are comparable. They are both 13’ and some change and come with detachable skegs. Both seem to do fine in Class I-III. big difference being the floors. The Saturn floor is raised so that only the tubes are usually in the water, so they track well even without the skeg. the Sea Eagle floor is even with tubes, so you sit a bit lower in it and carry a little more gear. The Saturn is less expensive, but has glued seams, so it has about a 10 or so year life, while some of the Sea Eagles models have welded seams and will last longer.