Lee Arbach

Waterkeeper

AIRE Sabertooth 12 Frameless Cataraft

AIRE Sabertooth 12 Frameless Cataraft
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Price: $2,849.00
Manufacturer: AIRE
Shipping Weight: 91.00 lbs

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Description

Raft Inflatable Kayak Cataraft Free Shipping

The AIRE Sabertooth 12 Frameless Cataraft is a no-frame 12-1/2’ pontoon paddle boat AIRE introduced a few years back. The Sabertooth is intended as an R2 (two person "raft"), but it has enough flotation for three smaller paddlers if one person sits on the rear thwart. The main tube diameter is 20.5”, and the bow & stern rise is about 8”. The Sabertooth cataraft is not as radically rockered as the wire frame in the 2014 AIRE catalog indicates. There are four lift handles, and the width is 5’6” like the AIRE Puma. The exact weight capacity is hard to carve in stone since it depends how much draft you are willing to have, but 600 pounds is probably a good upper number, and 550 would be better. Base fabric is 1670 denier like all AIRE rafts & cats, and the warranty is a full ten years. AIRE gives the weight at 80 pounds; our scale says about 83. Call it 81-1/2 !


AIRE Sabertooth Introduction


For many years whitewater manufacturers have produced frameless cataraft designs, starting with the original Airtight Shredder – a worthy boat built from durable mil spec neoprene that is probably still the king of compact rolled size. If you hike in to remote rivers, the package size and weight is an important consideration. Riken, Hyside, Star, and others have all produced knock-offs of the Shredder, though this new AIRE model is a tad different in tube and floor design from any other. We haven’t paddled the Sabertooth cataraft yet, but some impressions follow.

The Sabertooth cataraft has more rocker than the others mentioned above, and higher rigidity too due to the use of ultra-stiff Ferrari pvc. There are unusual features too, like built-in front foot cones (not very snug), and mesh panels that take up about half the floor surface. These panels create a floor that will drain instantly, unlike normal bail holes. Also, the entire floor is laced in and replaceable.

It is available in most of AIRE's standard colors, though this is one boat where it is always best to have a first and second color choice.


AIRE Sabertooth In Action


AIRE Sabertooth 12 Frameless Cataraft Unique Thwart Design

The thwart design is unique too, even if not at first glance, and important to the tortional stiffness. AIRE deliberately choose, after testing a few prototypes, to not use separate bladders in the two cross tubes (and a third thwart is available if you want) but rather to make them part of the main four air chambers. This means each bladder is shaped like a short stubby upper case T.  The “vertical” part of each T-bladder protrudes into a thwart halfway, so the thwarts integrate into the main tubes more rigidly than any paddlecat that came before, with a stronger connection than separate thwart bladders would have achieved. It also appears that these four bladders might be harder to change out, should the need arise, than they are on most AIRE’s. But we haven’t tried since there is no reason to, and frankly, AIRE’s bladders fail so infrequently that this is a minor issue.

Along with the bow & stern tip D-rings, there are three more along each side for those intent on rowing with a custom frame. However, if that was the entirety of your planned use, it would seem to make far more sense just to buy a 12’ or 13’ Wave Destroyer and use a conventional small cat frame. AIRE, along with the original Thrillseeker designers many years back, really conceptualized this style of boat as a paddle craft, not an oar rig.

One other feature this boat has is a floor pocket in between the two mesh panels, which  holds a 1” thickness of ethafoam. This is a pad for those who might want to stride with a third thwart in place. You can add another layer or two of ½” thick closed cell foam in the pocket if you wish, using more ethafoam or sleeping pad material. This pocket's top surface also provides a solid pvc area where additional & more secure foot cones could be added. As we mentioned up above, AIRE’s built in foot cones by the front thwart are not exactly snug unless you have size 16 feet.

Third Thwart for AIRE Sabertooth 12 Frameless Cataraft

The third optional thwart ($250) will go over the top of the foam pocket if you choose to order & install it, so this would limit where you could locate extra footcones. On the other hand the third thwart is extremely helpful with bracing and may even negate the need for the extra two foot cones. A third thwart will also provide a great spot to place one or two of the AIRE thwart grab loops, found in our Raft Accessory section. In fact, whether or not you order the extra thwart with your Sabertooth, you should plan on buying at least two Grab Loops. Our lone  complaint about the Sabertooth design, and it’s not a minor one in our view, is that there is a total dearth of hand holds. With the factory foot cone pocket being pretty loose, there is not much to keep you in the boat, so we consider the Grab Loops mandatory with the Sabertooth. They run $22.50 each with your accessory discount.

Our lone experience with this style of paddle boat is limited to an old Riken copy of the Shredder, and it was hardly a great knock-off. That boat stuck badly on rocks because of sticky Riken neoprene bottom chafers, and refused to inflate as stiff as a real Shredder. And the Shredder isn’t close to the SaberTooth in rigidity, meaning the Riken paddlecat was too far off to compare it with this AIRE boat. All this said, we do have some feedback from a few Sabertooth owners, and it has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

Shaun from AIRE, who we’ve known a long time and trust emphatically, also had great things to say about his experience with the Sabertooth, beyond just what you would normally expect from someone who might be prejudiced toward the company they work for. He said the hull speed was excellent, and just sitting on the one we have here is impressive. The close-up pic’s of the orange one are some we just took in the hopes of showing a bit more of the interior compartment detail. The solid gray area just behind the one thwart is the built in foot cone pair. The underside, as with all AIRE rafts & cats, is slightly thicker in coating than the orange part of the boat.

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Product Reviews

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Reviewed by randaddy
05/11/2014 - 08:31:15 AM
Quite the Boat!
I paddled a new Sabertooth yesterday on the Numbers section of the Arkansas River at 750 CFS (Class III). There were four of us, totaling between 650 and 700 pounds. The boat, though a little slow to turn with so much weight, did not seem to sink too low with four paddlers. It would certainly be great with 3! The boat drafted high and fit between rocks that we could never go between with our 13-14 foot rafts! The boat was very stable! We would drop over small holes sideways and felt less tippy than I expected - way less than in a Puma or a Mini-Me!

I've paddled the original Shredder, the Hyside Paddle Cat, and a bunch of small rafts. This, in many ways, was my favorite. As a 3-4 person craft it's much better than the other paddle cats because it's a little bigger and seems more buoyant. For two people, it seems like it would be more stable than the Shredder or Hyside boats, but a little less wild of a ride. If I were to row a paddle cat, this would be it too.

Two air chambers in each tube is a nice design, much more redundancy for remote trips. The carry handles are amazing! I'm also very impressed by the Duramesh material - I have it in the bail area of the floor of my Aire Force and was impressed to see it form such a tough large drain area in a paddle cat. The floor is solid. We had the optional thwart, which I would recommend if you plan to paddle it. You can move it fore or aft quite a bit, which is a nice feature. If you plan to row it, a simple frame could fit just inside the bow and stern thwarts, but not further so measure before you buy a frame! I would move the optional center thwart back and just sit on that to row!

The Sabertooth is heavier than the other paddle cats out there, but seems burlier too - which might be worth the extra baggage fee if you're traveling to a remote river. With a good repair kit and a spare tube bladder you could take this boat, with gear, to pretty remote places!

To sum things up - I want to buy one, and probably will. If you're considering a mini raft or paddle cat, make sure to check this boat out. Thanks for all the new innovative boats Aire!