The Rocky Mountain Rafts RMR IK-123 Solo Animas represents one of the very best values available in a solo downriver model. There is also a tandem version.
The Animas is just an inch under 11' long, 38" wide, and the tubes are 11.5". These taper to 8" at the bow, and the underside has 9" of rocker. Inside width is 15" or a smidge more. The weight is a very reasonable 37.5 pounds with thighstraps - quite good considering the beefiness of the pvc used and the fact that the gray floor wraps up to about the 4:00 / 8:00 position on the side tubes. Note that this 37 pound figure is fully five pounds less than what RMR gives on their site.
Two nice features here are the factory thighstraps, which almost every whitewater boater wants these days, and a large thwart backrest. This thwart provides the support you need in more difficult rapids, and is fully adjustable. It's held in with four camstraps that are affixed to the side of the tapered thwart. The taper is at a rearward angle rather than a downward angle as it should probably be, but that doesn't cause any issues. There are also rubber lift handles at the bow & stern. These handles seem like they may have the unintentional double duty of being bumpers, which is okay with us.
The material is mostly 2000 denier base fabric, providing a near-unrippable hull, and like all Rocky Mountain boats it is fully welded except for the RMR logo & floor wrap-up. The colors that we have for now are blue with a gray floor (not solid blue as shown) or yellow & gray, though we will try to also carry the red's in the near future. We will not be stocking the bland looking solid grays, and probably not the green unless we start getting calls for it.
The Warranty is five years like all RMR products.
The weight capacity is around 275 pounds though there is some water around your tushy at that level. The main tube valves are at opposing ends much like with AIRE's Superlynx model, and that's because the boat is split in a front half and a back half air chamber-wise. As with the SuperLynx, the Animas side tubes are constructed more like a two chamber raft, which allows a higher volume at the front to prevent submerging in big holes, and it simply gives better integrity to the hull shape even if the floor is not inlfated.
There are ten D-ring patches total. Four of these are double-D's that are intended to be used for the thighstraps, though really short or really tall folks may find them to be slightly out of ideal position. Four of the "normal" D-rings are behind the seat and so provide a good place for camp gear tie-down. The final two D's are near the bow. The Animas comes with a wrapper that functions as a boat bag; a smaller version of what Rocky Mountain gives with their rafts.
The stiffness and smooth continuous curve bow and stern is closely lined up with the hull shape of an excellent older New Zealand I.K. that we started working on with RMR last year, and though we have not yet gotten this version on the river the shape and very high stiffness of the hull should provide for pretty good handling. There is room for improvement on some of the attachments, but the lone thing that we would criticize would be the floor design, which ends up making for very wide, high grooves on the underside, thus taking away somewhat from the displacement..
Dirty Devil produces heavy duty Kayaker's and Rafter's throwbags with the bottom halves built from 1000 denier cordura. The Kayaker's Throwbag, made for swiftwater rescue, has 50 feet of 5/16" yellow braided polypro floatline and runs $38. It's hard to see in our photo, but a snap-buckle equipped strap runs around the perimeter of this bag, so you do not have to waste a carabiner attaching it to your boat. It's also small enough to clip to your lifevest should you wish to do so.
Medium See-Thru Drybag. Reinforced SeeThru Bags provide a nice way to always know what's inside each bag. The clear sides of the See-Thru's are made with a vinyl that has 1/4" spaced scrim inside the clear material. SeeThru's come in five sizes, with round bottoms. The Medium is 9.5" round and 19" tall. It runs $29. These are "lock-top" style bags where you roll the top down, and bring the male & female fastex buckles around and snap them together.
Our U.S. made Curved Padded Thighstraps ($47/pair) are generally sold to inflatable kayakers, but can also be used with sit-on-top plastic kayaks if yours has metal attachment anchors. These straps are wide at the ends and narrow in the middle. When installed properly, the Boat People logos will be upside down. Go figure. You would think we had these made in China, but not so - they are sewn in South Carolina!
Thighstraps allow you to be more effective with brace strokes in whitewater and are definitely the simplest & cheapest way to improve your paddling. They work the easiest with AIRE i.k's, but they can also clip or loop into into other boats with bail holes running full length (take a small piece of rope out thru one bail hole and back up thru the next hole, and tie a knot to form a loop, then repeat this for the other three attachment points), such as Incepts and Hysides, and older air-floor Maravias. In some boats four D-rings may need to be installed (small D-rings run $5 to $7 each depending on what your kayak is made of) to connect the thighstraps to.
Thighstraps are removable, and only take a couple minutes to install. If you leave them in your boat, expect to have thighstrap-shaped mildew stains in short order. These have a quick release ladder lock at one end in case you become entangled. If you are not clear on how to use thighstraps, please don't think for a minute that asking will make you look dumb. We will be happy to go over their installation and usage with you on the phone, but please understand this is tough to do via email.
By the way, in case any of you are looking for AIRE's kayak thighstraps, we are no longer stocking them but they can be ordered easily enough (they run three extra days for delivery); just give us a call. They and the NRS straps are both made in China, both cost the same as our U.S.-made Boat People straps, and both are more complicated to attach/detach, so we don't feel either of them are the best value anymore compared to ours.
A great take-apart whitewater paddle at an affordable price!
The Bravo 9 ($50) has a six liter main chamber and a 1.5 liter top off chamber. You pull the black plug out of the yellow port and it bypasses the main chamber, pumping air only out of the smaller top-off chamber. This is similar to the Bravo 5 that we also carry. The location of the valve ports on the Bravo 9 are in the way of your foot, so you have to pump with the unit flipped around and your foot on the front edge of the top bellows plate. If you try to pump it with the hinge edge toward your heel, you will very quickly tear off the plastic plug's tether with your foot.
The top-off chamber on the B-9 goes to about nine or maybe ten p.s.i. though the manufacturer claims slightly higher. The Bravo 9 weighs about 3-1/2 pounds, a tad less than the Bravo 5.
The plastic clips that hold Bravo foot pumps shut tend to break easily. We do have replacements for $3 but we also have a $25 minimum order, so your best bet when the clip breaks is to use a loop of rope or a 2' camlock strap to hold the pump shut.
Big Water Type V universal adult size lifevest, in the red/blue two tone shown, or a pretty, slightly "persimmony" shade of orange specify that color in the note area on your order).
Note that there is a youth size available in this jacket, but since we already carry two very good ones from Safegard and MTI, we don't stock the youth version of the Big Water. We will be happy to order it if you wish, but you will need to phone us.
The Big Water can theoretically go from 30" up to a 57" or 58" chest size but they are definitely tighter at the top end of the range than the Safegard Goliath. If you are in between 57" and 60" we cannot really recommend this pfd. For folks more along a 55" or 56" chest though, the Big Water is far more comfortable than the stiff and rather low-tech Goliath and Kivva models that we sell.
Reviews on this vest are rather mixed. Some outfitters seem to love them; others like one of our local friends who is still in the raft rental biz are a bit underwhelmed with how well it snugs down, as are we. There is no question that a Big Water will pull up more easily than the MTI Canyon model, even with some serious cinching of the lowest strap, but the Big Water does stay down better than the Safegard Kivva. The materials throughout are very good though, and there are not many contenders for those with chests above 51". The Big Water also has adjustable shoulders, which can be found on the Big Buoy & Kivva but not many other type 5's. These run $125.