Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Oh no, not a gear review ... the Gumotex Twist inflatable canoe

I gave up buying outdoor magazines many years ago. What I wanted from a mag was a bundle of exciting outdoor adventure stories to read around the Primus in the evening. But what I got was pages and pages of wearisome gear reviews. I mean, how interesting are the breathability qualities of twenty different cagoules. Not very! And yet, I now find myself on this blog doing a gear review but hopefully you’ll like this one …

For several years I have been drooling over packrafts which are super-lightweight crafts weighing around 2 kilos. They are so tiny you can go backpacking or bike touring with them and cleverly integrate your outdoor adventures. The disadvantage of them is the price tag – realistically about £1000 all-in. I was looking for something that bridged the gap between my current heavy inflatable canoe and the packraft, both in weight and price. I think I found it in the Gumotex Twist inflatable canoe ... kayak ... whatever!

The Twist comes as a solo or double inflatable kayak. My solo version weighs 6kg and packs down to the size of a large tent. That’s about half the size and weight of my old inflatable. I can now cycle with it packed onto the bike and, something that has pleased me no end, I can fit it into the front pannier of the Brompton. It’s light enough that I can comfortably go for a long walk with it in a backpack and easily get to and from the bus or train station with it. Though I doubt I’ll be able to walk far with it if I add overnight camping kit. It arrived in the post in a tiny little stuffsack but needless to say I have subsequently been unable to squeeze it back in there. 

The Twist has three main inflation chambers – two side chambers and the floor – which inflate through easy-to-use, well-designed military style valves. The canoe comes with an enormous hand pump for this purpose which you’ll probably want to replace with a smaller, lighter foot pump. The integrated back rest and the foot rest inflate quickly and surprisingly easily through mouthpiece valves that you blow into. There is luggage space with cargo netting behind the backrest, haul handles front and rear, and two side carry handles. The canoe comes with a tracking fin to keep it straight on open water that fits easily underneath. The canoe outer material is a cordura-style fabric that does “wet out” and this may be one disadvantage as the canoe will need dried out after use. But it’s a small point as the boat is so tiny and light you can just throw it over your whirlygig. The whole canoe goes up in about 10 minutes.

Before I talk about performance, I should tell you that I know absolutely nothing technical about canoeing as I don’t have patience for proper courses and training. However, my thoughts are that it felt fantastically light and fast on the water. I felt I could really power along on it, skimming across the top of the waves. Compared to my old canoe, it felt a bit more “tippy”– I’m sure that IS a technical term - and I have read that is because it has "rocker" which I believe makes it handle more like a proper kayak. Because the canoe and I are very light, the wind effect was significant and I’m thinking I might have to add some sort of ballast in windy conditions. It turns on a penny and is wonderfully controllable – WITH the tracking fin. Without the tracking fin, it spins like a Waltzer and is as erratic as a dodgem! It’s described as being suitable for calm water or slow-moving rivers but it felt good in the small waves I encountered on the first trip.

I ordered mine online from Bluewater Sports for £250 when they had a special offer (looks like it's currently £299) and it arrived a couple of days later. Based on the couple of outings I've had, I’m absolutely delighted with it and for anybody wanting a light craft who finds packrafts too pricey, it seems like a great alternative.

Now ... did I tell you about my new breathable cagoule …


  1. I'd love to give it a try. Though the use of the word "tippy" fills me with dread.

  2. As per tradition, I've named my boat ... The Soup Dragon ... so perhaps we should smash a bottle of champagne and you can be tipsy not tippy.

  3. I've so far managed to resist the urge to order one of these since I read your review last week but I have been sorely tempted! I do like the idea that I could tuck a boat into a corner of the 'big yellow bag' and take it with me on bike adventures. I assume that because it's a fabric construction and has the fin underneath, you can't launch from the shore and need to be careful in shallow water. How easy is it to get in and out of - given its tippiness? (Yes, that is certain to be a real technical term.)

    Soup Dragon. Good name - except I now have the Clangers whistling in my head :)

    (Struggling to find time to finish next instalment of the 'Trans-Alba' but it's coming soon...)

  4. Yeah the packraft would be perfect for taking in the trailer but they are soooo expensive. The Twist would take up a biggish corner but it would work. You can launch from shore no trouble at all - yes the tracking fin attaches on the bottom but you just need to float the boat out a little way and then get in by stepping in from the side or get in from a jetty or such like. Though it feels more tippy than my other canoe, it's still pretty stable and easy to get in and out of. You'd need to be a wee bit careful in shallow water but to be honest I hit the bottom a couple of times without worrying. If you're going some down a river you would take the fin off. The river I've tried was slow and deep so I left the fin on. Hope this helps ... from somebody who really doesn't know an awful lot about canoeing!

  5. Oh my, those packrafts do look nice. I wish you hadn't mentioned them - bad person ;) But then in Derbyshire, there's only really the reservoirs to paddle on and they are icy cold and just look at the price of dry suits. Eeeek. Maybe I'll just go back to 'needing' a fat bike (and I could get one of those on the cycle-to-work scheme.) Then again, I saw a blog post the other day from someone who is planning to 'fatbikeraft' across Alaska - yes, really! So many ways to have fun and so little time.

  6. I heard that fatbikeraft guy did a runner with the $10,000 sponsor money he raised ... probably needed it to buy the packraft.

  7. LOL. Perhaps fat bike and packraft are the getaway vehicles of choice for the modern fraudster.