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 …