Local paddler and ex-4CRS kayak instructor Drew Fischer of Surf the San Juans just completed a 10 day self-support kayak trip down the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon in the new Jackson Karma Unlimited. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the new Unlimited RG in demo, which features a drop skeg and rear hatch for easy packing, but despite the lack of these self-support oriented features, Drew still had a great trip and loved the Unlimited.
I just finished a ten day self-support kayak trip thru the Grandest of canyons on the Colorado River. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to paddle the new Jackson Kayak Karma Unlimited due to the generosity of 4Corners Riversports; thanks guys !!
I was able to hop right into this design and paddle it effectively, even though my experience with longer boats is minimal, the similarities in performance from the Jackson play boats and creek boats that I am used to paddling made it an easy ‘new feeling’. Obviously the boat performs differently when fully loaded with equipment for 10 days, but its easy to get your practice in when you are covering two hundred and twenty-five miles in that time. Even fully loaded the Unlimited was quite predictable. VERY quick to get up to maximum hull speed – just a few strokes and you are traveling fast, this boat would carry that momentum for quite some time (fully loaded) and it was surprising how well it would hold its angle and plain in a straight line even without the drop skeg that the Karma RG offers.
In fact, one of the biggest issues with the whitewater in the Grand Canyon are the boils and whirlpools that are extremely strong and unpredictable, popping up here and there with no warning or pattern at all. With the 11feet 10inches of plaining hull and just a bit of extra width I feel I was able to manage these random hydraulics much easier than my team mates in their displacement hull kayaks. The boat was not quick to slide sideways in that big water, as heavy as it was, but the rapids on the Grand do not require quick adjustments if you are on your initial line. . . well, sometimes we (meaning I) get off line ( _ _it happens) I was pleased with the forgiving nature of this boat when I did.
Easy to roll; no problem full of all my gear, and I believe the extra weight gave me some advantage when attempting to punch that surprise hole or two. Let me specify how comfortable this boat was, when you are spending this much time in a craft every day for continuous days this is a no-joke subject. I could not brag more on the outfitting adjustability, especially on the fly (I could make adjustments on the water).
Dry; The boat is un-drilled 1st of all, and I have a drysuit and a great skirt that fit the boat properly, but lets face it, this is a wet sport and paddling big white water always makes for an especially swamped boat that needs to be regularly drained and or sponged. Although I did have a few sponge fills a day it was nothing to the amount of water I watched my buddies pulling out of their kayaks. I have not one complaint about how the boat felt as I became one with it for hours and days of river miles. Easy packing, as I mentioned above I did not have the added benefits of the RG (drop skeg and hatch). I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed those added features on a trip like this one, however I was able to do what I needed without them. I took the foam pillar out of the stern, that was pretty much it. The design of the bow bulk head is such that it is easy to slide off and on for packing behind and still have a nice rigid and safe place to put your feet while paddling. I had to pack and unpack all my dry bags every day, (a major part of efficiency on this trip) and was generally pleased with what an easy time I had doing so. So really, the boat is appropriately named the Karma Unlimited, as it is very much so in its abilities on and off of the water. ~ Drew Fischer ~