Uses: Class III–V whitewater, Desert Floats, Fishing
Location: SW Colorado
I have rowed an AIRE Super Duper Puma for the past 6 years with great success on some of the areas more challenging whitewater. I love my raft but have become fascinated by the simplicity and maneuverability of a small cat. Over the past few seasons my friends introduced me to various types of Sotar Legend and AIRE Wave Destroyer tubes. I was nearly talked into a 13’ Legend when I saw the NRS Outlaw 13 cataraft tubes on the web. The specs looked solid and the price was definitely right. The only downside I saw was the shorter warranty and non-domestic production. However, I’ve always received great customer support from NRS. I decided to take a chance and add an Outlaw cataraft to the fleet.
My Outlaw, nicknamed “Burl Haggard”, has been unbelievably solid thus far. Last year I rowed it on Westwater Canyon, the Piedra River, San Juan River and Animas River (Upper and Lower). It has handled everything from big desert waves to technical rocky drops with relative ease. The large 23” tubes provide a stable ride and the 27” kick helps punch through holes without being too “surfy”. If play surfing is what you want to do, the Outlaw excels at that too. I spent several days at the Smelter play park surfing and hanging out with friends. I was able to ride some fairly steep waves without dipping the nose cones and getting bucked out.
After some contemplating, I chose to use a modified 54” wide NRS Sport Cat frame. This allows me to use the same Cataract SGG 8.5’ oars that I use on my raft setup. Not having to buy another set of oars saved me a ton of money. The seat is mounted on the center-line of the tubes with the front lower crossbar acting as the foot bar. There is plenty of room behind the rower for one passenger on a multi-day trip or a cooler and drop bag full of gear on a solo excursion. This narrower configuration tracks well and provides confidence in tight rapids.
The weight of the Outlaw Cataraft has surprised more than a few of my buddies. Even with 6 chambers and the longest frame it’s still one of the lightest in our group. Carrying it down steep banks to difficult launch sites is a breeze. The large comfortable handles are great. It’s also really convenient to be able to load and unload it from a trailer by myself.
The tubes are not only lightweight, they are also very tough. The 41 oz. PVC coated 2000 denier material has taken a handful of gouges, slices and scuffs from a wide array of hidden sticks and sharp rocks. NONE of them have leaked. They have been stored inflated in my shop for the winter with no air loss at all. That’s more than can be said for a couple of new Sotar Legends in the group that have required patches for rather mild incidental damages. I’m not saying the Outlaw is the toughest cataraft out there but it more than holds its own against the big names (at a fraction of the cost).
There are still a few things about the Outlaw cat that could be better. The chafe strip is not super thick so my frame has nearly rubbed through it in a couple spots. Since the boat is PVC it’s easy enough to reinforce, patch or replace. The nose cones seem heavy duty but would probably be tough and/or expensive to replace. I have inadvertently slammed a few walls with them and they barely have a scratch, but it’s something that lingers in the back of mind. The last issue is more of a suggestion than complaint, but if the Outlaw were offered in just a couple more colors I think it would sell better. The Aire, Sotar and Maravia color options allow for a certain amount of flamboyant personalization that speaks to the quirkiness of water sports enthusiasts. I like it in the boring old blue, but some would rather spend the cash for something a bit flashier.
Last fall I bought a motor mount and attached a 4hp outboard to the Outlaw. Who knew it would make such a fun little fishing rig. Two fishermen managed to scoot around the local lake at about 8mph. We did however drop a bunch of gear in the water due to the lack of a floor. I’ll definitely add a mesh floor before I head back out and lose another tackle box.
At this point, I really couldn’t be more pleased with my purchase. The Outlaw is a lightweight, nimble, tough and capable craft. It’s a great platform on which to advance my whitewater skills and I can’t wait to tackle new runs in it this 2015 season. At the current price point of $1,395, I don’t see how you could go wrong.
Zach MilkeBayfield, CO