Self-Support Kayaking with the Jackson Nirvana Review by Kevin Heiner
Long before I kayaked, I camped. Whether backpacking, hunting, climbing or skiing; I camped. Then, I learned how to kayak, and my camping game was greatly improved. For me, few things are better than camping with close friends along a river. Add whitewater, far off places and new environments to explore and the experience is magic. A kayak can provide access to places that would otherwise be impossible to visit.
While preparing for an early season 3 day Salt River trip, I got in touch with Tony at Four Corners to demo a Jackson Nirvana after seeing a video of Ben Stooksberry pack a Jackson boat. In addition to this blog, I created a video review from my trip so click here to see the Nirvana in action!
Having packed many other various creekboats for overnight river trips over the years, I was impressed with the ease of access to the bow of the boat. This looked like a far better way to distribute weight than loading just the stern, even if I could slide the seat forward.
For this trip, I decided to bring more than I needed: my full sleeping kit (including a two person tent), lots of food, plenty of extra clothes, a pair of extra shoes, a breakdown paddle, pin kit, first aid kit and some choice brews. The Nirvana swallowed it all with ease. I packed my stuff loosely into four dry bags: two Watershed Futa bags and two Salamander Ultranighters. I put my entire sleeping kit (light but bulky) in the Salemander bags which easily fit in the bow in front of the removable foot platforms. My four piece breakdown fit in two pieces, one on either side of the stern under and everything else in the two Futa bags. I could have easily brought two more 20 liter dry bags full of food, cooking equipment, etc.
My plush camp on night one along the Salt River.
All of this plus my breakdown and some beer easily packed into and fit inside. Salamander bags in front of my feet and breakdown paddle and Futa bags behind the seat.
We had about 1200 cfs and on the water the boat was fast, playful and balanced despite the weight. Though the whitewater on the Salt is mellow, I could immediately tell I’d much rather paddle harder whitewater trimmed the way I was packed. I weigh 155 pounds and in the medium I was floating high and dry even with quite a bit of gear and beer loaded comfortably around me. I really liked the rocker and edges on the boat.
I find the Jackson outfitting to be comfortable, simple, strong, light and easy to fix. Though I’ve paddled numerous Jackson boats, I’ve actually never broken a backband or any other part of the outfitting. In almost every other brand I have broken some critical piece of outfitting, usually in dynamic and sometimes unforgiving places. I like to carry prussiks of spectra cold that are the same diameter as the cordage that Jackson uses to tighten and secure the backband, which would make for a quick and easy fix even if it did break. The foot platforms are easy enough to remove when you are packing or unpacking but do attach securely enough to feel like they aren’t going anywhere even if you were to swim.
The last Jackson creekboat I paddled was the Villain (small), and I actually ended up with two of them. After I finally worked through those, I needed some time to see what else was out there. I never liked how that boat paddled if it was loaded. However, after my most recent trip, down the Salt, I’m eager to take the Nirvana out again and think it might actually be the next creek/expedition type kayak I’ll buy. It was so fun to paddle and Jackson has a great warranty and is made in the good ole’ USA. Thanks for letting me take this out for a rip, Tony!