Initial Review of the Hobie Outback Kayak.
So now I have had the opportunity to take the Hobie Outback out three times. Once each out of Whittier, Seward, and the Kenai River.
All I can say is "WOW!" 9.5 out of 10!
Keep in mind my the Kayak I upgraded from was a Malibu mini-X. The Mini-X was/is a GREAT kayak. I love the lightweight, tough, stable kayak. But it just did not have the range to effectively and more importantly fish the waters where I wanted to fish safely. No longer am I limited to a one mile of launch fearing currents and wind.
Before this sounds too much like a commercial and not a review, we'll start with the negatives.
1) The first is the price. Mine was $2,300 to ship it up here to Alaska with the ST Turbo fin and Sailing Rudder upgrade. My mini-x I bought on Craigslist for $400. I got it through Alaska Raft and Kayak who in turn orders it from Hobie Cat Northwest out of Seattle. But Mark at Alaska Raft and Kayak said he'd take care of me and any warranty issues so I opted to go through them. Basically it's what you'd pay for a Hobie in Seattle plus $300 bucks for shipping.
2) The weight. At 60 pounds, its 22 pounds heavier than my mini-x. I can already tell that over the course of the year, I WILL get lazy and will take one or two fewer trips because of the extra weight hassle. It's a LOT harder to load onto the car when i go out by myself
3) A LOT more stuff that can break or get in the way. The mirage drive in my eyes effectively cuts the front area in half for things like strapping on a 75 pound halibut. The mirage drive and the rudder are two more things to worry about whether it be while landing or fighting a fish. In my third trip out, I bent the mast of my turbo fins. Fortunately one of the pros is it was easily fixed. Also you better hope your rudder doesn't break. That mirage drive was impossible without it...almost took hitting a sweeper to realize that rudder must be in water before it works...kinda like tires need to be on the ground. But the yak will NOT go straight without some kind of rudder like a paddle. Duh....
4) Not as many places to mount things...I think. The mirage drive takes away the nice center space, I don't have racks on my car so I don't want anything like a ram ball extending past the flat plane. I guess maybe I should just buy racks.
5) Plastic seems MUCH softer than my mini-x. I've got a few nice gouges and dings already. Maybe I am just sensitive from looking at my first brand new kayak.
6) I still haven't gotten my seat adjusted to where it is anywhere near as comfortable as my mini-x seat. But I think I still need to tinker with this some more.
Okay that probably covers the cons, most of the functionality issues are very minor.
1) THIS KAYAK IS A FISHING MACHINE!!!!!!!
Maybe that's all I need to say? Okay, let's try this again.
1b) Mirage Drive: If you are thinking about seriously fishing any flowing waters whether it be ocean current or river, the Mirage Drive is an unfair advantage. To be able to propel and drive the boat with rod in hand is an advantage that just cannot be made up by the standard paddlers. When I was trolling with paddles, I would say that maybe one in five drops, my gear was tangled because I would either have to cast/drift while deploying and then begin to move. If I judged the current or wind wrong, the result was I was pulling tangled gear. Never happens with the mirage drive because I am moving while deploying which is not only much faster but doesn't tangle.
How can you stay over a small pinnacle or other structure with current if you hands were busy paddling. You might get one brief drift while the mirage drive can hold me consistently over that structure. The mirage drive alone strapped to a cardboard box would be almost as good as a standard paddle kayak in many situations. It is really that good in terms of fishing effectiveness in my opinion.
2) Stability. The Outback is designed such that it feels like you are sitting inside the kayak versus sitting on top of it like it did on my mini-x. Although I haven't tried it, it almost seems like it would be impossible under normal conditions to tip the outback as long as you were seated and you did not lean your body over the edge. Much more initial stability. No fears swinging my legs to dangle over the side even the the sides seem much higher. I always hesitated on my mini-x. I bought the outback over the revolution for the stability. I definitely got it. But it is so dang stable, I am almost thinking I should have gone with the revolution...nah, I'll probably just get an adventure in a year or two. lol.
3) Cruising speed. Not necessarily top end speed but the ease of maintaining a cruising speed. A very slow cadence. Often I'd get tired fairly quick and I'd think to myself that if every peddle cycle was like a paddle stroke, my arms would look like a comic book character imitating a windmill. So I slow down and it cruises just fine. 100% more effort only seems to yield 33% more speed anyways. I haven't gone out with anyone so i will be interested in seeing if I can at least keep up. Well all I know is it will keep up with anything a LOT better than my mini-x.
4) Control- With the sailing rudder and turbo fin upgrade, holding or slowly backing down in a nice straight line on the Kenai River was easily accomplished. Even in the fastest sections I had no problem maintaining what I thought was a fish catching speed down river. The one thing I should have tried was to reverse the drive so I could face downstream as I backtrolled. But being the first time out on a river ever in any kayak, I opted for familiarity. But I could see swapping it every drift which is probably only once every 15 to 30 minutes. I wonder how the rudder will work if it at the front of the kayak?
5) Fish control - I can't say I have first hand experience but it HAS to be the case. Imagine sitting in Beaver Hole and the fish tears downstream? With the mirage drive I can peddle upstream and still fight the fish. I MIGHT be able to coax the fish back upstream. Turning the corner at Beaver Hole means taking out 10 miles downstream at the bsuiest dock in Alaska during the last two weeks of July. I guess with a paddle yak, you could stick it in a rod holder, paddle like crazy and hope to god the fish is still on but I can't imagine having to do that with a fish of a life time. Even if the fish doesn't tear downstream, if you are fighting the fish, you have no choice but to drift downstream with a paddle yak. How you would deal with a monster Kenai king which tend to run upstream. How are you going to control that with a paddle yak? I guess tighten the drag and go for a RIDE! Nothing wrong with that...but being able to chase down the fish while fighting it on the rod and reel seems like a MUCH more effective method of landing that fish.
I am sure that as I use it more, I will have more to report. I give it a 9.5 out of 10. Not perfect due to the price and weight mainly. The other issue that concerns me a little bit but seems to ne okay is the reliability of the mirage drive. I guess only time will tell for that, though other erviews seem to indicate they are very durable drives.