Gumotex have set the benchmark for quality inflatable watercraft products. Their range is extensive and consists of kayaks, canoes and small boats. The Scout is their addition to the Open Canoe sector.
Why choose an Inflatable Canoe?
To me, Open Boat Canoeing has always been a very traditional way to go paddling. The elegant shape of a canoe, the sharp bow and stern gracefully slicing the surface, and a higher vantage point to take in the beauty of your surroundings. With the addition of ample seating and storage space, you make multi person trips more comfortable and have a craft capable of carrying your home comforts for multi-day adventures. Some of my best paddling memories have been had in Canadian-style canoes on the waterways in North Wales. Cruising down the river with friends, pulling up on the bank of a lake for a night's camp. Enjoying a bottle of hops around smouldering embers, telling stories of days past and twanging the ol’ banjo (badly) into the small hours. I’m now located in Cornwall, but regularly travel back to Wales to see family. My current accommodation has made if difficult to store a rigid Canoe. This is where the Gumotex Scout has stepped in!
Hard plastic canoes require a fair amount of space for storage and are generally 30-40kg so take a good bit of effort to get onto your car or van. I needed something easy to move between Cornwall and North Wales. The Scout is a much lighter at 25kg and packs down to easily fits in the boot of my car, making transportation a breeze.
Storing and Inflation
Being able to store the Scout in your house, in the cupboard, under the bed etc. makes canoeing more accessible for eager paddlers who don’t have the room to store large canoes. The Scout rolls up and packs away into a very manageable size.
Inflation of the Scout is easily done through inflation valves using a hand pump. Having push valves makes switching between inflation and deflation rapid.
The canoe is fully inflated within 15 minutes of steady pumping with a dual action hand pump. If you’ve eaten your Weetabix, then you could get this down to 10 minutes, from packed canoe to fully inflated craft ready to hit the water. The deck of the canoe also incorporates a release valve to stop overinflation of the chamber whilst the two side chambers can take a large volume of air. Once inflated up to the recommended 3 PSI, the Scout feels surprisingly rigid for an inflatable.
A little bit about design and construction
The Scout takes on the typical hull design of an open canoe. Sharper bow and stern lines provide great water slicing capabilities. Ok, not quite as sharp as a solid craft but not bad at all for an inflatable. The general idea is there though. Sharp bow and stern, wider middle. It looks very much like a canoe. As you paddle on flat water, the Scout does feel fast for an inflatable! This is noticeable compared to the more typical round-fronted inflatables I have previously paddled. These move more slowly through the water. The wider belly of the canoe provides a lot of stability. The Scout feels very solid and secure on the water. This keeps the missus happy as she doesn’t like the thought of getting tipped out, and I’d never hear the end of it if she went for a swim… best avoided at all costs. I think it would take a fair bit of tipping over for the Scout to want to flip. My ears will be safe… at least for today!
Despite the long length, the craft has a surprising amount of manoeuvrability. There is a lot of buoyancy in an inflatable craft and this helps the hull sit high on the water, especially when there is not too much load on board. A swift sweep stroke and the Scout is on the turn, somewhat easier than a hard plastic canoe. This is a useful aspect to the Scout when manoeuvring through tight sections of a lake/ river.
The seating positions on the Scout offer a versatile seat arrangement for a number of paddlers. The Scout comes with three seating panels, offering seating options for one, two or three passengers. Solo paddling from the centre position works well, with room for heaps of equipment fastened to the canoe.
The seats offer multiple paddling positions - sitting with your feet on the deck of the boat while on those tranquil waters, or offering a lower centre of gravity kneeling position for those adrenaline rapids down rivers. I actually quite like paddling in the kneeling position much of the time. I can get over the paddle a little better for some added power and control. The cushioning from the inflatable floor doesn't hurt the knees either.
Weighing 25kg the Scout is a light craft compared to its 15ft hard-shell equivalent. The weight is light enough for two people to comfortable transport a short distance to the water. The hull design also sits just below the water level to aid in paddle ability.
One thing I’ve noticed after working at Cornwall Canoes is that many new paddlers think that inflatables will pop. The Gumotex Scout is constructed from a multi-layered fabric called Nitrilon, consisting of high strength PES fibre with an outer layer of synthetic rubber and inner layer of a mixture based on natural rubber. The construction makes the Scout capable of being dragged up shingly terrain and capable of running down rapids. The three-chamber design and four layered construction fills you with confidence to venture out on open lakes and running rivers due to the multi chambers design providing flotation if one chamber does becomes compromised. It would take a fair amount of abrasion or impact with a particularly sharp rock to puncture this material. For the average recreational user who takes some level of care to avoid sharp objects, you can be confident that this material won’t just ‘pop’ under normal use! These are a quality craft made from quality materials that have passed the stringent quality control checks from Gumotex and will serve you for many years of paddling adventures. The Scout does include a repair kit in the event that you need to make a repair to the craft or patch up a bad scuff.
Scout Standard vs Scout Eco+
Gumotex offer two versions of the scout – the Standard and the Eco+. It is best to see the Eco+ as being great for those who will be recreationally paddling on nicer days. The average day tripper will find the Eco+ version more than adequate for their needs. The Standard has a number of extra features that make this better for those wanting to run white-water and also head off for mini-expeditions / multi-day camping trips. I have the Scout Standard model, and here’s my thoughts on the extra features supplied with this model:
- T-bone supports that fit underneath seats to reinforce the hull and help retain shape. A major advantage of the standard edition of the Scout in the addition of seat supports under the seating area. This in my opinion is a worthy consideration when selecting which model to go with. The supports greatly reduce the paddlers weight from the side gunnels of the canoe and make the seating area feel more solid (the most similar to a hard-shell canoe).
- Self bailing floor for drainage in rough/white water. This has a rolling closure to stop water ingress when paddling on calm water, or leave open for paddling on heavy white water.
- Front and rear seat thigh straps for greater security and control in rough water – I am yet to use these but can see their worth for running white-water.
- Foam pads on seats for increased comfort on longer journeys – yep these are comfortable.
- Additional clip in points for securing gear – very useful for tethering down dry bags and barrels.
- Quick nut/bolt fixings for securing seats replacing the cord used on the economy model - This does require a little more time in set up but makes using the scout a pleasure to paddle with the seats feeling very secure.
- Transport bag with shoulder carry straps – quality and easy enough to get the folded craft back into without struggling. Not only a handy way to move the canoe around, this keeps water, sand, dirt from filling your car.
A year with the Gumotex Scout
Over the past year I have paddled the Gumotex Scout at many locations in Wales, my favourite being Llyn Padarn in Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri (Snowdonia). Paddling trips have mainly been in tandem with my partner, but there has been a few solo trips too.
In short, the Scout has been superb and has created a lot more memories to reminisce on for years to come, although the banjo stayed at home this time! After many paddle strokes with the Scout I can only speak positively of it. It is never going to have the performance of a hard-shell canoe, but for general calm water day tripping and exploring, I think you will be hard-pushed to find fault with the capabilities of the Scout. You still have plenty of stability, carrying capacity and seating space as with any other canoe. It’s by no means slow and not too far off the pace of an equivalent length hard canoe.
Manoeuvrability seems easier, but in windy conditions this can be a negative, making it a bit harder to keep the Scout on course. Quite noticeable when solo paddling, but if two paddlers are in control it’s not too bad. Best for light-wind days if paddling on larger open waters. I am yet to run any serious white water with it other than small grade 1 running water, but looking at others experiences with the Scout it is more than capable if there is a grade 2+ section to run.
Whilst i have mainly used the Scout for general day tripping with my partner and for overnight camps, i can see the Scout making a great option for family paddling, especially for holidaying trips. There is more than enough space and capacity to take two adults and couple of children.
The Scout has allowed me to get out on the water when I would otherwise be wishing I had a canoe to get out on. I can see many years of paddling journeys ahead in the Scout. So, if you have no means of storing or transporting a hard shell canoe, go get yourself a Scout and don’t miss out on some great days on the water!
Jack at Cornwall Canoes
For The Canoe Shops Group Ltd.