AIRE Leopard Cataraft review by TBP

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    AIRE Leopard Cataraft and the new 2013 Lion are the longest catarafts AIRE makes. They are both intended for trips of a week or more, or rowers who want to take several passengers. The eighteen-foot Leopard holds 1500 pounds of gear. How does it handle? Hard to say with certainty. We’ve never rowed this one, but it’s little brother the Jaguarundi is a great rig that slices huge head-on waves with ease. Leopards are often used on the Grand Canyon by private boaters since they seem to be so stable in big water, at least when loaded down. And it’s a sure bet it will far out-handle any piggy 18′ conventional raft.
    AIRE Catarafts Leopard Bladders

    All four bladders in any given single tube AIRE cat are interchangeable, so if you were heading outside the lower 48 and wanted a spare bladder as a back-up, one will work for either end of either tube. Many boaters who own this model choose to use a trailer for transport, and considering what a large cat frame can weigh that’s probably a good call. Leopards come with replaceable lift handles and frame chafers as shown. Color choices (please always have a second choice) include dark green, red, blue, yellow, and the newer orange. Purple, white, and all-gray can be had if you are willing to wait a long time, but a deposit is required for those colors. Remember, pricing is for tubes only!

    The AIRE Catarafts Leopard tubes are also available in an extra-tough urethane material for an $1,790 more, though this is not something we or AIRE usually have on hand. Therefore, this option is not on the shopping cart because the lead times can vary greatly. Give us a phone call if you are interested and we will check the delivery times for you. Whether it is worth spending half again as much money to upgrade to urethane is debatable, but we will let you make the call. The abrasion resistance in the water is far higher, and the base fabric is beefier, so you get an even stiffer tube. That said the standard pvc AIRE’s are mighty stiff as it is.

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