AIRE Ocelot Cataraft review by TBP

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    The AIRE Ocelot Cataraft (22″ tubes) were revamped about six years back. The rocker was increased slightly, allegedly letting it ride over the type of waves you might find on high flow runs a bit better than the older model. For most rowers the difference will probably be hard to discern. The Ocelot, Wildcat, Leopard, Wave Destroyers, and Jaguarundi all have rowing frame chafers though some of our older photos may not show them. These chafers are not actually a second layer of material as you might think, but rather a hot dog shaped section of heavier grey fabric inserted into a cut-out area on top of the tubes.

    Ocelots hold a lot more weight that the “little brother” Wildcat’s because their diameter and extra length adds up to far more buoyancy. The Ocelot can handle generous loads without drafting deep, but it also gets surfed rather easily in holes when it’s not loaded down. It seems to do the best with payloads of around 900 pounds in terms of behaving predictably on the river. This is based on our experience with several vintages on runs ranging from heavily loaded multi-day trips in Oregon, overnighters on the Tuolumne, and lightly loaded days trips at higher flows on the Merced River outside Yosemite. If you mainly do day trips, even if many of them are with a second person, the Wildcat found in this section might be a better choice. Overall the Ocelot is one of the two best selling cats in AIRE’s line-up, and it represents the best compromise between load capacity and sportiness. It won’t draft deep so you will float over more rocks that smaller tubes would hang up on. If you often have two passengers rather than just one, the Jaguarundi may be a better size.

    For 2013 purple, white, and two-tone grey are now special order with waits that usually vary from five weeks to two months. Standard colors include John Boehner orange (it’s nicer than it sounds!), yellow, dark green, red, and traditional blue.
    AIRE Catarafts Ocelot with Urethane Material Option

    The Ocelot is also available in an super-tough urethane material for an extra $1,225, 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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