Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Kayak review by TBP

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    Lee Arbach TBP

    AIRE Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Kayak

    For those who don’t wish to mortgage their house to get into inflatable kayaking, and anyone who would rather not sit in two or three inches of water as a pair of big adults would in many of the mass-marketed self-bailing tandems, the Tomcat line is a highly affordable alternative. AIRE Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Kayak was AIRE’s first entry into the import market way back in 2003. “Tributary” is the name AIRE uses for their Chinese line, which now includes the Strike kayaks and the six Tributary rafts.

    AIRE Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Kayak Hull

    The Tomcat Tandem hull shape was copied from AIRE’s ancient U.S.-made Caracal models, which were pretty nice boats. Tomcats differ from the Lynx, Outfitter, & Strike models in several ways: 1) the warranty is one year, not five or ten, and it will not cover damage you do to the boat, 2) this boat (and the Strikes) is made in China instead of the States, 3) the underside seams are stitched on a sewing machine instead of being welded, 4) it uses less stretchable vinyl tube bladders instead of urethane ones, 5) it has Halkey Roberts knock-off valves instead of the more expensive Leafields, 6) the color choices are limited to red and blue; no green, purple, or yellow, and 7) the pvc hull fabric is different, with less base fabric on top, than what is used for the American models of AIRE’s kayak lines.

    AIRE Tributary Tomcat II Whitewater Inflatable Kayak is made from a 30 oz. per square yard 500 denier pvc on the upper red or blue portion, and a beefy 32 ounce 1000 denier pvc on the bottom that is a bit thicker (though not higher in rip strength) than the American made AIRE kayaks. This floor material is a bit more sticky on river rocks than the undersides of a Lynx, but not much.
    Valves in AIRE Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Kayak

    Tomcats do definitely have superior valves and weight capacities compared to the old Sevylor River-X series or many of the Sea Eagle models. They also tend to be pretty heavy – 54 pounds for this tandem. The only other two person whitewater inflatable that holds more weight than a Tomcat II is AIRE’s Outfitter II. AIRE rates the Tomcat II at 450 pounds but it will handle 30 or 40 pounds more.

    As of 2013, paddlers do have another inexpensive option for a tandem kayak with the new NRS Outlaw II. It weighs far less than the Tomcat 2, and though we haven’t tested it yet we assume it will perform at least as well. The one big caveat to consider is how much weight you will put into your tandem. If it’s in the 350 pound range – and not 350 lbs where one person weighs 250 and the other 100 – then the Outlaw may be a great option. Should you need higher payload capacity, stick with the Tomcat 2 Tandem Inflatable Kayak.

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