Today's rafter interested in inflatable boats has a wide variety of choices when it comes to style. Mainstream boats such as round boats and catarafts are moving aside for new, innovative niche boats that fill specific requirements. Because they don't fit any other category, we are going to group them together as "Hybrids".
AIRE ushered in a new design with their Puma series, similar to a conventional round boat, but narrower and with a sharper upturn at the bow and stern. These boats are ideal for light loads on tight streams that require cross-ferry maneuvers, or for boaters who require car-top convenience in terms of portability. Several other manufacturers are now making similar designs. Here's a brief rundown.
|Manufacturer||Length||Width||Tube Diameter||Bow Rise||Capacity||Weight|
|AIRE Puma||11'6"||5'6"||18"||12"||872 lbs.||89 lbs.|
|AIRE Super Puma||13'1"||5'8"||18.5"||14"||986 lbs.||100 lbs.|
|AIRE Super Duper Puma||14'||5'11"||19"||15"||1158 lbs.||115 lbs.|
|Maravia Spider||13'||5'9"||20.5"||16"|| 112 lbs.
These boats are a dream to row, however some expedition travelers should consider that the narrower platform substantially reduces the working load capacity of these boats. Pack light and they're great. Pack heavy and you're in for a workout.
Hybrids are a great option for hunters interested in a relatively light-weight boat for narrower rivers, who have grown tired of the wet ride and constant repairs associated with pack rafts. They're not nearly as heavy as a conventional bailer, are much easier to load into an aircraft, are easily portaged, and they handle smaller rivers very well.
Hybrids can be handed fairly well with little more than a canoe paddle, however a rowing setup offers a much more secure platform for positive control on the water. Go with either a strap-aboard oar tower or a simple frame with oar towers and a seat, as you prefer.