As background, I’ve got 2 yaks - one from ~2006, and the other from ?~2004/5, the only difference being the position of the rear tie down, and for both rafts I’ve built my own spraydecks.
Although my experience is rather limited, I’ve used the rafts with full packs and with bikes, but mostly with day packs/fishing gear for downstream travel after fly-fishing all day in NZ. I reckon that these rafts are the best fun one can have on water - I love them.
I’ll outline some design problems that I feel that I have had - whether these equate to “custom mods” is up for debate, but at worst , maybe it can just be put down to “feedback”
The biggest problem/irritation I’ve had has been water coming over the back of the boat in rapids. I’d love a higher back to reduce this (ie if the back tubes flared up a few inches). I know that the latest rafts have an inflatable back rest, but to me this seems unlikely to do much to reduce the problem. The spray deck (ie my deck , which is very similar to the 2007 deck, with zip across the front, and side opening velcro, but made in silinylon) helps to a degree, but you really have to wear it as a “Harry High Pants” to negate the issue. Even with a 25kg pack on the front, holding the bow down, we still shipped a lot over the back, and the pack then made it even harder to empty!
The second irritation that I have had is that I am always feeling the need to sit higher and further back on the seat, thereby pushing the back of the boat lower - yes, this might be a problem with me, but at just under 6’, the yak should be the right size. I seem to slip forwards and down off the seat, and wonder whether the seat needs a little redesign with a flare at the front to stop this? I’ve tried an inflatamat as a floor, but it made the whole raft sit higher, and I felt a lot more unstable in it. Just something more under my bum (which isn’t large!) , and a higher back would be fine for me.
I also find that the bow is quite tight, and that my feet go numb when sitting in the boat for any length of time >30 mins. This may be a combination of foot position in a person wearing boots, and with very high arches, but it always happens, and I think it would be negated by having a slightly wider bow, so I could move my feet around a little - they really do get jammed in there.
As to position of tie downs - from my point of view they are perfect for daypacks, full sized rucksacks, and bikes. I wouldn’t mind a tie down in the centre back, for use pulling another raft, so as to keep both more “on line”, and perhaps also for roping a raft down a section of river, although I’ve never done this, and always carried the whole lot around any rapids we haven’t wished to raft .
I’d never use an additonal front tie down as described. I might use an internal tie down. A grab rail is overkill, although an additional 3 tie downs, one left back, and one on each side, thereby allowing you to make a grab rail would be good - it would give us other options if we wished to tie packs/fishing rods behind us, or skis/rods alongside us, etc and “options” are what it’s all about, aren’t they?? But …anyone should be able to add their own tie downs - I suppose , however, that it would be nice to be able to buy one that matches the boat, so you can just whack it where you want it.
Andrew Allan (with just under 4wks to go before the next NZ flyfishing/packrafting trip!!!)