The Supai Adventure Gear Matkat is an ultralight single chamber packraft designed for flatwater wilderness paddling. Weighing just 26.5 ounces, it rolls up quite compactly making it easy to carry inside a backpack. However, the Matkat is made with lightweight polyester that requires delicate handling. While this makes it lightweight and easy to pack, I’d caution you against taking this boat on rough and tumble backcountry trips where you’re likely to hit underwater obstructions or you have to launch and land the boat on rocky or brush-congested shores. It doesn’t take much to rip up the bottom of a Matkat and you may find that a heavier, more durable boat will be better suited for such conditions.
The Supai Matkat is made using a very lightweight 75 denier polyester ripstop and weighs only 26.5 ounces. It has a built-in floor, which is uninsulated, and a single internal attachment point, sized for light cord, for securing gear to the boat. Very simple and streamlined.
The Matkat takes 140 breaths to inflate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with any kind of inflation aid, like the dual dry bag/inflation sacks provided by other packraft makers. Instead, Supai recommends that you bring a battery-powered microburst pump along on your trips, even though this seems at odds with the ultralight roots for the product. That’s not something I’d consider doing, so I blow up the boat myself to keep things simple. Supai says they they’re developing an inflation system for availability in 2017. While you can live without it, it’s inconvenient, to put it mildly.
You inflate the boat using a plastic tube with a screw-on mouthpiece. The nice thing about this system is that you can top off the boat while it’s on the water, which is useful when you put the boat in cold water and the volume of air inside shrinks. The downside, is that the screw-on cap dangles in an untreated “wilderness” water source. I’d caution you to consider the consequences of putting the wet valve in your mouth.
Deflation is easy. Simply remove the hose and roll up the boat to force all of the air out of it.
The Matkat is a bit cramped inside, but it is the larger of the two flatwater packrafts that Supai manufactures. Measuring 45″ x 17″ inches inside, I have to bend my legs and rest them along the sides in the boat (when wearing a foam PFD.) However the boat gets really cramped when you want to carry any gear with you. The only place to put it is between your legs or on top of them.
There’s also no seat or back pad so I’d recommend bringing a piece of foam to sit on to insulate your bum when paddling on cold water, while the back of a foam PFD makes a good back rest. Supai recommends using the MTI Journey PFD (14.6 ounces in an XL), which works well with this boat, although it’s a bit bulky to backpack with.
There’s one internal attachment point inside the Matkat’s bow, which is sized to hold a simple line rather than webbing straps. It’s not terribly useful for securing a pack across your bow, but best used to tie in a dry bag with your personal belongings.
On the water
The Matkat handles nicely on flatwater and mild waves, with very little back and forth yaw when paddling with a two-bladed paddle. It still spins well, which you’d expect of a flat-bottomed boat, and is rated by the manufacturer for carrying up to 325 pounds, which is believable. However, the boat is prone to drifting in wind and it’s not clear how you’d anchor it or attach a drift sock, when the only attachment point is on the interior of the boat, close to the floor.
The Supai Matkat Packraft rolls up incredibly small, about the size of a down sleeping bag. It comes with its own draw-string stuff sack (shown above) which helps contain moisture adhering to the boat if you need to pack it up before it can dry. The Matkat’s packability is really a standout feature making it easy to transport in a backpack or for traveling with on an airplane.
While the Matkat is incredibly lightweight, I was surprised by the amount of abrasion that the packraft experienced during routine launches and landings along the banks of rivers and ponds. I suppose this is to be expected if you use 75 denier ripstop polyester to make a packraft. [As a point of comparison, the Klymit LiteWater Dinghy is made using 210 denier polyester, while the Kokopelli Hornet-lite is made using a 210 denier nylon.]
For example, the exterior floor of my Matkat test sample is showing fabric tears after just three backcountry fly fishing and packrafting trips, in what I would consider routine conditions that included bumping into sunken vegetation, launching and landing from gravel beaches, and climbing into the boat along rocky shores with steep underwater drop-offs. The abrasion and tears, shown below are on the bottom of the boat, just under my butt.
I contacted Supai to discuss the abrasion issue and they advised me to avoid sitting in the boat during launches and landings and to only get in and out in a foot of water. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in many of the ponds where I want to paddle, where standing in a foot of water involves sinking three feet into the accumulated organic muck along the shore. It also eliminates ponds with steep rock-lined banks that require dense bushwhacking to access or times when I need to get in the boat before I place a backpack over my legs, since I can’t do it when I’m not already in the boat.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require that a wilderness packraft designed for flatwater use be able to withstand shore launches and landings without having to be overly coddled. There aren’t any boat ramps in the wilderness. If you do decide to buy a Matkat, I’d keep its durability limitations in mind every time you scout a potential landing from the water. I’d also carry a good repair kit whenever you take the boat out on a trip that’s not within easy walking distance of your car. Serious repairs, such as the rips shown in the picture above would take 24 hours to repair using Aquaseal, per the Supai FAQ.
The Supai Matkat Flatwater Packraft is an exceptionally lightweight inflatable boat that is compact enough to carry on backcountry backpacking trips for nature viewing, fishing, or transportation. Weighing just 26.5 ounces, it is made using lightweight fabrics that require careful handling and may not be suitable for many high risk wilderness settings where a more durable boat would be preferable. Still, given the right conditions (warm water, low wind, and sandy beaches) the Matkat is incredibly fun to paddle and nice piece of lightweight gear that will enhance your wilderness experience.
That said, I do wish that Supai would offer customers a more durable and heavier version of the Matkat with a thicker bottom fabric. I prefer lightweight gear that I don’t have to repair or replace frequently and carrying the extra weight is worth it to me.
I think the challenge that Supai faces is that their view of flatwater paddling requirements has been largely shaped by their Grand Canyon paddling experiences and less so by those such as heavily forested and mountainous regions like the northeastern US which have a tendency to quickly identify product durability issues. My hope is that this review will be helpful for their future product development efforts.
- Easy to Use
- No inflation aids
- Poor attachment points
- No seat insulation
- Not durable
- 28 ounces (1.75 pounds) (26.5 ounces on the sectionhiker.com scale)
- Internal seating dimensions of 45” X 19.5”
- Outer dimensions inflated of 67″ X 40″
- Tube circumference inflated front 34″ back 42″
- Tube Height inflated front 11″ back 13″
- Weight limit of 325 pounds
- 1 Internal gear attachment point
- Large dump valve for easy deflation
- Small and compact
Disclosure: The author received a sample Matkat packraft from Supai Adventure Gear and Garage Grown Gear in exchange for an honest product review.
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