When it comes to floating rivers, Western anglers are split into two camps: drift boats versus rafts. Both types of watercraft have their virtues and vices, but a key selling point of a raft is that it can take a tougher pounding than a drift boat while also being more affordable. Outcast Sporting Gear, which builds its boats in Meridian, Idaho, has a longstanding reputation as a maker of top-notch inflatable watercraft that cost as much as some drift boats. I spent last fishing season testing an Outcast PAC 1300 inflatable raft ($5,299) on the rivers in my home state of Montana in an attempt to determine whether the raft was worth that kind of coin, and if it really could take a beating.
My first voyage with the PAC 1300 was a four-day trip down the Smith River. Because I was fishing solo, I spent a lot of time running the raft over rocks and dragging it across barely wet gravel. The boat is 13 feet long, which made it roomy enough to carry both me and my gear. The internal metal frame includes a center seat for the oarsman and casting decks with seats fore and aft for two anglers. The modular frame can be configured in a number of ways. For the Smith River trip, I removed the rear casting brace to make more room for my coolers and duffle bags, while for many other short day floats, I didn’t use either casting platform, which reduced weight and made setup and take-down simpler and speedier.
The PAC 1300 has three separate air bladders in the external tubes and a fourth to inflate the floor, making the boat practically unsinkable–and I did try. The floor has a self-bailing design so you’ll never get waterlogged. The boat itself is light and maneuverable, and handled technical water very well. The fact that I could break down the boat and fit it into the short bed of my pickup, eliminating the need for a trailer, gave me a lot of flexibility. Assembling the boat at the launch took about 20 minutes, while getting it back into my pickup at takeout took about 30 minutes. All in all, the boat handled every boulder, snag, and standing wave it encountered.
The oars that came with the boat were too short and not strong enough. I bent the blade on one almost immediately; however, it did last the rest of the season without snapping. Regardless, I would upgrade to a longer and stronger pair for better leverage in fast water. I had issues with the anchor rope frequently slipping off the rear pulley, which was a pain, but Outcast is using a new frame design this year that it says addresses this issue.
The PAC 1300 is expensive, yes. But it is flexible, easy to use, and tough, and it’s a serious fishing vessel. If you want maximum versatility paired with excellent quality, this boat is a good choice.
Outcast PAC 1300 Product Details
Inflated Size: 5′ 8″ x 13′
Weight: 225 pounds