INFLATABLE KAYAK — Classic Orange Torpedo

Rating (Out of 5): 4.0

Price: $40 to $120

Review: The classic Orange Torpedo is an institution of Southern Oregon and the Rogue River. Jerry Bentley dreamed up the idea of taking people down the Rogue River in inflatable kayaks in 1969, and since that time, just about everyone in Grants Pass has enjoyed a float in the big, comfortable “Tahitis.”

The design has changed slightly over the years — and this past summer, Orange Torpedo introduced a much newer design — but the classic boats are still everywhere on the Rogue River, and can be bought at a number of places. Thus, it warrants a review.

(The newer designs aren’t for sale yet, but should be within the next few years).

The best way to describe an Orange Torpedo functionally is that it’s the best inflatable kayak for whitewater among boats you can buy for a cheaper price.

What I mean is that you can head into a number of big box stores such as Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, Blackbird Center and Big 5, and find the shelves stocked with inflatable rafts and quasi-kayaks. Most of these products are affordable ($50 to $200) but are generally pieces of crap.

Orange Torpedoes, by contrast, are very affordable and very well-suited to the river. With an experienced boater at the helm, they can handle rapids up to Class IV.

(If you took the average inflatable from Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, Blackbird or Big 5 down Class IV rapids it would likely end badly.)

There are a number of good features to Orange Torpedoes. They have big sides and are very stable, which keeps you upright in whitewater. The boats also have a self-bailing system and can hold up to 400 pounds. They are just large enough for two people and are very comfortable, not unlike floating down the river in waterbed.

There are only two downsides that I can think of to the classic Orange Torpedo. The first and most obvious are small holes that puncture the boat’s plastic on a fairly regular basis, and have to be patched up to hold air. The same problem effects the inflatable seats.

The second drawback is that the Orange Torpedoes don’t track as well as well as more expensive boats — to make a big turn, you have to put your back into it.

Still, for the price that you can usually find one, there’s no better deal in Southern Oregon than the classic Orange Torpedo. There’s a reason these boats have stayed popular since 1969.

(Orange Torpedo boats are sold throughout Rogue Valley, usually used. Each year, Orange Torpedo trips has a sale of old boats at its headquarters in Merlin. )

Here’s the official website.

Review by Zach Urness

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