At first look, the Hobie Mirage Passport 10.5 seems like another recreational boat with a couple of rod holders. The 10-foot-long, thermoformed, pedal boat could be one more in a long line of entry-level, bargain buckets available at the local box store.
Hobie Mirage Passport 10.5
Width 34″ 75 lbs w/ MirageDrive 325 lbs $1,359
Weight 75 lbs w/ MirageDrive
Capacity 325 lbs
But Hobie’s first thermoformed boat is more than a cheap ride, it represents a response to the trend in value designs allowing new anglers to get into the sport on a great boat.
When I pointed this out to Hobie Product Manager Morgan Promnitz, he laughed and shook his head. “This is our response to the bargain boat,” he admits.
As more alternative-powered kayaks hit the water, the original pedal people have responded with high-quality boats and more innovative propulsion systems. Look at the new MirageDrive 360 with a rotating drive and $5000 price tag. So, a low-priced, base model from Hobie may seem like a shift in the opposite direction.
Since patent protection expired on Hobie’s original MirageDrive, several competing manufacturers have copied the efficient oscillating flippers. In fact, Pelican International, one of the biggest manufacturers of thermoformed kayaks, recently released the Catch 130HD with a modified flipper drive. One of my friends at Pelican said Hobie folks offered advice on developing the new drive.
While it might look like Hobie is undermining their own reputation with an intro model, the opposite is true. The new MirageDrive Passport 10.5 is all Hobie just at a lower price.
Start with the firsts. Passport is Hobie’s first thermoformed boat, the lightest in its hardshell line and least expensive. It’s also the first boat not produced in Hobie’s California factory. The hulls are molded in France and assembled in Oceanside.
Choosing thermoformed plastic over rotomolded polyethelyne produced the biggest savings in cost and weight. A rotomolded kayak is made by filling a mold with plastic pellets then heating and rotating to spread the plastic. A thermoformed boat, on the other hand, starts as two sheets of plastic molded in a press then joined together.
The process cuts weight and saves money, since the plastic is the same thickness in every part of the kayak. Some say thermoformed boats are marginally less damage-resistant and are not as easy to repair.
Since most owners won’t take the Passport down Class V rapids or launch from atop a cliff, thermoformed is a perfect fit for a boat that is meant to be easy to transport and store.
Every part of the Passport is designed for easy use. The hull is sporty with a sharp entry and exit and 34-inch wide beam for reliable stability. The Passport isn’t the easiest kayak to stand up in, but the flat deck makes it a solid fishing platform once I was on my feet.
I like the recessed space in the hull to hide the MirageDrive fins flush to the bottom of the boat when crossing shallow water or landing on a beach.
The topside is an exercise in simplicity. A molded area in the bow will hold a couple drybags or a tackle tray. The deck is flat and low gunnels host gear tracks just ahead of the seat.
Hobie trimmed their famous Vantage seat for a lightweight, low-profile frame seat with breathable mesh upholstery. The seat is low to the deck, to improve stability and pedaling power.
Just ahead of the seat, a small, round hatch in the deck accepts Hobie’s storage sock providing a good place to keep keys, wallet and smartphone.
Behind the seat, two flush mount rod holders turn Passport into an honest fishing kayak, but the shallow tankwell is just barely big enough for Hobie’s H-Crate.
With the Passport, the value is in the details. Hobie’s engineers and designers poured their experience into the layout and rigging. My favorite touch is the deck loops that double as deck hooks making it easy to bungee gear to the boat.
The designers cut costs on the rudder by rigging the Passport with a manually deployed blade controlled by a single rod instead of two wires like most rudders. Instead of installing a cheap traditional rudder, Hobie’s engineers rethought the problem, saving costs and improving function.
To make rigging even easier, especially for new anglers, seat latches, rudder controls and other features are labeled with instructions. When taking a guest on a first trip, the labels make it easy for them to rig their own boat.
Of course, the star of the show is always Hobie’s MirageDrive. Where other bargain pedal boats use a scaled-down drive, Hobie installed the ST Drive with their latest advancements and unique square-bottom fins providing more power and torque.
Hobie throws in an aluminum paddle for maneuvering in close quarters. Conceivably, an angler could upgrade to the MD180 with reverse, add Hobie’s electric motor or install a small sail giving the little boat four power options. But I feel like the Passport is best kept simple and fun.
Maybe some will say the Mirage Passport 10.5 is just another rec boat with rod holders. But the new kayak represents a long list of firsts for the original pedal-boat company. With the anticipated success of Mirage Passport, we hope this won’t be the last Hobie model anyone can afford.
Now a Hobie for everyone. | Photo: Roberto Westbrook