I pulled into the boat ramp and opened the hatchback. I reached in and unloaded a plastic orb the size of a foot locker. This caught the attention of other anglers milling around the parking lot.
A crowd gathered as I opened the mysterious craft and assembled it into a pop-up kayak. “Oh, I get it,” a voice in the crowd exclaimed.
“You can see the lightbulb go on,” laughs Uncharted Watercraft Outbound GT developer, Tommy Sizemore.
This was my reaction, too, when I first saw the Outbound GT at Paddlesports Retailer last summer. At first look, the eccentric design seems like a high school science fair project. After walking through Sizemore’s demonstration, I got it.
The Advantage Of The Pop-Up Kayak
Imagine a clamshell. Separate the top shell and the bottom shell and connect them together with an aluminum frame. The paddler sits on the frame, perched over the water, with his feet on the front shell and his fishing rods and gear on the back shell.
Sizemore tells me he designed the boat to solve two problems: maneuverability on the water and storage when you’re not.
“Constantly repositioning the kayak while fishing is a real drag,” he explains. “It always seems as soon as I cast, the wind or current moves the kayak and I end up fishing over my shoulder.”
Inspired by float tubes and paddleboats, Sizemore designed the Outbound so his feet can hang in the water. “I can spin the boat by kicking my legs, while I still have the efficiency of paddling a kayak,” he says.
The second obvious advantage is storing and transporting the Outbound.
Breaking the boat down into three pieces allows it to fit into a car trunk, closet or onto a balcony. “When I’m traveling, I can take the kayak into the hotel with me,” he adds.
Demand for a packable, yet capable, kayak has spawned some strange children. From kayaks folding up like origami swans to backpack-sized inflatables blowing up into full-function boats, anglers have a lot of options when it comes to packable kayaks. Sizemore says the Outbound is tougher and more efficient than all the other options. “It still performs like a hard shell kayak,” he says.
It’s good the Outbound is tough because the pods are too easy to drag around the yard and throw in the back of the car. It’s simple to maneuver each pod individually, though I would appreciate more handles and a more solid way to connect the top and bottom shells when moving it around as one collapsed piece.
The Outbound GT pods are molded out of light and tough Formex thermoformed plastic.
“Formex Manufacturing has been building docks, floats, and other thermoformed products surviving a marine environment since 1961,” Sizemore tells me. “We didn’t see any reason to take a chance with unproven new materials.”
The powder-coated aluminum frame is made of heavy-wall, 1.5-inch tubing and the rivets and hardware are all stainless steel. Thermoformed plastic and aluminum tubing keep the boat relatively light and strong.
Two rod holders in the stern pod and another in the bow pod came in handy. Pad eyes behind the seat make it easy to add a tackle crate. Also snapped in behind the seat are wheels for easy car to water transport. There are even foot pads in the bow to stand and cast.
All the parts fit tightly together without too much elbow grease. After one or two trips, I had the boat going together in about five minutes—faster if people weren’t asking me all kinds of questions. It’s one thing to amaze fellow anglers at the launch, but the real test came on the water. Despite the modular design, the kayak stays stiff and there’s no annoying flexing or bending.
At first, climbing into the saddle with my butt hovering over the water was a little disconcerting.
Once I realized the GT is plenty stable I took off across a local tidal river heading for dock pilings and oyster bars I hoped would hold a few redfish.
The hard plastic seat without a back rest isn’t particularly comfortable for long days on the water. Adding an aftermarket seat or even a closed-cell foam pad will improve this. The Outbound comes with pad eyes prepositioned to make it easy to install a low-profile seat.
True to Sizemore’s promise, the Outbound GT gets the job done. “We went through a lot of trial and error,” he admits, “design, test, redesign.” It took hours of research and design to squeeze every ounce of function and performance out of this unique kayak.
When I hit the first oyster bar, I dropped my feet into the water to slow the boat. After I made a cast, I swirled and kicked my legs to turn and shuffle the boat a short distance. Keeping the kayak facing my cast allowed me to avoid anchoring and gave me a better angle to work the lure.
Despite the unusual design, the Outbound GT performed better than I expected
Okay, it’s not going to win any speed races, but it paddled well enough to cover farm ponds and golf course water hazards. I could see it accompanying me on family trips where I might be able to sneak away and fish for a few hours.
On the paddle back to the launch, I could see people pointing from the shore. As I packed up the Outbound GT, another crowd formed. In addition to chatting about the functions and features, bystanders started dreaming up ways to use the modular kayak.
“It will fit in my RV,” one guy said.
Another hopeful voice laughed, “I could hide it from my wife.”
Watercraft Outbound GT Pop-Up Kayak SPECS
Weight: 70 lbs
CAPACITY: 500 lbs
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