Custom ultra light float tube

I was able to run away and do some more testing...

This time was the first chance I had to do a true overnight backpacking trip with the new boat system. Not too ambitious an itinerary but with enough mileage and elevation change to challenge my out of condition ass!

My plan was to hike out about three plus miles to one lake to fish for the day, then backtrack a bit and spur off to hit another lake where I planned to camp. The next day was for fishing a third lake and hiking out.

My pack at the trailhead with a liter of water (plenty of lakes and creeks around) and food for the two days, weighed 29 pounds. A vast improvement from my last overnighter with the Del Canty tube where my pack tipped the scales at 41 pounds. As an added bonus everything now fits inside the pack rather than requiring me to strap the tent or sleeping bag to the outside.

For this trip I had:

- a lighter, more compact sleeping bag for a savings of 11 ounces
- a lighter water filter system (Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn Hiker) for a savings of 11 ounces
- lighter fins (original aluminum plate and arrow shaft UL fins vs current ABS plate and flat spars) for a savings of 5 ounces
- lighter tube and inflator for a savings of _34(!!!)_ ounces
- lighter stove system (Jetboil SOL Ti vs Original Jetboil) for a savings of 5 ounces
- half a liter less water for a savings of 17 ounces
- left the rod tube at home (just sock) for a savings of 15 ounces (!!)
- using neoprene socks instead of aquasox shoes for a savings of 14 ounces
- probably left a pound or so of fishing gear home this time - 16 ounces

All the above only accounts for about 8 pounds so I have to think I have collected lighter clothing and I may have taken fewer pieces as it was going to be warm, and possibly less food.

This is all with an old school external plastic frame pack that itself weighs nearly 5-1/2 pounds!
Also, this is still packing my 2 pound standard waders which I plan to shave down to a half pound once I'm done.

So with more judicious packing and incremental weight reductions in gear, it may be possible to get my pack weight down to between 20 and 25 pounds before food and water. :)

So how was the trip?

Well, the trailhead parking lot was jammed, and the road in, while probably not even close to a problem for most SUVs, trucks, and even passenger cars, was a slow Rubicon-esque crawl for my lowered canyon racer. Made it without opening my oil pan on a rock, but just barely! :)

Upon getting all of my gear out of the trunk, I realized that the last time I removed my accessory pockets from my hip belt I neglected to reattach the buckle! This means I had no hip belt. CRAP! In a pinch, I unpacked my waders and managed to thread the 2" straps through the 1.5" side release buckles from the suspenders and knotted them in place to set the adjustment. Not ideal as it kept slipping, but much better than the idea of supporting the entire load on my shoulders. <shudder>

Another indication of how crowded it was was when I hit the trail, not five minutes had gone by when a co-worker and his boys crested a hill and were walking out! Dr. Livingston I presume? Sheesh...

So with pack properly (or best I could) secured, I made it to the first lake in decent time without getting off trail too many times - passing a lot of other tempting water in the meantime. Right off the bat, looking off of a granite perch, I see fish cruising, and I string up an intermediate line and a bugger. Second cast - fish on! I ALMOST (nah, maybe not) wonder why I brought the tube. With the skunk off, I inflate the tube, don the waders, stuff a few bits in my pouch and shove off.

The next few hours were non-stop action, catching (and missing and losing) mostly Lahontan cutts with one nice brookie in the mix to keep things interesting. One bit of kit that I didn't forget was a roll of patch tape. Lucky because on one poorly judged flip of line I managed to impale my fly into the tube creating a nice 3/16" slit in the fabric. A quick dry, tape peel, cut, and apply and I was back in business! Never leaked a bit. Good stuff. I'll properly repair it when I get a chance, but I have no doubt that this patch will hold as long as I am lazy. :)

After doing a lap of the lake and getting my fill of action, I decided to pack up and head for my next destination. It was on this leg of my journey that I learned that the trails in this area could probably be better maintained and that there are myriad dead end spurs and sucker paths to lead a walker astray. When I came to a lake around where I though my stop for the night was, I asked the only group hanging out there if I was where I had hoped to be... Nope. I was off track again, but the fish were jumping and aggressively feeding (literally streaking around shadowing flying damsels as they skimmed the surface and leaping a foot or more clear in pursuit!) so I chucked a bit from shore and was able to make for a nice snack/meal for the group in short order. They fried up the fish while I showed off my tube and we shared the treat before I shoved off (with a consult of their map) for the next lake.

I FINALLY arrived at my camping spot for the night as the sun was going down behind the mountains. I quickly picked a level spot to set up my tent and inflated the tube for the third time that day. I had high hopes for this lake and was looking forward to fishing it (as I had left a sure-thing spot with kamikaze rainbows) but it was a huge letdown! Only a smattering of surface action during the golden hour and no takes at all as I kicked and fished around the smallish lake. Bummed and tired, though still satisfied considering the successes I had had earlier in the day, I boiled some water and had a satisfying meal of freeze-dried stroganoff as I swatted the swarms of mosquitoes.

The next morning I got an early start, packed up, had a couple of cups of coffee to get the blood pumping again, and I headed off. Of course I immediately went the wrong way at a junction and was almost to another lake that I had hoped to hit before realizing my error. By that point though my legs were starting to protest, and I knew it would be hot later so I talked myself into turning around and getting back to the car out of an abundance of caution. I had a second though of veering off to the second lake from the day before and doing a lap in the boat, but again, weakness prevailed and I pressed on for home.

I made it back to the trailhead without much drama and reconstituted the rest of the Mountain House as a nice hot treat for breakfast and SLOWLY crawled the car down the rocky hill back to the freeway and to civilization.

Overall a great trip only partially spoiled by lack of exercise and overly warm weather. Regardless, the boat performed flawlessly again, and this was the first trip where the fins didn't have some sort of failure (after a slight design change after my last outing) so I'm gaining more confidence in their design as well. I learned the importance of having patch tape at all times as well! :)

Anyway, some photos from the weekend:



Well-Known Member
Great report SHig. Have you shown us the new design for your fins? It would be very interesting to see what you came up with, how they are made, and how much they weigh. The previous version was incredibly light as I recall.

Great report SHig. Have you shown us the new design for your fins? It would be very interesting to see what you came up with, how they are made, and how much they weigh. The previous version was incredibly light as I recall.

The newest revisions to the fins include:

- Full length doubled main spars. This adds a bit of weight and marginally stiffens the tips of the fins, but it eliminates a rubbing "hot spot" where the tip of the short spar rubbed up and put a wear mark no the long spar.

- I widened the flat spar that goes across the front of the foot plate and retains the webbing to full width to eliminate a stress raiser that was cracking the plate at the attachment holes. This also increases the rigidity of the front of the plate reducing flex.

- I eliminated a glued on blocks that I had used to center the front cross-spar (that was widened above) and the glued on blocks that set the "spread" on the main spars. These pieces added stress raisers that led to cracking as well.

I think these mods may push the weight of a pair closer to 10 ounces or so. Still acceptably light and much more robust. I have considered increasing the thickness of the foot plate by 1/32" to combat the cracking that I've been encountering but these latest mods seem to have fixed the problem so far.

Another successful testing trip done and done!

I took a couple of days off of work to have a long vacation in South Lake Tahoe with the family, and used this as an excuse to start things off with a quick day trip into the Truckee River headwaters.

Threw the tube, gear, and lunch into the 28L pack and hit the "backdoor" commando route straight up and over into the basin. It was supposed to be a simple 2.5 mile or so hike, but of course the road to the trailhead got rough so I had to lay up. Add a half mile, and somehow I knocked my shift linkage out of whack on a rock or something so there's something ELSE I need to fix...

Anyway, I made it to the ridge okay, but I mis-ID'd a lake and managed to hike down into a wrong canyon. Realizing my mistake, I tried to contour around but managed to get cliffed out. GRR! Back up the scree I went. After too much re-gaining elevation, I was back on the trail and heading in the right direction.

There's my destination with Tahoe nearly 3000' lower in the distance:

And the requisite "it floats!" photo:

One thing I did differently this time was that I used a 1.5 ounce drawstring backpack (cheezy marketing logo jobber - you can get these on ebay for like $5) as the stuff sack for the tube, waders, booties and this worked GREAT as the gear bag on the water. You can see it slung over the shoulders in the above shot.

Also, for fun, I made this Vine video panorama:


And of course the fishporn money shot:

Most of the fish I caught were smaller, but this guy wasn't bad!

Preparing to leave, all packed up:

I was planning another testing trip this weekend, but the "Death Ride" bicycle race had all the local mountain passes closed to traffic so I was foiled! I guess big brookies will have to wait...

More testing today...

Hiked in to a pair of lakes a bit over three miles past the trailhead gate. Took a buddy with me to get more input on the tube as he's, uh, "specially suited" to comment on the weight rating of the boat. ;)

Here's Scott in the driver's seat. Knees high and dry and steady as she goes!

...and Scott testing out the La-Z-Boy configuration of the tube:

Maybe they'll make more?

And gratuitous fish photos of the beautiful 'bows and 'loops we got:

So, results of the testing show that the boat can definitely and with still more margin support at least 220 lbs.

Also, it was a hot day and I inadvertently tested out the seam strength of the seat baffles. I knew that I had to modify the manufacturing process of those welds, and this was reinforced when one of them peeled under heat and pressure stress after leaving the tube on shore in the sun. I have what I think is a bulletproof update for making these seams and I'll implement this change on the next prototype. I hope I can repair the one that peeled today - we'll see... If I wasn't an idiot who left the tube in the sun to pump up, this wouldn't have been an issue, but I think it should hold up to such abuse after the tweak.

I also let Scott take a run around the block in the fins. He seemed to think they work. Hopefully he'll chime in on his impressions of the gear.

Finally, we met a group out at the lake who lamented about the lack of fishing success they were having from shore. When we commented that we had tubes in our packs they were somewhat astonished. (More after eying my 29 liter pack vs. Scott's "Cadillac" 85 liter hauler). They mentioned that their traveling companion had pined for a tube to the point that he actually had considered making two hikes to the campsite so he could haul in his boat. Needless to say, when he showed up later in the day and saw my system he had quite a few questions. Perhaps only one trip AND tube next time?

So, more real-world testing, more improvements outlined. More fish. More miles. A day well spent, and good data collected.


Hmm... Been awfully quiet around here. I did have one testing session since the last trout trip - hit some private warmwater. I'm generally not a warmwater fan, but the LMB, 'gills, and crappie were cooperative and I had a good time. I WAS a bit spooked by the rays on those fishes' fins though. Guess I should've brought a net? :)

Anyway, the other day I came home from work and, hmm...

And what's this?

...and what are these?

Now this is looking interesting...

Oh MY!

Heh... Sorry folks, they're all spoken for. ;)

Been a busy few days, trying to batch operations to make it as efficient as possible. Streamlining a lot of stuff, still learning.

I'll definitely be fishing this weekend, but funny enough it'll be creekin'. No need for a tube for where I'm going - but the next trip may entail a maiden voyage or two.



Well-Known Member
Oh, I thought you meant the first two tubes from the photo at the lake actually did reproduce and give you a family of float tubes! Now you're saying that's not how it worked? Looks like the SHig Float Tube factory may soon have to seek larger quarters. That will be good news!