Review brought to you by now defunct Riverwire.com
Since we receive more questions on the Outcast Fat Cat and Fish Cat series float tubes than all other products combined, we thought it would be a good idea to get all four of these tubes on the water at one time and have a full-blown field test day. The setting, as usual, was Roaring Springs Trout Camp. Besides being scenic and close to home, the quality of the fishing makes the “work” a little more pleasant.
General Features – Fish Cat Series
The Fish Cat 4 and Fish Cat 4 Deluxe are very popular for a couple of reasons. First, as you can see from the image below, the design of the tube keeps the angler seated above the water. The higher vantage point makes it easier to cast the long distances that are often required for lake fishing and it’s generally more comfortable to have more of your body out of the water. Another side benefit of this is that the lack of body mass hanging in the water makes them easy to propel and maneuver with fins compared with more traditionally styled float tubes. Second, at $139 for the standard and $179 for the deluxe version, you get a lot of advantages for a fairly small outlay of cash.
The Fish Cat series of tubes have two roomy cargo pockets with built in can/cup holders sewn into the front end of both pockets. For additional storage, there is a large open space behind the seat in the “bow” of the tube. Water will get in this area, so a dry bag or some other type of waterproof container should be used to store things that shouldn’t get wet. Both Fish Cat tubes come with a well designed stripping apron. There is a loop stitched into the bow of the tube for carrying or dragging and there are d-rings attached to the bottom of the tube for clipping on backpack straps.
Flotation is provided by two separate vinyl air cells, each with a 1″ Boston valve. Inflation with a decent double-action hand pump is easy and can be accomplished in less than five minutes. For fast deflation, the entire top of the valve unscrews.
Fish Cat 4 vs. Fish Cat 4 Deluxe
The only difference – and it’s a big one – between the standard and deluxe versions of this tube is the seat. The FC4 uses a closed-cell foam seat and seat back. The foam pieces fit into pockets sewn into the seat cover. In the FC-4 Deluxe, an air bladder replaces the foam blocks. The seat back and seat bottom each have their own inflation stem with a small valve at the end. These can be inflated with your mouth or with a pump by using the small valve adaptor included with the tube.
You would expect that a company that makes inflatable boats could handle an inflatable seat and Outcast doesn’t disappoint. The air seat raises you an extra inch or two above the water over the foam version and is more comfortable over the course of a day. Before actually using the tubes, I would have expected the foam seat to be stiffer than it was, in fact, we found that the foam seemed to flex more than the air seat. They are both comfortable, but the air seat provides more support and a more stable feeling platform. The angle of the backrest is adjustable on both versions by tightening or loosening the restraining straps on either side of the seat.
Compared to more traditionally designed float tubes, either version of the Fish Cat is a superior ride. Sitting above the water is a better way to spend a day on the lake and the getting in and out of it is as easy as slipping off the seat – no more waddling backwards to launch your tube. It’s really feels more like launching a pontoon boat than a float tube.
General Features – Fat Cat Series
The Outcast Fat Cat LCSFat Cat and Outcast Super Fat Cat -Gray/Orange Float Tube – with Free $45 Gift CardSuper Fat Cat are Outcast’s high end float tubes and offer all the features needed for a comfortable day on the water. First, at 64″ long, this is a very large, very stable float tube. Second, the storage pockets are the same deluxe cargo pockets used on Outcast’s high end pontoon boats and are a major benefit. My standard lake gear – five fly boxes, assortment of tools, leader wallet, tippet dispenser, camera, etc. – easily fits into one pocket, leaving plenty of room in the other for thermos, water bottles, lunch etc. Both pockets have can/cup holders on both ends, mesh tippet spool pockets sewn to the outside, and velcro tabs that serve as great rod holders.
The stripping apron, like that on the Fish Cat tubes is adjustable and has a quick release clip on one side for safety. There is a large storage area behind the seat big enough to hold a small cooler, dry bag, or better yet, Outcast Float Tube Bag, Green (320-F00220)one of the bags Outcast has designed specifically to fit this space. The Fat Cat sells for $299, the Super Fat Cat for $369.
Fat Cat vs. Super Fat Cat
As with the Fish Cat series, these boats are identical save for the inflatable seat in the Super Fat Cat vs. the foam seat in the Fat Cat. Because the seats are larger in these tubes, the differences seem to be more pronounced. The Super Fat Cat is amazingly comfortable – it feels like a floating La-Z-Boy! In fact, I would love to see some version of this seat offered in the full lineup of Outcast pontoon boats, it offers better back and seat support than anything else available. Besides being more comfortable, you sit substantially higher in the Super Fat Cat. As you can see in the image below, the inflatable seat (on the right) gives you an extra 2″ – 3″ of clearance. Over the course of our testing day, the Super Fat Cat was the only float tube of the four that stayed completely dry inside, not that getting the seat wet is really an issue, but it does provide a good demonstration of the difference.
On the other hand, the standard Fat Cat feels more roomy. The foam seat seems to hold the air cells farther apart, which is also apparent from the image above. The Super Fat Cat certainly isn’t narrow, but some larger anglers may appreciate the added space. The angle of the backrest is adjustable on either model by tightening or loosening the restraining straps. There are also straps that prevent the backrest from folding over on the seat when you lean forward or step out of the boat.
Fish Cat Series vs. Fat Cat Series
The old saw that you get what you pay for is once again true in this case. Every step along the price scale offers either added comfort, features or both. The main differences between the Fish Cat & Fat Cat tubes are size, storage pocket design, air cell material and price.
Regarding size, as you can see from the image above, the Fat Cat (pictured on the right) is both longer and wider and the air cells have a larger diameter. From the angler’s perspective, this difference is felt primarily in the stability of the platform. The Fish Cat doesn’t feel unsafe at all, but the bigger Fat Cat tubes just don’t move around as much. Larger anglers will find the difference to be magnified. On that topic, if you are approaching the capacity limit of the Fish Cat (275 lbs.), you will probably find the seating cramped and you may feel the seat sloping down a bit – the Fat Cat boats are better suited to larger anglers.
The image above also gives you some idea of the difference in storage. Between the larger pockets and the more spacious area behind the seat, the total storage area of the Fat Cat tubes is significantly greater. In addition, the design of the pockets on the Fat Cat preclude the need for a separate rod holder and are well thought out with additional external pockets, inside loops to hold tools and high quality zippers. The pockets on the Fish Cat are well made, just simple.
One of the reasons for the difference in both price and warranty coverage (1 yr. Fish Cat vs. 3 yrs. Fat Cat) is that the Fat Cat tubes use urethane air cells, while the Fish Cat boats utilize vinyl. Urethane is lighter, much more durable and, of course, more expensive. The Fat Cat & Super Fat Cat inflate with a single 1″ Halkey Roberts valve. The Fish Cat tubes use two 1″ Boston valves. A single valve makes the bigger Fat Cat boats easier and faster to inflate, although inflation time for either design is not much of an issue. Occasionally, someone will express concern that the Fat Cat boats use a single air cell rather than two separate cells – no backup in case of a catastrophic failure. However, bear in mind that the seat in any of these boats will serve as a flotation device if the worst should happen.
Because most of our time on the water is usually spent in a pontoon or drift boat, prior to this field test, none of us had actually put much time in a float tube in the last few years. The design of these tubes is unique to Outcast and anyone that hasn’t spent time in one will probably come away as surprised as we were – the comfort and fun in fishing from these boats far surpassed our collective memory of float tube fishing. In particular, the Super Fat Cat is a jaw dropper – earning unanimous and overwhelming praise from all the testers.
The Fish Cat tubes are simply a great value. The deluxe version, which is priced $40 higher seems steep until you actually sit in the air seat. If you plan to spend much time in the tube, it’s certainly worth the price. However, if it doesn’t fit your budget or if you just plan to be an occasional user, the standard Fish Cat is a great buy at $149.
The main drawback to this design is really the flipside to the main attraction. The large size of these tubes makes them comfortable and stable, but also limits their portability – they are not meant to be packed into remote mountain lakes. The air seat versions will definitely compress more than their foam seated counterparts, but regardless, don’t plan on stuffing one inside a daypack. However, for short hikes, backpack straps are available ($23) and will clip to d-rings sewn into the bottom of the inflated tube.