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Anyone who has spent a lot of hours in a pontoon boat or float tube will tell you that while there are huge benefits to be gained from these crafts, there are also limitations. Stillwater anglers in particular are often looking for more storage space, more comfort, more flexibility. A sunny Friday afternoon in May provided us the perfect opportunity to field test Outcast’s unique “stand up” boat, the Power Drifter. We made the tough decision to put it through it’s paces and report our findings. Yes, brutal work. (Speaking of brutal work, we’ve recently added this short streaming video clip of the Power Drifter in action).
We have been big fans of Outcast boats for a long time. The Power Drifter exhibits the same features that have endeared us to the rest of the product line: Heavy Duty PVC pontoons, sturdy aluminum rowing frame (4-pc., powder coated), excellent anchor release, brass oar locks and a solid motor mount. The fit and finish is what you would expect from Outcast – very nicely done.
The setup is quite simple. The design is basically two curved 11′ pontoons that are joined at the ends, with a floor in the middle. Each pontoon inflates in a few minutes with a standard hand pump. The four-piece rowing frame attaches to the boat with four straps that are sewn to the floor – the entire setup, including inflation time, takes less than 20 minutes. The padded swivel seat is adjustable forward or back to accommodate different size oarsmen.
For those used to fishing from pontoon boats and float tubes, the first thing you’ll notice upon launching the Power Drifter is how much higher you sit above the water. It’s a very comfortable position to be in and dramatically improves your vision of, and into, the water.
The boat has a light and nimble feel under the oars. Many (if not most) inflatable watercraft give you the feeling that you are pushing, almost plowing, them through the water. In contrast, the Power Drifter gives the impression of gliding on top of the water with very little resistance at all. Those that have rowed a drift boat or poled a skiff will recognize the feeling immediately.
The most intriguing feature of the boat is the floor. To be honest, before using the boat I was suspicious of it’s stability and how usable it would be (for standing). My skepticism was unwarranted, the boat is incredibly stable and makes fishing from a standing position a given. Inflatable boats have always appealed to anglers due to their affordability, portability and light weight, but you had to sacrifice something to get those benefits. The ability to fish while standing, without feeling like you’re about to tip the boat over or step through the floor, represents a huge step forward in the evolution of inflatable boats.
The one drawback to the floor is a minor one. There are two blocks of closed-cell foam that are zipped inside the PVC floor covering. The foam provides a very sturdy base and is an integral part of the hull design, but it is also bulky and does limit how small the boat can be compressed for storage or transportation. Without removing the foam blocks, the deflated boat folds up to approximately 5′ x 4′ x 1′. With the frame broken down, it is certainly compact enough to haul in the back of an SUV or station wagon. By taking the additional step of removing the foam blocks and breaking down the frame and oars, you can probably haul the boat in just about any vehicle.
Ed note: Outcast has solved this issue for the 2005 model Power Drifter by replacing the bulky foam blocks with an ultra-durable air bladder. The new inflatable floor allows much greater portability without sacrificing stability.
Another nice feature is the swivel seat. As a long time pontoon boat pilot, I was concerned with losing the ability to use fins. With the Power Drifter, I found that the ability to fish from a standing position or from the swivel seat negated most of what I was using the fins for – keeping me pointed in the direction I wanted to cast. By swiveling the seat or standing, it’s a pretty simple matter to face any direction you want, regardless of the orientation of the boat.
Many people like to use fins for trolling, and you do lose that ability in this boat (anyone that has trolled for a few hours under fin power in a howling wind may question the size of that loss). However, the other use of the swivel seat is to make it easy to use an electric or even a small gas motor. The motor mount is very solid (part of the rowing frame) and there is space under the seat to store a battery case. By turning the seat sideways, a motor is easily accessible and gives the boat a real advantage over self-propelled craft.
For stillwater applications, the Power Drifter is among the best personal watercraft available today. It is comfortable and stable, rows easily, comes with a motor mount and anchor release and is highly portable. There are only a couple of drawbacks that come to mind. First, because you do sit high off the water, you’re more apt to catch wind than you would in a low slung craft like a float tube. Second, since there are no foot pegs or a way to solidly brace your feet, you definitely should not run any sort of whitewater in this boat. Slow to moderately moving rivers are fine, but you’d be smart to portage around the class IV’s. To be fair, the Power Drifter was designed to be a stillwater craft and it does excel at it’s designated purpose.
At $999, this boat is a compelling value for anyone that wants to make the most of their time on the water. With electric motors selling for as little as $100, it’s hard to imagine putting together a more effective lake craft anywhere near this price. If you have questions regarding the Power Drifter or any of the Outcast boats, please don’t hesitate to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free at (888)606-5279.
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