Current Musing: Murray and Darling River Systems (On hold - COVID-19)
Sunset

Kayaks

After shortlisting a number of various brands, I found an older fiberglass Mirage 580 on GumTree and an inflatable Sevylor Rio and Prijon Kodiak on Facebook Marketplace that were within my budget.

Note that I have no affiliations with any of these bands.

Deep and flat water sections

This covers almost the entire length of the Darling and Murray rivers that are controlled by weirs with minimal hazards. Almost any kayak could be used on the Murray with regular towns along the way, but a reasonable carrying capacity is needed for the Darling with bigger distances between towns. The need to carry extra food would be a moot point with food drops along the way. Since I was not doing food drops and I had plans for a quick trip, I leant towards a fiberglass sea kayak for both carrying capacity and speed.

A Tiderace or Rockpool seem like the best choices, albeit I have never even paddled either kayak. Most of the UK speed records are with the Rockpool Taran, the Americas seems to have a bigger mix, albeit the Epic is common. Being locally made in Australia, the Mirages are common there.

Rockpool Taran

Holder of most of the kayaking distance records around the UK.

Length
5.49 m / 18’
Weight
24 kg (glass)
Capacity
238 L
Material
Glass/Kevlar/Carbon
Price
£2,458 GBP (2019)

Tiderace Pace 17 Tour

Another high performance touring kayak.

Length
5.22 m / 17’1″
Weight
22.5 kg (carbon)
Capacity
223 L
Material
Glass/Carbon
Price
$5,190 AUD (Glass 2019)

Epic 18X Sport

This was the boat used by Freya Hoffmeister on her trips around Australia and South America. The weight savings or quality control seem to have led to a few reports of thin spots on the hull and this delegated it down my list.

Length
5.48 m / 18’
Weight
19.5 kg (performance)
Capacity
173 kg / 206 L
Material
Kevlar/Carbon
Price
$4,125 AUD (performance 2019)

Mirage 582

Australian made, this is a true, expedition proven sea kayak. The later model of the secondhand 580 I finally purchased.

Length
5.8 m / 19’
Weight
17.9 kg (carbon)
Capacity
197 L
Material
Glass/Kevlar/Carbon
Price
$5,295 AUD (carbon 2019)

Condamine, Culgoa and Balonne Rivers

These rivers had a different requirement with narrower and twistier paths with additional hazards that included submerged trees and rocks, but there were still significant long sections of flat open water too. A river runner would have the perfect choice, but need for carrying capacity made me look at crossovers and plastic sea kayaks. I was learning towards a crossover until discovering that an important supply spot had closed and I went with a sea kayak for the capacity to navigate the longest 600 km section without support. The need to traverse dams and log jams should also be considered, this was harder with the heavier sea kayak. This is less of an issue if you are traveling in groups.

There is only one short section in the Murray River between the whitewater of the gorge and the confluence of the Swampy Plains River that is best suited to an intermediatary boat, but it wouldn't be worth your effort to consider a different kayak for this short 42 km section.

River Runner / Crossovers

Pros
  • High maneuverability
  • Lighter, easier portages
Cons
  • No / low capacity
  • Slower

Sea Kayak

Pros
  • High capacity
  • Speed
Cons
  • Low maneuverability
  • Deck rigging snagging
  • Heavier

Prijon Kodiak

A surprising secondhand find in the week before starting the Darling system trip. An excellently designed touring kayak!

It's length was challedging at times around the flooded tree top strainers, but overall fairly managable even when fully loaded.

Length
5.18m / 17’
Weight
28 kg
Capacity
150 kg
Material
Plastic (HTP)
Price
n/a

Dagger Stratos 14.5 L

This was the longest of the crossover kayaks I was considering, its ability to carry a load and speed on the flat water would have made it my first choice.

Length
4.42m / 14’ 6″
Weight
24 kg
Capacity
136 kg
Material
Plastic
Price
$1,359 USD (2019)

Liquidlogic Stinger XP

Crossover kayak capable of much harder whitewater.

Length
3.79 m / 12’ 5″
Weight
25 kg
Capacity
136 kg
Material
Plastic
Price
$1,199 USD (2019)

Other contenders included:

Upper sections

For a single boat to handle all conditions, choices are limited to something from a creek boat to a packraft that can handle class 3 whitewater. Having to carry gear into the upper Murray, I had limited options and had to look at packrafts. However, it is possible to get a 4WD into this area to do a gear drop. In good flows, you should be able to traverse this section in a day or two down to Tom Groggin.

I really had no idea what to use for the trip when I started. I considered everything from lilos, rafts and other inflatable devices. Without realising how bad the flows were, I decided on finding a pack raft with dual layer protection to help prevent punctures in rough conditions that had a carrying capacity of at least 120 kg.

I found the Sevylor Rio 1-Person "Fishing Canoe" for sale secondhand on Facebook Marketplace for $200 and was sold. A lighter packraft like the Kokopelli Nirvana is probably more suited to this leg.

Sevylor logo

Rio 1-Person Fishing Canoe

18-gauge PVC with a thick tarpaulin bottom and tough nylon cover.

Length
2.9 m / 9"5'
Weight
11.5 kg
Capacity
159 kg
Material
PVC
Price
$500 AUD
Kayak View

Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing Packraft

Narrow trim, aggressive rocker on the bow, and a large-volume stern which performs best in Class 1 to 3. 210 denier TPU Nylon sidewalls and 840 denier TPU Nylon floor. Designed for shallow water.

Length
2.3 m / 90'
Weight
5.6 kg
Capacity
136 kg
Material
TPU Nylon
Price
$1,050 USD

Other contenders included: