In 2015 Hobie revamped their Outback kayak and redesigned the deck to accommodate their vantage seat, which is a framed style chair. It is adjustable in 4 different ways and allows for maximum comfort. The Outback comes with their signature Mirage drive allowing the angler to pedal the kayak. I was able to use one of their new Outbacks for 2 days and fished for some Lake Michigan Smallmouth out of Sturgeon Bay, WI and a small northern Wisconsin lake for Northern Pike for a total of 18 hours on the water.
One of the first things I noticed was that rear cargo area. I have an oversized crate and it fit perfectly! The bungees in the back were one long cord and held the crate in securely. The next thing I noticed is that the Outback has 3 access points into the hull. In the front you have a hatch that is secured with a bungee, and directly in front of the seat and in the back they have a twist seal hatch. The front and middle hatch are easily accessed while on the water. As mentioned before this kayak comes with their mirage drive. Hobie has improved their drive by adding ball bearings and making it smoother than the previous systems. They have two small netted cargo areas on each side by the legs and areas on the top of each side that perfect for holding fish grips, lures, and more!
After launching I deployed the rudder, latched in the mirage drive and started pedaling. It was very smooth and easy to pedal. The rudder control, which is located right where the left hand falls on the side of the kayak. It was more sensitive than I expected and turned the kayak quickly. Being able to pedal was a huge asset because as I was heading to my next spot I was able to get my rod and lures ready so when I arrived I was ready to fish. In both outings pedaling continued to be extremely helpful because I was able to slowly pedal across the shoreline and piers and work them as slow or fast as I wanted. You are able to do this in a non pedal kayak by utilizing the wind or paddle and coast but with the drive I was able to do it in either direction, wind or not, and my own speed. Plus the speed I was able to achieve was amazing. As I pedaled steadily at a decent pace I was able to get over 5mph without working hard at all. When I was booking it I was able to get over 6mph without any assistance from the wind. The pedals can be easily adjusted while on the water so you can get the perfect length for you, whether you are a shorter or taller person you will find your perfect stride. Many people wonder about the muscles you are using and that the motion is different than a bicycle. Although it is different it took just a matter of minutes to get comfortable and be able to pedal without thinking. After hours of pedaling my legs never got sore.
The stability is impressive. Just after minutes of launching I was standing up, turning, twisting, and casting all around with no concern of tipping. The wind picked up the first day and was blowing across the bay and we had some decent waves moving us around. The Outback handled the waves amazingly. It cut through the waves with ease and even when the waves were slapping it sideways I never felt like I was going to tip.
I was impressed with the Vantage seat. You could adjust in a multitude of ways in the front, the back, and adjust the lumbar support for the perfect fit. It was very easy to adjust when on land and when you are on the water adjust the front and lumbar support was very easy. Moving the back to a different height was a little tricky because you had to either put your weight in the front of the seat or off the seat completely.
Storage on the Outback is pretty nice. The front hatch is easily accessed when on the water. You can store rods and gear but what worked really well for me was to store my extra gear, including rain suit, waterproof bag, jacket, etc. In the center was a twist and seal hatch that allowed access to the inside of the hull, albeit not much. It did have an insert that had compartments for tackle or whatever you wish. There was another twist and seal hatch in the back which did not have an insert but would give you limited access to hull. The netted areas and recessed areas on the side are a fantastic side to put some extra gear and tackle. It was the perfect spot for putting lures that I was exchanging, my fish grips, and I even had more room!
One factor to consider with the Outback is the weight. The hull alone weighs 81 pounds and fully rigged with the seat and drive makes puts it at 99 pounds. You don’t notice the weight at all on the water but if you are portaging it any distance, you will notice. If you plan on car topping this kayak it isn’t horrible. It weights about 10 pounds more, without the seat and drive, than a Jackson Cuda or Native Slayer. It is a bit cumbersome to cartop, but not impossible. If you have a trailer, that would make it that much easier.
Some people may consider pedal kayaks not suitable for rivers and only used for bigger water. But as I was out on the water with Hobie Rep AJ McWhorter he was describing how a pedal kayak can be a huge advantage. “You take out the drive before the rapids, paddle through, and then pop it back in right after the award. Turn around quick and use the drive to stay in place and fish the rapids, where the fish are.” Now I have not used it in a river but thought I would share what he told me.
The redesigned 2015 Hobie Outback retails for $2299. It comes with the vantage seat, installed and aligned rudder, paddle, and mirage drive. The improvements they made this year have made this kayak a contender. Although the price is higher than paddle kayaks the pedal system makes it worth it. With the big improvements like the new vantage seat, the smoother drive system, and convenient layout makes this kayak a CATCH!