“Rock!” somebody yelled, but it was too late to do anything about it. Several paddles plunged into the river to steer us clear, but we hit the rock – or was it a submerged log? It was nearly dark and no one could tell for certain. In any case, we kept going.

Everyone in our overloaded canoe laughed as we skidded over more rocks and/or logs, and kept going. We even hit the bank several times. No harm, no foul. The notoriously snarly Beaver River had lost some of its bite. And this was due to the craft we were testing: a SOAR 14 inflatable canoe, or the “rubbanoe” as someone dubbed it. If we’d been on this haphazard twilight photo shoot in any other canoe, we might’ve worried about scratching, denting, or flipping it. But in the rubbanoe, we were content to just bounce along, cushioned all the way.

Inflatable canoes have a poor reputation but the recent rise of SOAR (“Somewhere On A River”) boats might change that. Though more than twice the price of the average inflatable, the durable SOAR comes with an unheard-of five-year warranty. It’s comfortable, easy and quick to inflate, self-bailing, and of course, portable. It works best with an extra-long canoe or kayak paddle to reach over the fat side tubes. Due to its raft-like stability, the SOAR will pirouette over Georgian Bay whitecaps like a flying fish, though we don’t recommend it for extended flatwater paddling; wind and chop hinder steering, and a hardshell will easily outpace you. Whitewater is the SOAR’s true element – especially tricky little rivers like the Beaver, which can throw new surprises your way each season. The unflippable rubbanoe eats surprises for breakfast.

article continues below