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Hands-on Gear Review
Isle Explorer Review
Cons: Not super fast
Bottom line: The Explorer crushed nearly every metric, making it a tester favorite and earning it our Editors' Choice Award.
The Isle Explorer has impressive construction, good stability, and admirable glide, a combo which earned it a top spot in our testers' hearts and landed it the Editors' Choice award. This model handled everything from long distance paddles on the lake to windy afternoons to spicy descents down creeks and rivers. With a dual cargo system and an easy-to-use carry handle, the Explorer is intuitive and a cinch to get in and out of the water, plus there's plenty of room on deck for all of your accouterments. With all of this, this contender was still the lightest in the test, and a roomy and comfortable backpack allowed it to score well in ease of transport. With such an impressive feature list, the Explorer won't break the bank.
For more performance and less versatility, we recommend the Red Paddle Co Explorer, and if you're looking for a cheaper board with a high level of performance, look at the iRocker Inflatable or PEAK Inflatable.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Explorer was a favorite among testers because it's stable, easy to paddle, has tons of cargo space, and has a lightweight construction. It scored near the top of its class in every metric, and testers were always happy to take it out for a spin. If you're looking for a high-quality and versatile board that isn't the most expensive on the market, this is the right choice for you.
Although this model was followed closely by the Best Buy-winning iRocker Inflatable in the overall scores, the Isle model proved itself as a favorite time and time again, and if you've got a few extra bucks in the bank, this product is a score.
The Explorer was among the top performers in this metric, scoring a near perfect 9 out of 10 thanks to its dimensions. At 32" wide, 6" thick and only 11' long, paddling is a breeze and a triple fin setup as security. Although the iRocker Inflatable also scored well in this metric, the extra weight on the iRocker made it more difficult to paddle and maneuver. Another high scorer in this category, the NRS Mayra, proved to be stable because of its width, which came in handy for stationary activities like SUP yoga but detracted from the experience of paddling.
A factor that can affect this product's stability was its storage capacity (which we found to be a huge plus). With the opportunity for extra loads, weight can become uneven, so it is important to stabilize and even out your load before launch.
This contender scored well in the glide metric, but it was not at the top of the class. Because of its low weight, it is able to skim the water well, but with a slightly bulkier profile than the sleekest boats in the review, it proved to be a bit slower. However, nearly all of our testers found the difference to be negligible during mellow sessions with friends or solo sunset cruises. If you are into longer missions and seek a boat with serious glide, we recommend the Red Paddle Explorer, our Top Pick for Performance, or the iRocker Inflatable
The Explorer's fin setup was unique in this review, with only a handful of other boards providing the same design. The board features two hard, smaller fins, with one larger middle fin that is removable. Most of our tester greatly appreciated this setup, as it added stability and glide performance on the open water, and allowed for a little bit of extra stability in shallow water when the larger fin had to be removed for safety. A drawback to this design is that it does not allow you to roll the board extremely tightly (but it still packs down quite small).
Ease of Transport
The Explorer was a cinch to transport, with a comfortable middle handle that easily allowed testers to tackle a rowdy portage through scrub and mud. Plus, rear and front handles allowed two testers to tag team the carry easily, and its lightweight construction didn't tire us out.
With an included backpack, the Explorer easily rolls up and packs away, with plenty of extra room for snacks and a towel. The pack was well padded, although some testers felt that there was almost too much padding. If you're looking for a SUP that is as transportable but that comes with a bag geared more toward rolling and less toward packing, we recommend the Red Paddle Explorer. On the other hand, if you're looking for a portable craft that comes with a minimalist bag, the Xterra Touring is worth looking at.
Ease of Inflation
Like most of the boards in this review, the Isle received a middle-of-the-road score in this metric. With an included pump that outperformed some boards, like the Tower Adventure, but was outperformed by others, like the Red Paddle Explorer, the Isle model provided adequate performance in this metric.
Our testers found that, in general, the inflation process was the biggest drawback to having an inflatable SUP. This process can be time-consuming if you use your board daily and do not have space to store it inflated. We recommend checking out an electric pump, or preparing to get some serious biceps by the end of the summer!
Although no board scored a perfect ten for durability, the Isle model was among the highest scoring models. It is evident from this board's construction that it is built to last, with quality seam connections and premium materials. The board easily handled rocky creek descents, and it is sure to last through many seasons of use.
The Explorer is an excellent board for beginning SUPers or those who want a craft that is versatile and ready for adventure. Two storage areas seriously expand the possibilities, allowing you to strap down just about anything, and the boat's burly construction and all-around performance mean that it can duck and weave from the lake to the creek.
At $845, this board is not the cheapest in the test, but it is certainly not the most expensive either. It has an extra large 6 D-ring cargo system in the front, a 4 D-ring cargo system on the back, two sturdy handle straps on the nose and tail and a sturdy middle strap, and it also comes with a pump, patch kit, SUP leash, extra padded carrying strap, and backpack. It is made of sturdy materials and comes with a one-year warranty. We tried to beat this board, but it handled everything we threw at it with grace.
As the highest scoring product in our test and the most-loved SUP among our testers, the Explorer proved itself time and time again. This board is a high-performer in the water, and its construction and design make it among the most versatile boards in our test. For nearly any water adventure, the Explorer is an excellent purchase.
Other Versions and Accessories
All available on the Isle website:
— Shey Kiester
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