Red Paddle Co Voyager+ MSL Review
Cons: Expensive, not maneuverable, unstable for beginners
Manufacturer: Red Paddle Co
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Red Paddle Co 13'2 Voyager+ MSL is a standout performer with its fast and efficient touring design built for high-end performance. As one of the longest and narrowest boards in our lineup, this won't be a favorite among first-time paddlers, but experienced watermen and women will definitely notice the quality and thoughtful design. Of course, these premium components come with a premium price tag, and the Voyager is one of the most expensive boards that we tested, and one of the pricer inflatable boards on the market.
With dimensions of 13 feet, 2 inches x 30 inches x 6 inches, the Voyager+ MSL is significantly narrower and a bit thinner than the sturdiest competitors in our lineup. In addition, its fin configuration, which consists of one large FCS Connect Touring Fin and two much smaller built-in side fins, is a little bit less stable than other boards with a full three-fin setup.
That being said, the intermediate and advanced paddlers in our testing crew were more than happy with this board's stability, and even our beginner testers warmed up to the board once they adjusted to the narrower width. The key to keeping this vessel stable is to maintain its forward momentum. As it slices forward through the water, the forward momentum keeps it tracking in a straight line and keeps it from tilting over. Similar to riding a bicycle, once you lose momentum or slow the speed, the stability can get compromised.
Unique to the Red Paddle Co, the Voyager has an RSS stiffening system that allows users to customize how stiff they want their vessel. You can insert two stiffening strips into individual pockets on each side of the board, which help prevent flex and help maintain a rigid rail edge to more efficiently slice through the water.
This model particularly stands out in the glide performance metric, earning the highest score in our test. Although it is tough for an inflatable SUP to match up to the performance offered by a classic rigid SUP, this model comes very close. With its long and narrow shape with a pointed nose and tapered rear end, the Voyager is built for glide efficiency and speed. Other top-of-the-line components including an FCS Connect Touring Fin, a built-in nose runer fin, and an RSS stiffening system help this vessel easily slice through the water, making longer paddle missions easy even in windy or choppy conditions.
While the Voyager highly succeeds as a touring board with excellent speed and efficiency in open water, it lacks some versatility to take in other waters where its length can't be fully utilized. When paddling down a meandering creek or through choppier water, a more stable and maneuverable board would be more beneficial than the Voyager's touring profile.
This model is fantastic at covering long distances quickly and efficiently when the course is relatively straight. Even in rougher or choppier waters, its tracking skills make it great for touring but become a downside when it comes to maneuverability. The Voyager's long narrow shape makes it exceptionally difficult to make quick or tight turns.
This board is not designed as a general all-around board. It is specifically meant for touring and is built for getting up to speed and tracking in a straight line. If you are looking for an inflatable SUP with exceptional glide and don't care about navigating tricky watery terrain, then this is a great board for you. If easy turning and maneuverability are essential factors for you, then we suggest taking a look at any of the all-around models for better performance in this metric. Shorter boards with less extreme front-end tapers will provide more versatility and will be able to pivot and turn across the water more easily.
Ease of Transport
This model scores pretty well in this category, sitting among some of the top competitors. Its front and rear handles, dual side handles, and burly middle handle make portages with one or two people easy, and the vessel's relatively low weight allows it to be easily transported. Having only one removable center fin cuts down on the disassembly time, and the board rolls up surprisingly well for its size.
The Voyager+ MSL also comes with a unique backpack that is well designed and comfortably accommodates the board and extra accessories. This carrying bag includes wheels, which is a nice addition that allows for a leisurely stroll down to a lake on paved trails, through paved parking lots, or through an airport. However, if you're planning on more remote lake experiences, the wheels seem like a bit much, and the backpack straps aren't as comfortable as on other competitor models.
Ease of Inflation
Even though it is one of the larger boards in our lineup with one of the largest overall volumes, the Voyager scores at the top of the charts for ease of inflation, thanks to its dual-chamber pump system that easily outpaces most other included pumps. The dual-chamber pump is both faster and easier to use than most of the other pumps in the review, which earns it a special place in our tester's hearts.
This pump, which comes with a universal fitting as well as several other nozzles, was the de facto pump that we used to inflate almost every other board during our testing. It is just that much better. The dual-chamber pump system is adjustable such that both chambers can be utilized to quickly add higher volumes of air to the board, and then just one chamber can be utilized to bring the board up to the proper air pressure. While most of the pumps included in our lineup have a similar two-stage adjustment system, the dual-chamber system's extra volume and the overall build quality of this pump definitely stand out.
The Voyager+ MSL has one of the highest list prices in our lineup and is one of the most expensive inflatable models on the market. Additionally, this board doesn't include a paddle as many others do, so factor in another $200-$300 for a high-performance paddle to match the high-performance of this board. However, since this vessel is aimed at experienced paddlers who will likely already have their own paddle, and when you factor in the quality and durability of the materials used and the overall performance, paddlers in the market for such a high-performance offering will likely be used to paying such a price for such high quality. The board has several high-end features like the dual cargo systems, five built-in grab handles, and several built-in M8 screw mounts for additional accessories like GPS mounts, cameras, or fishing rod holders.
The Red Paddle Co Voyager+ MSL is one of the favorite boards of our testers, and is built for speed and performance. This board is rigid, durable, and fast, and is our Top Pick for the best touring board, providing impressive performance for an inflatable SUP. If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of versatility for a speedier ride, and you're willing to pay top dollar for top-end performance, then this is the board for you.
— Nick Bruckbauer