ZelGear inflatable water crafts
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14/10/18 - Big price reductions
on all catarafts till further notice! First come, first serve till +/- 10 Cats have been sold. See here

20/09/18 - New review on the TourCat-2 added

29/07/18 - New kayak Series added
Alpha-Z range of boats with stiff drop stich floors - Inflatable Kayaks page

11/05/18 - Demo stock sale
Some demo boats now available for sale. Once gone, its gone! Listed in Sales page

08/04/18 - Demo Cats at LV Our fleet of demo cats are currently with LV PaddleSports, Team GB Masters raft team / Square Rock team - for training and practice on some club training nights at Lee Valley. See them in action there - check with us first before going there

20/06/17 - Photos of the Expedition version of the inflatable WW river runner kayak ZelGear The ONE - with inflatable storage compartments in bow and stern. Photos

10/06/17 - Cats and inflatable kayaks available for try outs - ZelGear 'The ONE' inflatable kayak, ZelGear TourCat-2 Mini, ZelGear VectoR-2 and ZelGear SportCat-4 catamaran rafts

26/05/17 - Our demo / try-out TourCat-2 MINI has arrived! Some photos here

12/02/17 - New addition to the inflatable kayak range - ZelGear "The ONE". A white water single seater kayak that packs into a backpack. A demo is available for try-outs now. Some photos here

Enquiries & Ordering
When you would like to order, write to us and we will provide up to date quotes. We will also send you an invoice with relevant payment details etc. Or if you need advice etc, we are more than happy to help with your queries.

ZelGear products are all made in Europe, using European made materials and high grade German made PVC welding machines.

5 year warranty on all ZelGear products

Looking for something?
If you are looking for something that is not listed on our website please give us a call or email us.

Important Notice
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have a valid license / permission from the relevant authorities to use water craft on UK's waterways, rivers, lakes, etc. Not all inland water is open to paddlers, some are privately owned or is bounded by land which is private, so do check beforehand. Membership of a canoe union / club is very beneficial.



ZelGear Catarafts

What is a Cataraft? (Catamaran raft)
Catarafts, commonly referred to as Cats, are a specific catamaran type of raft that is used for fishing, white-water rafting and river touring. Catarafts were first made popular by the Russians, who used them on crazy outdoor adventures and competitive river racing. Cats typically accommodates less people compared to a common raft of similar size, and on some models, there is less or no freedom to move around in the centre of the craft – the majority of Cats used abroad have a metal frame holding the two main tubes apart. However, smaller Cats are commonly used as a fishing platform with a fixed chair in the centre of the craft (in USA), and the larger Cats are great for rafting over rougher water (EG 'Shredder') or for river touring / camping, with sitting being on the main tubes.

How does the R2, R4 / R6 Cats compare to a normal mono-hulled raft? Unlike a raft, there is no floor that gets pushed by waves or gets sucked into holes. Instead, there is just the raised metal frame or inflatable cross tubes (thwarts) connecting the two main flotation tubes with a mesh floor in between. What this means for you as a catarafter, is that you will have a harder time flipping your raft. In very simple terms.....Cats are like skiing and rafts are like snow boarding down a mountain - one carves down the river and the other slides down the river. Cats are simply fast and nimble, and also very light.

On the SportCat-2 / VectoR-2, it is possible to Eskimo roll back the right way where one paddler has fallen off and the Cat capsizes. The other paddler can attempt to roll back up if he has remained seated!

Comparisons / differences between mono-hulled river rafts and river catarafts
Rafts have a self draining floor, Cats have no solid floor, only a suspended mesh 'trampoline" which is above the water level.
- raft floor has a large water surface area plus self draining holes, both of which causes a fair amount of drag. Cats have a smaller surface in contact with the water and therefore can travel faster. EG least effort required to paddle and turn the Cat
- raft floor is not just a single skin. There is an separate inflatable drop stitch 'mattress' on top. This is extra weight compared to the Cat's weightless mesh. ZelGear's biggest 6 man cataraft weighs only 33kg
- raft has more material
in the boat's construction which adds to its packed bulk and fits into a very large bag requiring more than one person to carry it. Cats fits into a single backpack (included) and is easily carried by one person
- raft of a similar length to a Cat requires more air to inflate all of the chambers and therefore has a longer inflation time
- raft is like a snow sled with minimal skill set to use, Cat is like snow skis - a much larger skill set can be developed and be more rewarding. The fun factor is far greater. C1 / C2 paddle strokes comes into play

UK raft racing teams (mono-hulls) who have tried out Cats are appreciating the benefits of the Cats for training purposes to improve their racing skills / teamwork on the mono-hulls. The Cats magnify crew imbalances etc that are not readily apparent on mono-hulls.

The ZelGear Catarafts

ZelGear produces both types of Cats - Framed and Frame-less, with kneeling and non-kneeling versions on both types. ZelGear started out with producing aluminum framed catarafts about 18 years ago, and since then, has largely catered for the east European market such as Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania where there are several major white water and large flat rivers very suitable for catarafts - used by river touring companies and sport racing tournaments. The Russians dominated cataraft racing scene with their kneeling seat framed catarafts design. ZelGear was the first to introduce the kneeling seat design on frame-less catarafts about seven years ago and shortly thereafter starting selling these new Cats via the ZelGear outlet in USA.

SportCat-2 2 seat R2 catamaran raft
SportCat-2 - 2 man kneeling seat fit catamaran raft

ZelGear TourCat-6 4-6 man catamaran raft
TourCat-6 - 4-6 man raft fit catamaran raft

"Seats" on our Cats refers to the sitting positions that have associated foot straps etc for the paddlers.
There is still spare capacity for passengers - extra grab handles can be fitted on request

Framed and Frame-less
Framed are catarafts with a rectangular aluminum frame that holds the two main tubes in place, Frame-less have inflatable cross tubes (thwarts) joining the main tubes. Frame-less Cats pack into a smaller bag compared to a mono-hulled raft of a similar size, as there is less PVC / PU / Hypalon. The frame for framed catarafts are heavy and cumbersome to carry to remote riverside locations. A big advantage of the frame-less Cats is the lightweight carrying capability overland - easily fits into a single backpack bag only weighing between 22-33kg.

The kneeling seat Cats.
The kneeling versions offers a more natural forward facing sitting position. The kneeling seats are permanently fitted atop of the flat topped main tubes and have thigh and knee straps plus foot / toe rests to assist being seated firmly on the Cat - you simply wedge yourself forward into the straps and 'lock in' with your toes on the small foot rests. The saddle seats are designed in such a way that you are raised off the top of the tube, so your knees are not compressed tightly closed - the seat itself takes all your body weight. The seats allow for full range of technical strokes and braces that C1 and C2 boaters are accustomed to. On a river, these Cats run as technical as hard-shell kayaks, and are very much at at home on class 5 rapids.

The kneel / thigh straps are not restraints like car seat belts. The design is such that the effect is like adjustable cones that you put your knees into. You simply pop out backwards without needing to loosen any straps.

ZelGear SportCats and Vectors are the Cats with the kneeling seats.

Non kneeling seat (raft fit) Cats. Similar to the popular USA made Shredders, sitting in these Cats is the same as in most of the familiar river running rafts - sit on top of the main tube with both feet inside the craft. The TourCats have simple foot caps / straps on the floor plus a thigh strap. The 6 seater (4+2) version Cat is very popular with river touring companies.

The ZelGear UK Cataraft range

Currently for the UK market, we are offering frame-less kneeling and non-kneeling version catarafts. If you are interested in a framed version, do contact us.

Three frame-less cataraft series - TourCat, SportCat & VectoR

Shredder type white water catamaran raft
Similar to USA made Shredders, the SportCats have the extra advantage of being the only cataraft with kneeling seats. The seats allow for full range of technical strokes and braces that C1 and C2 boaters are accustomed to.

The behavior / performance of Cats compared to mono-hulled rafts is like creek boats vs ww river runner kayaks.

Some UK raft race teams / clubs have started using Cats as a training tool to fine tune the teamwork, skills etc for mono-hull racing. The Cats, being lightweight and very nimble magnifies problems that are not readily apparent when on the heavy mono-hull rafts.
TourCat Series - traditional sitting 'raft fit' catarafts
Sitting on top of the tube, anchoring both feet through floor foot straps/caps, with the body at a slight angle, as done on common mono-hulled river rafts. These Cats are ideal for long distance river touring, being faster and easier with less drag compared to the normal flat bottomed river rafts. There is space for and anchoring D-rings to secure your camping kit on the central mesh floors. On the bigger TourCat-6, an extra mesh "ramp" can be fitted onto the very front

TourCat-2  R2 shredder catamaran raft
Frame-less sitting TourCat-2

TourCat-4  R4 catamaran raft shredder cataraft
Frame-less sitting TourCat-6
SportCat Series - kneeling seat catarafts
Seating is kneeling on top of the flattened tube, sitting on a kneeling seat, with the knees kept in place with knee and thigh straps and body facing 100% forward. More suitable for short distance bursts (EG 40-60 minutes then rest legs) - very comfortable for active whitewater paddling.

Vector Series - top of the range kneeling seat catarafts. Similar to the SportCat Series but with enhanced seating platforms. The seating platform is lower and have a flatter seat floor

This kneeling is no different to the very common practice of canoeists who paddle solo in open canoes using the kneeling seat / thwart, or on C1 / C2 kayaks on raised saddle seats.
SportCat-2 Zelgear BeaveR-2 catamaran raft
Frame-less kneeling seat
SportCat-4 ZelGear OtteR-4 R4 catamaran raft
Frame-less kneeling seat

All catarafts are designed to carry enough cargo to support camp equipment, food and gear required for multi-day wilderness river trips. Even heavily loaded, the Cats remain safe for crews of any level of experience, including young kids.

All Series are excellent for flat water river touring, or for 1 to Grade 3 rapids. Grade 4-5 should only be attempted by experienced rafters who have become accustomed to the handling characteristics and is knowledgeable in the safe use of these unique Cats.

Note that 'Seats' refers to the actual sitting position with bracing points for paddlers. You can still have passengers who would be sitting on the floor (mesh) or on the cross tubes (thwarts), depending on the model of Cat. There are photos on this site showing some Cats with passengers - you should not attempt to exceed the safe loading limit of the respective Cat especially on graded rivers.

The trampoline like floor mat is currently fine black mesh, not white PVC as shown in some of the older photos. Kneeling straps on the SportCats have been modified from a 2 strap to a more comfortable and safer 3 strap version as seen on the VectoR-2.

Training / familiarisation on the use of Cats can be arranged with independent qualified instructors or whilst being a member of approved raft clubs (UK only). Contact us for details.

NERIS SportCat-2

Important Notice - catarafting on graded rivers
If you have not rafted (or paddled extensively grade 1-3) before and is planning to go on Graded rivers with a cataraft, it is advisable that you attend rafting sessions at recognised and certified White Water Centre's where you will go through the minimum basic safety drills and skills aspects of rafting (using their rafts, if they do not have Cats), or be coached by a suitably qualified and certified raft coach / instructor. The BCU has a Rafting qualification / grading scheme for raft guides. Additionally you should familiarise yourself with the internationally recognised river hand signals as laid down by the International Rafting Federation, be a good swimmer, have basic 1st Aid and know of the correct and minimum kit to have and to wear. Practice frequently all the basic river techniques (self rescue, throw lines, re-flip the Cat, etc) in safe locations.

Class 5 rapids should only be attempted by experienced crews who already have spent significant time running easier rapids together, as a team, in the same boat type - even when boat design itself makes it suitable for extreme white water. We do not assume any liability for injuries that you may sustain as a result of your decisions. Running extreme white water is dangerous, it requires not only good skills, but also careful planning and execution, with every possible safety measure and rescue equipment in place. Always wear a PFD and a helmet when using catarafts in rapids.

On an ongoing basis, ZelGear innovates and improves all products. IE product descriptions (text / photos) on this site is subject to change without prior notice.

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Page last updated 30-May-2020