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 saleSome 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
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
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
land which is private, so do check beforehand. Membership of a
canoe union / club is very beneficial.
is a Cataraft? (Catamaran raft)
commonly referred to as Cats, are a specific catamaran
type of raft that is used for fishing, white-water
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
no freedom to move around in the centre
of the craft – the majority of Cats used abroad have a metal frame holding
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
on the main tubes.
How does the R2, R4 / R6 Cats compare to a normal mono-hulled raft? Unlike a raft, there
pushed by waves or gets sucked into holes.
Instead, there is just the raised metal frame or inflatable
tubes (thwarts) connecting the two main flotation tubes with a mesh floor in
as a catarafter,
is that you
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
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
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
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 man kneeling seat fit 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
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
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
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
to USA made Shredders, the SportCats have the extra
advantage of being the only cataraft with kneeling
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,
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
easier with less drag compared to the normal flat bottomed river rafts. There
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
Frame-less sitting TourCat-2 |
|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
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
canoes using the kneeling seat / thwart, or on C1 / C2 kayaks on raised saddle seats.
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
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
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.
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
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
The BCU has a Rafting qualification / grading scheme for
raft guides. Additionally you should familiarise yourself with
the internationally recognised
river hand signals
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,
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.