Now it may seem strange of me to do of a review of the Italian made Exo boat in English when it is not available in the UK, (yet?) but there are a few points going for the Exo XT Creek that may make it an interesting option for UK boaters.
I have always been a bigger boat paddler, H3, Burn, Mamba and Everest, and this boats fits right in there with those size wise.
The XT Creek is in a range of three boats the XT 260 and the XT 300, they all share or seem to share the same semi displacement hull, with the Creek having a more rounded deck front and back to shed water better when resurfacing.
Length 259 cm
Volume 320 LT
Weight 20 kg
Weight range 75 – 100 kg
The first thing I noticed about this boat is how light it feels, the manufacturer says 20kg, but it feels a lot lighter than any other boat of this size. Also it is really comfortable to carry. It sits well on the shoulder; this may be a little thing but makes a big difference. I recently tried the Ace of Spades and found it a pain to carry, balance point seemed wrong and I couldn’t find a comfy place to hold it.
These are quite basic which for some people is a good thing, less to go wrong, it has a full foot plate attached by two bolts on each side and instead of ratchets has gone for the cord option. Now the thigh grips are not adjustable which may put some people off, for me they felt good and as good as any of the other boats I have paddled, the seat is basic but comfy and easy to adjust, the same goes for the hip pads. One thing I really like is that there is no foam in the boat with both front and back pillars being plastic.
There are a few issues, there is nowhere to store a water bottle or throw bag in easy reach, they have put a strap on the front pillar but this doesn’t really work, the other is the foot plate is one size, the shorter legged person may find that with it forward there is a fair bit of space around it, not good. I do know that they have acknowledged this and are looking at putting an adjustable one in at some point. Also the boat comes with no extra padding so you need to find your own if required.
On the deck there are 6 safety attachment points, my only issue is the back one faces up the boat I would prefer one going across as its easier for a swimmer to hold onto whilst being rescued, and a lot of other boat manufacturers have recognised this.
The plastic feels a little soft, not that it make a difference on the water but I’m not sure how this will affect the life of the boat. I live out in the French Alps, and because the Italian’s have later holidays than most, you always see them boating at the end of the season when the rivers are a little low and rocky. I was told tongue in cheek that Exo boats can take the larger Italian boater down low river with no plastic issues so can’t see it being an issue for anyone else. I have also bounced off a few rocks in the boat myself and can’t see any cause for concern.
On the water:
I found this boat easy and comfy to paddle straight off, it is a boat that likes to be driven; it can also be quite forgiving, so if your having an off day and not driving your boat it won’t punish you too much. However when you drive it it’s fast and responsive holds its line well yet is easy to turn. It rides through features well and driving it into eddys is easy. It boofs easily and resurfaces with out issues, surfs as well as any other semi displacement hull, and I found it easy to roll. Over all a good paddling experience and no complaints
Overall I really like this boat so much that I brought one, for me it handled really well on the water and I like the basic outfitting – less to fall apart. There are a few small issues that could be improved but they don’t detract from the boat in a big way, I said at the start that this boat wasn’t available in the UK but one reason it may be of interest to UK boaters is that as well as being a good boat, its price on EXOs website is €890 and some of the European retailers are matching this; including SND the kayak shop at St Clement in the French Alps. With a strong pound exchange rate of around 1.4 that works out at about £635. With many UK boaters heading out to Europe for summer boating it might be worth jumping in one of the XT range to give it a try.
All plastic pillars
Basic outfitting (less issues)
Non-adjustable thigh braces
No place for water bottle or throwline
Footplate non-adjustable (being sorted)
Back grab handle wrong way round
Words and pictures: Rob Benton