Below you will find my thoughts, the good with the bad. Being an ambassador for Mariner-Sails allows me to speak freely about kayaks regardless of brand and to offer what I feel is advice to both consumers and the manufacturers. I am very grateful for their support.
Some people may agree, some may not, but these are my thoughts.
For the last several weeks I have been field testing a 2013 Hobie Outback from Mariner-Sails in Dallas, TX. Mike from Mariner installed the rectangular hatch in front of the seat and I installed two , 4” GearTrac GT-175Rails. Other than that, no modifications were performed to this kayak. I fished in this kayak eight times, all trips were over 4 hours in length and all were recorded on video so I could go back and review.
I originally chose the Outback because of a trip to Lake Fork. I knew with March weather, it could be rough. I didn’t want to be limited by just my paddling strength and liked the thought of speed and less fatigue that the Outback represented. I needed to be able to rig it out with my fish finder, a Lowrance 5X-DSI, fit my BlackPak from YakAttack in it and past that, just be able to fish and put the kayak on top of my Ford Escape.
With all of these criteria met, I picked up the Hobie Outback in early February, rigged it out and got to fishing.
The Outback is light enough to cartop by yourself. At least for me it was. Anything under 75lbs is typically able to be put on top of a car or SUV. Some folks are stronger, have load assist bars etc and can do more but if you have a factory rack or foam blocks, 75lbs is a pretty good threshold. The Outback comes in under that. My rigged weight was 74lbs.
Though not advertised as such, you can stand and fish in this kayak. The platform is not quite developed to promote it but I stood and fished a crankbait out of this kayak with no problems. At 33 inches wide and just over 12 feet long with a tunnel hull, the Outback is very stable. I sat side saddle, stood and even disembarked by walking straight up the centerline to the bow. With increasing demand for stable, standable kayaks, this one should be on your list.
Outbacks come with a rudder already installed and have tiller steering. For those of us who brace with our feet, this is a great feature. I spent an afternoon trolling for hybrids by pedaling the Outback while enjoying a large soda. Not a lot of platforms offer hands free fishing. Another nice feature to the rudder is being able to stay on a line with the wind blowing. All rudders offer this but a tiller style is easier in the wind for us “bracers”.
The Mirage Drive comes with standard fins that are upgradable to turbo fins which are narrower and generate more power. While the option is nice, don’t think it necessary to immediately upgrade. The standard equipment will move this boat well.
The draft on the Outback is much shallower than I thought. With the fins spread I was able to fish in less than a foot of water multiple times in many conditions. If you remove the Mirage Drive, the kayak is limited only by your poling ability. I crossed over a stretch of water standing and poling the Outback at Lake Fork that was four inches deep.
The back well storage is large. I pack a lot of things when I fish. Typically, the added gear weighs another 60-80lbs. It has to go somewhere and above deck is where I like it in freshwater. I was able to store everything behind my seat and still have room for a small cooler if I wanted.
The front hatch is a nice size. While not the largest of front hatches in the market, the Outback has enough clearance to stow rods, paddles and other gear below deck. The sail post just in front of the hatch also gives easy access to install a fish finder or other accessory post if you don’t plan on sailing.
The Outback seat is not your normal seat. Usually strap in seats are flimsy and give you about a four hour max seat time before your back wants to leave the country. Not this seat. With adjustable support via air intakes (you just twist) I had no issues fishing six or eight hours without a shoreline exodus.
These are the things I see as needing improvement for future models. Not everyone will agree but these are what I encountered.
The tunnel hull offers great stability in the water. It makes it very difficult to transport with other kayaks or by itself while upright. You cannot stay rigged when transporting this kayak. The hull causes it to lean to one side which means all of your gear will shift and your rods are at a funky angle. I suppose you could fix this with PVC, a trailer, Hydro Glide pads from Thule or something of the like but it still remains a nuisance. Lots of preplanning has to go into transport.
Straight gunwales are at a minimum. The longest GearTrac I could add to a front gunwale was four inches. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for adding accessories and made me think long and hard about where everything would have to go. A straight eight inch section of space would be nice (that’s NOT in the recessed areas by the handles).
Move the rear carrying handle already. People have complained for years that the rear carrying handle is hard to get to and covered by the rudder in the stowed position. I don’t want the rudder flopping around while I’m loading and I don’t want any more scratches and cuts from fighting the rudder while carrying the Outback. Move it to an offset position on the back and front, four inches from where it is and problem solved.
The Outback is able to be fished standing up currently but is not designed for it. Steal six inches of the back well and move the seat back to add a flatter, larger surface just in front of the seat. And while we are talking in front of the seat, make the rectangular hatch standard so you can fit a paddle and larger gear underneath.
The Hobie Outback shines as a fishing boat. It is a nice hybrid between the sleek, fast Hobie Revolution and its battle cruiser brother the Pro Angler. If you want a kayak that is able to be car topped, transported via cart easily, is versatile enough for almost any water and comes with tons of features built in, this is a great choice.