Though I don't own one, I am familiar with this boat. As with any boat purchase, the decision starts with your intentions. Here are some pros and cons to consider:
1. Large capacity.
This is achieved by the hull design, which opens the bow and stern sections normally closed by traditionally-shaped canoe designs. The boat also has larger side tubes than many models. These two features combine to give you more interior space and weight carrying capacity than many other designs. The Pro Pioneer, by the way, is not the largest inflatable canoe on the market. That title goes to the Grabner Adventure Team
, a 21-foot boat with a rated working load
of roughly 2400lbs.
2. Good customer care.
If you buy the boat for delivery anywhere in Alaska, the distributor has committed to servicing your warranty claims in-state. I was also told that he unpacks every boat and physically inspects it for defects before you take delivery; a huge plus, as these boats are built overseas and there have been defects in the past that were inadvertently passed on to customers.
3. Good user base.
There are a few of these boats on the water here in Alaska, and you can link up with other boaters if you have questions about them from a user perspective.
1. Heavy boat.
Without accessories, this boat weighs 80lbs. It is not therefore a boat you want on long portages or for hiking in to small waterways. This could be a factor if you're trying to get away from the crowds to streams that rarely get floated / hunted.
2. Neoprene bottom.
While neoprene is an excellent material for abrasion resistance, it does tend to grab when wet. This is why neoprene is often used in car tires; you want something that hangs on to a wet rocky surface! This translates into greater effort on your part if you have to drag the boat in shallow water (as is often the case during fall hunting season when water levels are at their lowest). This issue is exacerbated by the boat's large size. Typically you will load a big boat heavier, which means it will sit lower in the water. Longer waterline means more surface to drag across the rocks.
3. Previous defects.
Though this company has had issues with some shipments of boats in the past, don't hold it against them. Just make sure you look your boat over carefully when you take delivery. Inflate it completely and let it sit a few days to see if there are any leaks. Make sure all the valves are properly working and there are no leaks (this goes with any inflatable).
4. Product availability.
Because these boats are built in batches overseas by companies that make other rubber products (and may make boats only as a sideline during the slow season), there have been delivery issues in the past. The company has adjusted to this by ordering more product, so I believe this issue is taken care of. But there could be times when a replacement boat may not be available, in the unlikely event that you need one on a warranty claim.
5. Large side tubes.
The large-diameter side tubes make paddling this boat somewhat challenging with conventional-length paddles. This translates to shoulder and upper back strain on long floats. For this reason, many Pro Pioneer users are moving on from paddles to a rowing setup like the Oar Saddle
, a product originally designed specifically for this boat. You might want to consider this as well.
6. Low, flat bow / stern.
The design of this boat lends itself well to flat, Class I & II rivers, but may not work as well as a conventional upswept bow found on other designs. That said, many folks do run SOAR boats in whitewater and seem to like them, so this is a judgment call. The bow will tend to plow more with a big load than other hull designs.
The SOAR Pro Pioneer
, along with it's cousin, the SOAR Canyon
, are both reasonably good, large-capacity canoes for those in need of a heavier, larger boat for hunting. With all the canoes on the market, it pays to look at as many as possible before making a final decision. If you want to read some performance comparisons between different brands of inflatable canoes, check out my canoe report
A canoe is not an entry level boat for someone just getting started with this stuff; it's a boat experienced watermen graduate to after they know what they're doing. This is my greatest concern with these boats. I'm seeing a lot of inexperienced folks purchasing these boats because they can barely afford a boat. They reason that this is a good place to start, and that they'll "move up" to a larger boat later. Not a good idea. Beginning boaters should start with something easier to operate, such as a self-bailing round boat. You'll have much larger capacity, more interior room, and a safer ride all around.
There are many more comments I've made on this issue and related matters. If you check the archives of the old hunting forum, you'll find lots of material there.
Hope it helps!