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Thread: Leopard vs Cougar

  1. #1
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    Default Leopard vs Cougar

    I want to get a bigger raft primarily for rafting and fishing the Kenai River with friends.
    As briefly as possible.....from those that have experience and really have the knowledge...

    What is the advantage of an AIRE Cougar over an AIRE Leopard?
    (Note I do not intend to do class IV big water.)

    Motor capability?
    Advised Weight hauling capacity?
    Maneuverability?
    "Passenger Frienbly" tubes, frame and floor?
    Overall weight?
    Which boat might be more efficient for fly-out float trips?
    (What valid questions have I missed?)

    Please guide me toward the best boat.
    IBEX

  2. #2
    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    Motor capability: Both boats can be set up to handle larger motors (larger being like 35hp, but this may be pushing it).
    Weight hauling capacity: I believe the Cougar can handle a bit more wt.
    Maneuverability: With the same amount of wt. in each boat I think the Leopard handles (is faster) better.
    Passenger friendly: I think that this is just a matter of preference, typically with standard setups the Leopard has more floor space.
    Overall wt: The Cougar tubes weigh more, although I can't remember how much more. Leopard tubes weigh about 110 lbs. for the pair.
    Which boat might be more efficient for fly-outs: Man this is a tough one. I think all things being equal, the Leopard would be a better choice, simply because the tubes are lighter and less bulky.
    My personal opinion would be to go with the Leopard, but also IMO both are great boats.

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    I think my old Cougar tubes were said to weigh about 112 lbs, although I've never weighed them. The top of a cougar sits lower in the water, so the ride is wetter. Single tubes on a side almost always are faster and handle better than two on a side. I've used a 30hp on the Cougar and always wished for more. In fact if I was weighted down I had a hard time getting on step until I had the prop flattened to an 11" pitch. It wasn't as fast then, but it would always get out of the water. The spray will be a mess either way once you're going fast, but the Cougar has an additional issue with spray blasting out between the tubes. The Cougar frame is usually a either flat or has a 6" drop to it. Any lower an you're dragging it in the water when loaded. The Leopard's frame usually has a bigger drop to it and that makes for a more comfortable sitting position for oarsman and passengers. The Cougar might carry more, I don't remember what the specs are, and it probably draws less water when loaded.

    One thing the Cougar does that the Leopard can never do, is be split in half, making two cats with singe tubes. I did that with mine for years and preferred it for most things (whitewater) I was doing. You can always merge them back together when you have a load to haul. Don't underestimate this. I never thought I would be doing whitewater when I bought it, but worked out great to have two boats where one should never go alone.

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Interesting question,

    I believe the 28 inch tubes and higher frame setup with a load on the Leopard will "windvane" more than the lower, closer to the water level, Cougar. Again, it comes down to Ruger vs Remington, Ford vs Dodge....i think.

    Really, only Tracy at AK Raft and Kayak and AOF honcho Mike S. have extensive experience with both, I think. I'm PM mike and ask him to contribute......Ibex, you might check the archives. Ill bet there is some info back in there.

    AlaskaTrue/Dennis

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    In the past I used booth for a couple of years. I sold the Leopard kept the Cougar. Both are big, both carry a lot and booth are good Cats. I like the lower profile for what I do. I also trick out the Cougar frame for fishing. I agree with Dennis Ford / Dodge etc..... Eaqch person has likes and dis-likes and each person would find different application for that they like to accomplish. I compare it to fly fishing and the selection of a favorite fly most people pick a couple of stick to them will not fish anything else etc... It normally comes down to what they have become comfortable with same between these two boats IMO. Just food for thought if you are going to go with the Leopard you might consider the 16ft AIRE Lion. The 16ft Lion has been the boat I have used the most in all conditions. I think you will find its carrying capacity to be almost if not equal to the Leopard. ;-)

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    From the looks of things, the 16' Lion appears to have about the same water line length as an 18' Leopard, so I would guess carry capacity to be similar. The Leopard as more gradual entrance/exit lines so it might row faster and behave better in large waves. I've never rowed a Lion though, so I'm just guessing. I have used Leopards though and managed to get one down the first couple canyons of Sixmile Creek without any trouble. It's pretty big for that, but I thought it was better than running my Cougar in there, and I did plenty of that. Typically, most boat designs will do an ok job of most tasks, and can be pressed into odd duties. They each do some tasks better than other designs.

    For instance, I think the Leopard is a better choice, compared to the Lion, for high power & speed if you're thinking about that. Personally, I don't think a lot of power on these cats is very practical due to the spray issues, so I would discount this as a significant "advantage" of the Leopard.

    Without big whitewater or a large motor in your future, the Lion might be a good option. NRS and others have a similar boats. Lots of good choices out there.

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    Member BlueMoose's Avatar
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    You are spot on Jim about the difference Jim and to boot the Lion is not a joy to put a larger motor on. I tried a 15 it pushed the boat just fine however was much harder to control than my 9. I refer to it as the party barge however that being said it does allow some tighter play in certain areas of certain rivers while maintaining its ability to handle a load. Trade offs I suppose.

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Yo Ibex,
    This topic was recently discussed in a thread started by Jomama on 2/22/2011, titled AIRE Taking Orders On Cougars Again....
    More info from those that have not had the time to regurgitate the same information again on this occasion...........................AlaskaTrue/Dennis

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default AIRE Cougar versus AIRE Leopard

    I wish I had more time for a detailed reply on this. It's a great topic and one of particular interest to me. I have hunted out of both boats many times.

    For starters, it's really an unfair comparison. They are two completely different rigs, with two completely different results on the water. A better head-to-head comparison would be the AIRE Super Leopard (a twin tube boat), the AIRE Cougar, and a cata-canoe made with two AIRE Travelers. Those are the three biggest production-level catarafts on the water today. That said, let's look at the stats comparing the Cougar and the Leopard:

    COUGAR
    Length:18'
    Tube Diameter:18"
    Tube Weight:70# each
    Rated Capacity:3000# +/-

    LEOPARD
    Length:18'
    Tube Diameter:26.5"
    Tube Weight:52.5# each
    Rated Capacity:1427#

    A WORD ABOUT CAPACITIES

    First off, you should note that there are no objective standards by which the industry rates capacities. Therefore each manufacturer comes up with their own numbers, based on their own standards of what they consider to be a reasonable load. Since most of these companies are building boats with recreational day-tripping and some expedition boating in mind, the standards are different than what you’d look for for float hunting. For starters, the day-trippers and expedition boaters that comprise the bulk of the market are floating at least some whitewater. Float hunters generally try to avoid whitewater for several reasons:

    • It’s not necessary to tackle whitewater to have a successful hunt.
    • Whitewater requires difficult technical maneuvers that are difficult to perform with a heavily-loaded boat.
    • Many float hunters do not have whitewater experience and are reluctant to cut their teeth on whitewater while on a remote expedition hunt miles from the road system and available help.


    Regardless of all this, the Cougar will without question haul a substantially heavier load than the Leopard; I would have no hesitation about putting 2500# on the Cougar, and have done so many times with no problems whatsoever. It is one of a handful of boats I would feel comfortable putting two hunters, a complete camp and related gear, and two moose aboard.

    MANEUVERABILITY

    Neither boat corners like a Fiat, however they do just fine. The Cougar will be a slower turner than the Leopard, because the twin hulls act as twin keels. So when you spin you get more drag, but when you travel in a straight line the boat tracks better.

    PASSENGER-FRIENDLY

    With the Cougar, everything is usually loaded “on” the boat; with the Leopard, everything is usually loaded “in” the boat. That’s because the Cougar is flat on top, and takes a frame without much drop at all between the tubes. But the Leopard uses a drop frame, with the floor sitting at least 12"-18" lower than the top deck. The advantage of this setup with the Leopard is that it keeps your center of gravity low in the boat.

    Both boats will take pedestal seat bases, however they are not really necessary for the Leopard. You simply mount a seat plate directly to the frame and your legs will rest in the normal position on the floor. You can run flat seat plates for your passengers on the Cougar too, but your passengers will ride with their legs sticking straight out in front of them. I've done this many times and it's really not a big deal to me. Others may want something different, which is fine.

    EFFICIENCY?

    You asked, "Which boat might be more efficient for fly-out float trips?" Depends on what you mean by “efficient”. If you mean “practical”, I can say that the Cougar is most certainly my preference for float hunting. The boat sits much lower in the water, which works in your favor by reducing wind drag in an upstream headwind situation.

    SUMMARY

    I prefer the Cougar over the Leopard for float hunting for the following reasons:

    • Vastly greater load capacity
    • Low profile provides greater efficiency in headwinds
    • Entire surface of the boat bears the load
    • Flat frame is simpler than the Leopard frame
    • Overall boat weight, including all accessories, is less than the Leopard


    You can find much more information on catarafts and other inflatables on our brand-new GEAR PAGES. The link to the Catarafts page can be found HERE. If you want to read more about gear, click "Gear" in the navigation at the top of this page. You will be taken to our main site, and you'll see a pull-down menu under "Gear" that leads you to the main categories. Keep checking back in there. We are adding new content every week.

    Hope it helps!

    -Mike
    Last edited by Michael Strahan; 05-12-2011 at 22:08.
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    MICHAEL S,
    Thanks for all the fine information you provided back in in Feb and well as this week. While Ibex may or may not be convinced either way, I am. And have have Ak R&K order me a new Cougar. Nothing wrong with Big red, my 18 foot Leopard, I just had some money i felt like spending and just wanted, decided, to upgrade.
    Dennis

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    Everybody.............
    Thank You for all the information.
    I have also called and spoke with the SALES REPS at AIRE. They can be very convincing. Still not sure which way to go. I have noticed several 18 foot AIRE Leopards for sale at several "for sale" sites. That may be the deal maker for me. Still learning and thinking.............
    IBEX

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    Another option is -- call Cheryl at SOTAR and they will build you any size cat- ect you want. whatever length - tube diameter - rocker. Its all custom, one at a time. Go ahead and give me an infraction if you like- don't really care- this information is for the forum members. Would love to tell about my opinion and practical experience on the self-bailing FEATHERCRAFT opposed to the non-bailers, but i'm sure it would go away on this forum as quick as the blink of a young girl's eye. Bigger fish to fry these days, than being politically correct with forum rules. I see this forum as an educational tool and am not trying to sell any thing to any one on my posts.
    Goo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ibex View Post
    Everybody.............
    Thank You for all the information.
    I have also called and spoke with the SALES REPS at AIRE. They can be very convincing. Still not sure which way to go. I have noticed several 18 foot AIRE Leopards for sale at several "for sale" sites. That may be the deal maker for me. Still learning and thinking.............
    IBEX
    ...There is also a Leopard for sale on the Swap and Sell Forum in addition to the "for sale" sites (wink,wink)..

    Someone else mentioned earlier one BIG difference between the two which is easy to overlook if you are the one on the sticks all the time. With most Cougar frames you stuff is ON the boat, whereas with the Leopard your stuff is IN the boat. This could be a big deal if your "stuff" includes things like little kids. The one trip I took as a passenger in a Cougar from Kenai Lake through the canyon was frankly not all that comfortable. I think if a person were going to be doing a bunch of multi-person fishing trips on a Cougar the only way to go would be with pedestal-mount seats. Ultimately, both are great boats.

  14. #14

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    I was on a trip where we had a Cougar and our friends had a Leopard. Navigating both rafts with almost identical weight loads, the Cougar seemed to float higher in the water because the guys in the Leopard had to drag their raft more often.
    Karma is like a rubber band; it can only stretch so far before it comes back and smacks you in the face.

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HikeHunt View Post
    I was on a trip where we had a Cougar and our friends had a Leopard. Navigating both rafts with almost identical weight loads, the Cougar seemed to float higher in the water because the guys in the Leopard had to drag their raft more often.
    Yes, the Cougar has a lot more lift than the Leopard.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Mike,

    Can you take the frame from a Cougar and put it on the Leopard tubes and get diffferent load bearing capabilities? Im just curious I have a Leopard that meets all my expectations and then some. Thanks

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shootnhit View Post
    Mike,

    Can you take the frame from a Cougar and put it on the Leopard tubes and get diffferent load bearing capabilities? Im just curious I have a Leopard that meets all my expectations and then some. Thanks
    The frame has nothing to do with it. It's about the tubes; displacement is calculated on how much boat you have in the water.

    -Mike
    LOST CREEK COMPANY: Specializing in Alaska hunt consultation and planning for do-it-yourself hunts, fully outfitted hunts, and guided hunts.
    CLICK HERE to send me a private message.
    Web Address: http://alaskaoutdoorssupersite.com/hunt-planner/
    Mob: 1 (907) 229-4501
    "Dream big, and dare to fail." -Norman Vaughan
    "I have climbed my mountain, but I must still live my life." - Tenzig Norgay

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    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Well Michael S, I hope your enthusiasm for the AIRE Cougar cataraft is muchO accurateO.
    Mostly for "grits" & grins I have decided to sell Big Red, my 18 foot AIRE Leopard and purchase Big Red II, an 18 foot AIRE Cougar cataraft.

    IBEX, shoot me a PM or an email if you are interested in a fine red Leopard cataraft at an inflation-fighter-price.
    It has been used mostly on the Kenai River and Skilak Lake. Matter of fact, you don't even need to know anything about rafts or rafting. This cataraft knows knows everything about that river.

    AlaskaTrueAdventure/Dennis

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaTrueAdventure View Post
    Well Michael S, I hope your enthusiasm for the AIRE Cougar cataraft is muchO accurateO.
    Mostly for "grits" & grins I have decided to sell Big Red, my 18 foot AIRE Leopard and purchase Big Red II, an 18 foot AIRE Cougar cataraft.

    IBEX, shoot me a PM or an email if you are interested in a fine red Leopard cataraft at an inflation-fighter-price.
    It has been used mostly on the Kenai River and Skilak Lake. Matter of fact, you don't even need to know anything about rafts or rafting. This cataraft knows knows everything about that river.

    AlaskaTrueAdventure/Dennis
    Dennis: Come back to this thread after you get your new raft on the water. Anxious to hear your comparison between the two models.
    Karma is like a rubber band; it can only stretch so far before it comes back and smacks you in the face.

  20. #20
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    After MUCH himming and hawing about the PERFECT raft, I took the plunge on a leopard today! Thank you to everyone for your advice on this thread as well as the previous ones like it that I had started. See you all on the rivers!

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