Hyside 10.5 Mini-Max Review
The rivers I have run this boat on range from steep, low-volume runs to big water classics. While not a comprehensive list, some highlights include:
- White Salmon (WA)
- East Fork Lewis (WA)
- Upper Gauley (WV)
- Grand Canyon (AZ)
- Royal Gorge of the Arkansas (CO)
- Gore Canyon (CO)
- Lochsa (ID)
The Short Version
This is a phenomenal raft, especially for two paddlers. It easily handles big water and all but the most technical steep creek runs. It is reliable, versatile, exceptionally stable, and easy to transport.
Length: 10’ 6”
Width: 5’ 2”
Tube Diameter: 18”
Below is a breakdown of the Mini-Max’s performance in a number of specific categories. The ratings I have given are primarily for how the raft handles as an R2, on a five star scale.
This is one of the Mini-Max’s strongest features. In my opinion Hyside has found the sweet spot, and this boat is extremely stable without being overly cumbersome in the water.
On high volume runs it will crush through big waves and handle surging laterals well. It is a small boat, and will definitely flip if you do not "T" it up to big features. Even when one (or more) of your paddlers goes for a swim, the Mini-Max will give you a fighting chance.
On lower volume, creeky runs the Mini-Max resurfaces well through steeper drops, is forgiving when you go off a lip without the perfect angle, and rides out those sticky rodeo holes with the best of them. I am not much of a “take-a-swim-for-the-team” type, and have clawed my way to the high side during a few rowdy surfs in this boat. What is more, Hyside’s thwart placement and pin system make the boat easy to lock into, providing a really solid base to keep you in your seat.
Probably the Mini-Max’s weakest point is its speed. If you are looking to win your local R2 race you are looking in the wrong place. The Mini-Max’s width relative to its length (read: stability) means that it needs to be constantly driven. In addition, it does not catch surfs on the fly particularly well and struggles on those glassier surf waves.
For the kayakers out there, it handles much more like a big displacement hull creek boat than a planing hull kayak. That being said, as long as you actively paddle into the biggest features and drops, the boat is light enough to build and maintain speed.
What the Mini-Max lacks in speed it makes up for in maneuverability. The boat turns on a dime, letting you easily square up to big hits and pivot into tight drops. Furthermore, it ferries well and can be maneuvered to catch all but the smallest eddies. The boat’s stability makes it very predictable, and even through crashing, swirly whitewater, it is easy to keep the raft on line.
Keeping the bow of the raft up going into big waves and steep drops is mostly a matter of well timed strokes. Forgiving even when you plug bigger features, the boat resurfaces and puts you back in the driver’s seat quickly.
Paddling the Mini-Max on high volume whitewater is a blast. It rides high, and wants to punch every big wave out there. I have paddled the Mini-Max on the Gauley at 5,000 cfs, run Lava Falls multiple times, and recently ran the Lochsa at 18,000 cfs. Through choppy, lateral waves the boat is stable enough that you can focus on squaring up to the next big foam pile rather than worrying about the smaller features.
When hitting big holes and standing waves, the Mini-Max punches through well. Plus, when it does stall out, the stability comes into play again. As long as you are in your seat, the boat will gamely surf itself out of all but the stickiest holes.
When you do inevitably go for the hero line and flip it over, the Mini-Max is easily re-flipped from the water, making recovery on big rivers that much easier.
As well as crushing big water, the Mini-Max holds its own on steeper runs. Through continuous gradient with moderate drops the raft’s maneuverability shines, and the slower nature of the boat can help keep you in control.
However, on runs with bigger drops like the White Salmon or East Fork Lewis, the Mini-Max has a bit of a learning curve. First, longer, narrower rafts carry their speed into big drops more easily. This allows paddlers to focus more on keeping the raft lined up and timing the critical final strokes. Second, the Mini-Max’s slower speed means that it often needs to be more actively paddled into big drops. While doable, this requires R2 partners to be more in sync with each other.
Many R2 teams running steep, technical Class V whitewater prefer longer rafts because they make bigger drops feel smaller and carry their speed well through the bottom of the drop. While the Mini-Max’s shorter length makes these big drops feel bigger, it also allows skilled R2 teams to essentially boof the raft over the lip of the drop. Although it is not quite the same as boofing a kayak, a coordinated boof stroke will keep the Mini-Max’s bow up better than a longer raft, compensating for the shorter length. With a little practice, I have found the Mini-Max holds its own on all but the steepest, most consequential creek runs.
I am generally skeptical of cross-over style equipment, and prefer to have a quiver of specialized boats whenever possible. That being said, the Mini-Max is an absolute killer to have in your repertoire. While it performs best as an R2, it works great with anywhere from one to five paddlers. I have even seen seven people squeeze into one, although I can not say I recommend it.
Another option is to throw a small frame and some oars on it, turning your Mini-max into a zippy little oar rig for small overnight trips. All said and done, I have yet to find myself on a river where the Mini-Max felt inadequate.
The Mini-Max is a Hypalon boat, which means that it is generally light and easy to roll. A tall paddler can even shoulder carry the boat like a kayak. Flexible, it rolls up to easily fit in the back seat or trunk of almost any vehicle. Unlike other rafts, it is light enough to be carried most anywhere you can bring a kayak.
As far as durability is concerned, I have dragged my boat into some pretty rough put ins and take outs, smashed it on a bunch of rocks and driven it across the country and back on the roof of a car. Through all this, it has held up quite well. The only patch it has needed was due to a direct puncture from a stick in swift current. The Hypalon material was easy to patch, and has held well for two years now.
The bottom line for this Hyside Mini-Max review: I really can not recommend this raft enough. If you are looking to run the Green Truss or the Little White it is probably not the perfect boat for the job. For anything other than the upper limits of Class V creek boating, the Mini-Max is a phenomenally fun and reliable raft that you can take anywhere.