Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: New 2018/2019 Red Paddle Co Voyager 12’6″ Inflatable SUP

We have avidly been awaiting the arrival of the 2018/2019 Red Paddle Co product line. Recently, the truck rolled in and we had our first opportunity to take a look at the new Red Paddle inflatable SUPS, consisting of 23 models for surfing, whitewater, recreation, touring and racing, ranging in size from 8’10 to 22’0.

Red Paddle Voyager 12'6" inflatable SUP

Included in this shipment is the new Voyager 12’6″ (originally named the Explorer 12-6 ) – a 32-inch wide, beefy, inflatable touring model constructed from 150mm drop-stitch material and now featuring the revolutionary rocker stiffening system (RSS).

As we had last featured the Explorer 12-6 in late 2014, we felt the time was right to take a look at the new features. So we begin our first writeup on the new 2018/2019 models with the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12’6″. (Please note, some of the information here will be repeated from other writeups.)

Red Paddle Twelve Six Voyager: Getting Started

The box as received weighs 51 lbs, measuring 37 x 15 x 15 inches.

What's inside the Roller Backpack

Inside the box is the SUP body, two RSS side battens, Titan dual-barrel pump, pressure gauge, backpack, cinch belt, removable fin and repair kit – as well as a bonus cell phone case. Inside the repair kit is glue, patch material, a back-up fin pin, replacement pump membrane and valve wrench. Once rolled up, the SUP board and pump fit into the backpack, as well as optional breakdown paddles under 37 inches. While the instruction manual is also included, more details on many of the steps are printed on each of the components, such as the pump, battens and military valve.

Easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

Weight is 41 lbs for backpack, board and pump, which all easily fit in the back of a small car. The board alone is approximately 27 lbs, while the pump is 5.5 lbs and the backpack 7 lbs.

The Red Paddle Voyager 12-6 inflatable SUP arrives rolled up around the high pressure Titan pump, inside the backpack.

Unrolling the SUP body

For your first set up, remove and unroll the SUP body. Lay it out face up so that you can access the military valve.

Red Paddle Co Voyager fits in the included backpack

The Red Paddle 12’6 Voyager utilizes one spring-loaded military valve for inflation. These are very simple to use and feature an inflate mode (spring plunger is UP) and a deflate mode (spring plunger is DOWN). By using your finger to gently push on the plunger, it can be moved to the inflate mode (air goes in and doesn’t come back out) and deflate mode (air goes in and comes back out). Before you go to all the effort of inflating the board, PLEASE make sure the plunger is in the inflate position.

Red Paddle Co Titan pump

The included Titan dual-barrel (or twin cylinder) pump comes with a built-in pressure gauge, so you can monitor the board’s PSI. It also now comes with multiple adaptors, which can be used on inflatable kayaks, dinghies and kite equipment. Instructions for using the pump are printed on the pump barrel. To start off, you will be using both barrels, allowing the board to be filled in less time, and with less strokes.

Pumping up the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12'6"

Attach the hose to the pump, making sure there is no cross-threading. Then attach the integrated adaptor on the end of the hose, to the board by pushing in and turning. You’re ready to pump!

Pumping up the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12'6"

The first step is to fill out the board enough that the two RSS fiberglass side battens can be installed. To do this, inflate the board until it has some shape – about 1 PSI – but is still relatively flat. This will make inserting the battens easier.

Red Paddle Co Titan pump

At this step we want to point something out. The pump arrives with the red plug on the plug cradle. While the instructions do not specifically say this, make sure the red plug near the pump handle is inserted in the hole before pumping; this ensures you are using both barrels for maximum filling. While we have used the Titan pump in the past, we forgot this step (as well as our glasses!) and started pumping up in the HP EZ single-barrel mode. As expected, it took us about 200 strokes to 1 PSI. Once we realized this, we deflated the board and started again.

So, in dual barrel mode we pumped about 50 strokes until the board unfurled, and the needle was moving. This gave us enough bulk to stand the board on its side without “flopping over.”

Installing the RSS Battens

Locate the side pocket openings and remove the plastic strips – these can be tossed – then gently slide the battens into each of the side slots, until just the red string is showing. As you push, the batten will reach the curve in the board side; by pushing down on the batten slightly, you can guide it along. AirKayaks tip: Before putting in the batten, lay it across the side rail and mentally note the pocket end. This helps locate where you need to start putting pressure as it bends around the curve.

Having used the RSS system in the past, we were aware that the first time you attempt to install the battens, you could be facing a major challenge! Before inserting the batten, we worked over the sleeve by pressing on it. The battens on the 2018 boards slip in fairly easily; while the last several inches were a bit tough; by straddling the side and pulling (rather than pushing), as well as judicious mallet hammering, they slipped into place. This gets easier with subsequent installations.

Installing the RSS Battens

Flip the board and install the second batten. AirKayaks note: If you are a smaller person, you might not even need to install the side battens as the board is pretty stiff as-is – in fact the original Explorer 12-6 did not use side battens.

Pumping up the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12'6"

Continue pumping up the board. At this point I must admit, I was SORELY tempted to fake the next photos and opt for the AquaGlide12V Turbo HP electric pump – this is a big board at 370 liters. (See our Guide to Inflating Your High Pressure Paddle Board). But honesty prevailed, and I started pumping.

Red Paddle Co Titan pump

After another 20 pumps I was at 5 PSI and it was getting tough. At this point we should mention that the gauges work on back pressure, thus the gauge will only register as you are pushing in air, and will drop to zero when you stop. As a rule of thumb, “go for the green” – just watch how high the needle goes. I switched to the single barrel mode by removing the red plug on the Titan and putting it on the plug post. The first couple of minutes were a breeze and another 50 pumps took me to 8 PSI, with 50 more to 10 PSI. Another 100 pumps took me to 15 PSI where I quit .

The higher the pressure, the stiffer the board. The recommended pressure is 18-20 PSI; if you are a smaller person, you can easily get away with the lower-end PSI – no sense in spending more time pumping than one needs to. So, a total of about 270 strokes taking several minutes.

Installing the fin

Last step, install the tracking fin. The 12-6 Voyager uses a US Fin Box – this is a common, slotted box that allows one to use various fin styles. The Voyager comes with a 9-inch, FCS Connect Tool-less Fin System which quickly snaps into position without need for hardware or tools. As these can notoriously also be quickly disconnected, the fins now include a finger screw to ensure the fins are secure. The fin is located inside the backpack, in the mesh pocket.

Attaching the FCS fin

Detailed instructions and photos are in the instruction manual, but we will outline the procedure. One side of the fin has a pin, the other a screw and fin plate. Remove the fin plate and screw. Point the fin towards the tail, and insert the side with brass pin into the rear slot – pushing back.

Attaching the FCS fin

Attach the screw into the fin plate, and use this to guide the plate into the “forward” slot. Push down on the fin, then screw through the fin hole, into the fin plate, tightening with your fingers – this gives a pretty snug fit. As a precaution, pull up on the fin to make sure it is truly attached.


That’s it! About 10 minutes with an excellent upper arm workout, you’re ready for the water.

Red Paddle Twelve Six Voyager: Features and Specifications

Red Paddle inflatable paddle boards are well known for being some of the best on the market – this has to do with the internal construction.

Dropstitch material

First, the Red Paddle boards are constructed using “dropstitch” technology. The top of the board is held together with the bottom via thousands of “stitches” – in the Red Airs, 10 stitches per inch. These threads are “double stitched” so if one were to break, another holds. This allows the boards to be pumped up to very high pressures of 18 to 20 PSI and ensures that air doesn’t move around inside the board, creating a stable ride. The 2018 Voyager 12’6″ utilizes 150mm dropstitch technology, making the board 40% more rigid than many boards yet still allowing the rider to keep a low center of gravity.

Second, the boards use a double layering technique which – in the simplest terms – means they construct a board, and put another board around it. It’s a board-within-a-board, which adds strength and durability.

Side rails

The weakest link in an inflatable paddle board is the rail (side edge) area – where the top and bottom panels join together. Most ISUPS are constructed with one rail layer – Red Paddle Co features four layers of staggered taping to ensure minimal chance of air leakage due to punctures.

Red Paddle Co boards are rigid.

In 2016, Red Paddle Co kicked it up a notch with the introduction of Monocoque Structural Laminate, or MSL fusion technology. In the past, the “board within a board” was glued together, creating extra weight and the potential for hand-gluing errors. The new process consists of industrially fusing the second layer of polymer to the dropstitch core at the raw material stage. The end result is a material that is structurally more sound, even more rigid, as well as lighter – in fact, many of the boards are now 5-10 lbs lighter than previous models.

Red Paddle Co Voyager 12-6 Features and Specifications

At first look, the board is actually incredibly simple and streamlined.

Integrated RAM/RAILBLAZA mount

There is one nose (tether) d-ring located a couple inches from the snout on top of the board.

Integrated RAM mount socket with optional RAM mount.

An integrated thread allows one to add an optional universal mount socket (shown above) from RAM as well as RailBlaza. With this socket, paddlers can purchase a myriad of optional RAM or RailBlaza accessories, allowing one to attach a cell phone holder, camera mount, fishing gear, Go-Pro fixture, cup holders – you name it! This is located next to the front d-ring.

Bungee deck lacing

A bungee deck-lacing system – for 2018 now expanded with 6 metal d-rings – begins 36 inches from the snout, measuring 18 to 23 inches wide and 20 inches deep – a perfect spot to attach gear. The d-rings are roughly 10 inches apart, with the entire system extending over the deck.

Central and side carrying handles

A textured, traction pad is 87 x 26 inches, beginning 48 inches from the nose. In the center is a low profile, padded handle, positioned 26 inches from the top of the traction pad. Two more low profile handles are located on each side. For 2018, the handles feature an embroidered logo, making them softer to touch. The handles are carefully placed to give paddlers an idea of where to best position their feet.

Red Repeater Graphic

For 2018, Red Paddle has tweaked the deck pad with the “Red Repeating Graphic” – in simple terms, this is one of those little finishing touches that really set off the Red Paddle line.

Rear d-rings

A second set of 4 d-rings – which can be used to attach gear or more bungee deck lacing – measures 10 to 16 inches wide by 14 inches deep, beginning 17 inches from the tail. Each cargo attachment has been positioned to distribute the weight of both rider and gear without effecting the trim of the board, allowing for a large quantity of gear to be carried.

Rear handle

A padded, rear carrying handle makes it easier to pull the board into the water, and also has an integrated ankle leash d-ring. The handles have been redesigned to be more robust, yet easier and more comfortable to grab. This is located 10 inches from the tail.

Military valve

There is one military valve to inflate the board – this is imprinted with inflation instructions. The Hull-ID number is located just behind the valve.

Installing the RSS Battens

The Voyager 12″6″ now utilizes the patented Rocker Stiffening System (RSS), featuring two fiberglass battens to increase rigidity. The RSS pocket sleeve is built separately, then laminated to the board rails to ensure the best fit and performance. By inserting the two stiffening battens along the rails of the board, the battens work against the downward force of the rider to produce a stiffer board by preventing flex – similar to how a stringer works on a hard board. The stiffening battens are removable for easy board rolling and can be stored in the carry bag for transportation to and from the water.

Each batten is 35 by 1.25 inches with a velcroed “pull tab” that attaches to the board rail while paddling.

Fin and side runners

The Voyager 12’6″ utilizes a fairly standard US Fin box which fits 90% of the fins on the market. The Voyager comes with an FCS II Tool-less Connect 9.0 Touring fin which just snaps into place without the need for tools or hardware, yet a retaining pin ensures the fin won’t be knocked off. This particular fin is ideal for flat water paddling with a leading edge that sheds weeds quickly, yet features a streamlined design offering quick maneuverability and turning. The included deep-water, tracking fin measures 9 inches deep. Two rear fin side runners measuring 14 x 0.5 inches prevent “tail drift” when the board is loaded with gear.

Nose runner

A nose runner (bow) of the same size increases tracking and straight line performance in side winds.

At this point, we want to mention “the bump” which can appear to be a defect to first time paddlers. As previously mentioned, the drop stitch material consists of threads connecting the top and bottom layers. To install the military valve, the threads must be removed in that area, creating “the bump” which can be seen on the underside, below the valve. This is normal and not something to worry about

The newly-redesigned Original All-Terrain roller back pack is very nifty. The bag sports a quilted front and padded back, a molded rubber top handle, two padded side carrying handles, and a molded rigid handle on the underside – basically, you can carry it just about any way you can think of. Integrated roller wheels allow it to be easily hauled through airports or on sidewalks, if one doesn’t feel like carrying it on their back. Two-way zippers (with very slick Red Paddle branded zipper pulls) allow the pack to be open on three sides, making it much simpler to get the board in and out. A clear pocket on the back is provided for identification labels.

Inside, one integrated cinch belt keeps the board in position. The roller packs are foil-lined, minimizing potential extreme heat on the boards. An interior mesh pocket houses the removable fin while an integrated paddle containment system with paddle outlines show how to stash your 3pc breakdown paddle inside the bag so it doesn’t move around.

New for this year, the popular Sherpa Carry System (a “hidden pocket” on the back which allows the shoulder straps to be un-cinched and stashed inside) now has a very slick 3-way velcro system providing a very easy way of stashing – or unstashing – the shoulder strap and waist strap harness system; this is particularly good for travel/planes as the straps won’t catch on items. Additionally, the back has more padding, making for a more comfortable carrying experience.

Outer measurements on the backpack are roughly 39 x 14 x 14 inches, allowing the pump and an optional breakdown paddle to fit inside. The bag weighs approximately 7 lbs.

Titan pump adaptors

The Voyager 12’6 comes with the highly-acclaimed dual barrel (twin cylinder) Titan pump. This features a large and small barrel; when initially pumping, both cylinders are used, putting in more air rapidly. When it gets tough to pump, remove the pump plug which utilizes just the slim barrel. The smaller barrel makes it easier to pump at higher pressures. The updated Titan pump is killer. The handle is now reinforced, so that it can withstand more pumping pressure. While the military valve adaptor is permanently affixed to the hose end, the Titan pump now comes with a variety of additional adaptors – a Boston valve adaptor, nozzle adaptor and two screw-on adaptors. These are attached via a very nifty system, allowing one to use the Titan pump on inflatable kayaks, dinghies and kites.

Red Paddle Co Gauge

In conjunction with this, the gauge features three “green” zones – one from 1 to 4 PSI for lower pressure inflatables, one from 6 to 8 PSI for higher pressure kayaks and kites, and then the third from 15 to 22 PSI for paddle boards.

Red Paddle Voyager 12'6" inflatable SUP

We did measurement tests. The Voyager 12’6″ inflated is approximately 149.5 inches long, 32 inches wide, and just over 5.5 inches deep – pretty much on target with the published specs. Payload is up to 340 lbs/150 kgs.

Red Paddle Twelve Six Voyager On the Water

Red Paddle Voyager 12'6" on the water.

I took it out on a calm day. Three years had passed since my last Explorer session – I was quickly reminded what a great board this is; very smooth paddling, good glide, and it’s pretty fast. First thing to note – this is a big, beefy board, that at 27 lbs feels rock solid even at 15 PSI, yet is still light enough for many to haul around.The board is extremely stable and was very easy to stand up and drop down without a ripple. Turning was fairly easy – still with a feeling of stability. The thicker 6 inches makes the Voyager feel pretty buoyant, and I easily could see a long day of paddling along the shoreline. And with the thicker 150mm drop-stitch material, it also feels incredibly rugged.

Attaching a seat to a Voyager 12'6"

A little-mentioned fact is how fabulous the inflatable SUPs are as sit-on-tops, and the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12’6″ is a great choice. While not specifically set up for this, by attaching two carabiners to the two side handles, I was able to attach an AquaGlide Core or Pro-formance seat (with inflatable base) to the board.

Red Paddle Voyager 12'6" on the water.

Besides being very fast and fun to paddle, it’s a great option for long days on the boards, or when the wind kicks up.

While I didn’t bring Cleo along this time, here is a photo of Eddie on an earlier version of the Race 12-6 shown above. Dog claws are no match for the beefy construction material.

Packing It Up

Rolling up your Red Paddle Co Voyager

Deflating the board is pretty simple. Remove the tracking fin, making sure to re-attach the fin plate to the screw, so as not to lose it. Burp the plunger a couple of times to release some of the pressure, then push the plunger to the open (down) position and immediately the air will swoosh out. Remove the RSS battens. Move to the snout of the ISUP. Lay the Titan pump down and start tightly rolling up the board from the snout, top side up with the bottom on the outside. As you roll it up, air will continuously be pushed out of the open valve.

When fully rolled up, replace the valve cover and then take the attached strap and cinch it around the bundle. If you’ve rolled up tight enough, the board will easily slip back into the backpack. Put the fin into the interior pocket and use the interior cinch straps to position the load.

Red Paddle Twelve Six Voyager: Bottom Line

Red Paddle Voyager 12'6" on the water.

I can’t say it more simply, the Red Paddle 12’6 Voyager inflatable SUP is a great board! It’s fast, pretty nimble for a gentle giant, very rigid, remarkably stable and – with the included deep water fin – paddles well and tracks/glides nicely.

The thicker 150mm material, large 370 liter air capacity, new RSS battens and 6 inch thickness make them even more rigid for paddlers on the higher end of the limits – in fact, one of our customers is a thrilled 6’4, 300 lbs paddler who says, “if it works for me it can work for you!”

2018 Red Paddle Co Voyager 13'2

The dual set of low-profile cargo ring attachments and expanded bungee deck lacing greatly enhance the board’s versatility and carrying capacity without sacrificing performance – a true workhorse, perfect for multi-day excursions, a birdwatching platform or an arsenal of fishing gear.

The graphics updates, RAM mount attachment and nifty “Red Repeater” deck pad really set the board off – when you’re on a Red, it’s noticed.

According to the manufacturer, Red Paddle inflatable SUPs are virtually indestructible. In a set of Red Paddle videos posted earlier this year, a Red Paddle Ride is thrown at every kind of challenge – attacked by dogs, used as a motocross bike ramp, ravaged by rabid kid rugby players and the ultimate decimation – run over by a 22.5 ton digger. After handling the 12′ 6″ Voyager, I can believe it – it’s rugged. And certainly rugged enough for a canine companion – this was one of Eddie’s favorite boards as he had perching room.

While the Voyager is easy to set up, the huge air volume makes getting up to 18 to 20 PSI a challenge – even with the wonderful, included Titan pump. This is a great candidate for a high-end electric pump investment – such as the AquaGlide HP Turbo 12V pump, allowing one to spend more time on the water and less time inflating.

The 12’6 Red Paddle Voyager is good for shorelines, calm waters, slow-moving rivers, ocean bays and inlets. It’s perfect for a day of touring and if the sun becomes too much – just slide off the board into the water to cool down. And it’s stable enough to handle fast-moving water where maneuverability is not critical.

The Voyager is a great choice for families as the Red Paddle can be enjoyed by all ages, children to adults, while the 32 inch beam, extra long length of 12.5 feet and huge carrying capacity make it big and stable enough for multiple or extra-large riders. And with its near-indestructible construction, parents can relax when the kids start tossing it around.

Red Paddle Co Roller Backpack

Best of all, it rolls up into the included backpack – which can house the pump and a breakdown paddle, making it a great inflatable for traveling. The improvements to the Original Terrain backpack make it even more comfortable for hiking down to beaches, and easier to stow the strap system when flying.

Need more space? Check out the Red Paddle Co Voyager 13’2″, a longer, slimmer and streamlined version, as well as the new Voyager Tandem, 15′ foot version built for two.

The Red Paddle Twelve Six Voyager from Red Paddle Company is another winner. At $1599 MSRP, it’s on the higher end of the retail market, but is a true champion. For more details or to purchase, visit the Red Paddle Co Voyager 12’6″ product page at

See our YouTube video on the Voyager 12-6, below.

You can also read our blog on Guide to Choosing Your 2018 Red Paddle Inflatable Paddle Board.

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