Outfitting and Safety Features
The Stomper 90 comes with Liquidlogic’s standard Bad Ass Outfitting, which wraps the seat and hip pads in comfortable, fast-drying mesh padding that’s fixed with Velcro to the cockpit rim and back-band. The seat is comfortable and easy to adjust, but the seat padding is relatively compressible, which means that when the padding packs out while paddling, the hips tend to loosen up. So I added the two hip-shims to the supplied pads in the outfitting kit (easy to do with the Velcro mesh cover) so that it is a little tight when I sit in the boat dry.
It is also worth noting that the Bad Ass Outfitting is extremely comfortable when you are carrying the boat on your shoulder.
I prefer to have my knees and thighs positively locked into my boat, and I found the thigh hooks on the Stomper 90 to feel a little less secure than I find comfortable. There is no step-out feature on the center pillar of the Stomper 90 either, which I think is a feature that all modern creek boats should be equipped with. (These are usually roto-molded front pillars that have a cut-out, allowing you to use it as a step in the event of a vertical pin.) Being able to use your bulkhead as a step in a vertical pin can make it easier to get out of the boat and decrease the risk of injury to your legs, while the bolted-in, roto-molded insert can decrease the chance of your boat folding with you in it. There are plenty of security bars on the Stomper 90, and they are all stronger than the plastic of the boat, so there is no shortage of places to clip into the boat when needed.
The bulkhead attaches via bolts on the sidewall of the boat, which is the most common method for boats right now. This tends not to bother me, but it does not provide the safety you get from a shock-absorbing system like Jackson Kayaks uses. It is important to pad the bulkhead with foam, however, because it is just a simple piece of plastic that can bend at the top or bottom. This means that in a bad piton situation you could theoretically have your feet push over or under the bulkhead plate without the foam, making it difficult to exit the boat.
Some Things to Keep in Mind about Outfitting…
Liquidlogic has gone through several iterations of outfitting for the Stomper series. Early production-run Stompers suffered from issues with the nuts that hold the seat rails in place, but Liquidlogic has addressed this, and new nuts are now going in all of the Stompers. (If you have an early production-run Stomper or buy one used with this problem, contact Liquidlogic and they will mail you new nuts.)
The other feature that has been tweaked on the Stomper over time is how the back-band is secured to the side of the boat at the hips. Older Liquidlogic boats were notorious for having the back-band locked in at the hips, resulting in very poor access to the stern of the boat and making it difficult to get anything larger than a small throw-rope behind the seat. Stompers made before roughly early 2013 were equipped with metal “L” brackets that hold the back band away from your waist while still allowing it to be pivoted up and away from the stern for better access. I have heard lots of complaints about the back-band popping out of these brackets when the paddler exerts pressure on the back-band (such as when rolling or boofing), and have had some limited problems with this personally.
There are two ways to prevent this from happening: first, make sure that your “L” brackets are not bent, and, if they are, bend them back to 90-degrees.
Second, tighten the straps that hold the back-flap of the seat down (behind your lower back), which will prevent the back-band from riding up and popping out.
If you do this, you shouldn’t have many issues. The new back-band setup (boats built after early 2013) eliminates this problem, but it goes back to the issues older Liquidlogic boats had with not being able to access the space behind the seat easily.
A Note About Sizing
The Stomper 90 is the larger of the two boats in Liquidlogic’s Stomper line (the Stomper 80 is the smaller version).
The Stomper 80 and 90 share more or less identical hull designs, and have very similar paddling characteristics, but the 80 has 10 gallons less volume … which you’d probably already figured out.
If you fall in the “in-between” weight range for these two boats, it’s obviously ideal if you can at least sit in (and better yet, actually paddle) both boats.
But if you are over 6 feet tall, the 90 is almost certainly a better choice, regardless of your weight, given the greatly reduced foot room in the 80. If you are under 5’10” but fit in the weight range of the 90, or want a higher-volume boat, you may want to add some foam under the seat pad so you sit higher up in the boat, which is very deep.
The Stomper 90 is an excellent, purpose-built creek boat with pretty good outfitting that is easy to adjust. Personally, I prefer a few more safety features built-in (mainly a step-out center pillar), but this has not stopped me from thoroughly enjoying this boat.
If you are a dedicated or aspiring creeker, you should seriously consider the Stomper 90 when looking for a new boat, though, in my opinion, the Stomper 90 is best suited for folks who have already developed solid basic skills (eddy-turns, peel-outs, etc.) and are planning to primarily paddle technical rivers or creeks.
For paddlers who are just getting into the sport, the Stomper 90 will feel comfortable in challenging water (it rolls well, turns easily, floats high, etc.), but the lack of defined edges can make it difficult to develop a feel for proper eddy-turns, peel-outs, and ferries.
While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I have seen a number of paddlers who have learned to paddle in creekboats like the Stomper 90 form bad habits that can be hard to break later on. So for folks just starting out in the sport, I would recommend a river-running boat with a more traditional hull and edges, making it easier to develop the fundamentals that are key to progressing to harder whitewater.