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The Gear Shed - Hyside Mini-Max

The Gear Shed - Hyside Mini-Max

The Hyside Mini-Max is a product that has been taking the market by storm since it's release. This boat has some seriously fun advantages and some interesting quirks for those who are not prepared. After getting our hands on one of these boats and putting her through some serious abuse, here is our review of this popular craft.

Physical Dimensions

Mini-Max Dimensions

Physically this boat feels like paddling an extra wide Inflatable Kayak and it is easy to see why. Many of the functional design features seem to be inspired by a fusion of IK and diminishing tube raft. The blocky nature that is so common in most boats gives way to sleek symmetrical curves. At 5 feet in width the boat will slip through slots that common rafts will just stick in. This boat also sport a 25 inch kick allowing it to take on drops with a smooth transition off of the boof. The length does pose logistical challenges for longer trips since the storage space is so limited.  Another interesting design feature that has been very popular in recent boat design that Hyside included in this boat is a highly cambered floor design. The design advantage here is that it creates less surface area on the water, thus creating less friction. This translates to fast reactions and a huge amount of performance in terms or rotation.


Mini-Max Features

 A Mini-Max's shining feature above all other features was Hyside's decision to include urethane bottom chafers. These chafers make this boat slip and slide over rocks like it's made out of plastic. This fusion creates a great mix for people who are fans of rubber, but want the performance of a plastic boat. The boat's small tubes coupled with the position of the 2 thwarts makes the boat really easy for small boaters to lock into. The Hypalon fabric is not as think as Hyside's Pro series, but the reduction in thickness does not significantly diminish the durability. This reduction in thickness does come with the trade off of reducing the overall weight as well. Another durability concern is that this raft's perimeter tubes only consist of 2 chamber, right and left. On your average day or overnight trip this is not too much of a concern since evacuation is usually easy in case of a major breach in the tube. Where these durability factors become a concern is if you are taking this boat on a multi-day / expedition trip where you are traversing remote areas. A major breach in either of these tubes would be catastrophic in these instances. You would have a very hard time limping out of a section of river in that situation.


It’s like a double wide IK. Mind if I take it on Tobin again? Yeah I know it’s class V. It was fun.
— Daniel "Todd" Jenkins, Feather Fest 2015, NF Feather River

We tried to get as many reactions from boaters who either own this raft or have been in this raft.  Reactions were varied and generally positive about the boat, however certain design characteristics did get mixed reactions based on individual boating styles that paddlers have. We attempted to get a good distribution of boater styles and skill levels when we survey those who had used the craft. Here are the common reactions:

Positive Reactions

  • Paddlers generally felt that the raft was a fun play boat
  • Most paddlers felt that the maneuverability was the boat's top asset
  • Boaters reported that it ran small technical slots well
  • A small percentage of users had run shallow slides and most said it went well over shallow rock
  • Most of paddlers reported it fit well for their body size 
  • Paddlers felt that the Mini-Max runs drops well
  • Of the class IV boaters we talked to they said when used correctly the boat can peel in and out of eddies easily.

Negative Reactions

  • Every paddler felt that the boat flips too easily
  • Most paddler it said they experienced problems crossing strong eddy fences
  • Over half of the paddlers we talked to felt that the boat reacts very badly to rapid shifts in weight inside the boat like a paddler falling quickly one way or another
  • Users generally felt that the boat felt like it sat too high in the water and described it as "corky" rolling and pitching too rapidly.
  • About one third of the users found the diminishing tubes to cause problems when running drops
  • Some people reported that the boat felt too small or was uncomfortable to sit in because they felt squished (Mostly men, but all were over 5 feet 10 inches tall of both genders) 


Performance Summary

Flipping at Carnage Rock



  • Prone to flipping especially if you take a hard hit or move quickly
  • Flounders in higher volume whitewater
  • Flounders on strong eddy fences
  • Does not handle large holes well
  • Performance significantly diminished with 3 or more paddlers
  • Floor holes do not extend through the rocker
  • Hinge and pin thwarts can rub on your legs if improperly installed
  • Diminishing tubes can cause the boat to deflect when running drops 
  • Easy to pull the boat over when high siding
  • Too small for larger boaters
  • Excels at tough steep class IV and V creeks
  • Excellent play boat on Class III rivers
  • Excellent performance with 2 paddlers
  • Great for carving onto currents
  • Fun for surfing common play ways with clean walls
  • Urethane Chafer slides easily
  • Light weight at 67 lbs
  • Lots of kick helps smooth out drops
  • Turns rapidly
  • Easy for one person to carry or portage
  • Easily pack-able for expedition boating 
  • Comfortable size for small boaters
  • Shallow draught make it less prone to pin 


Our recommendation is that this boat is a definitely excellent for inclusion into your fleet, however it is not an entry level boat. This boat functions best in creeks and low volume river or for low flow trips on bigger whitewater. If you consider yourself an advanced technical boater you will have a blast in this and it works really well as a second boat. This will be your go to when you want to play boat on easier class III whitewater. Just like surfers have a quiver of boards and kayakers chose different boats for their specific use, this boat definitely has a place in your fleet. We cannot stress enough though that you should know the specific advantages and limitations of your craft. Even an experienced boater can quickly get in over their head with this boat in tough conditions. If you do pick one up ease into this boat as there is a steep learning curve before you really get the most out of it. Be safe and enjoy!!

If you want to learn more about the Hyside Mini-Max you can find more info on their site, check on pricing, and production time.

Winter Boating Safety

Winter Boating Safety

Basic Paddle Selection

Basic Paddle Selection