There are two problems with owning your own kayak: 1) It’s an expensive investment. 2) It takes up a lot of room and is hard to transport.
Inflatable kayaks from Advanced Elements only help a little bit with the first problem, but they eliminate the second one entirely. I’ve been trying out one of their Advanced Frame Sport kayaks and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to pack up and set up in various locations.
First though, a response to the most common misconception about inflatable kayaks. No, this is not a toy. In my tests it actually tracked better on the water than a regular fiberglass sit-on-top kayak and I’ve used it in both calm inlet water and choppy sea waves. On calm days and windy ones. It has fins on the bottom, which helps, but this is also and aluminum and ripstop nylon frame with inflatable sections attached inside. It’s not a glorified blow-up raft. It is shaped to cut through the water and reduce drag. I feel like I can move faster in this than the more conventional ones I’ve used many times before.
With the thick rubberized bottom, heavy fabric, and a real seat, this is no bargain kayak you pick up at a super-mega store on a doorbuster sale. It lists for more than $400. But it looks and feels like a serious piece of equipment, something that will hold up for the long haul. It comes with a one-year warranty.
In terms of features, this comes with a surprisingly comfortable adjustable seat, lots of elastic straps for securing items to the top, and handy Velcro loops on the sides for a paddle. The waterproof surface dries quickly.
Set-up is a breeze, especially if you do the smart thing and buy the optional double-action hand pump with all the right attachments. There’s a nozzle for the bottom, one for the main inflatable sections running the length, and one for each rib. Then you stick in stabilizers in the pockets of the bow and stern and you’re good to go.
When it’s time to pack up, the air flows out easily when the valves are released and the pump can help get out the last of the air in the reverse mode. Then fold 1, fold 2, fold 3 and it’s ready to go in a bag that’s 30 by 17 by 8 inches. Not carry-on size for a plane, but still quite reasonable to throw in the trunk of a car. At 26 pounds, it’s not a strain to carry and you could check it in for a flight (go on Southwest and it’s still free).
Carrying paddles along is not quite as easy, but the company does sell several 4-piece paddles that break down to 25 inches long or so. These can be wrapped up and carried onto a plane after that.
This Advanced Frame Sports Kayak will support weights up to 250 pounds. The company also makes various other models for different uses and numbers of people, from simple single-wall inflatable boats for calm lakes to self-bailing sit-on kayaks for braving rushing rivers. See them all at the Advanced Elements site.
I’ll have to admit I looked at the idea of an inflatable kayak as a step down from a rigid one. But now that I’ve been out on the water on this one a lot, with its “three layers of double-coated ripstop material for added puncture resistance,” I feel differently. I’m looking at buying a tandem version now for the wife and kid.