Pros: Stable, fast, "transportable", fast to inflate, low costs, fun, good quality.
Cons: Hard to empty for water/dirt, not that long.
You need to buy a bigger bag for transport.
It takes a few times to learn how to inflate this correctly.
The valves is a bit tricky.
Two complaints. You have to be very careful to evenly position everything when you inflate, or the kayak will be slightly lopsided and track to one side. The other problem is the front zipper stops short as it meets the cockpit and water leaks in through the small gap. Otherwise great boats.
I teased them about the minor valves and they asked, "Do you have the blue valves or the orange valves?" It turns out that they figured out that the blue valves were a problem and replaced them with a valve that stays in the pump fitting without having to be held there. They gave me the new type valves, which replace the old blue ones.
The point is, A) they don't use the old valves any more and B) these guys really understand customer satisfaction. Very impressive.
One bit of advice for those who have trouble with inflation: screw in the adapter first. Makes it a lot easier to line up the valve with the hole in the deck.
Surprised nobody else complained about leakage. Even with the spray skirt, I always ended the day with a wet butt. Not terrible during the summer, but might limit my affection for the boat in cold weather.
My biggest concern was that I'm too big for this boat, I'm 6'2" and 230 lbs. No problem. It's not roomy, but it is comfortable and feels very stable.
It handles well, it's easy to get to a reasonable speed and keep it there. Mine seems to want to track to the left, but that may be my deficient paddling technique, or maybe I need to re-adjust the floor a bit (it may be crooked). It does seem to have a "speed limit" where I can paddle as hard as I want and not go much faster. I suppose that has as much to do with the length of the boat as anything else.
My only complaint is to the rocket scientists who designed the valves that inflate the floor, risers and combing. The valves require that you have either a foot pump or three hands. The floor is not a big deal, it's large enough so that you can over inflate a bit and close off the valve without losing too much air. The other four chambers are another problem. They are so small that by the time you've managed to twist the valve shut, the chamber has deflated. Inflating the main chambers and the floor takes me no more than 10 minutes. The combing and risers take another ten and I usually give up out of frustration! What were you guys thinking?
Over all, I'm very happy with this kayak. The best part is that I can fit it in the back of my car and take it anywhere. It takes 20 minutes to set up (less if I remember to bring the battery pump - my solution to the poorly designed minor valves) and 15 to break down.
Having said all that I have decided that I'm hooked on kayaking and wanted a different boat. I've ordered a new Feathercraft Wisper which I demoed earlier this week and will review after I get the boat. There were three primary reasons for the change:
1. Comfort - While the Airframe is fine for a short period of time it just doesn't work for me for a 3 or 4 hour paddle. My feet get uncomfortable trying to change the leg position and hold it in place. I think you might be able to help this problem by putting some sort of a stuffed dry bag in the bow to give you something to brace against but I haven't tried that yet. In addition I personally end up leaning back in the kayak, again this may be my fault because I need to tension the seat more but I find it difficult to be in a upright or slightly forward position.
2. Glide- Well this one is tough and I don't think it is the fault of the Airframe I think it's just one of the characteristics of an inflatable boat. It isn't all that fast and there just isn't much glide to the boat, again not a problem for short outings but I now believe I'll be doing full day trips in the not to distant future so my needs have changed.
3. Responsiveness - A hard quality to quantify but since I've been testing other boats I've come to find that I like being able to edge a boat to assist in a turn. You can do a slight edge with the Airframe but it's hard to hold. This is both a good and bad thing, today with wind and white caps there was no sense at all that the boat was going to lean so it was very secure feeling which is nice.
Bottom line is I'm not getting rid of my Airframe but will keep both boats. I continue to believe in the positive characteristics I described earlier but wanted to make sure potential purchasers also had some additional data to include when they consider the purchase of this boat.
Removing the hard shell from the roof racks, carrying or dragging the boat to the water is more of a problem for me.
My first trip on Upper Lake Marry just out side of Flagstaff AZ was an overnight. All went well, I found out after getting on the water the boat was sluggish and un-responsive. I came to the realization the Advanced Frame was not properly inflated. After reaching a suitable camp I deflated the boat and read the instructions.
I just looked at the picture, and took it from there. After properly inflating the kayak it paddled like a dream. Speed and handling improved. I read several articles where people have made plywood floors. I do not believe this to be necessary when properly inflating the kayak.
On my second trip to another lake in the area, after properly inflating the kayak, I was able to cruse the lake with no problem, speed was consistent with the other kayaks on the lake. The Advanced Frame is extremely stable, turns very well and paddles with little effort.
My next trip was to Black Canyon, below the Hover Dam on the Colorado River. This boat performed extremely well. I paddled up River wind and current were not any problem. I find plenty of room for packing gear into the boat for an overnight trip. Trips lasting more than a few days might be a problem. I have added Wildwasser Deck Pilot low profile deck bag. To store readily used items.
The Advanced Elements 4 piece paddle is not that great in my opinion. I prefer an Asymmetrical feathered paddle, I find Harmony Sea Passage Paddle - Glass Nylon Blade/Aluminum Shaft a better choice, it’s a 2 piece. I plan to keep the Advanced Elements 4 piece as an extra when on trips.
Proper inflation is the key! The foot pump works just fine, I have found that each time I go out It just gets better.
I modified my ground pad (Blue Foam from Wal-Mart) by cutting to fit the shape of the floor. It allows for storage with not taking any extra room. It also keeps my dog’s toe nails from making holes in the inflatable floor. Thus making very nice sleeping pad on those overnights, I use together with the inflatable floor.
Drying and putting away is meticulous process, sitting on the folded boat (valves open) make getting back into the bag much easier. It allows room then for the life jackets me & dog, foot pump and bilge pump.
In all I like this boat more every time I use it!
I used 1/2" PVC pipe (schedule 40). A rib is in two parts: One 4' section and a shorter section to complete length of floor. Cap one end of 4' rib and glue adapter to the other end. Attach this piece (4' section) to bottom of the floor. I attached mine with straps made from inflatable repair kit. The shorter piece gets caped at one end then inserts into adapter. The shorter piece does not get attached to floor -- so floor can fold and fit in large duffle bag. Attach two more ribs the same way. I found that my 3 ribs bulge out a bit of the bottom of the boat. But they act as a sort of keel.
The only down side of the boat for me is taking it all apart to dry out after using. So 9 out of 10.
Here are the details for those who might be interested:
Uses: I'm brand new to Kayaking and this is my first boat. I specifically wanted something that was VERY easy to transport and setup because I plan on using this at lunch twice a week as part of my summer fitness workouts. I have two small lakes and one medium size lake within five mins of my office so I wanted to be able to pop over, get the boat in the water, paddle for an hour and get back to work. I do also plan on using the kayak on protected inlets and bays on the WA coast.
Pros: Thanks to those who added earlier reviews I purchased a Sevylor River Boat Pump model number RB2500 when I bought the kayak and think this makes a very big difference. I find it very easy to inflate the different chambers and in the first two uses the boat is out of the car and ready for the water within 5 to 7 mins. The kayak is very stable, I felt comfortable in my first demo paddle on Lake Union even in some light wind and chop. I also like the ability to unzip the front deck and allow a bit more air into the boat. I purchased a Baja deck bag which made carrying all of my items like wallet, cell phone, camera, water bottles, etc. very easy and convenient. The seat is very comfortable for me and I like being able to change my leg positions from straight out in front of me to braced at the knee on the two sides of the cockpit. The is enough room in the cockpit that I'm comfortable and it's easy to get in but not so much that I find it uncomfortable to rest my arms on the sides now and then (I'm 5'10" and about 185lbs). The boat certainly seems to track well enough but again I've only had it out on protected waters three times. If anyone is interested let me know and I'll provide an update as I explore more bodies of water over the next month. I mentioned this earlier but the quality of the materials and the construction of the kayak seem very high to me. It will be interesting to see how it holds up but for now I'd say Advanced Elements is to be commended for their attention to detail and a quality product.
Not so hots: Well I don't think you can do a whole lot about this but even to me the boat is a bit slow, not so bad that I wouldn't take it out on a day long exploring trip but I doubt I'd be a hit with a group if everyone else had hardshells. There are D rings at both the bow and stern that I think could have been used to include a full deck line but I'd guess this will be easy to add.
Hope this helps and have fun paddling!
With the adaptor that came up with the boat, I have had no problems making the military valves perform, ONCE I figured out how they work. Unfortunately, the instructions that come with the boat are inadequate. The military valve has a plunger in the middle. The instructions say to push in the plunger and turn it in order to close and open the valve. So, at first, I would push it in all the way, turn the plunger, and I couldn't get the valve to close. What I eventually discovered is that it only works if you push in the plunger only about a third of the way and then turn. Once you figure it out, it works fine. But I never understand why companies skimp on instructions; I am sure some of these boats are returned because somebody can't figure out how to work the valve.
That's about my only complaint though. The only other thing I don't agree with from the sales pitches is that there is lots of storage space. Storage space is a little limited but they probably can't do too much about that.
Another item was getting the boat dry after use. I get as much water/moisture off the boat as possible, deflate the air chambers and remove the floor. I use a sponge to gather any water that has accumulated between the floor and the side air chambers and then I rub a thirsty terrycloth towel around the entire boat and pack it up. I have not had any problems with mold/mildew or stink on the boat.
As far as the handling of the boat is concerned, it’s great for what it is (an inflatable). I have paddled hard kayaks and they are faster and track better. However the AE airframe is a bit more stable and the fact that you can pack it up is great for people who live in tight spaces (myself included). I have added some simple things for safety and function. First, I added a deck line around the boat in case I make a wet exit, it will be much easier to grab a hold of the boat and I added a line to tie the boat to the dock if needed. These two additions cost less than $5.00. I also added shock cord to the D-rings on the stern (back) of the boat. This allows me to secure a paddle float and a hand bilge pump readily accessible if I need to make a wet entry.
One of the negative things about the boat is the storage. AE advertised that this boat has a lot of storage. I disagree (I am comparing it to the storage on a hard shell). To remedy this problem, I invested in a deck bag and so far I am able to bring everything that I need. The only negative that I have not found a fix for as yet is coming back to shore; with a hard shell I was always able to slide up on the shore and with the airframe, It seems that I can't quite make it up on the shore. I bottom out a bit and have to step into the water and pull the boat upon to shore. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
This review was based on paddling in the bays of San Diego. I will write again as I experience new adventures in my airframe. All in all, a really good kayak.
I initially set it up in my bedroom which I would strongly recommend as it makes the job far easier when you have to do it for real and while people watch you at least it looks like you know what you're doing!
As everyone else has said, the materials are good quality, the main valves take some getting used to - I pulled off the adaptor only to have the whole thing deflate a couple of times. the smaller valves are difficult if you're inflating it on your own - my pump doesn't fit these properly and I have to hold it while inflating and then try to turn them shut.
I took the boat out on the River Thames in London the first time and went upstream with the tide coming in (it's a tidal river). I was initially surprised how fast it went but that was mainly due to the tidal flow. Turning was easy but once I'd pointed the bow into the incoming tide I realised it wasn't going to be so easy to come back. I crossed the river and after 10 minutes or so bobbing around in the winter sun cut across the river at an angle back to my starting point.
All in all not a bad test run. the one thing I would say is that the bottom of the seat kept sliding forward on the floor leaving me in a reclined position so I will have to tie this back next time. Also being fairly short 5'6", I find I'm too low to get my shoulders into an energy-efficient paddling position.
I think I will be mainly using this boat to paddle downstream and then get the bus back home, or take a bus to an upstream starting point and then paddle home.
I initially found it hard to pack the boat back into the bag and found that I had to dismantle the whole thing to achieve this. This is a good idea anyway to make sure there's no water left inside. The other disadvantage of this boat is that once home you have to unpack it again to dry it all out, but I guess this would apply equally to a folding kayak.
The packed size is more like a suitcase than a duffel bag, and with paddles, pump, etc, carrying the thing any distance is hard work. For this reason I bought a small folding luggage trolley which I can strap to the deck when I'm paddling.
Looking forward to summer!
Here's the downside- 1. The two main air valves can be a major pain to access, especially the one that must be accessed through the holes in the fabric on the top rear. This can make preparation a time consuming and frustrating affair. 2. You tend to get some water inside the kayak when you use it, so you can't deflate it and pack it away. You need to deflate it and dry it out for a day or longer before you can fold it up. 3. The plastic skegs never actually straighten. They get folded over when the kayak is stored and always remain crooked. That said the skegs probably still help tracking a great deal.
As far as the water experience, the kayaks do give you confidence, stable, and can be paddled for many miles without too much effort.
In terms of speed, it is about the same as a hard shell with similar dimension. The set up is quick and simple. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to inflate and launch. One of my complaints is the twisted air valve, you need to hold on to your pump hose and the valve together while you pump with your other hand. Overall, I would say the quality of this kayak has exceeded my expectation. Few weeks ago, I went out on a recreational trip and other kayakers could not believe that I was using an inflatable kayak. After I did a demo on how to inflate and launch, they were so convinced that this kayak is better than a hard shell and they were ready to buy their own AE kayak. If you are recreational kayakers and looking for your first boat, you should seriously consider this AE kayak.
I had originally found this kayak very difficult to inflate unless you use a pump that can handle the military-style valves. I couldn't get a decent shape out of it until I picked up a Sevylor River Boat Pump model number RB2500 to help get this boat to the correct turgidity. With the Sevylor, this kayak is ready to float in literally less than 5 minutes. You don't risk overinflation nearly as much because the Sevylor was built for this kind of thing.
I haven't used it a lot, but so far it's a pretty amazing kayak considering it is an inflatable that packs up small enough to fit into something little larger than an overnight bag and weighs 35 lbs yet looks and behaves like a real kayak, not like other inflatables.
I did a twist on the plywood floor thing as follows. Instead of the 3/8", I had a scrap of 1/4" handy and decided to experiment. I cut the plywood several inches larger than the floor. I then drilled a series of 8 holes along each side, rounded the edges with a sanding block, and finished it with varnish. I used the holes to thread nylon cord through. I then flexed the plywood, and tightened the cord to hold the sheet into a partial tube shape. I could then slip the inflatable floor underneath the cords, and inflate it. This design has the advantage of stiffening the sheet front to back, as well as providing a more rounded hull.
The jump in performance was noticeable. With the provided floor it took me some effort to maintain 3 mph as measured with my gps. With my modified floor I could average more like 3.5 mph in calm conditions and go over 4 mph leaning into the paddle a bit. I also noticed a difference in handling. Most noticeable was a slight decrease in initial stability vs an increase in final stability. Additionally, with the more rounded hull, I found that I could do modest edge and leaned turns, which the stock boat largely seems to resist.
My paddling experience so far has been on lakes, ranging from dead calm to 15-20 knot winds and 2-3' seas. The boat is plenty stable, but does show moderate weathercocking in following seas. With the floor modification, I found I could edge into the seas and generally maintain a fairly straight course in most conditions. I have found that I could do shorter trips with paddlers in hardshells and not feel like I was holding them up, but I did feel like I was working a bit harder, especially upwind. I also noticed that water tends to come in through the deck zipper if you have much water washing onto the deck.
I found the overall design to be quite clever and the setup to be straightforward. For inflation I got a Doublequick airmatress pump at REI for under 10 bucks that seems to work just fine. The skeg was a bit bent when I got the boat which gave me a slight tendency to veer right, but the skeg did seem to straighten out over time.
All in all I would congragulate the manufacturers on a successfull design and good value. The main way the boat could be improved in my opinion is with a stiffer and more hydrodynamic floor design. Perhaps the manufacturer could come up with a "performance kit" consisting of snap together plastic floor panels or such.
After a dozen days or so with the plywood floor I found that it corkscrewed slightly from end to end. I have since unlaced the plywood, left the board on the floor with several heavy pots on it to flatten it out, and then re-laced and bent the board from the opposite side. So far it seems to be holding. For someone who wants to give this floor technique a try, I would reccomend cutting the floor long enough to tuck under the inflateable tube just enough at the front and back to give the bottom a totally flat profile. I would also remove the floor after every use and store it in a way to keep it from warping. I would imagine that much could be done by adding ribs or stiffeners, or even designing a stich and glue style floor. I am keeping an eye out for an alternate material such as a sheet of lightweight plastic or fiberglass that could provide enough longitudinal stiffness when rolled into a semi-tube. If anybody out there comes up with some good ideas let us know.
The boat itself has some key design elements that attract the mariner’s eye. She has a pretty sheer line, plenty of flare in the bow, and a form of tumblehome amidships. This has proven to answer well on the second and third trips taken on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound.
In these trips, I encountered the wash of a high-speed ferry on sea trials after a breakdown, several Novi style lobster boats/ fishing draggers (who generate a huge displacement wake), and a variety of other smaller boat moving at high speed. In taking the Airframe in all states of wind and sea (head sea, beam sea, following sea), I found the flare to split open the waves, the tumblehome to deflect the waves, and the stern shape makes for a fun ride in a following sea. Confused mid afternoon wind against tide chop was no challenge at all. I was amazed at how dry this boat was in all of this.
Moreover, a couple of regular yard hands in Wickford (who would not normally even look at a kayak) stopped to ask questions about the Airframe and described her as “cool” (high praise from these guys). Coming up the Narrow River from Rhode Island Sound, one gent in a gorgeous wooden CLC kayak eyed the Airframe up and down and gave an appreciative smile and said she looked good.
I will admit to grousing a bit when first trying to line up "valve number one", but I managed to get over that. Also, a nice thirsty towel is needed under your legs when wearing shorts... it gets mighty warm on the backs of the legs under the deck.
We value every bit of feedback we receive from customers and product testers. We are continually improving all of our products based on that feedback. The 2003 model Airframe has several improvements since the original was introduced. It is our goal to make your paddling experience simple, enjoyable, and affordable! Thanks for your support!
I used a 2'x8' 3/8" thick plywood ACX panel. First I layed it over the bottom of the inflated boat and approximately traced the out line. (use the center line of the tubes) I used a circular saw at an angle to cut a bevel which I later radiused with a belt sander. The resulting shape was somewhat like a elongated diamond. I then sealed the floorboard with 3 or 4 coats of marine spar varnish. To use it, I put the board in the bottom of boat before inflation. Try to center it as close as possible. I begin inflating the donut tubes and slide the bow and stern sheets while partially inflated. The sheets should extend below the floorboard on either side. Center the inflatable floor on top, then inflate the tubes the rest of the way. Once inflated, the floorboard is wedged in place and will not move. I then inflate the floor(sits on top of the floorboard). The inflatable floor makes for a more comfortable seat than bare plywood.
We are very impressed with the ruggedness of these boats. The outer shell is very tough, top and bottom. The air tubes are all inside of heavy canvas shells. Between the water and the air is THREE layers. The outer shell, the cnavas tube covering and then the PVC air tubes. It would take a very serious collision to cause a puncture. The two main air tubes have good valves.
Attention to detail is the best I have seen on anything short of a Lexus, The designers of this boat get an A++ for materials, concepts and effort.
Then we paddled. I started out in a 20 MPH head wind. Good workout. Then we got into a Class 0 river, upstream. We had to give up sooner than ever before. We turned around. Back in the lake with a tail wind, my wife now paddling we agreed that these are not the boats we wanted. It tracked well. They are extremely comfortable. Terrific quality. But they are somewhat sluggish. I would compare them with under ten foot recreational kayaks, like an Otter. For some people I would highly recommend these boats. But we will return ours tomorrow. I am leaning toward roof racks for our WS Altos. I felt that the AirFrame would permit only about half of the paddles that we would do in our Altos. The AirFrames on the other hand would be much better for down river runs. We do many up and then back down stream Class 1/2 rivers so we don't need to car ferry.
Incidentally the AirtFrame is always described as 29 or 30 pounds. In the bag ours weigh 41 pounds. Not that light, not for backpacking and unwieldy for plane or bus travel.
Thanks for your email and positive review on Paddling.net!
Yes, overnight paddling is great with the AirFrame. You should utilize the storage space behind the seat first. Pack it full so it lifts the back deck to shed water better. There are 4 D-rings on the back deck that can be used for lashing down gear. Try to keep the cargo as low as possible to reduce the effect of cross winds. The same can be done with the front deck. Balance the weight as best you can. You should always keep any emergency items (strobe, knife, spare paddle, etc.) within reach. You will find that with a little more weight in the kayak it will paddle even better.
As for drying out the AirFrame, you might try the following...
1. Unzip the 2 zippers that run down the center of the kayak.
2. Remove the gray fabric tube and cover, along with the inflatable floor, separating it from the outer cover.
3. Use a sponge or towel and wipe up any excess water in the outer cover.
4. Wipe off the floor (top and bottom)
5. If there is sand or gravel in the kayak, you can hose out the cover, and then wipe it down with a towel.
6. Most of the time you can just pull out the inflatable floor and wipe out the inside of the kayak absorbing most of the water, then pack it up.
I hope this helps. We thank you for your support of our products, and please let us know if we can help you with anything.
Having only taken it out once (and only having used Kleppers before), I would say its disadvantages are:
1. The chief disadvantage as far as I can tell is the fact that it has so many layers that it's hard to dry out.
2. It also seemed very hard to row upstream against the Columbia (I haven't tried it with the plywood bottom).
3. Took me awhile to get it set up the first time. It was difficult to tell exactly how much air was enough (or too little) in the chambers. Hopefully that will be easier next time with a better pump!
Excellent quality for the price!
It looks like a hardshell kayak: I has D-rings on the bow and stern spray decks, and an inflatable coming, and will have a spray skirt avaliable next month. The aluminum stays and polyethylene sheets inserted into the bow and stern help the boat cut through the water. Performance was better than most inflatables. It tracked fairly straight, although the boat wiggled 5-10 degrees with each paddle stroke. There are small molded skegs under the bow and stern which helped the tracking. The boat turned easily without leaning. Cruising speed was where I was disappointed. I could not keep up with a sit-on-top and each paddle stroke felt like accelerating the boat. There was no perceptable glide and don't even think about paddling against the wind. Fortunately I found a fix: I made a plywood floorboard out of a 2x8 sheet of plywood. It made a night and day difference in the performance. Keeping up with hardshell yaks was not a problem, paddling no longer felt like a workout and the boat actually glided for more than a second before coming to a stop. Paddling into the wind was much easier. The wood floor also sat the paddler up higher and the boat felt tippier until you had the tubes half submerged.
Bottom line is that this is the best inflatable yak you can get for this price. It beats the Stearns(which cost more) hands down. I let someone who had the Stearns IK115 demo the Airframe and he was amazed at how much better the Airframe was. If you do use it on flatwater, a strongly suggest you make (not avaliable commercially) a plywood floorboard for it. It will double its performance (at least that's how it feels). I hope to try some class 2 rivers with it as soon as the spray skits are avaliable. Since I bought 2(one for my girlfriend), I'll be working on making a sailing cat frame for it.
Wondering about tracking? The key design feature for this boat is that the bow & stern are rigid, to provide for tracking that "rivals that of a hardshell". I paddled on a lake in mild and moderate wind conditions and was very impressed with how well it tracks. The kayak design really delivers here, in an area that is a major concern for inflatables.
Wondering about the quality you get for such an affordable price? Well, the materials are very rugged and the boat looks very classy. Special features like a spring loaded deck, inflatable splash ring, and layered protection for the air chambers lets you know that this craft was designed by someone who loves inflatables and loves to paddle.
Wondering about other stuff? Extras include a carrying case, repair kit, and toll free customer support.
All in all, a very nice inflatable kayak. I had been researching for about a year to find the "best" overall craft for me and I believe this is it.