I give the 380X a 9 rating but that really should be a *9. The asterisk is because this is marketed as an all water, versatile kayak and it is... it's just not equally good on all types of water.
First, where the 380x shines, white water. This is what the kayak was really designed for and it does it well. With the skeg removed this boat is very turny and for white water paddling that is a good thing. It will go straight if you use good technique but when you need to turn you can do it on a dime. It rides nicely over waves and when water does enter the boat it drains quickly out of the 16 self draining ports. Also, the drop stitch floor can be inflated to a very high pressure (14psi) and that makes the boat very rigid. The only down side, and the reason for 9 rather than 10 stars, is a significant amount of water does enter the boat through the drain valves when they are open. This adds mass to the boat and while I didn't really notice any difference in turning, it can sap some of your burst, not a great thing for white water. This can be mitigated somewhat by making sure the floor (it's removable) is strapped down tight and the pontoons are properly inflated as that will help reduce the water intake. On the plus side, I've found that if the floor is inflated to at least 4 psi I am not sitting in a puddle of water like on a kayak with an I-beam floor (I'm 6'6", 230 lbs) I have seen a few reviews that complain about getting wet when the valves are open and I honestly don't quite know how to respond to that. If you are paddling white water you ARE going to get wet, if you are doing it in a SOT kayak water IS going to enter your boat so... If you are not on white water closing the valves keeps the boat high and dry which brings me to the next section.
Flat water paddling in the 380x isn't actually too bad, as far as inflatable kayaks go. Assuming we are talking about a somewhat protected, deep river for example, you just put the skeg in and the kayak tracks as well, or better, than any hard shell SOT I've ever paddled. It's not even all that slow. It isn't keeping up with a hard shell sea kayak, or even a skin on frame, but as far as inflatables go it isn't terrible. However, it has very little glide which means to maintain your forward progress you have to maintain a moderate frequency on your stroke, there will be no mini-breaks in this boat. I give it a 7 for good tracking and reasonable speed.
On open water the big pontoons start to become your enemy. Wind is not fun to deal with in the kayak, and while that is true on any water craft it is especially true of the inflatable kayak. The skeg will keep you tracking straight, even in relatively high winds but you will notice the wind is going to push you quite a bit. On the plus side the boat is very stable, handles swells and waves very well and is actually pretty fun in a surf zone. Still, if you are primarily looking for a boat for open water and are insisting on an inflatable rather than a folder, then you might want to check out the Sea eagle fast tracks or the Razorlites they are supposed to be decent on flat and open water (can't say, I've never paddled them). As far as the 380x goes, I give it a 5 for open water just because it will easily ride out most water conditions, but plan some extra time in getting to your destination.
Okay, those were the specifics for various water types. In general the 380x is highly stable, the drop stitch floor gives the kayak tremendous rigidity (more so than any other inflatable, some of them quite a bit more expensive, that I've paddled), it tracks very well with the skeg in, it is easily manageable solo but can be used tandem (it's going to be a bit cramped for taller paddles in a tandem configuration though), more than enough room and weight capacity to carry all your gear for an extended trip. It's tough, you aren't likely to puncture it on anything that wouldn't hole or crack a hard shell but if you do manage to puncture it, field repairs are easy (certainly easier than a hard shell). It is easy to set up, fits in the trunk of even a small car, and the removable floor makes clean up at the end of the day very easy. To be honest, you aren't going to find a better (inflatable) boat in this price range or even for 30 or 40 percent more. Great product, lots of fun to paddle and it comes with a 3 year warranty and 180 day, no questions asked, return policy (if you buy direct from SeaEagle). Hard to go wrong with that.
First off, fit and comfort: There are numerous adjustable straps on the vest, including shoulder straps which is the reason I decided to give it a try, being long in the torso I was having difficulty finding a vest that didn't sit too high on my chest. As it turns out the NRS Clearwater Mesh back is a great solution. I'm able to adjust the vest for a perfect fit that doesn't get in my way, is super comfortable and doesn't ride up even when it is yanked up by the shoulders. Add to that, the rear flotation is high on the shoulders and combined with the mess back it stays relatively cool and doesn't interfere with any seat I've sat in (even my high back) which makes it very comfortable.
Performance: Doesn't float me particularly high in the water but then it is a Type III PFD, it isn't necessarily suppose to and it does it's job well enough. It keeps my head and chin clear of the water, not really sure what more you can ask for.
Storage: The two large pockets on the front are plenty big enough for an emergency fire stater, compass, small survival kit... or snacks and the Velcro keeps everything in place with out any really hassle in access. Several small loops on the vest make a great place to secure an emergency whistle. This is definitely not a fisherman's vest but then it never claimed to be. The only real weakness (and the reason for 9 rather than 10 stars) is there is no convenient place to secure a river knife, you end up having to attach it to a side or shoulder strap, neither of which is exactly ideal... even so,
Durability: It seems well constructed, but I haven't had mine for long so all I can say is it's been great so far. Used it twice in the last week. A short test in the pool when it arrived and a 3 hour trip down the river.
Rating: Time will tell.
I guess that is pretty much it. The price is reasonable, about $80.00 - $90.00 USD for an XXL version and it will do its job and help keep you alive if you go for a swim. It even has enough storage to carry a few tools with you if the worst should happen and you sink you Yak in the middle of no where. I highly recommend this PFD.
Only rented so I can't really speak to the longevity of the boats though when I asked the guy at the shop about it he said they swap out their boats about ever 3 years... For rental boats that see a lot of time on shallow waters that doesn't seem too bad. Can't really speak to how long they last after the shop sells them on the second hand market though.
Maneuverability: They turned well and handled the mild white water we used them on (Upper Verde river, AZ) maybe class II is places. A lot of tight channels on that section of the river and the boats handled it nicely.
Pretty comfortable to sit in. Though we were only in the kayak for about three hours my back and buttocks were happy enough with the ride. At least in the boats we had you did sit on the floor of the boat so your going to get a little wet.
Handles shallow water pretty well. I did get stuck on one sand bar, but that was entirely my fault I was too busy looking at the scenery to pay attention to where I was going. Other than that, I'm a fairly big guy, about 250, 6'6" and had no problem gliding over section of water that were as shallow as about 8 inches. Based on that and the maneuverability these should be pretty good 'creak boats' for the price.
Speaking of price, these are pretty good boats for the money going to be tough to find a better IF Kayak for the same price point.
Depending on what you want to use this boat for these negatives could be significant on not matter much at all, but here they are.
Wind: Ugg, even for an IF kayak these things do not handle wind well. If you are looking to get in shape by way of paddling, then get one of these, turn it into the wind and go to town. After 3 hours of hard paddling you should still be close enough to the launch point to here the lunch call...
Tracking: All IF Kayaks have sub par tracking by comparison to their hard shell or skin on frame counter parts, that is a fact of life however, while I found these boats to be a lot of fun on the narrow, shallow river we were on I would not want to paddle this thing across a lake, even on a calm day. Tracking is poor, even for an IF kayak. (It was amusing watching a few member of our group turn circles for the first 5 or 10 minutes of the trip though...)
It isn't the stiffest IF kayak I have ever paddled. That didn't really both me on the mellow river we were on but I'm not sure how I would feel about this boat on a class III or IV... Could taco on you in big water. To be fare this was in no way an issue for our trip though.
In all this was a nice boat for working class I, II, or III rivers and creaks where your not going to encounter a lot of wind. If you are okay with the limitations and are comfortable with the size of the boat from a cargo stand point (again 6 1/2 feet tall and I was quite comfortable in the boat with a day trip cargo load) you are going to have a difficult time finding a better boat for the money. It is fun to paddle and very responsive. Arie did a nice job with this one.
First lets start with the good:
1) This is easily the most maneuverable, inflatable kayak I have ever paddled, it will turn on a dime and stop its turn just as fast, Very impressed.
2) Despite the maneuverability this kayak tracked pretty well, particularly for something that is this short and doesn't have a skeg.
3) It is pretty stable, though less so than some other inflatables I've paddled, but it isn't going to bite you, even if your a total beginner.
4) Seems to be very well made, I bounced it and dragged it off more rocks than I care to think about and it came away with nary a scratch, plus it has a 10 year warranty which tells me NRS really believes in their product so good on them.
5) With no wind, actually glides nicely, easy to paddle.
6) Self draining ports work great, only took about seven seconds to drain the boat after I completely swamped it and I was able to finish the run with more or less the same amount of water in the kayak I started with...
Now for the not so good:
1) The MaverIK 1 has a deeper draft than any other inflatable kayak I've ever paddled (granted, that list is only 4 boats total...). A little more on that below.
2) It is quite a work out to paddle into the wind. A common enough issue with inflatables in general but this was worse than others I've paddled. In a gentle current a lite breeze (maybe 5 to 10 knots) actually pushed me backwards against the current when I stopped paddling for some water.
That's it for the bad.
Now you're wandering why I gave it 6 out of 10, after all seems like a good kayak... Here's the thing, the MaverIK I does nothing particularly well.
It tracks pretty well but not as well as say an Advanced Elements Advance Frame designed for flat water (Or even the Sea Eagle 380X with the skeg attached) and it doesn't handle the wind nearly as well as an expedition style inflatable.
It is certainly tough enough and maneuverable enough to handle white water but the deeper draft meant I was constantly getting hung up on rocks others glided right over and I ended up swamped or swimming. Incidentally this was an issue for my girl friend also, who is only about 140LBS (about 64 kilos for our non-American friends)
There isn't much room to pack anything, now granted I'm 6'6" (198cm) so the forward stowage was occupied by me feet, and there was plenty of room for the requisite emergency blanket, fire starter, a couple days of emergency rations, three litters of water, one set of dry cloths and a small flash light but that pretty much filled it up. If your a bigger guy and want to do any kind of camping your going to be hard pressed to get any kind of luxury items (like a tent or a sleeping bag) in there.
The seat back is comfortable enough but you are on the floor of the kayak so even on flat water you're sitting in your own private puddle.
So, at the end of the day there isn't really anything wrong with this boat, I just don't see the point. It isn't good on rapids or shallow creeks, it isn't great on open water, and it doesn't have room for enough equipment to make even an over night trip comfortable, though if you are under 6 foot (180cm) this last one might not be as troubling an issue for you. Add to that this is a $1,500.00 kayak and that seems like a lot of money to spend on a boat that is really only in its element on flat, deep water that is well protected from the wind...