I wanted to wait to write a review until I had something substantive to say—something coming from experience in the seat. I have now kayaked on still and wind-waved lakes and still and moving rivers. I have paddled with and without the washboards, with and without the rudder. I have inflated and deflated, folded and unfolded. I have, in short, used the Neris Smart Pro single. If you think you might like this boat, I think you will.
The most important observation to share is that it displays great quality and workmanship and good design. You will not be disappointed by its durability. For lack of experience, I was concerned about how it would fare on sand-bottomed shallow rivers, rocky riffles, or encountering submerge branches. I would not drag it to the water, as I had none with my previous, heavier, plastic boat (an Old Town Next), but I have no concerns for damaging it in whatever river conditions you might paddle. I had paddled a folding kayak before—an old Folbot Super from the 70s that survives to this day. There is little reason to doubt that the Neris will have an even longer life.
As for design, some observations are obvious. It is hybrid of a folding and inflatable boat. The experience of paddling it is much like the experience of paddling a good folder. The floor is the same flexible membrane pushed into its final shape by the combination of the aluminum framework and pressure of the water outside. You can push down against the floor and it moves. Because of its large Inflated sponsons it is quicker to assemble than traditional foldables. But, obviously, inflated sponsons take space. It is simply smaller inside than a similar-sized hardshell boat or folder. Given its length, this does not mean that it lacks cargo carrying capacity needed for camping, but is much narrower inside than its beam. The sponsons, with their rounded tops also produce a sense—perception more than reality--of the sides being low. Canoe seats are available for it, but I imagine that with them you’d feel more like you were paddling on the boat than in it.
I do not have the Velcro-attached deck and spray skirt of the Expedition model. I like how the openness allows me to move my legs and bend my knees. In this, it feels similar to a sit-on-top, though drier than sit-on-tops I’ve used. However, except when the rudder is attached, it lacks foot braces, unless your legs are just the right length to use one of the frame members. I use a drybag or a floating cushion to serve the purpose. Or I use the rudder with its steering bar, which is not usually necessary if the boat is in good trim. The rudder becomes important, though, in moving water with tight turns. The Neris Pro tracks well and turning tightly by paddle alone takes effort. In fast-moving conditions, it takes time you might not always have. The rudder helps. The boat is certainly capable of handling whitewater, as long as your goal is to travel along it and not to play in it as the water rushes past.
For performance, the craft is up to snuff. It glides well and handles wind and waves. For seating comfort, it is first rate with a good backrest and adjustable-firmness inflated seat, though past a certain age that I have past, it is a little challenging to find the best way to get out, which involves bringing your feet as close as you can, grabbing the washboards or the web-strap loop through which a washboard goes, and pulling yourself up to a standing position. The washboards are aluminum tubes that run along the top of the cockpit and reportedly add some more rigidity to the aluminum frame for extreme conditions. I have not noticed that there is enough flex without them to justify the additional time it takes to install them in any of the paddling I’ve done.
What the Neris Pro offers that hardshells don’t is flexibility. That flexibility takes two forms. First, it is inherently more portable. It is lighter, folds up smaller, and can be carried or stored in spaces that are a fraction of the length and volume of the assembled boat. It’s also easier to get to places where your launch site is far from your parking spot. The backpack bag is large for a backpack, but much more manageable than a water-ready kayak. The U.S. version comes with a second bag for carrying the frame, seat, rudder assembly and pump, which is a very good idea. The flexibility of foldability comes at less of a price than I expected: Assembly without the rudder and washboards takes only a little more time than untying and unloading a hardshell from the top of a vehicle and getting it to the water. With washboards and rudder, one person can have it from the bag to assembled in 20 minutes, without racing. The net result is that you will probably use it more. You can carry in it your car so that you can paddle if you have a chance, instead of making sure you’ve got the time before loading a boat on top. And the paddling experience is not compromised. It feels different from a hardshell boat, but not inferior. The second flexibility the Neris Pro offers is that it can be used as either a single or a double. As a single it is a pretty big boat, but it does not feel like you are trying to solo in a double, wishing for a second paddler, as was my experience with the Folbot Super. As a double it is not spacious, but it is not cramped. As long as the paddlers are coordinated so they don't knock each other's blades, it does double duty just fine.
As I mentioned, the Neris Pro single replaced my Old Town Next. I prefer it. It is lighter, faster, tracks better, and does everything the Old Town did. But most of all I have come to appreciate how much portable it is as a foldable, and how that promotes its use.