Read reviews for the AdvancedFrame Convertible by Advanced Elements as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
We had this inflatable kayak for about 5 years and was quite satisfied with it, but sold it this summer to a former pupil of me. Then bought a Pakboats XT 16 double deck and even an extra single deck. Now we are more satisfied with the XT 16 since that kayak is much longer (4,85 m) and narrower (0,66 m) than the Advanced Frame Convertible
We've been very pleased with this kayak. I previously had a 17-foot Prijon Kodiak kayak and loved it. Since my girlfriend was interested in us kayaking a tandem, and we didn't want to have to deal with a kayak rack (been there, done that,) I started looking into folding and inflatables. This kayak came up with top reviews and I have to say I've been very impressed. Having been used to a rudder, and a rigid kayak, I had low expectations and I'm pleased to report it has exceeded my expectations. That said, we haven't been out on a windy day, when you would expect the lack of a rudder to be an issue. So, far, so good!
Easy to take with us, the versatility of paddling as a tandem or a single makes this kayak our favorite. It fits in the back of my Wrangler and can be on the water in minutes. Properly inflated I have had no Problems with ridgidity or abrasion.
I love this inflatable. I have used on rivers and lakes. Tracks real well even with a single person in the rear position. Will float in as little as 5" of water. Takes about 20 minutes to setup using the backbone and the durafloor. Easy to repack back into the case. I can fit seats, pump, boat and the floor in the case no problem. Had I known about these inflatables before I bought my hardshell I'm not sure I would have bought a hardshell. The convenience is awesome. This one weighs around 55 lbs or so with the backbone and durafloor in it. I have both tops (single and tandem) and also bought the lumbar inflatable seats.
Some other reviewers have said that the backbone is a must but we don't agree at all. We did get a backbone but only after using the boat without it quite a bit and we were quite happy with how it performed. The backbone is an improvement but not a necessity. It feels very stable and secure in the roughest water we have had it out in, which is admittedly not that rough (we are new to this) but have no doubt that when we are ready for more the Convertible will be well able for it.
The Good: it packs down to the size of a very large suitcase - you could fit 4 of these in the back seat of the average mid-size car! With the Backbone, it performs very much like a 14ft hardshell rec tandem. And it can be rigged as a single if/when desired.
The Bad: It does take time to set up (every time), and the Backbone is an absolutely essential "accessory" not included in the base price (the boat is pretty sucky without it), also not included are enclosed decks - even so, you're still a bit below the typical hardshell price even after adding those options.
Ugly: nothing really awful, although it does need to be dried after getting wet, and you will need wide paddles (230cm is not really wide enough).
Verdict: a recreational tandem equal to rec hardshells in the same price range (once you've added the Backbone), without the need for a roof rack, but requiring some setup time every time. A very good starter kayak for couples starting to investigate paddling but not ready for a "serious" boat (and the investment required).
The only issue I have with it is a leak under one of the valve patches on a main chamber. I have not been able to successfully repair that due to the location. It has been a problem from early on and now is so bad I cannot use the kayak. Seems to clearly be a manufacturing defect, unfortunately it appeared after the warranty expired. So will need to replace that chamber.
Otherwise it is a good kayak.
The triple-layer polyester material with double PVC coating gave us a high degree of confidence as we set out on our maiden voyage on Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The kayak was very stable and extremely comfortable. Our trip ended up going 6+ hours so we appreciated the comfort. Kurt has long legs and he had plenty of room. As I mentioned it was a long day and I am a novice so I appreciated the tandem design so I could leave all the paddling to Kurt when I got tried in the final stretch. We packed extra gear and plenty of water since the conditions on Lake Superior change quickly. There was lots of room for everything while we got loads of fantastic pictures.
We had no problems packing it all back up and putting it back on the motorcycle trailer. It dried out easily when we got back home. I am glad we made the purchase it was perfect for the way we like to travel and play!
I purchased a special edition of this kayak online that came with the dropstitch flooring, single and double zip top decks, paddles, pump, high lumbar seats, and backpack which ended up driving the price to exactly $1200 but made the experience worth it. The dropstitch flooring improves stability while out in any swells or running into the wake from large boats/ships. Another option to improve stability is the backbone, which is also cheaper. I chose the flooring because of the convenience. The high lumbar seats are much more comfortable than the regular seats. This is really important if you are looking to take this kayak out for more than just an hour or so.
Setup can take a couple times to get used to but is easy. It took me about 20 minutes to prepare everything when I first took it to the water, but now takes me about 15 minutes to pump up the kayak and set up the zip top deck. Once out in the water you can feel how stable this boat is. While it is big and bulky it moves quickly in the water. My friend has a 14 foot hardshell and I was able to fly right past him.
This boat has been great on long trips. The longest I have taken it out was for 6 hours and it handled excellently in salt marshes of Long Island, the Long Island Sound, Jamaica Bay, and the New York Harbor. It tracks excellently and has plenty of storage under the zip top deck for a solo trip. When riding tandem your storage space becomes limited to any deck bags or anything tied down to the bungee cables on top of the kayak. I have bumped against some rocks and scraped along rocks underneath and have only received some light scratches on the outer hull. This thing can take a beating and you still feel safe in it.
The only con to this boat is that it is heavy. At 56 pounds, carrying the kayak in its duffle bag over one shoulder can be painful. I recommend purchasing the Advance Elements backpack to help even the load on to both shoulders. It can fit the boat, paddle, seat, PFD, and zip top deck all in the bag. The backpack straps are wider and more padded than the original bag's straps. I know a few people that would consider the weight of the convertible to be a deal breaker and I can't blame them. A long walk can seem much longer with a big pack like that strapped to your back. I have seen online that many people have purchased a dolly cart to help transport the boat around. I personally can handle the weight so don't mind the walk but it should be a major consideration when purchasing this kayak. It also takes some time to dry out if you get it wet but if you leave it out in the sun for a while it will dry out.
I really like this kayak and if I had the choice to go back and purchase anything else I would still pick this boat. Being in an apartment and not having a roof rack on my car this has given me the ability to kayak when I want and where I want without losing anything in the paddling experience. I will be taking it out many more times and hopefully can get my friends out to take advantage of the tandem use a little bit more.
We have had our boat nearly a decade now and have used it to explore rivers lakes and wetlands throughout the southwest. It never disappoints. This boat performs almost as well as a similar length hard shell. If I added the new drop stitch floor I am not sure I would be able to tell the difference between this boat and a hard shell. If I had a complaint it would be cargo space. The Airframe uses up space that could otherwise store cargo. This is the trade off for compact portability.
I do not feel we made a compromise in buying this boat, it is ideal for our purposes. I have nothing but confidence in its reliability, the thing is TOUGH. I would not hesitate to get another, although this boat will likely outlive me.
Speed - when fully inflated, this yak cruises nicely (especially for an inflatable), even with the standard low-pressure floor and no back-bone. Tandem paddling achieved 3.9 to 4.7 mph w/ steady to firm paddling, and up to 5.5 or so at a sprint (subtract about a half a mph for solo). Adding either the drop-stitch floor or the backbone should increase that capability. Note that if it is under-inflated, it will under-perform. Really, Advanced Elements should include an accurate, low-pressure-range gauge with the necessary adapters with each boat they sell to ensure proper inflation. Note also that if it is properly inflated, their customer service said that when you lift it on one end, it should have minimal sag in the middle.
Portability - I recently was checking out what it would take to take this on an airplane, and it seemed pretty bulky, so we took a smaller one along instead (but you could make it fit within the dimensional limits).
I actually use inflatable Sea Eagle seats in this boat at times as they are more comfortable, especially for the front paddler. With our inflatable kayaks, at times we like to lay back and get really comfy if we are not in a hurry, or are enjoying the full moon, etc. With the standard AF seats, the rear paddler can adjust the seat back so he can lay against the back tubing - but the front paddler can't really lay back as there is not enough support unless vertical.
Their bright orange color is almost gaudy, but it does make it look pretty striking. Likewise, the boat does have a rather slick appearance. Boat seems very durable. One potential drawback is that it does take a while for it to fully dry out after use. Another could be that there is no drain valve.
Overall an excellent boat and certainly a keeper!
Set up is fairly easy. I can do it now in about 10mins with backbone installed. Installing the backbone is not hard but you have to be careful to align it PERFECT down the center line. Not rocket science; just a little adjusting. It won't track right if you don't. Once in place it won't budge so no worries there.
In the water it is remarkably fast considering how big it is and how high it sits off the water compared to some touring kayaks. Me and my wife and two dogs fit easily on it. It tracks very straight. On a trip to Manatee Springs last year we had a group of about 50 kayaks. It was a 10 mile trip. Bad weather rolled in 1/4 way into it. Half turned back (only to find they actually turned into the lightning and rain. Wooops.). We and the other half of the group continued forward into 20-30mph sustained winds with 40+mph gusts head on. It was brutal. Many of the hard shells were paddling and not making any headway at all. We however were in the front of the group only to have the Hobie paddle Mirages ahead of us by not by much. When we made it to the end everyone was unbelievably amazed, including the guide, with how well the AE performed. Make no mistake, it was tough, but the performance was really good for any kayak much less inflatable.
Break down is easy, but you will need to let it dry off in the sun. That takes about 1hr. It folds up nicely and stores in my closet.
Now that we bought a house I own two hard shells as well and use those a lot now, but the AE will always be my go to for long trips and travel.
No doubt that this Yak and it's siblings are the best of the inflatables. Our reaction to the experience is based on an apples and oranges comparison to a rigid Yak but that considered there are several things that would greatly improve this good product and make it better.
Build of the boat and the components
My first impression was very positive. The decking is rock solid double stitched, thick walls, good looking and performing valves (although confusing) and a bright color for visibility on the water.
-Now the reality-
Our first (and maybe our last) outing was just OK. we did not expect it to have the tracking and glide our Necky has but due to the factors mentioned I consider this boat an unfinished product. You can, at your expense, make it a lot better buy adding the things AE should build into the boat in the first place and some things AE needs to consider improving in the design would make this yak a much better boat.
I would recommend this boat to a friend with BIG qualifications and add that you almost have to add several expensive options to make it work.
Nice to use in winter and summer due to the convertible top, in summer for shorts coastal tours you just paddle without the top and enjoy the sun, in winter you close the top and wear a spray skirt and everything will stay more or less dry and warm. I must say that this one is my first kayaks and I'm very happy.
Pros: easy to set up, pretty solid, nice color, in junction with a backbone very stable and fast enough, fun alone, fun for two and sometimes very fun for three. can be used on small to middles Mediterranean waves
Cons: lot of small pieces to carry with you when traveling, takes long to dry. pretty heavy when packed in his big bag but ok for a 2 places kayak
Will now look for a rigid solo kayak after 1 year experience with the AE AF and keep this for passengers and/or traveling. Would I buy it again?? oh yes!
There are two tubes called the main chambers that go all the way around the kayak. These take the bulk of the pumping and it is no big deal. Not worth a DC car pump. That leaves just the floor and some accessories to pump up. The floor takes less than the main chambers and the little stuff only takes a couple of pumps each. Very quick and easy. The thing is the two main chambers share the same pocket so they have to be equally pumped. Not real simple. But doable.
I was interested in the Sea Eagle 385 but could not find a single consumer review after several exhaustive searches. What's that about? I don't want to play! People are lined up to write of their experiences with the AE Kayaks.
We could not find an air gauge for Kayaks locally. You need to get one on a pump or buy a separate in-line gauge. The search for a "best" pump gives me a headache. The good news is there is little pumping to do and any one of them will do fine.
I researched this to death and considering the weight capacity and the width of the vessel, I think this is the best you can do. I don't think I would like to paddle a Kayak that is 38" or more wide. This is a good looking, classy and brightly colored boat that cuts through the water nicely and my and I love it.
The Advanced Frame convertible kayak meets all my needs. I have used it for several coastal expeditions of a week or more. We have improvised a simple sailing rig to assist when the wind is from astern (it's pretty hopeless on a reach as there's no centerboard and the boat tends to drift to leeward) with the plethora of tie down points, stowing gear is easy and provides lots of options for rigging the sail.
While no greyhound, the boat has proved to be a novel solution to a particular problem
Our usage the kayak is recreational - day trips in calm lakes and smaller/calm rivers with only mild current. We've already been in shallow water in an upstream river (about a 1 foot of water) and the kayak performed very well. We do keep our eyes open for underwater obstacles when we are in low water.
My wife is 5'and I'm 5'7" so we fit inside with no problems. We also have a good amount of room left for cargo bags which is great since we tend to over-pack a little for day trips. We have a 10L deck bag on the front deck under the lash cords, an 8L dry bag under front deck at my wife's feet. There is room for another 8L bag at my feet if we don't use the thwart (which we haven't so far). We also keep a foot pump behind the rear seat in the event we need some extra air in the middle of a trip.
Stability of the boat is incredible. We have no feeling of tipping at all. The boat tracks well and paddles very easily. I do most of the paddling work from the rear seat and my wife adds where she can. We tend to avoid windy conditions but I've been able to handle a little wind with a little extra effort too. Comfort is also incredible. My wife has some back problems so were a little concerned about that but everything has been fine there too.
After setting it a couple times the process becomes very easy. We use a small rechargeable pump to get the bigger chambers inflated 1/2 to 3/4 way up then top off with the hand pump. The rechargeable pump really helps out and saves time and effort.
Normally we look for a grassy area near the launch to setup. We have a tarp in the car in case a site has nothing but dirt but so far we've always been able to find a grass area. If there is a distance to the put-in I have found that I can carry the inflated kayak myself by unzipping the deck to gain access to the far side. I pull the kayak up on to my shoulder (resting the big gray tube on my shoulder) and it's pretty easy to just walk around with it. The whole setup process takes about 10 minutes.
Deflation is easy too. I use the hand pump in deflate mode to suck out any remaining air. We pull out the floor and wipe down inside with a towel. Then we fold and wipe/dry each section of the underside.
We've decided not to put the kayak into the bag. I know it can be done but for us it's just easier/faster to wrap the folded kayak with 2 adjustable fabric straps (the general tie-down straps with adjustable slider). This method makes it very easy to carry the folded kayak and load into trunk too by grabbing the 2 straps like a handle. It might help to air things out a little too with this outside the bag method. We do use the bag to carry all of the accessory parts - the deck, the seats, the floor, the pumps etc. The whole break-down process is also about 10 minutes.
The only small modification we have done is to add a few bungee cords across the rear deck tying them to the 4 D rings that came attached to the deck there. It helps to hold down a small item similar to the front deck elastic cords.
Overall we are thrilled with the kayak and are having so much fun. All the materials are heavy duty quality and the boat is great looking on the water. Many people ask questions about it while we are setting it up or breaking down. Great job Advanced Elements, thanks!
It takes quite a lot of effort to clean and dry out the kayak after being used. And taking it all apart, then reassemble can be cumbersome. Inflating the chambers does not take much effort.
The good stuff. It is very stable and tracks well on flat water. I tried fishing, casting and trolling for trout and it worked fine (only got one though). It did not seem slow to me and it handled wind and current better than I would think an inflatable would. Getting in an out was not to difficult, although I was surprised that the cockpit seemed a bit small when climbing in (I am a tall and big guy)
There is plenty of space in the kayak, when using it solo. I've not tried tandem configuration, but I am sure it will work fine (as long as you don't have to long legs).
Seating / backrest support could be improved, but I guess it is just a matter of getting used to it. I recommend using the deck and optional spray skirt. If not, you will get quite wet after only an hour paddling.
If your kayak/boat needs to be stable and/or you don't have to much storage space - I believe the AF convertible is a good match.
We really like these kayaks. I live a mile from the Caribbean Sea shoreline in the Dominican Republic. We have had our kayaks out in the swell, rough chop, strong winds and pleasant conditions. They have performed very well. Mine was swamped once and would not sink. I was driven upon some shallow rocks from a large wave once (when I was swamped), and the kayak was unharmed.
It is a very versatile kayak since it can be easily setup for one or two paddlers. It tracks very well, and I paddle it about 3.5mph generally.
I like the fact that I can easily transport it and pack it away when I finish. I do, of course, have to open it up and wash the salt water off of everything when I get home, then leave it out to dry.
This has been a very good kayak for us, and I am very pleased with it. It does not come with sufficient foot support for the front paddler (the rear paddler has this support) or for someone paddling in a one person configuration. This is something to consider. Also, the Convertible sold by West Marine comes with the optional deck, but has to be purchased separately everywhere else (something to consider). I would not take this out very far without the deck and spray skirts. I have also not been satisfied with the stock seat. I am a large man, and I just don't get the back support I need for long paddles from that seat.
Even with these drawbacks (minor fixes really), I have rated the kayak as a 9 since we are so happy with them.
I feel that the optional spray decks and backbone are a must. I would add that I use a light fold-up luggage type cart with big wheels to move the boat and accessories down to the water.
If deflated properly, it is very easy to put it back in its bag. Some shortcomings - takes long time to dry out, pretty heavy to carry in the bag, and it lacks foot braces, however, it's perfectly possible to work around these limitations. In addition, it looks beautiful - something that all other inflatable kayaks lack. For its price in US, its a steal, and a great value. Highly recommended.
I purchased the Convertible in the early spring 2008. Since that time, I used it multiple times on lakes and rivers. The idea of writing a review came to my mind because I well remember the time I spent researching this kayak before I purchased it. I remember all those unanswered questions I had.
I see three reasons to buy an inflatable kayak instead of a hard shell one.
I was never able (I never really tried that hard) to put the kayak back to the original bag after use. In my opinion it only makes sense to use the bag to keep and all the gear you will need. Add couple of towels for wiping the kayak after use, gloves, electric pump that will accompany the hand pump and you will find the bag full. I simply just slide the folded kayak into the trunk of my car and put the full bag on a back seat. The folded kayak does not take much space; I could easily fit 2 or 3 of them in the trunk of my Taurus.
Paddling: I should mention that I am not an experienced kayaker at all. I was just looking for a recreational boat that is easy to carry and store but would also let me float a river with another person and fish. Paddling solo and tandem is surprisingly easy and pleasant. My paddles are 230 cm and I hope I will get a chance to try 240 cm one day. Because this boat is quite wide, I suspect that 240 cm paddles would work slightly better.
Tracking: If the kayak is properly inflated, it tracks surprisingly well. The length of it probably helps, but the skeg does its job well too. I use this kayak as a solo most of the time and do not see a reason to buy the backbone. It may be that used as a tandem the backbone would improve the performance.
Inflating: I use rechargeable pump to inflate the two main chambers and the floor. To top of the main chambers I use the largest dual action hand pump I could find, $10 at Wal-Mart. With this type of a pump, you pump as much as you can, it is basically impossible to over inflate the main chambers. The floor should be only inflated until it reached proper shape, but it should be still quite soft. By pushing the top of the floor with your fist you should be able to feel the bottom of it. Over inflating the floor will destroy its internal structure.
There are two more important things to watch while inflating. The floor should be centered as well as possible, otherwise the tracking will suffer. Also, try to have the side chambers straight - the tubes should be kink free. At times, this is not easy. Push the bow and stern all the way in, before inflating the kayak. Again, the tracking will suffer if this is not done right.
On-board storage: In tandem configuration you can expect to have only little room behind the second paddler. For fishing, it is crucial to have more storage and rod holder. Using small pieces of PVC pipe, a wire basket (normally used to dry kitchen plates and glasses) and some cable ties, I constructed a rod holder that I attach to the front deck using bungee cords that are a standard equipment of this kayak. The basket is quite large and it lets me store all the fishing gear I need. I am very happy with this simple construction and I very much recommend it to anyone. The cost was about $25.
In solo configuration there is more room than I ever need. This makes this kayak a perfect inflatable fishing platform. If you are considering buying a inflatable kayak for fishing, I very much advise getting a tandem that can be used solo as well.
Fishing: This boat works great for single person fishing. It works well for two people as well, but in tandem setup storing the rod while paddling becomes a problem (but check the paragraph above for a simple solution). On creeks and rivers I use kayak anchor a lot. It makes a huge difference and makes fishing much more effective and comfortable.
Durability: Because of the thick fabrics and other material used, this kayak is quite heavy. I imagine one person can carry it inflated, but if I go kayaking on my own, I found it much easier to inflate it near the water, load up with the gear and carefully drag it into the water. Many times I felt that the bottom of the kayak dragged on rocks and gravel, I can only notice small scratches. Recently, I found couple of small nicks on the bottom, I just dropped some glue in each of them. So far, I don’t see any damage caused by folding and unfolding the kayak. If I can use this kayak for 5 or more years, I will be more than happy.
Drying: It is crucial to keep the kayak dry, but it is not an easy task. The main air tubes are protected by heavy fabric and water is often trapped in between. Removing the tubes from the kayak is easy, but they have to be properly aligned later – this is not such an easy task. Using pulleys, hooks and rope, I constructed a kayak hanger in the basement. After a trip, I bring the wet kayak from my car to the basement and partially inflate it. The hooks at the end of two pieces of rope grab the carrying handles of the kayak and lift it up. This makes the kayak to collapse slightly and now the center of it is on the lowest position. Most of the water runs down on the kayak floor and can be easily wiped out. I also installed an old electric fan that I switch on for couple of hours and this finishes the job well. I can email pictures of this setup – the total cost was about $12.
Verdict: I don’t know of a better inflatable kayak that would be so universal, durable and affordable. I very much recommend it. If you plan on kayaking in shallow creeks and drag the bottom frequently, a hard shell can be a better solution, but in deeper water, the Advanced Elements Convertible should last for many years.
I own a 17ft' canoe and a 14' row boat but I got tired of loading and storing them. This stores right on a shelf in my garage. I bought the convertible because my wife or son will sometimes come with me. I've loaded it with coolers, backpacks and beach chairs and paddled to beaches with my wife. I've also backpacked it about a half of mile.
I did a lot of research before buying this kayak. I liked all the options available for it and the look of it. It did not look like a pool toy. I felt the price was in my range for my first kayak. After reading the other emails I'm happy to know that the company also will stand by its product if I do have any problems. Overall I'm very pleased with the quality of the materials and workmanship and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quality inflatable.
My requirements: (1)No toy inflatable (2) no need to strap down on roof (3) capable of lake/pond, and lite ocean paddling. (4) A company that would stand behind its product and had a good reputation in the market(5) Would work well as a solo or tandem. (6) Technically current for its price point (7) Family/Friend Friendly - I can let others use without freaking out.
OK -- Did a lot of checking out...and for the money, honestly do not think anything can touch this. Not the lightest kayak offered but packs up great and light enough to heft into my trunk, unload at some Cape Ann, MA locale, pump up and off I (or we) go.
As known, does not have the speed of rigid kayaks...but not a slug at all. As another suggested, if purchase inflate the main tubes. I was told that the test was for one to pick up in front and another in back, and it should not crease.
The real test: After the initial weekend using, took out in a Cape Ann inlet with my dog...and over the next hour found myself starting to hum a song from a child hood movie favorite "Babes in Toyland". (slowly, slowly, he sank into the sea...) Fortunately there were two air channels so made it back to shore, but quite the scene with my my first mate being my dog who has guilt about abandoning the ship (over and over!!). After I got back -- was pretty angry when discovered a seam leak. So, called Advanced Elements, and waited to see how they would handle. I was most impressed. They immediately sent me a new one, even though I was able to repair the current one. The guy was not defensive, very apologetic and let me know how much they are focused on quality (already knew that as they include a very detailed factory quality tick sheet that had the factory initials at each step).
Oh, while it retails for $600, with a little hunting, should be able to pick up for less. (think annual REI 25% off one item sale, ebay, after establish reputation of vendor). Have yet to determine if getting the backbone -- again the guy at the company was very open about which models it seemed to help the most - and he relayed that it was not the clear step up that it is on a couple shorter ones (If you have one with this kayak -- share your thoughts!) although it appears to add some rigidness.
Taking it to the Adirondack's next week for a week...(lake and stream) may add more after that. Finally, thanks to paddling.com - you all rock for balancing often conflicting needs - hosting solid unbiased information vs. the need for legal tender.