Read reviews for the Helios I Inflatable Kayak by Innova Recreational Products 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!
I would not recommend this kayak to anyone. The inner material on my Helios that I used maybe a dozen times has started to get a bunch of pinhole leaks. Innova has not helped at all as to explain why this might be happening; let alone give me a refund. Plus the tracking is very bad and not worthy of a sea or lake kayak.
I have three Helios kayaks (two Helios I and one Helios II) that I bought over time since 2007. They have been great and my family and I have had a lot of fun with them. I have used them mostly on lakes in Ontario, Canada and also took them on a kayaking trip through Killarney Provincial Park in 2013.
They are a very high quality product, well made and very durable. They have lasted very well, are easy to inflate and deflate and can carry a good amount of equipment when traveling. I have found that the optional rudder is helpful in windy conditions.
Innova has further improved the build since I bought my original Helios I and the kayak is very durable and versatile. I do want to also add that, very importantly, after sales service from Innova has been excellent and I found that Tim at Innova Kayak really does believe in and stand by the product. I highly recommend these kayaks.
Getting in or out is not a big issue for me. I have made a couple of sessions in the boat and I have the two person version as well.
It is tracking well with the plastic fin, which is not included, you must pay extra for it. Without the skeg it is hard to keep the boot straight, the factory should provide one for that high price, I think. Pumping up takes me 5 minutes, putting back into its own bag another 5. I suggest that you keep dry clothes for wiping off excess water in the bag.
The boat speed is ok, you can rich about 3-5 Mph. If this kayak was slightly longer and the hull shape more similar to the Swing's it would be a faster kayak. The only negative thing is the asymmetric bottom end and front end. The result: the balance is not perfect. The kayak is leaning to the left a bit, which could be disturbing on a day trip. Maybe this was just a wrong series.
Although it is advertised the boat holds 3 psi the marking on the kayak state max 2 psi. When I filled with 2 psi it seemed not enough air but I figured that may be because the heat from the sun will cause the boat to expand. I live in Houston, Texas and it's normal where the temperature will reach 110 degrees all day and cool down to 95 degrees in the evening.
Set up is (as claimed) fast. It took me less than 15 minutes and that includes attaching the additional rudder I purchased. The rudder to me is necessary especially since I've owned inflatables before and when it gets windy, without the rudder there is less control of steering the boat straight. I will say with the rudder attached the boat steered straight on track and the nose did not move from left to right as I was paddling.
This boat is fast. I was able to paddle faster than several plastic kayaks that were 12' in length but I have to add that I use a Werner Kalliste paddles. From my experience, if anyone is using an inflatable kayak then using a good quality paddle is essential.
When I entered water that was a bit rough the kayak seem to change character in that the boat responded very well to rough water and that brought on a big smile on my face as the journey became more of an adventure than just a moderate kayak outing.
I did not give a higher rating because when I was in rough water I could feel the kayak bend in the center as I was moving over large waves. I had hoped that the 2 psi would be stiff enough to avoid that bend but not the case hence, my rating of 8.
This kayak is steady (I'm 5'8, 190lbs) I'm 63, work out everyday lifting weights and bicycle 40 miles every other day. Also another reason why I rated an 8 is because I have a size 10 foot and my toes were constantly touching the top of the kayak and after several hours this becomes quite uncomfortable. So, if you have a size 10 or larger keep this in mind before your purchase.
And after several hours of paddling I found my butt getting sore. You are actually sitting low inside the kayak on the air bed. I'm going to purchase a thin cell pad and hope that will rid the soreness.
I did receive many compliments from other folks kayaking and also allowed others to paddle my boat and everyone said hands down that the Helios I is a great boat to paddle and everyone also noted how secure they felt inside the boat. I believe, in my opinion, that this is a great boat and a great buy. I did purchase from the United Kingdom because it was $300 USD less than sold here in the USA. Innova is the USA distributor for Gumotex which is manufactured in Europe. And the Seller: Blue Water Sports had Fex-X the boat to me and I received it in two days, and the shipping was free!
All in all I believe anyone paddling this boat is in for great enjoyment and satisfaction.
I was not all that keen on the tracking until I purchased the rudder. It tracks without it pretty good, but in crosswinds a lot of correcting strokes are required. And when coming to a stop it would "skid out" on me and spin around while sitting still. So I added the rudder and those problems are solved. I had some concerns about the footstraps on the rudder getting in the way or being difficult to use, but those were unfounded, it is actually very easy to get the hang of.
The Helios is rated for only 220lbs and that was a turn off. But at 6'0 and 230 I have no problems at all in the boat and it doesn't feel overloaded or particularly sluggish. I had it out camping recently and my gear and myself came to around 290. The Helios handled it okay but I think that might be pushing it a bit. Regarding camping, I was very pleasantly surprised to see just how much gear the Helios could hold. Easily enough for a week long trip.
My only gripe about the boat is that I don't like the "uncoated top". I prefer the full nitrylon coating and apparently newer models of the Helios will have it. Now if only Innova would make a 13 foot long version of the Helios 1 I think that would be the ultimate inflatable for me. For somebody a bit smaller, I think the Helios 1 is an ideal apartment dweller kayak.
I did notice several things that have led me to downgrade my opinion of the boat.
First, it scratches WAY more easily than any of my other boats. I've used it three times since it arrived here and it has more visible scuffing on the hull than my Safari or Solar II, both of which I've used extensively and in far rougher environments.
Secondly, it has a LOT of surface imperfections. Maybe the green shows them better than the red of the Safari and the blue of the Solar II, but there are many small creases and bumps visible on the underside of the fully inflated hull.
Perhaps most worrisome, the non-coated exposed grey fabric of the boat is starting to show slight discoloration in places, despite the fact that I am probably the most conscientious boat-cleaner there is. I wash my boats after every use and rinse and dry them thoroughly, leaving them inflated (at slightly lower pressure) so the drying can be more thorough. So this is an unpleasant surprise to me.
All around, this boat is still a great, fun boat to have, especially considering you get near-skeg like tracking without the hassle of having to put the skeg on; the speed of setup; and the stability and dry ride. But Innova loses points for jacking up the prices just as they "go cheap" on the models by removing the coating that used to cover all of their boats and leave some of the most sensitive parts of the boat open to discoloration and, quite likely, accelerated wear and tear. I'd gladly lug around two or three, or even five more pounds, to have a boat as bomb-proof as the Safari.
First, a word of thanks to Tim Rosenhahn of Innova. I'm not going to bore you with a long story, but I'm not the easiest person to deal with because I'm pretty selective about what I like and don't like. After having originally ordered a different model, and disliking it thoroughly for PURELY PERSONAL reasons, Tim agreed to "swap" me that model for a Helios 1. Given that two months had passed during which weather and other factors didn't allow me to try the other model, that was quite a demonstration of great customer satisfaction. Try that with Sears and you'll be laughed out the door.
The Helios 1 has very quickly vaulted to the top of my Innova "stable". It tracks much better that either the "un-finned" Safari or the Solar II. I'd go as far as to say that the Helios 1 tracks as well as the Safari WITH fin attached. I took in out on a big lake under glass-smooth and fairly windy conditions, and while there was a bit of drifting sideways in strong winds and any amount of inattention when paddling will send you spinning off course, the fantastic turning and maneuverability made up for those little shortcomings. I spent far less time adjusting course than I would have in a comparably sized hardshell SOT.
It is by far and away the lightest Innova boat of those I own and, once inflated, also by far the easiest to carry over my shoulder because I can stick my hand under the inflated front dodger to stop the wind from grabbing the front end of the boat away from me.
There is very little "splash over" thanks to the bow dodger. A fairly dry ride. The seat design is very comfortable and ingenious, basically an attached "flap" from the rear deck that folds down against the floor and side tubes.
The bungees and rescue line are very nice touches.
The boat is not tippy, and I'm pretty much maxing it out at 220 lbs and 6'2". Having said that, the design doesn't lend itself to great secondary stability, probably far less so than the more down-to-the-water single tube models.
Aesthetically it is gorgeous in the dark teal and light grey, and the shape is very pleasing too. The hull speed was surprisingly good on both my excursions - I am willing to bet I could keep up with an OK Scrambler fairly handily, and outpace it into the wind. I'll do a GPS test and update my review to include a comparison with the OK.
This boat will be very handy in winter or for folks looking for some protected storage space on the boat (notice I didn't say waterproof).
The only gripe I have is that the exposed grey material gets dirty and requires cleaning far more than my other, fully coated, Inovas.
Bottom line: highly recommended