Submitted: 04-19-2007 by geebee_r1
Just received the AE Expedition kayak last week and here are my first impressions (due to change as I get 'acquainted' with the new boat). Upon first inspection the build quality of these boats are second to none - everything is 'as advertised' by AE; the boat is built to take some punishment, from the heavy duty aluminum bow and stern braces to the thick liners that house the ‘air chambers.’ The air valves take a while to get used to, but once you get the hang of it they are quite ingenious (and work well – except one…more on that later). I also purchased the ‘backbone’ for the AE expedition (as I wish to retain as much tracking ability as possible), which is a very nice accessory that comes with its own bag to store the pieces once disassembled; overall so far I’m pretty impressed. The only thing(s) that I would dock points for would be that the foot rest did not have all the right pieces to work properly (had to ‘rig’ it to work for the initial put in) and it did not come with the emergency repair kit (after a quick email - AE customer service sent a foot rest and missing repair kit at no charge - kudos to AE for great customer service).
Fast forward two days and it is finally time to put in (weather finally let up). A quick blow up (set up time was approx 15 min – to blow up and pack) and I was ready to go. Finally out on the water and the AE expedition handled... well... different. I was a little disappointed until I realized that I had the backbone out of alignment a little which kept turning me (albeit slight) to port. I quickly return and righted the situation (literally) and away I went for a 6 mile trip around the reservoir. With the water being very frigid I was glad I was in the inflatable – that layer of air had a very nice way of keeping me warm in the cold water. About half way through the paddling session I noticed that the backbone was...for a lack of a better word...'intrusive' as it is right under you in the most ‘inappropriate’ spot. Looking down I realized that the floor had deflated on me and the only thing between me and the backbone was the thin seat and the padding around the aluminum shaft (read…not comfortable). After a portage to blow the floor up again (thank goodness I remembered to bring the pump with me) it was back on the water again to finish the day. Upon reflection, I think I didn't tightened the screw-style valve all the way closed on the floor – thus the deflation; however I will have to investigate further next time out.
Overall the kayak is well built, paddles and tracks well (for an inflatable – not nearly as nice as a hard shell) and is a great way to get some paddling in without having space for the storage of a rigid boat. You can’t go wrong for the money – just toss it in the car and go.