Submitted: 07-10-2007 by Forrest
I have been eager to find an easy way that I might be able to go kayaking on weekends. I didn't want to fit my car with a carrier, and, in any event, I didn't think that I'd have a second person to help me get a boat on and off the car.
So, I began looking for an inflatable. I found the Advanced Expedition at REI, and did research (here, in particular), before buying a 10.5 foot Advanced Frame. I also got a 230cm paddle, the AE hand pump, and a life jacket. About $400 for the kayak, $100 for the paddle, $20 for the pump, and $50 for the jacket. I have very little experience kayaking or canoing, probably an hour once every two or three years.
I brought the kayak to a nearby dock, and laid it out on a grassy hill nearby. I opened the first valve (no pliers necessary; I just pushed on it with my finger and turned). It took about 2 minutes to pump up the first chamber. This is the "hardest work" -- I spent about 30 seconds catching my breath (!). There are 6 other valves, each of which takes about 20 seconds. None is hard at all. Total time is about 5 or 6 minutes. If we count the time I spend getting the boat from my car and putting the pump back in the car, and dragging it down to the water, we're talking 12-15 minutes. When inflated, it's actually easier to handle, since there's "more" to hold onto.
The boat is very stable in the water, and perfect for something still like the Charles River near Boston. I can paddle for 2-5 minutes and take a break for 30 sec to 2 minutes, and the boat just goes straight where it's pointed the whole time. I've used it 5 times now, and I've never felt the least bit of tippiness.
I'm about 5-11 with a 32 inch inseam, and 200 lbs, and it is a bit snug. Although the boat is "wide", the width is taken up with the air chambers that bring it close to my thighs. Actually, it's quite comfortable, and the inflatable floor provides good support for my rear end. It is a bit tight for my feet which wind up being doubled up in the bow of the boat. If you are bigger than I am, you might want a bigger boat.
The seat could be better. I use an extra seat cushion behind my back, and that works pretty well. Others may not have this problem (I like to keep my car seat pretty straight up too).
The width of the boat means that there's a place to rest my arms, but it also means that you might want a wider paddle. I have a 230cm, and I'm quite used to it already, but I wonder if a 240 might fit the boat better.
Taking it apart is VERY easy. Open the valves, fold it over itself lengthwise, and then two folds the other way, to make it 4 layers. Lean on it a bit to squeeze the air out. The entire process takes about 2 minutes, maybe 3. There's a bit of a streak from the water line along the bottom of the boat (I didn't leave it out or rinse it last week), but no scuffs or marks on the bottom of any kind, although I went over some hidden rocks and branches in my last trip.
Overall, I found the AE Advanced Frame an exceptionally good value that thoroughly provided just what I was looking for.