Submitted: 05-13-2008 by leckig
Advanced Elements Convertible – an unbiased review from a standpoint of an angler.
Reading this review please keep in mind that English is not my first language.
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.
The first thing you notice when you receive the shipment is that the box is very large and heavy. The kayak comes in a nice, large duffel bag; in the box you will also find two removable seats and a foot rest that will be used also as a back support for the front kayaker. In my case I also received some other gear: 2 break down paddles, a dry bag, a hand pump, and a kayak anchor.
- ease of storage
- suitability for transport long distance (even on a board of a plane) and shuttling (even in a taxi)
- no need for a roof rack and no nervousness that accompanies transporting 15 feet kayak on a roof of the car
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.