Submitted: 05-13-2009 by ljleejohns
My son and I have been thoroughly enjoying our Advanced Elements Expeditions on many different waterways, in many different conditions, from still, flat water to 25-30 knot winds, waves, and large swells on the sea. In every case, our Expeditions have performed impressively and have inspired confidence in their design and capabilities: their tracking, gliding, stability, and comfort.
Our experience is exactly the opposite of the reviewer who gave this craft the lowest possible rating. Mind you, it took a few times to know how to set up the 13' EXP right; and our previous experience with the smaller 10'5" Advanced Frame undoubtedly was a help. We are great advocates of the BackBone accessory, which, with the aluminum forms, gives a rigid internal architecture to this kayak that will give it a hull speed and an ability to take on large waves that will equal a hard shell of similar beam and length.
Initial set-up is important, as it is, say, for folding kayaks, such as the Feathercrafts (their Kahuna performs in a generically similar way, incidentally). There are a few "tricks" one learns in aligning the BackBone and the floor until a perfect set-up takes no more than ten minutes, tops. Placing the BackBone over the bow's landing skid and the stern's skeg is not difficult, once one uses both hands, inside and outside the hull. Inflating the floor a bit to give it shape before installing it over the BackBone also ensures a symmetrical line-up. Of course - and of prime importance - the main chambers and floor must (I repeat "must") be inflated to a good and firm level - or the kayak simply will not work well at all (I can almost hear Mae West saying, "A hard kayak is good to find"). Sitting back as far as one can in the cockpit is also important. Note that the storage space in the stern would be compromised were the cockpit placed farther back: hence, the need to sit back and engage that skeg to good purpose.
All these little refinements add up to a great gain for a great kayak, but Advanced Elements kayaks, like all IKs and folding kayaks, require somewhat commensurate mental advancement to get the best out of their designs. There is a learning curve, which is steeper, the longer the IK. Thus, the 8'4" Lagoon (Dragonfly XC, Skedaddle) is almost fool-proof. Just pump it up, and it is ready to hit the water. The 10'5" requires more attention, especially if a BackBone is installed - but well worth the little bit of extra effort, given the improvement in performance.
The hull speed of the Expedition is greater than the AF 1, and, again, especially with a BackBone, this craft will glide in a straight line, will paddle at a tangent against steady whitecaps and winds without much weathercocking, and will show a remarkable seaworthiness in all waters. Many of my family and friends have paddled my Expedition; all are astonished by its performance, especially those who have owned hard shells. So, why is my son's and my experience of this kayak so categorically different from some and so similar to others? We are too busy using these wonderful IKs to worry about the answer.