Submitted: 07-12-2010 by Andy Wood
Before I start this, let me qualify my review:
I'm a novice river kayaker, but I've been down a few runs solo, and a few runs in big expedition craft on the green river, so I have some basic hands-on experience with whitewater.
I've taken my Dragonfly 1 on several different types of water. My first (and possibly most important) recommendation is, this boat has poor performance on flat, open water. I've taken it on lakes and slow rivers, and the poor tracking and the drag makes the experience laborious and unrewarding. My father owns an Advanced Frame, and we've been on a few trips around together. Every time we hit flat water, his track makes mine look like I'm drunk, and I have to paddle twice as fast as him to keep up.
That being said, I still love this boat. I got it to do small to medium-sized white water in, and in a river with a good current where paddling yourself isn't as critical, this little boat really shines. It's maneuverability is fantastic for an inflatable, and it's capable of some bigger hydraulics than I think a lot of other reviewers are giving it credit for. Just a few days ago I took it down Cache Canyon. I had a leaking valve (I've owned this boat for several years and it's mostly been in storage, I suspect a bad o-ring) and it was starting to lose air, yet despite this I made it through Mother (class 3 at the time due to a high water level, commonly a class 4) without any problems at all. Some friends behind me in a nice rented 2-person raft from an outfitter up the river spilled all over the place and came home with a pile of bruises, but my little Dragonfly came through it unharmed.
River performance aside, I've also been very satisfied with the materials. When I bought the boat it came with a baby-sized dry bag that was little more than a joke, the first time it flipped and dragged over the rocks it went from "dry bag" to "bag", and as previously noted the storage capacity is VERY limited. I'm 6'1" and about 220, and there's barely room for my feet inside -- I can rest a water bottle on my legs if I need to, but the only other option worth mentioning is the minimal deck webbing. It also came with a chair back that was pretty much throw-away material, but I've been doing fine without it.
So the freebies are of basically unsatisfying quality, but the boat itself has proven to be more than durable enough. I've been dragged numerous times over some pretty jagged rocks, the kind of thing that probably would have left me lacerated and in need of medical help if I weren't in my boat, and it doesn't even have any major scratches.
The skeg is sporting the "free willy" fashion--it's permanently bent, but I haven't noticed it affecting me much.
Overall, this kayak is something I'd recommend for light whitewater use for someone who is either on a tight budget, or lacks the space for a hard-shell. I'm looking forward to upgrading to a hard-shell myself, but in the meantime I continue to be satisfied with what I have.