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Submitted: 06-08-2005 by Scott

The Stearns Yukatat is an almost exact clone of the AirFrame by Advanced Elements. The Yukatat is a new design on the market for 2005 whereas the AirFrame has been on the market for several years and has become very popular. The similarity between the two is no coincidence. I talked to the designer at Stearns and he said that they were working on the design first, but that the two designers that worked for them left and started their own company which is Advanced Elements. Iím guessing they both share the copyright to the design.

I read through all the reviews for the AirFrame and they seem to match my experience with the Yukatat. Here are main differences Iíve noticed:

  • The Yukatat uses Boston Valves which are easy to use. The AirFrame use military-style valves.
  • The Yukatat has bungee tie-downs on the stern. The AirFrame does not.
  • You can unzip the bow of the AirFrame, but not on the Yukatat.
  • They both use aluminum inserts to make the bow and stern rigid, but the AirFrame use plastic bars for lateral support whereas the Yukatat uses vinyl sheets.
  • The AirFrame can supposedly handle class III rapids, but the designers at Stearns are much more conservative and recommend only using the Yukatat in calm water.
  • The seat is shorter on the Yukatat.
  • The AirFrame uses a plastic skeg to improve tracking. The Yukatat does not.
  • And of course, the Yukatat is yellow and the AirFrame comes in Orange or Blue.

    There is no spray skirt available for the Yukatat. The designer at Stearns said he has one made but the company chose not to put it on the market. I bought one that was made for the AirFrame and found it to be a perfect fit. I tried rolling over with it my pool, but the deck wasnít rigid enough to keep it from coming undone.

    You have to be careful when setting up the kayak. You may have to readjust the inflatable tubes a few times as youíre inflating it to make sure they are centered within the outer hull, otherwise the boat will keep turning to one side. It helps if you put the floor in last. Also, the valves donít always line up with the access holes in the shell, making them hard to get at.

    There were some complaints about the seat in the AirFrame sliding forward, and I had the same problem with the Yukatat. This problem was easily fixed by sewing a strap to each side of the seat to keep it at a 45 degree angle. I had some problems with the two buckles that clip the seat into the kayak; the strap would not stay adjusted to the length I wanted because it fit so loosely through the buckles. I was able to fix this by attaching some additional sliding buckles to the free ends or the straps to hold them in position. I also noticed that the aluminum frame inserts had sharp edges that needed filing down.

    I bought a 240cm Bending Branches Whisper paddle. Iím 6í tall and this is a perfect size. I wouldnít go smaller than 230cm since the sides of the kayak limit how close your hands can get to the water.

    Also, there is a misprint in almost every advertisement Iíve seen stating that the Yukatat is 12í4Ē long. The designer at Stearns verified the mistake and said the kayak was in fact only 10í4Ē.

    Overall, I am happy with my purchase. The Kayak tracks very well despite not having a skeg, and it is very stable. Iíve bottomed out dozens of times on a shallow river and there were no signs of wear. Best of all, it fits in an elevator and I can store it in my closet.

    If I had to choose over again, Iíd probably buy the AirFrame instead just because it has been around longer and been through more testing and improvements. Feel free to contact me if anyone with an AirFrame lives in northeast Ohio and would like to go for a paddle to compare the two side by side.

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