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Product Reviews > Kayaks > Innova Inflatable Kayaks > Helios 380 EX Add Your Review Now!

Reviews for Helios 380 EX Kayak by Innova Inflatable Kayaks


Rated: 9.29/10 Based On: 14 Reviews

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05-07-2007
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I spent quite a bit of time in my Innova Helios 380 in the past two weeks. I was on vacation in New Smyrna Beach, FL, and paddled it around Callalisa Creek and in northern parts of the Mosquito Lagoon. This review is based on that, plus performance around home in small lakes and in the Potomac River near Washington, DC.

I bought this kayak used in August 2006. I was looking for a used Innova Sunny or Solar II, and this one came up first, at a good price, so I got it.

The real reason for the Helios - or any inflatable kayak - is to have a kayak that can be stored in a small space, or transported in a small space. I live in a condo in Alexandria, VA. We don't have any common storage space here, so what I have has to fit in the closets here. The Helios can fold down to a size of a carryon bag for an airline travel. I use a bigger bag, a 30x14x14 rolling boat bag from Bass Pro, which holds the kayak, 4-piece paddle, pump, my PFD, the dog's PFD, and fishfinder. It's still checkable if you travel by air, and it holds everything I need together in one place.

One of the biggest concerns mentioned on yakfishing boards about inflatables is how they do when there are hooks around or sharp objects (oyster shells, for example) in the water. Hooks weren't a problem. Just like on plastic, they slid right over the rubber outer coating of the yak. If you get a hook hung on one of the main tubes or the floor, and jerked up, you might have a problem. If you pay attention to where your hooks are, you won't have a problem.

Another hazard mentioned is oyster bars. Sometimes, if you don't know the waters well, they can be unavoidable. I scraped over a few of them. The only damage I suffered was two short cuts through the nitrylon rubber outer coating. The polyester reinforcing fabric was not damaged, nor was the internal rubber coating which holds in the air. The nicks in the outer rubber occurred at the lowest place on the yak, right under my seat. Otherwise, the Helios rode up and over them. If you hit nails or something pointy, you would have more problems, but shells seem to be less of a hazard. I have a urethane adhesive called Aqua Seal that I'll be using to paint over these nicks.

Speed is a factor for some people. In my experience, it was faster than an Ocean Kayak Malibu II paddled solo, and faster than a 10' sit inside boat I rented once. I've read that the Helios is faster than a Cobra Fish 'n Dive. It isn't going to set speed records being paddled solo, but most of us put in as close as we can to where we want to fish, then use the kayak to go the last mile to the fishing ground.

Paddling solo is the only way I've used my Helios. This leads to the bow being high out of the water and tracking to be awful. As ballast I've found that three gallon jugs of water fit perfectly in the area under the bow dodger, and can be bought anywhere for less than $1 per jug. This gives you 24 lbs of weight there, which keeps the bow in the water and makes this a decent tracking boat.

An issue that comes up frequently is finding kayaks for big guys. I'm 6'1" and weigh 270. This kayak handles that easily. With the front ballasted as described above, the back with me sitting in it is just a little lower than the front. There is a slight bend in the tubes where I sit even when fully inflated. Max weight capacity is around 400 lbs. Stability is good; it would be better if I were a little lighter and didn't have the distortionary effects of my weight on the boat.

Wind affected the Helios less than I expected. When under way, it tracks adequately and wind is not as much of an issue. At rest it does tend to blow around a bit, and could use an anchor or other method of staking out. Current affected the Helios much more than I expected. In the ICW near Riverbreeze Park in Oak Hill, it took several strokes of the paddle just to get to the point where I was staying in one place against the current, and several more to get forward motion against the current.

If this were a plastic boat, it would be adequate, but nothing special. The special part comes when it's time to put it away and it goes in the back of my hall closet. For an inflatable, it's very tough, quick, and stable. It's perfect for apartment dwellers, condo owners, and travelers who can't expect to find a kayak rental at the end of their journey.

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02-05-2007
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I have had my Helios for 7 years and it still looks great. I usually get out on rivers or lakes 10 times a year and the ocean maybe once or twice. The boat sets up up so quickly and packs up just as easily. I have the rudder attachment but only use it when my wife and child come along, too. Solo, I sometimes use the rudder with a handsail when the wind is blowing. It's quite fun but doesn't really move that fast but feels like it does. I love how stable the boat is, too. on the ocean I practiced flipping it over and getting back in. i could empty the water out while swimming and crawl back into it all by myself. I haven't tried it yet, but i think it would make a nice platform for snorkeling. Truly a fun and reliable boat.Naybody have a recommendation for a good sail rig for the helios? "Sails to Go" might be good for a look.
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06-01-2005
Submitted by: mikeSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I've owned my Helios for a year now and have taken it on lakes and quieter rivers. I really enjoy it. I can carry it easily in my car, it is not heavy for me to backpack 50 yards to the water. It inflates quickly and moves at a good speed, at least fast enough for me. I've always used it as a double and we can move as fast as a hard shell single kayak, generally. It's very comfortable and its skin seems extremely tough. I've owned a canoe and two other kayaks (including a puffin and a hardshell), and this is the most enjoyable. I think the Puffin is cute, but not as seaworthy as my Helios. The Helios is also easier to get in working order. It takes less than 10 minutes of air pumping. But I would never take it on rapids. I don't think it's made for that. Especially given the price, I highly recommend it. I do worry about how long it will last and when it will give out. But it has worked so well for just having fun, that I've put off getting a Folbot Greenlander, for now.
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02-27-2005
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I set this kayak up, got in and kayaked for the first time. It was pretty much that easy. The rudder definitely helps turn the boat, although it was a bit awkward at first with the ropes on your feet, but you get used to it. What really impressed me was when I was through I was actually able to get the boat back in the bag it came in. It definitely is a boat in a bag that you can travel with.
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09-07-2004
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     Very, very nice inflatable. Tracks well and is quite nimble. Very bomb-proof, tough fabric! Easy to set-up, easy to deflate and pack and extremely fun to paddle. The only limitation may be that the center thrwart prevents a single paddler from sitting in the center position. I love this boat.
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04-29-2004
Submitted by: JDrillerSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I just got back from a Class 3 whitewater camping trip in my Helios. It is a very nice boat; well built and designed. Turns easily and tracks well. Does not catch wind. Fairly stable. It really is NOT a boat for class 3 however. Solo you are too far back and tandem your prow would be too low. The low prow and non-self bailing mean you have to stop after every several waves to drain. The way it is designed means you cannot bail from inside the boat. You would absolutely take in too much water to safely maneuver if you were going through a long set of rapids. I had thought I could cut the central thwart out and make it more a solo boat when I needed one but, while possible, this would not work well. I had returned my new boat 2x before I got an undamaged one - but the Seattle company did that without complaint. I tried getting some add ons (more glue on straps) from the manufacturer but they never followed through after repeated emails. That said, I fly past people in other IKs and canoes on class 2s...
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04-29-2004
Submitted by: andrewSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Assuming you are a somewhat experience kayaker, you don’t need a rudder with this boat, especially if two people are paddling, but the removable skeg (extra) does help tracking. I also added some rings for more grab points and extral lines for equipment. You can put in two small drybags fore and aft and add extra equipment on the mid section compartment. I would reiterate everything said so far about its whitewater limitations and bailing out hurtling down a class III is no picnic. I think this boat excels on moderate water assuming no breaking waves—again no picnic and no pump could keep up with oncoming water. In calm seas it’s also fine but you do need two paddlers to get good speed, almost keeping up with 14’ hardshells. Using the backpack it comes with is akin to carrying a large potato sack with two straps sewn on-- it’s a streeeetch to say it’s easy to backpack. Maybe in my old age lugging 40 plus pounds on my back over rough terrain is the cardiac workout I don’t need. Would have given it 10 but no boat deserves that and people are too charitable around here. Look at the “theboatpeople” website and it will provide you with a wealth of info on most inflatables made today.
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02-23-2004
Submitted by: wacSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I've had one for 3 years now and love it. I haven't tried anything but flat water yet (other than a bouncy trip one windy afternoon inside a sandbar on Washington's Strait of Juan de Fuca). The speed is good, but quite a bit more sluggish with 2 passengers (I take kids with little additional paddle power). You can fit an adult and 2 younger kids, but they get a bit cramped in terms of leg-room. The rudder is great, and makes it quite turnable, even with 2 people and at speed. I also have a 2-person Stearns, which the Helios literally blows out of the water (comparatively, the Stearns would be a 4 or 5 rating). ABSOLUTE BEST feature -- the Helios breaks down, cleans up and rolls up like magic. One of the few things in nature that EASILY fits inside its original bag. Excellent all-around.
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02-09-2004
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     For seating height and comfort, my husband sits on a Sterns self-inflating cushion, in the back of the Helios. I bought an extra Innova Safari seat and use that in the front of the Helios for good back support and better height. Otherwise we feel like we're sitting too low in the boat. We are both fairly short.
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08-26-2002
Submitted by: JimboSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     My girl friend and I have paddled our 380 in the Florida Everglades,the North Atlantic around Newfoundland and Maine, and several lakes and rivers includung the Deleware and James Rivers and we love it. It inflates quickly and is very stable. We have had it in 2-4 foot seas and class II rapids without any worries. The skeg system really helps keep the boat tracking well. We found the the inflatable soot straps are worthless. We haven't taken it out on an overnight, however there does not appear to be a whole lot of room for equipment.
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12-28-2001
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     Recently had the opportunity to take my Innova Helios to the Cayman Islands for a 10 day vacation. The kayak packed nicely and I checked it onto the airplane as regular baggage. The kayak inflated on the beach within 5-10 minutes, and I was on the Caribbean Ocean. It performed nicely in all types of seas, from mild 1 foot swells to 4 foot swells. I always felt safe and in control. I took my wife out with me once, my daughter once, and my son once. I also went out by myself a couple of times. The kayak performs better with another person seated in the bow. When paddling solo, I needed to put a sand bag in the bow of the kayak to keep the bow in the water. The Helios allowed my the opportunity to get out on water and enjoy the ocean.
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07-26-2001
Submitted by: Gary GleasonSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     A great boat, I think most paddlers would use this kayak alot since you can keep it with you at all times, I agree with Riker regarding the ease of using this boat. I have paddled across a 2 mile lake in 20 knot winds with my daughter in front. If you are good you don't really need the rudder, although I would consider it if you are going to do any extended touring. This boat is good up to class 2 rapids, but I don't think I would attempt anything beyond that.
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11-05-2000
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     Innova calls this the all-terrain bike of kayaks, and i have to agree; it also can be carried on a bike. everything ricker said about it has proved to be true for me, too, except that i have never tried a higher seating position. i have taken it on extended trips along the coast of south carolina, and found the front passenger compartment easily holds enough food (and water) for a very long time. it also works well as a double (although it is necessary for good handling [i don't have the rudder] for the heavier paddler to sit in the rear). i would also add there is in my experience no better company to do business with than innova. based on my satisfaction with the helios, i also bought a safari. (i don't know if you could buy it by itself, but the safari comes with a neat and comfy touring seat, which also makes an air mattress if necessary, which might serve ricker's low seating problem.
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10-09-2000
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 10 of 10

     Please pay no attention to the numerical rating; I have no basis for comparison so it is relatively meaningless. I find this inflatable kayak very durable and tough, lightweight and easy to carry (in it's backpack); it's very portable--you can keep it in your trunk or pickup at the ready. It is easy to paddle, but tends to weathervane without the optional rudder; however, with a kayak paddle it's easy to keep it going straight even without the rudder. It seems to be pretty quick, at least the speed satisfies me. My only complaint is how far down in the boat you sit. I bought a stadium seat pad and a boat PFD seat and use them to sit higher which helps a lot. The boat is very easy and quick to inflate and deflate with a Bravo foot pump. The valves on the boat are easy to use and reliable so far. The boat seems stable even sitting in the higher position. When warmer weather returns I'm going to experiment and see how stable it really is. Then I'm also going to try it on some rivers up to class II. Hope this is helpful to anyone considering one.
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