Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Advanced Elements Advancedframe Convertible Kayak Test


I have spent three weeks in the autumn of 2006 and the spring of 2007 paddling the Advanced Elements Advancedframe Kayak and Advancedframe Convertible Kayak on the Solway. They are innovative inflatable boats which use aluminium frames to give the bows and sterns a traditional kayak shape. They were supplied by Mike Thomson of Scottish Paddler Supplies. They share a packable design that can be unfolded from a suitcase sized bag and inflated within about 5 minutes using a two handed double action barrel pump.


180 kg of finely toned muscle can drive the Convertible Kayak up to a maximum of 10.4 km/hr, which is faster than some composite single seaters!


This is the one man Kayak version which I also tested in 2 foot waves and a force 5 wind. It surfed well but was blown about more than a conventional kayak. It was surprisingly rigid crossing steep waves. I was very impressed by its performance in these conditions. I am not saying that it is the ideal type of kayak to set out on a long trip in these conditions but it is great fun to use off the beach. I would also say that a competent kayaker would be quite happy to paddle home a fair distance, if caught out in these conditions.


The single Kayak version in comparison with the Valley Nordkapp LV. Side on to steep waves you do feel the boat rocking but it does not feel insecure. In contrast a narrow boat like the Nordkapp LV just bobs up and down with the waves from the beam.


A 9 and 6 year old were able to paddle the Convertible Kayak version for 1.5 miles with no previous experience. Despite their inexperience, it tracked well due to an inbuilt permanent skeg. Despite their diminutive size, they were able to turn it using sweep strokes.


The bow and stern are formed from cloth stretched over an aluminium frame giving a surprisingly fine entry for an inflatable boat. (Most inflatables) just have a big blunt round tube. In rough water the bow cut cleanly through the waves. In calm water the fine stern meant there was little visible wake behind the boat which is a sign of an easily driven hull.


Standard on the one man Kayak , and an option on the longer Convertible Kayak , is a deck with an inflatable rim that will take a spray deck. The seat base and back are comfortable and in the convertible you can have two (fore and aft) or one (mid) seat positions with zip on decks available for each option. There is also an adjustable inflatable footrest. There is a puncture repair kit in the seat back pocket.


There is a continuous air chamber which runs right round the boat. Inside this are two separate air bladders, so if one punctures you still have air right round both sides of the boat. Three layers of cloth contain the air. The hull has excellent longitudinal stiffness and I suspect that the two bladders within the one air chamber contribute to this stiffness. The materials and finish are superb, it just oozes quality. It can carry a lot of gear in dry bags below the deck, it has lots of lashing points and deck elastics. It has decent carry handles and the assembly instructions are printed on a waterproof label tied to the rear handle. The boat can be completely deflated for easy packing by reversing the pump and using it to suck air out. If you have 4 piece paddles there is room for them in the carrying case.

A wide range of accessories are available. These include a full length bow to stern "backbone" to provide extra longitudinal stiffness. I did not test this and I found the stiffness to be very good in the shorter Kayak in rough conditions. The longer Convertible Kayak was only tested in flat water conditions without the backbone but it seemed to have very good stiffness when crossing speed boat wakes. For those requiring extra stiffness in more demanding conditions, the backbone is collapsible and fits in the carrier bag.

Both boats paddle very well in a wide range of conditions. These are most definitely not toys, they are serious sea kayaks. In calm conditions, I paddled the convertible, one up, for 12km with no discernible extra effort than a companion in a composite P&H Quest.

I think they would especially suit:

those with children
those who fly to destinations where it is difficult to hire
those who have no space to store a traditional kayak
yachtsmen who would like to explore from an anchorage
those who want to potter in all but the most exposed coastal environments
those who like snorkeling
they would undoubtedly make fantastically stable fishing platforms, though the thought of sharp hooks makes me reluctant to recommend any inflatable for this purpose. (It has to be said that many people fish safely from inflatable dinghies.)

I would thoroughly recommend either of these kayaks.

European distributor: Luftkajak

Advancedframe Kayak
Length: 318cm Width: 81cm Weight: 16 kg Carrying capacity: 136 kg
Colours red/grey or green/grey
Size of packed carrying case: 77 x 41 x 30 cm
Cost: £399

Advancedframe Convertible Kayak
Length: 457cm Width: 81cm Weight: 25 kg Carrying capacity: 249 kg
Colours red/grey or green/grey
Size of packed carrying case: 90 x 54 x 30 cm
Cost: £619 (£699 including both single and double decks).

43 comments:

  1. Looks like a great little craft

    Couple of things -

    What is it likely to retail for?

    What does it look like packed away?

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  2. Hello Mark,

    More detail added to post, including prices and packed sizes.

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  3. Douglas,

    Worth spending money on for my summer holiday in the Stockholm Archipelago? Would it be OK for say 10 mile(ish) day trips? What kind of spray deck fits?

    Cheers

    John

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  4. John, I think it would be ideal for such purposes as long as you were not in a "point to point" hurry. I used a cheap nylon Yak spraydeck but you can get a specific one from their own accessories.
    :o)

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  5. The backbone is actually collapsible and fits in the kayak's storage bag.

    The cockpit opening is 18"x30" (46x76cm), so it's not too difficult to find a sprayskirt to fit.

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  6. Thanks anonymous, I have altered the text to take account of your comments. Are you another user or the manufacturer?

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  7. Great review. We are a retailer of Advanced Elements kayaks, and I have forwarded this review to several people in the past few days - it answers all the right questions. Is it alright for us to put a link to this on our website?
    Holly

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  8. Hello Holly, feel free to link. I already have a garage full of kayaks and windsurfers but having handed it back to Mike Thomson of SPS last week I am missing it already. I am now thinking of getting one myself!

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  9. Hi Douglas:
    You should also take a look at the new Advanced Elements Expedition, which is the "big sibling" to the AdvancedFrame. It's been out for two months, is a beautiful kayak and getting a lot of attention.

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  10. Thank you Holy, I will look out for it.

    :o)

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  11. Earlier I commented about the backbone and Douglas asked if I was a user or the manufacturer. I'm just a user. I'd just returned from looking at the Advanced Frame and the Expedition so I had the measurements on hand.

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  12. Great review. I own an Advanced Elements Convertible and have to say that I have been delighted. Used mainly for coastal touring/mucking about from the beach in sunny North East Essex it has proved versatile, family friendly and a bit of a local talking point.

    Bought from Airkayaks.com in the US(Holly has already posted from there) the service and price was superb.

    As long as UK dealers insist on charging more than double the US rate for this boat, I unfortunately feel that it will remain as something of a curio in UK circles. This boat deserves a wider audience!

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  13. Marion (Arisaig)27/06/2007, 08:32

    This is just a wee note to let you know of an interesting spelling on your site ... I remain uncertain as to whether it is a new word to take account of the introduction to the suitcase sized inflatable kayaks now available;-) I am not a person accustomed to the kayaking vernacular so would not wish to be too, too critical re spelling:-)

    Cheers

    "unfolded from a suitcase sized bag and inflatated within about 5 minutes using a two handed double action barrel pump."

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  14. Thanks Jim,

    Of course kayaks are not the only items that are much more expensive over hear. I am not sure it is the retailers that are making the killing!

    :o)

    Hello Marion,

    Thanks for the tip about my spelling, you are quite correct, inflatation is, of course, the process by which extra syllabables are added to words!

    :o)

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  15. As long as UK dealers insist on charging more than double the US rate for this boat....

    What was shipping and import duties to the UK?

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  16. Looks brilliant. Was wondering though do you know of any other 2 man sea kayaks, which would be alot cheaper. Only 19 years old and wanting to buy my first kayak between me and a mate. Wanting a 2 man for only a couple of hundred quid, if such a thing exists.

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  17. Hello Peter, most inflatable kayaks are only suitable for sheltered waters. I have heard good reports about the Advanced Elements Dragonfly 2 It costs about £330.

    It should be a lot of fun but should only be used in sheltered waters.

    :o)

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  18. Rite thx. Well we were hopin to do some sea kayaking on a budget. With dreams of gettin a proper more expensive kayak, but we wanted to test the water first, so to speak. Do you think we would be better to get a 2 man kayak or to get 2 single kayaks?

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  19. Peter, most people have single kayaks but my friend David has a double, which I enjoy very much.

    Another possibility (instead of buying a cheap boat) is for you to test the waters by going on a sea kayaking course. This would let you see if you would really want to commit to spending money on serious kit and it will also give you some valuable instruction in safety matters as well.

    I hope you enjoy whatever way you choose to start sea kayaking.

    :o)

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  20. 3 weeks ago I was looking for information about this kayak; after reading your review, I bought the Advanced Frame Convertible and yesterday I test the kayak in Mediterranean Sea.

    I am very happy with it!

    From Spain, thank you very much for this test.
    Best regards!

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  21. Hello Pedro, I hope you have many happy days in your inflatable kayak! At the Jersey sea kayak symposium a couple used the double on one of the rock hopping and cave exploration days. It prformed very well in the company of rigid sea kayaks.

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  22. Hi from Spain too, Douglas!.

    I just wanted to thank you for your review and explanations. I purchased a convertible more than one year ago after reading this review and used it in some lakes and the Mediterranean sea.

    It runs much faster than I thought and provides real fun.

    Here in Spain it's also abusively expensive.

    By the way, as the kayak is quite broad don't buy standard-length paddles for sea kayaks. I bought ones and they were too short. I now own 240 cm paddles and seem perfect.

    Best Regards.

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  23. Thank you Betawriter, I am glad my review helped with your purchase. I do hope you are getting better July weather than we are here in Scotland!

    :o)

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  24. Excellent review, very well done. You answered many inquiries. I was wondering if you had any knowledge to compare this with the sea eagle 420x Pro Kayak. I was also wondering what you mean by sheltered water?

    thanks

    george

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  25. Thank you George,

    I was using the term sheltered water in relation to cheaper inflatables. By sheltered I mean a small enclosed bay on the sea or a small lake and not a coastline open to the ocean and winds.

    Of course sheltered will mean different things to more or less experienced kayakers. Purchasers of the cheaper inflatables will by in large be less experienced and need more shelter. On a calm day an open ocean coastline can look inviting but weather conditions can change quickly that's why less experienced users in less capable kayaks need the back up of sheltered water.

    As a kayaker of 6 years, I have used the Advanced Frame kayaks in exposed situations without problems. That said I would prefer to use a rigid hull sea kayak in those conditions.

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  26. Hello Douglas,
    one question - to be used as single kajak in seakajaking - does the longer convertible kajak perform better than the short Air Frame under ocean conditions? What is your experience? Did you experience a differnce?
    Best, Michael

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  27. Hello Michael, I paddled the 15 foot convertible kayak as a solo with the optional deck I also paddled the 10.5foot kayak. I was prepared to go anywhere (up to 24km)in the convertible kayak but used the shorter kayak just on local trips. I have heard very good reports of the 13 foot high performance single seat kayak. Mike Thomson of Scottish Paddler Supplies had got me a demo one to try the week before he died. I did not get a chance to try it.

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  28. Raymond
    Nice boat how does it compare whit a Innova helios.

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  29. Hello Raymond, I am very sorry, I cannot comment as I have not tried the Innova Helios.
    Douglas

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  30. What about the StraightEdge kayak? As an inexperienced kayaker, and one with small children (5-6), I am wondering about the sit-on-top vs. the sit in. Any thoughts on this topic would be most welcome.

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  31. Hello mpage, small children can get very cold on a sit on top unless it is very warm. An inflatable might be more child friendly from the point of view that they sit in it rather than on it. This should keep them warmer and hopefully it will be less easy for them to fall overboard. You need to be very careful about taking young children out and choose suitable sheltered waters and not go too far. Mostly they just like to play in warm shallow water!

    I don't know the StraightEdge kayak.

    Have fun!

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  32. Hi!,

    First of all, congratulations for your blog. It is full of very interesting information.

    I just finished a sea-kayak course and plan to buy an inflatable kayak. I wonder if you could give me your view on the following questions on the AdvancedFrame model:

    1. If you jump in the water, is it easy to get back in?

    2. Did you try it when there are waves, can you handle it?

    3. The seller here stands that this kayak can't return itself (by a wave for example)...I doubt it

    4. Did you try it with a skirt? How easy is it to get out if the kayak returns itself? (a scratch or just an elastic?)

    5. Would you better advise the expedition model (longer)?

    Thanks and Best Day!

    Serge

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  33. I'd like to know which kayak you experts would recommend. I'm looking at the advance elements advancedframe convertible 2 seat and also the dragonfly 2XC ME1023. I have two boys ages 7 and 10 and my wife and I are looking to buy a couple of kayaks for us. What are the major differences and benefits to each.

    Thanks

    Greg

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  34. Hello Serge,

    1. If you jump in the water, is it easy to get back in?

    I used it for snorkelling from. It floats high and has a lot of bouancy atthe ends so there is quite a knack to getting back in. I pulled myself up over the stern, once up, its much more stable than a hardshell seakayak so it is easier to then move forward to the cockpit. I saw a photo on another blog recently of a "granny" manageing it.

    2. Did you try it when there are waves, can you handle it?

    Yes it was a lot of fun in waves though it gets pushed around more than a hardshell.

    3. The seller here stands that this kayak can't return itself (by a wave for example)...I doubt it

    I had mine out in some conditions that any sane beginner/early intermediate would not be out in. It showed no tendency to capsize. However any kayak will capsize if the conditions are bad enough. It would not be possible to roll this type of kayak so you would need to turn it over then climb in.

    4. Did you try it with a skirt? How easy is it to get out if the kayak returns itself? (a scratch or just an elastic?)

    I used a lightweight spraydeck made of nylon. This would not be likely to restrict you in a capsize it came off very easily.

    5. Would you better advise the expedition model (longer)?

    Yes!


    Hello Greg, I can't comment about the dragonfly as I have not tried it. When my nephews were your son's ages, they very much enjoyed the Advanced Elements double.

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  35. Thanks for the review! All my kayaks are singles, so I had been looking for a good foldable or inflatable double - I hadn't seen the AE Convertible until now.

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  36. Hello Kerry, I was sorry to hand the double back! At the last Jersey sea kayak symposium a couple took theirs on a testing trip in swell along the exposed north coast. They had a great time.

    :o)

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  37. Very nice review =)

    Would there be enough room in the one person kayak for a pump, the bag it comes in and some basic gear?

    I don't own a car. What would be lovely is just take the train, paddle to another place and take the train back home.

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  38. Thank you Gerben, there would be plenty room in the kayak to do that. If you had some distance to the bus or train stop it would be worth finding a harness for your back which you could strap the bag onto (my friend uses the aluminium frame from a 1970's rucksac). Or a little set of wheels you could tow the bag on.

    :o)

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  39. Thank you for your very prompt reply!

    Having read up some more on these kayaks i will go with the Expedition. At 6.2' more room won't do me any harm. Also not sure if this new hobby will stick. But if it does i can see myself going on longer trips. The Expedition seems the right way to go. Even if it means parting with more cash upfront.

    Thanks again for the review, site and reply =)

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  40. Hi Douglas- picked one of these up today ( the Expedition) from the importer-fed up of going on holidays and not having anything to paddle on those odd occasions! Trust you are well? Mike from Poole Bay Canoes

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  41. Have a great holiday Mike. A friend has two explorers which he keeps on his yacht on his voyages round the west coast of Scotland.

    :o)

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  42. Bought a single man variant, managed to Roll it upside down by trying really hard and rolled it back up again.
    Very stable. Launching 20kg isn't hard, but carrying it over distances will show your fitness. The spray deck is helpful and a hand pump is a must. The rim the spray deck fits around really needs to be rigid. The inflatable rim does hold the spray deck on, but I've not pushed it much. That said, lots of nice details. All in all love it. If this one is nicked, I'll replace it with the same.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Toby, I am glad you are having fun on and in the water!

      :o)

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