AirFrame Reviews - Advanced Elements | Buyers' Guide (2022)


This is a very, very, very good alternative to hard-shell kayak.Pros: Stable…

Submitted by: paddler232106 on 6/19/2007

This is a very, very, very good alternative to hard-shell kayak.

Pros: Stable, fast, "transportable", fast to inflate, low costs, fun, good quality.
Cons: Hard to empty for water/dirt, not that long.
Other issues:
You need to buy a bigger bag for transport.
It takes a few times to learn how to inflate this correctly.
The valves is a bit tricky.
Great kayak...


Great boat for the money. I…

Submitted by: portpals on 4/13/2007

Great boat for the money. I purchased two, for my wife & myself as our first kayaks, a few years ago. We love them! They are safe, easy to paddle and while we get easily passed by hardshells; in choppy water, ours are the ones easier to control! Only complaint is the inflation time, since I do two at once, but I'm going to try a portable electric inflater (gently) this season and see if it won't do most of the work for me. You do need help to do the little inflations, but we use surgical tubing attached to each end and that seems to work very well with our double action hand pump. For the money and safety...a perfect 10!


I bought two of these a…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/28/2006

I bought two of these a couple years ago, and really like them. In calm water their cruise speed is not bad at all, and in the rough chop of Lake Erie they're really fun. Set up is also very simple and quick.

Two complaints. You have to be very careful to evenly position everything when you inflate, or the kayak will be slightly lopsided and track to one side. The other problem is the front zipper stops short as it meets the cockpit and water leaks in through the small gap. Otherwise great boats.


Purchased 3 Advanced Elements…

Submitted by: paddler231571 on 5/18/2006

Purchased 3 Advanced Elements AE1012, 2006 models. Very happy with their performance. Once I inflated them a couple times, became very efficient and fast getting them ready for the water. I didn't care for the paddle that came with the package deal. I ended up going to a local sporting goods store and bought a lighter paddle.


An update. I broke one of the…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/21/2005

An update. I broke one of the main valves. I have no idea how, I think I kneeled on it when deflating the kayak. I called up Advanced Elements to get a replacement inner tube, but they said bring the busted tube on down (I live about 20 miles from their office) and they fixed it for me on the spot.

I teased them about the minor valves and they asked, "Do you have the blue valves or the orange valves?" It turns out that they figured out that the blue valves were a problem and replaced them with a valve that stays in the pump fitting without having to be held there. They gave me the new type valves, which replace the old blue ones.

The point is, A) they don't use the old valves any more and B) these guys really understand customer satisfaction. Very impressive.


Took my AirFrame on an…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/19/2005

Took my AirFrame on an across-the-USA trip this summer, where it handled major rivers like the Mississippi, Missouri, Rio Grande, etc. Quite satisfied. For the money, it's one heck of an engineering job. And for urban paddling, it lets you use a taxi as a shuttle--try that in a hardshell!

One bit of advice for those who have trouble with inflation: screw in the adapter first. Makes it a lot easier to line up the valve with the hole in the deck.

Surprised nobody else complained about leakage. Even with the spray skirt, I always ended the day with a wet butt. Not terrible during the summer, but might limit my affection for the boat in cold weather.


This is the first Kayak I've…

Submitted by: paddler231216 on 7/25/2005

This is the first Kayak I've owned. My vehicle and my landlord wouldn't allow a standard boat, so it was folding or inflatable and my budget said inflatable.

My biggest concern was that I'm too big for this boat, I'm 6'2" and 230 lbs. No problem. It's not roomy, but it is comfortable and feels very stable.

It handles well, it's easy to get to a reasonable speed and keep it there. Mine seems to want to track to the left, but that may be my deficient paddling technique, or maybe I need to re-adjust the floor a bit (it may be crooked). It does seem to have a "speed limit" where I can paddle as hard as I want and not go much faster. I suppose that has as much to do with the length of the boat as anything else.

My only complaint is to the rocket scientists who designed the valves that inflate the floor, risers and combing. The valves require that you have either a foot pump or three hands. The floor is not a big deal, it's large enough so that you can over inflate a bit and close off the valve without losing too much air. The other four chambers are another problem. They are so small that by the time you've managed to twist the valve shut, the chamber has deflated. Inflating the main chambers and the floor takes me no more than 10 minutes. The combing and risers take another ten and I usually give up out of frustration! What were you guys thinking?

Over all, I'm very happy with this kayak. The best part is that I can fit it in the back of my car and take it anywhere. It takes 20 minutes to set up (less if I remember to bring the battery pump - my solution to the poorly designed minor valves) and 15 to break down.


You get what you pay for, but…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/18/2005

You get what you pay for, but that's not at all bad in this case. First off, this is a recreational kayak. Don't expect a lot of speed or great tracking. I noticed some weathercocking, but nothing too bad. Tracking is very zig-zaggy if you're really trying to put some power into your strokes, but under moderate strength paddling you can keep a straight line pretty easily. Still, it's a lot of fun on calm waters. At 6' and 200 pounds, it's a tight fit for me, but not uncomforable. All in all, I'm very happy with this product.


Quick update to my original…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/15/2005

Quick update to my original review. I've had the opportunity to do spend some additional time with the boat and I continue to believe it is a tremendous value and solid boat. I was out today on Lake Washington with a fresh breeze blowing and a few white caps breaking. The boat handled very well, easy to keep on course and even did just fine with a following sea. The boat is a very dry ride and does a nice job of handling the swells.

Having said all that I have decided that I'm hooked on kayaking and wanted a different boat. I've ordered a new Feathercraft Wisper which I demoed earlier this week and will review after I get the boat. There were three primary reasons for the change:

1. Comfort - While the Airframe is fine for a short period of time it just doesn't work for me for a 3 or 4 hour paddle. My feet get uncomfortable trying to change the leg position and hold it in place. I think you might be able to help this problem by putting some sort of a stuffed dry bag in the bow to give you something to brace against but I haven't tried that yet. In addition I personally end up leaning back in the kayak, again this may be my fault because I need to tension the seat more but I find it difficult to be in a upright or slightly forward position.

2. Glide- Well this one is tough and I don't think it is the fault of the Airframe I think it's just one of the characteristics of an inflatable boat. It isn't all that fast and there just isn't much glide to the boat, again not a problem for short outings but I now believe I'll be doing full day trips in the not to distant future so my needs have changed.

3. Responsiveness - A hard quality to quantify but since I've been testing other boats I've come to find that I like being able to edge a boat to assist in a turn. You can do a slight edge with the Airframe but it's hard to hold. This is both a good and bad thing, today with wind and white caps there was no sense at all that the boat was going to lean so it was very secure feeling which is nice.

Bottom line is I'm not getting rid of my Airframe but will keep both boats. I continue to believe in the positive characteristics I described earlier but wanted to make sure potential purchasers also had some additional data to include when they consider the purchase of this boat.


Like most here I did my…

Submitted by: paddler231174 on 6/30/2005

Like most here I did my research, I have another boat hard shell. I find it takes about same amount of time getting the Advanced Frame out of the bag and inflated. I have the foot pump from Advanced Elements, it takes about 5-7 minutes to inflate.

Removing the hard shell from the roof racks, carrying or dragging the boat to the water is more of a problem for me.

My first trip on Upper Lake Marry just out side of Flagstaff AZ was an overnight. All went well, I found out after getting on the water the boat was sluggish and un-responsive. I came to the realization the Advanced Frame was not properly inflated. After reaching a suitable camp I deflated the boat and read the instructions.

I just looked at the picture, and took it from there. After properly inflating the kayak it paddled like a dream. Speed and handling improved. I read several articles where people have made plywood floors. I do not believe this to be necessary when properly inflating the kayak.

On my second trip to another lake in the area, after properly inflating the kayak, I was able to cruse the lake with no problem, speed was consistent with the other kayaks on the lake. The Advanced Frame is extremely stable, turns very well and paddles with little effort.

My next trip was to Black Canyon, below the Hover Dam on the Colorado River. This boat performed extremely well. I paddled up River wind and current were not any problem. I find plenty of room for packing gear into the boat for an overnight trip. Trips lasting more than a few days might be a problem. I have added Wildwasser Deck Pilot low profile deck bag. To store readily used items.

The Advanced Elements 4 piece paddle is not that great in my opinion. I prefer an Asymmetrical feathered paddle, I find Harmony Sea Passage Paddle - Glass Nylon Blade/Aluminum Shaft a better choice, it’s a 2 piece. I plan to keep the Advanced Elements 4 piece as an extra when on trips.

Proper inflation is the key! The foot pump works just fine, I have found that each time I go out It just gets better.

I modified my ground pad (Blue Foam from Wal-Mart) by cutting to fit the shape of the floor. It allows for storage with not taking any extra room. It also keeps my dog’s toe nails from making holes in the inflatable floor. Thus making very nice sleeping pad on those overnights, I use together with the inflatable floor.

Drying and putting away is meticulous process, sitting on the folded boat (valves open) make getting back into the bag much easier. It allows room then for the life jackets me & dog, foot pump and bilge pump.

In all I like this boat more every time I use it!


I concur with what has been…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 6/20/2005

I concur with what has been said already. Especially like the stability. Speed is not bad for a little boat. But I made mine faster by attaching ribs to the bottom of the inflatable floor.First, went out and purchased a duffle bag which is 3x larger than one that came with boat. (Manufacturers take note: you will have more happy costumers if you simply provide a bag the boat can fit back into!!!)

I used 1/2" PVC pipe (schedule 40). A rib is in two parts: One 4' section and a shorter section to complete length of floor. Cap one end of 4' rib and glue adapter to the other end. Attach this piece (4' section) to bottom of the floor. I attached mine with straps made from inflatable repair kit. The shorter piece gets caped at one end then inserts into adapter. The shorter piece does not get attached to floor -- so floor can fold and fit in large duffle bag. Attach two more ribs the same way. I found that my 3 ribs bulge out a bit of the bottom of the boat. But they act as a sort of keel.

The only down side of the boat for me is taking it all apart to dry out after using. So 9 out of 10.


I spent quite a bit of time…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 6/15/2005

I spent quite a bit of time doing research much like the other posters indicated and finally settled on the AirFrame. The summary is that I think this is a real deal for a beginner who thinks they may have an interest in kayaking. I also believe this would make an awesome quick use kayak even for someone with more experience. I paid $359 at REI and find this to be an exceptional value for the quality of the product.

Here are the details for those who might be interested:

Uses: I'm brand new to Kayaking and this is my first boat. I specifically wanted something that was VERY easy to transport and setup because I plan on using this at lunch twice a week as part of my summer fitness workouts. I have two small lakes and one medium size lake within five mins of my office so I wanted to be able to pop over, get the boat in the water, paddle for an hour and get back to work. I do also plan on using the kayak on protected inlets and bays on the WA coast.

Pros: Thanks to those who added earlier reviews I purchased a Sevylor River Boat Pump model number RB2500 when I bought the kayak and think this makes a very big difference. I find it very easy to inflate the different chambers and in the first two uses the boat is out of the car and ready for the water within 5 to 7 mins. The kayak is very stable, I felt comfortable in my first demo paddle on Lake Union even in some light wind and chop. I also like the ability to unzip the front deck and allow a bit more air into the boat. I purchased a Baja deck bag which made carrying all of my items like wallet, cell phone, camera, water bottles, etc. very easy and convenient. The seat is very comfortable for me and I like being able to change my leg positions from straight out in front of me to braced at the knee on the two sides of the cockpit. The is enough room in the cockpit that I'm comfortable and it's easy to get in but not so much that I find it uncomfortable to rest my arms on the sides now and then (I'm 5'10" and about 185lbs). The boat certainly seems to track well enough but again I've only had it out on protected waters three times. If anyone is interested let me know and I'll provide an update as I explore more bodies of water over the next month. I mentioned this earlier but the quality of the materials and the construction of the kayak seem very high to me. It will be interesting to see how it holds up but for now I'd say Advanced Elements is to be commended for their attention to detail and a quality product.

Not so hots: Well I don't think you can do a whole lot about this but even to me the boat is a bit slow, not so bad that I wouldn't take it out on a day long exploring trip but I doubt I'd be a hit with a group if everyone else had hardshells. There are D rings at both the bow and stern that I think could have been used to include a full deck line but I'd guess this will be easy to add.

Hope this helps and have fun paddling!


I researched everything I…

Submitted by: candyman on 4/18/2005

I researched everything I could find on which boat to purchase, after sometime contemplating hard shell vs. inflatable, I found myself purchasing 2 Advanced Frames a month ago, and had the opportunity to paddle yesterday, and I will say it takes some work the first time, I managed to break every cord (on the Military Valves), Also it seems difficult to get it to the right pressure, we took off (my fiancé and I) yesterday out on Lake Waconia (Minnesota) and after the painful set up we were off, we paddled for a few hours, in some windy (20mph) cold water, it handles awesome for a inflatable, I think I am very satisfied so far anyways and it is just as stiff as the hard-shell I rode in the past. My review is 8, the boat is great, and I think the set up is a pain in the ass, but it is well worth it for the ride.


This is an excellent boat and…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 3/22/2005

This is an excellent boat and a great value for only $360. I have had it out on the Chesapeake Bay a number of times now, and I think that the tracking and the speed is great for an inflatable. The materials are all top notch and the overall styling is way more attractive than any other inflatable I have ever seen.

With the adaptor that came up with the boat, I have had no problems making the military valves perform, ONCE I figured out how they work. Unfortunately, the instructions that come with the boat are inadequate. The military valve has a plunger in the middle. The instructions say to push in the plunger and turn it in order to close and open the valve. So, at first, I would push it in all the way, turn the plunger, and I couldn't get the valve to close. What I eventually discovered is that it only works if you push in the plunger only about a third of the way and then turn. Once you figure it out, it works fine. But I never understand why companies skimp on instructions; I am sure some of these boats are returned because somebody can't figure out how to work the valve.

That's about my only complaint though. The only other thing I don't agree with from the sales pitches is that there is lots of storage space. Storage space is a little limited but they probably can't do too much about that.


I bought my AE airframe in…

Submitted by: paddler230919 on 12/30/2004

I bought my AE airframe in September and have had it out a few times. I read a few hundred reviews over server several sites on the airframe and I wanted to address a few issues. First is inflating the chambers with the small twist valves, many reviews said it was next to impossible. I bought a foot pump with an adapter that fits over the valve and once the chamber is filled to desired level, continue to add air as you twist the valve closed. This will keep air from escaping as you twist the valve shut.

Another item was getting the boat dry after use. I get as much water/moisture off the boat as possible, deflate the air chambers and remove the floor. I use a sponge to gather any water that has accumulated between the floor and the side air chambers and then I rub a thirsty terrycloth towel around the entire boat and pack it up. I have not had any problems with mold/mildew or stink on the boat.

As far as the handling of the boat is concerned, it’s great for what it is (an inflatable). I have paddled hard kayaks and they are faster and track better. However the AE airframe is a bit more stable and the fact that you can pack it up is great for people who live in tight spaces (myself included). I have added some simple things for safety and function. First, I added a deck line around the boat in case I make a wet exit, it will be much easier to grab a hold of the boat and I added a line to tie the boat to the dock if needed. These two additions cost less than $5.00. I also added shock cord to the D-rings on the stern (back) of the boat. This allows me to secure a paddle float and a hand bilge pump readily accessible if I need to make a wet entry.

One of the negative things about the boat is the storage. AE advertised that this boat has a lot of storage. I disagree (I am comparing it to the storage on a hard shell). To remedy this problem, I invested in a deck bag and so far I am able to bring everything that I need. The only negative that I have not found a fix for as yet is coming back to shore; with a hard shell I was always able to slide up on the shore and with the airframe, It seems that I can't quite make it up on the shore. I bottom out a bit and have to step into the water and pull the boat upon to shore. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

This review was based on paddling in the bays of San Diego. I will write again as I experience new adventures in my airframe. All in all, a really good kayak.


I am completely new to…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 12/14/2004

I am completely new to kayaking and bought the AE Airframe because I don't have a car, folding canoes/kayaks are double the price and it looked like the best inflatable for the money. I'm in the UK and paid £295 ($560), so it's quite expensive over here anyway.

I initially set it up in my bedroom which I would strongly recommend as it makes the job far easier when you have to do it for real and while people watch you at least it looks like you know what you're doing!

As everyone else has said, the materials are good quality, the main valves take some getting used to - I pulled off the adaptor only to have the whole thing deflate a couple of times. the smaller valves are difficult if you're inflating it on your own - my pump doesn't fit these properly and I have to hold it while inflating and then try to turn them shut.

I took the boat out on the River Thames in London the first time and went upstream with the tide coming in (it's a tidal river). I was initially surprised how fast it went but that was mainly due to the tidal flow. Turning was easy but once I'd pointed the bow into the incoming tide I realised it wasn't going to be so easy to come back. I crossed the river and after 10 minutes or so bobbing around in the winter sun cut across the river at an angle back to my starting point.

All in all not a bad test run. the one thing I would say is that the bottom of the seat kept sliding forward on the floor leaving me in a reclined position so I will have to tie this back next time. Also being fairly short 5'6", I find I'm too low to get my shoulders into an energy-efficient paddling position.

I think I will be mainly using this boat to paddle downstream and then get the bus back home, or take a bus to an upstream starting point and then paddle home.

I initially found it hard to pack the boat back into the bag and found that I had to dismantle the whole thing to achieve this. This is a good idea anyway to make sure there's no water left inside. The other disadvantage of this boat is that once home you have to unpack it again to dry it all out, but I guess this would apply equally to a folding kayak.

The packed size is more like a suitcase than a duffel bag, and with paddles, pump, etc, carrying the thing any distance is hard work. For this reason I bought a small folding luggage trolley which I can strap to the deck when I'm paddling.

Looking forward to summer!


My wife and I purchased two…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 12/4/2004

My wife and I purchased two AirFrame kayaks this last summer. We paddle local lakes, slow rivers (i.e. Russian River), tidal sloughs, etc. Overall, the kayaks handle pretty well for their length, tracking is tolerable for an inflatable 10.5' kayak. Very little room. We carry mesh bags of ghost poo (styrofoam shipping pellets) to brace our feet.

Here's the downside- 1. The two main air valves can be a major pain to access, especially the one that must be accessed through the holes in the fabric on the top rear. This can make preparation a time consuming and frustrating affair. 2. You tend to get some water inside the kayak when you use it, so you can't deflate it and pack it away. You need to deflate it and dry it out for a day or longer before you can fold it up. 3. The plastic skegs never actually straighten. They get folded over when the kayak is stored and always remain crooked. That said the skegs probably still help tracking a great deal.

As far as the water experience, the kayaks do give you confidence, stable, and can be paddled for many miles without too much effort.


Next to impossible to inflate…

Submitted by: paddler230829 on 10/3/2004

Next to impossible to inflate properly due to lousy valves. Returned the Kayak to LL Bean and bought an AIRE Tomcat. For about the same amount of money this kayak is far superior.


I bought the AE kayak for the…

Submitted by: paddler230803 on 9/15/2004

I bought the AE kayak for the same reason as many others -- space. I live on Galveston Island on the Texas gulf coast in a small condo and was tired of seeing everyone else have fun in their kayaks. People think I am crazy when they hear that I primarily fish the flats in Galveston bay in my inflatable kayak. It took a lot of creative rigging to attach a small cooler, storage box, rod holder, etc. but it works well. I am always careful in casting, etc. But the kayak is so well built I am not that worried about a puncture. My complaints: The inner inflatable section has a tendency to get bunched up within the outer zippered compartment, leading to an area of decreased firmness and drag from wrinkles in the outer skin. The stern and bow frames can be slightly out of alignment and create tracking problems if you do not pay close attention during setup. The kayak is wider than comparable hard shells and this impacts speed. Finally, since the kayak is inflatable, I can't mount hardware to the kayak that requires screws, bolts, etc. This is really only an issue for fishing, though, and I can usually find a creative way around the problem. Overall, great kayak for those with space/portability issues, but I would recommend a hard shell kayak if you have space and the ability to transport.


I've used this kayak for…

Submitted by: paddler230798 on 9/13/2004

I've used this kayak for several short trips on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The ease of setup and convenience of carrying this kayak from place to place is hard to believe. I use a double action hand pump to inflate the kayak in less than three minutes. I found that the proper inflation of the kayak made it easy to paddle and track. I'm 6'3", 220lbs, so I'm pushing the envelope of the kayak, but I have no problem getting in or out and I've had little water enter the inside of the kayak. I've wanted a kayak for years, but I live in a condo, in town and at the ocean. So, space is an issue with me. This is a great solution, I highly recommend this product.


I bought this kayak two…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 9/10/2004

I bought this kayak two months ago and used it about 10 times. Reading from the reviews here, I thought of putting in a plywood floor. I called AE and they told me that the key is to make sure I have inflated the kayak with proper air pressure. You also need to make sure the floor is inflated firm. It takes a few times to learn how to inflate this correctly. Once it is properly inflated, it looks and feels like a real kayak. You can attach a spray skirt to the coaming. This is a very stable kayak and tracks fine on flat water.

In terms of speed, it is about the same as a hard shell with similar dimension. The set up is quick and simple. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to inflate and launch. One of my complaints is the twisted air valve, you need to hold on to your pump hose and the valve together while you pump with your other hand. Overall, I would say the quality of this kayak has exceeded my expectation. Few weeks ago, I went out on a recreational trip and other kayakers could not believe that I was using an inflatable kayak. After I did a demo on how to inflate and launch, they were so convinced that this kayak is better than a hard shell and they were ready to buy their own AE kayak. If you are recreational kayakers and looking for your first boat, you should seriously consider this AE kayak.


Just got back from my 2nd…

Submitted by: paddler230681 on 8/13/2004

Just got back from my 2nd paddle. It's a very good inflatable kayak, not perfect but very good. The weak points, if you can call them that, are the so-called military inflation valves #1 and #2 for the 2 main air chambers. They take a bit of TLC to work properly but once you get the hang of it, all goes well. The boat tracks like an inflatable, wobbles just a bit, but nothing excessive. I especially like the stability and the ease of getting in and out of it. The inflatable floor gives you plenty of support even for a 6' 1" 195 pounder like myself. I wouldn't think of putting a plywood floor in which seems to have been done on earlier versions. This one is plenty stiff. I paddled in a moderate chop on a large salt water inlet and felt very comfortable both going out and coming in. It can't be compared to a hard shell touring kayak as far as speed is concerned but it does get up to its own speed in fairly short order and doesn't require a lot of effort to keep moving at a reasonable pace. I like the light weight, the speed of inflation (under 10 minutes the 2nd time!) and the compact size when it's all stowed in its duffel bag. The workmanship and materials used are first class. Most importantly, when properly inflated it looks like a kayak! At REI's price of $339.95, I'd call it a best buy. I have a friend who's a condo dweller who has limited storage space. I'm going to start working on him to get him to buy one too!


I bought this kayak based on…

Submitted by: paddler230720 on 8/2/2004

I bought this kayak based on the reviews here and the fact that it is inflatable, making transporting it easier. There was a review that rated this kayak a four out of ten that has since been removed. The problem this person had was in dealing with the inflation of the Kayak. I have solved this problem and I thought I'd share how.

I had originally found this kayak very difficult to inflate unless you use a pump that can handle the military-style valves. I couldn't get a decent shape out of it until I picked up a Sevylor River Boat Pump model number RB2500 to help get this boat to the correct turgidity. With the Sevylor, this kayak is ready to float in literally less than 5 minutes. You don't risk overinflation nearly as much because the Sevylor was built for this kind of thing.

I haven't used it a lot, but so far it's a pretty amazing kayak considering it is an inflatable that packs up small enough to fit into something little larger than an overnight bag and weighs 35 lbs yet looks and behaves like a real kayak, not like other inflatables.


I got my Airframe in May…

Submitted by: paddler230696 on 7/20/2004

I got my Airframe in May 2003, and have used it successfully on flat water and class I-II rivers. However, I wouldn't recommend it for anything over a class II due to the lack of scuppers which allow self-bailing. With water coming over the sides or the bow, even with the spray skirt on, it soon fills with water and resembles a submarine. Other than that, it's user friendly, extremely stable and safe, and light enough to toss into any car without needing a rack. It tracks well on flat water, but this is a disadvantage on rivers where quick pivoting turns are required. This is a great little boat for all-around, beginner level activity of all kinds.


Love it. I'm no spring…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/7/2004

Love it. I'm no spring chicken, have arthritis, back problems, blah blah blah, and I can pick it up, set it up, get in and out of it on docks, and so on. Used to have an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro, this is much more comfortable. I have to get thru a busy harbor - in a sit on top, if you turn your head to look behind you, you fall out, not a problem in this. Go get one.


I am a novice paddler…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/1/2004

I am a novice paddler (female--5'3") who was looking for a kayak (my first) that I could easily transport from place to place by myself and not have to worry about storage, which is a consideration at this time. I decided on the Airframe after seeing it at a paddle show. I've only had it a month but have been out on the water about 3-4 times, and I LOVE it! I keep it in my trunk all the time, and I am already able to inflate it in under 10 minutes and it packs back up in less than that. It tracks nicely (even in wind) and is so much more comfortable than a hard-shell, and the quality of the materials is superb. I would highly recommend the Airframe to anyone, especially if storage and protability are factors.


I purchased 2 of these a few…

Submitted by: paddler230660 on 6/30/2004

I purchased 2 of these a few months ago for my wife and I. We have taken them out about 15 times so far and very impressed with quality and ease of use. These boats are quick, track straight, and turn very easily. Another great thing is they were designed to look and feel like a hardshell kayak. Most inflatyables look like cheesey pontoon boats. These look like real kayaks and for the most part perform like them. Now, a hardshell is going to track better and go faster....but not much. The best thing is the portability...I put two of them in the trunk of my car! These are a good purchase. Highly recommended. They are also a good starter boat if you are new to the sport / activity...and want to later upgrade to a hardshell boat and keep these for friends or visitors.


Good Build quality. A…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 5/3/2004

Good Build quality. A significant improvement over the Stearns IK116. Tracks better than the Stearns. Still wobbles a bit with each stroke but about half of that with the stearns. Spray Skirt works well. I built a plywood floor and it improves the performance a considerable amount.


I've owned this boat Since…

Submitted by: paddler229581 on 3/22/2004

I've owned this boat Since summer of 2002. I purchaced two boats for Paddling in the local area. They were great for bay paddling in the Newport Bay (CA). Learned quickly that you have to inflate them untill you can not put any more air into them for best performance. Moved to Northern California they have now seen some class II white water with little trouble with the exception that we do not have spray skirts and they are not self bailing. Since I have the Older Model there seems to be no spay skirt option as I write this my living room has a Kayak inflated and a sewing maching setup to make some skirts. We love these boats and are always asked what they are and where they are from .I'm going to experiment with some thin rigid foam to replace the floor for a lower center of gravity and for increased tracking yet still keep the brake down into a bag ability. I'd love to try the plywood floor ideas yet I think that loses the greatest ability which is the compact stored size. Great boats have held up comming up on the third summeer with a little fading but no real problems had to seal a leak in the combing tube but thats all the maintence thats been done. We always dry the boats then store them .. Great product only kinda wished I had waited for the updated boats.


Super inflatable. Like the…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 9/8/2003

Super inflatable. Like the design. Very durable. The enclosed deck is great. Have had it out 20 times this year..lakes, class I and II rivers and estuaries. Packs up small and inflates in five minutes. Make sure you inflate it real firm for the best performance.


I purchased the boat from REI…

Submitted by: paddler230351 on 9/3/2003

I purchased the boat from REI several weeks ago and at first thought that I might return it. HOWEVER, after speaking with the designer of the boat and making some VERY minor adjustments (seat, floor positions, gear), I grow more satisfied with the boat each trip. From the valves to the internal air frame to the outer skin to the inflatable cockpit coaming the quality and attention to detail is impressive. I had early problems with tracking and its tendency to spin into the wind whenever I stopped paddling. I am 5'10" 260 lbs and so the boat loads heavy to the stern. By shifting the floor back about 8" to 10" and loading a little gear and water forward, the boat did much better. When I further shifted the seat (very comfortable) forward 2" to 4", the boat did very well in large boat wakes 2' to 3', small chop 1' and quartering winds 10 to 15 mph on San Diego Bay. As an added touch, my ultralight fabric spray skirt intended for my Sealion Eclipse touring kayak, fit nicely over the cockpit coaming. For the money spent, I don't think I could have dreamed of getting more boat for the buck. BTW The AirFrame also has a killer bag for its inflatable kayak. You won't need to buy another bag for it. Thank you Advanced Elements, you do nice work.

My experieince with this boat…

Submitted by: paddler230344 on 8/28/2003

My experieince with this boat probably falls in line with what the others have said on this page. For a relatively inexpensive inflatable, this boat provides good value and noticeably improved performance for flatwater touring. What this boat is not, is a perfomance boat for either touring or whitewater. For someone looking for performance and portability, you will still need to go with something like a Feathercraft for touring, or an Aire for whitewater. The disadvantage with these, is of course the price.

I did a twist on the plywood floor thing as follows. Instead of the 3/8", I had a scrap of 1/4" handy and decided to experiment. I cut the plywood several inches larger than the floor. I then drilled a series of 8 holes along each side, rounded the edges with a sanding block, and finished it with varnish. I used the holes to thread nylon cord through. I then flexed the plywood, and tightened the cord to hold the sheet into a partial tube shape. I could then slip the inflatable floor underneath the cords, and inflate it. This design has the advantage of stiffening the sheet front to back, as well as providing a more rounded hull.

The jump in performance was noticeable. With the provided floor it took me some effort to maintain 3 mph as measured with my gps. With my modified floor I could average more like 3.5 mph in calm conditions and go over 4 mph leaning into the paddle a bit. I also noticed a difference in handling. Most noticeable was a slight decrease in initial stability vs an increase in final stability. Additionally, with the more rounded hull, I found that I could do modest edge and leaned turns, which the stock boat largely seems to resist.

My paddling experience so far has been on lakes, ranging from dead calm to 15-20 knot winds and 2-3' seas. The boat is plenty stable, but does show moderate weathercocking in following seas. With the floor modification, I found I could edge into the seas and generally maintain a fairly straight course in most conditions. I have found that I could do shorter trips with paddlers in hardshells and not feel like I was holding them up, but I did feel like I was working a bit harder, especially upwind. I also noticed that water tends to come in through the deck zipper if you have much water washing onto the deck.

I found the overall design to be quite clever and the setup to be straightforward. For inflation I got a Doublequick airmatress pump at REI for under 10 bucks that seems to work just fine. The skeg was a bit bent when I got the boat which gave me a slight tendency to veer right, but the skeg did seem to straighten out over time.

All in all I would congragulate the manufacturers on a successfull design and good value. The main way the boat could be improved in my opinion is with a stiffer and more hydrodynamic floor design. Perhaps the manufacturer could come up with a "performance kit" consisting of snap together plastic floor panels or such.

After a dozen days or so with the plywood floor I found that it corkscrewed slightly from end to end. I have since unlaced the plywood, left the board on the floor with several heavy pots on it to flatten it out, and then re-laced and bent the board from the opposite side. So far it seems to be holding. For someone who wants to give this floor technique a try, I would reccomend cutting the floor long enough to tuck under the inflateable tube just enough at the front and back to give the bottom a totally flat profile. I would also remove the floor after every use and store it in a way to keep it from warping. I would imagine that much could be done by adding ribs or stiffeners, or even designing a stich and glue style floor. I am keeping an eye out for an alternate material such as a sheet of lightweight plastic or fiberglass that could provide enough longitudinal stiffness when rolled into a semi-tube. If anybody out there comes up with some good ideas let us know.


I purchased the Airframe…

Submitted by: krwahl63 on 8/25/2003

I purchased the Airframe kayak two weeks ago and have now taken it on four distinct and very different trips. All of these trips have been in Rhode Island, which has proven a fantastic testing ground for this little kayak.

The boat itself has some key design elements that attract the mariner’s eye. She has a pretty sheer line, plenty of flare in the bow, and a form of tumblehome amidships. This has proven to answer well on the second and third trips taken on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound.

In these trips, I encountered the wash of a high-speed ferry on sea trials after a breakdown, several Novi style lobster boats/ fishing draggers (who generate a huge displacement wake), and a variety of other smaller boat moving at high speed. In taking the Airframe in all states of wind and sea (head sea, beam sea, following sea), I found the flare to split open the waves, the tumblehome to deflect the waves, and the stern shape makes for a fun ride in a following sea. Confused mid afternoon wind against tide chop was no challenge at all. I was amazed at how dry this boat was in all of this.

Moreover, a couple of regular yard hands in Wickford (who would not normally even look at a kayak) stopped to ask questions about the Airframe and described her as “cool” (high praise from these guys). Coming up the Narrow River from Rhode Island Sound, one gent in a gorgeous wooden CLC kayak eyed the Airframe up and down and gave an appreciative smile and said she looked good.

I will admit to grousing a bit when first trying to line up "valve number one", but I managed to get over that. Also, a nice thirsty towel is needed under your legs when wearing shorts... it gets mighty warm on the backs of the legs under the deck.


Manufactuers Response: The…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/11/2003

Manufactuers Response: The Airframe kayak is designed so that when inflated completely (with foot or hand pump) there is no need for additional stiffener such as a wood floor. The air chambers should be firm, and when the kayak is lifted at one end it should not bend in the middle.

We value every bit of feedback we receive from customers and product testers. We are continually improving all of our products based on that feedback. The 2003 model Airframe has several improvements since the original was introduced. It is our goal to make your paddling experience simple, enjoyable, and affordable! Thanks for your support!


Since I've gotten many…

Submitted by: paddler229845 on 7/3/2003

Since I've gotten many responses requesting details of the plywood floorboard. I'll post the details here.

I used a 2'x8' 3/8" thick plywood ACX panel. First I layed it over the bottom of the inflated boat and approximately traced the out line. (use the center line of the tubes) I used a circular saw at an angle to cut a bevel which I later radiused with a belt sander. The resulting shape was somewhat like a elongated diamond. I then sealed the floorboard with 3 or 4 coats of marine spar varnish. To use it, I put the board in the bottom of boat before inflation. Try to center it as close as possible. I begin inflating the donut tubes and slide the bow and stern sheets while partially inflated. The sheets should extend below the floorboard on either side. Center the inflatable floor on top, then inflate the tubes the rest of the way. Once inflated, the floorboard is wedged in place and will not move. I then inflate the floor(sits on top of the floorboard). The inflatable floor makes for a more comfortable seat than bare plywood.


Bought the Airframe a few…

Submitted by: putzb on 6/21/2003

Bought the Airframe a few months ago at REI, but didn't have much chance to get it out on the lake in NY before going to Maine last month. Spent three weeks doing morning trips (about four miles) before breakfast on Eggemoggin reach with the Baidarka, Cedar Strip and Wee Lassie guys at the Wooden Boat School. The Airframe (with a 21x38 piece of ply for stiffening) performed admirably - it did take a few trips to figure out how much air was needed for the 'real' ripe grapefruit feel on the tubes. Previous years I had used a cheap inflatable, and my friends either were far ahead or hardly paddling. While I would never claim to have been able to keep up with the Baidarka, we were all very impressed with the quality of the materials and the paddling ease. Glad there is an affordable inflatable that lets the girl paddle with the boys...


We are retiring and will be…

Submitted by: paddler230100 on 4/28/2003

We are retiring and will be traveling in a van or tiny LeSharo RV. We want to be able to get on the water. We have and like WS Altos but do not like carrying the boats on the roof. We tried a 24 foot bus last winter with the Altos hanging from the ceiling and a Suzuki in the back. We need to go smaller. Folding or inflatable kayaks can ride inside the van. So yesterday we bought two AirFrames. They are a bargain at $360 and even better with the 20% off sale at EMS. Two boats out the door for $610. No paddles or pump though.

We are very impressed with the ruggedness of these boats. The outer shell is very tough, top and bottom. The air tubes are all inside of heavy canvas shells. Between the water and the air is THREE layers. The outer shell, the cnavas tube covering and then the PVC air tubes. It would take a very serious collision to cause a puncture. The two main air tubes have good valves.

Attention to detail is the best I have seen on anything short of a Lexus, The designers of this boat get an A++ for materials, concepts and effort.

Then we paddled. I started out in a 20 MPH head wind. Good workout. Then we got into a Class 0 river, upstream. We had to give up sooner than ever before. We turned around. Back in the lake with a tail wind, my wife now paddling we agreed that these are not the boats we wanted. It tracked well. They are extremely comfortable. Terrific quality. But they are somewhat sluggish. I would compare them with under ten foot recreational kayaks, like an Otter. For some people I would highly recommend these boats. But we will return ours tomorrow. I am leaning toward roof racks for our WS Altos. I felt that the AirFrame would permit only about half of the paddles that we would do in our Altos. The AirFrames on the other hand would be much better for down river runs. We do many up and then back down stream Class 1/2 rivers so we don't need to car ferry.

Incidentally the AirtFrame is always described as 29 or 30 pounds. In the bag ours weigh 41 pounds. Not that light, not for backpacking and unwieldy for plane or bus travel.



Submitted by: johnmckenzie on 4/9/2003

FIRST TRIP REPORT -- PLEASANT SURPRISE: When I purchased the AirFrame I felt sure that I would end up trying it once and returning it to the store. I did not believe that it could live up to its advertising. I was pleasantly surpised and am happy to say that it passed on all accounts. I was lucky to have unfavorably windy conditions fot the test voyage. I put in at Jack London Square on the Oakland estuary of the San Francisco bay. It tracked and turned very well as I paddled away around the docks. After a bit I headed in the brisk winds and choppy seas in the center of the passage. I was very comfortable with the boat in all orientations to the waves. The nice balance of rigid flexiblility made the boat much more stable in waves than a hardboat of the same length. It shares that feature with the ancient skin boats. I took even less water when I purposely paddled broadside to the wave than I would in my hard boat. I came home an ordered the custom spray skirt like to keep dry for convienence. I look forward to having the boat ready and available in my trunck at all times. Even though I found one small problem with the front aluminium/plastic insert, I was impressed with quality of the boat. The company responded immediataly to the problem with a replacement part. They were friendly and helpful when I called. They seemed very concerned to stay on top of any issues with the boat. They made sure to arrange to pick up the defective part so that they could study and prevent future problems. I am happy to see a company sell a quality product at a great price and truthfull marketing. I will add updates as I have more experience with the boat.


Yesterday I took my new…

Submitted by: paddler230088 on 4/9/2003

Yesterday I took my new inflatable out to the Lafayette (CA) Reservoir for my first test ride. I have never been in a kayak, and only a few times in a canoe, so I was fortunate to have absolutely calm waters as I slipped into the water. I was somewhat nervous, given that I had previously read some of the reviews on this page. I found the experience completely satisfying. Very easy to set up (after two practice sessions prior to going to the reservoir). Easy to paddle and maneuver. And a joy just to sit and relax. (I particularly appreciate the front zipper, which allowed me to put my legs up on the deck and lounge.) Later in the afternoon a wind picked and gave me a chance to experience a little resistance. No problem paddling against the wind, or perpendicular to it.I am glad that I heard of the boat and had a chance to purchase it. A great boat for a beginner.


I purchased the Airframe last…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 12/30/2002

I purchased the Airframe last week. After a test run at Elm Fork I found it wasn't what I had hoped for. I'm a larger paddler and thought I would do fine with the 300 lb capacity it touts. Once I hit the water with it though the front end was sticking far out of the water and the tracking was underwhelming. I'm sure the homemade floor does improve the performance, but that defeats the purpose of being able to stuff it in a duffle bag and throw it in the trunk. Especially when you can get a perception swifty hardshell for about the same price, it didnt seem worth the money. Setup was easy, but there are several layers that can potentially get wet if water comes on board, which means completely dismantling it and drying off all the layers so it doesnt mildew during extended storage times, and then reassembling it (aside from pumping it up) so it will fold nicely into the bag. The time it took me to do all this I watched a hardshell kayaker float down the river, wipe down his kayak, load it and leave before I got mine in the bag. Also the cockpit barely left room for my legs , which compete for space with the main air chambers. My legs were pinned together, and I couldnt have sponged out any water from the kayak if my life depended on it. It is however made of rugged materials, and may fair well with a smaller paddler. Luckily REI refunded my money with a smile.


Just purchased the Airframe,…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/21/2002

Just purchased the Airframe, am enjoying it much. Takes about 5 minutes to set up, 10 minutes to take down (sponging it off before packing it up). I also have made a plywood floor for it and have noticed an improvement in performance.


After writing the review…

Submitted by: paddler229959 on 10/7/2002

After writing the review below I had a few questions. I emailed them to Advanced Elements and they answered them promptly. Below is a copy of our correspondence which answers some questions.

Thanks for your email and positive review on!

Yes, overnight paddling is great with the AirFrame. You should utilize the storage space behind the seat first. Pack it full so it lifts the back deck to shed water better. There are 4 D-rings on the back deck that can be used for lashing down gear. Try to keep the cargo as low as possible to reduce the effect of cross winds. The same can be done with the front deck. Balance the weight as best you can. You should always keep any emergency items (strobe, knife, spare paddle, etc.) within reach. You will find that with a little more weight in the kayak it will paddle even better.

As for drying out the AirFrame, you might try the following...

1. Unzip the 2 zippers that run down the center of the kayak.
2. Remove the gray fabric tube and cover, along with the inflatable floor, separating it from the outer cover.
3. Use a sponge or towel and wipe up any excess water in the outer cover.
4. Wipe off the floor (top and bottom)
5. If there is sand or gravel in the kayak, you can hose out the cover, and then wipe it down with a towel.
6. Most of the time you can just pull out the inflatable floor and wipe out the inside of the kayak absorbing most of the water, then pack it up.

I hope this helps. We thank you for your support of our products, and please let us know if we can help you with anything.


I took this kayak out on the…

Submitted by: paddler229953 on 10/3/2002

I took this kayak out on the Columbia River and had no problems. It is made of very good quality materials and multi-layered construction. It seems near impossible to sink under any kind of condition it was designed to handle. It would be very hard to break through all the layers of protection to deprive the chambers of air.

Having only taken it out once (and only having used Kleppers before), I would say its disadvantages are:

1. The chief disadvantage as far as I can tell is the fact that it has so many layers that it's hard to dry out.
2. It also seemed very hard to row upstream against the Columbia (I haven't tried it with the plywood bottom).
3. Took me awhile to get it set up the first time. It was difficult to tell exactly how much air was enough (or too little) in the chambers. Hopefully that will be easier next time with a better pump!

Excellent quality for the price!


The best thing about this…

Submitted by: paddler229882 on 8/15/2002

The best thing about this kayak is that it allows me to go from a motorcycle (BMW R100 GS/PD) to a kayak in less then ten minutes. The boat is transported easily, stores away in to a small closet, yet delivers solid performance on the water. My wife loves that it doesn't take up a lot of space since we live in a loft with limited storage room. It does lack a bit in it's tracking and gliding against the wind. Steve's advice about a home made floor piece radically improves this shortcoming, though I can't bring the floorboard on the motorcycle. It is very well made, easy to set up, and is good looking in the water. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from other kayakers on it's cool looks. It is a much better inflatable than the others I have tried and less expensive too. I would have gladly paid more just for the quality of the materials used and the solid design. If you are looking for a kayak that is well made, easy to set up, and won't take up a large part of your garage, this is it. No roof rack necessary! And no, I don't work for this company, I am just a fan of their product.


I purchased this boat from…

Submitted by: paddler229845 on 7/30/2002

I purchased this boat from REI a few weeks ago and I'm fairly impressed with its performance. Setup was rather easy, I can get the boat ready in the water in about 5 minutes. After a few times it became second nature. My only gripe is trying to center the inflatable floor under the tubes.

It looks like a hardshell kayak: I has D-rings on the bow and stern spray decks, and an inflatable coming, and will have a spray skirt avaliable next month. The aluminum stays and polyethylene sheets inserted into the bow and stern help the boat cut through the water. Performance was better than most inflatables. It tracked fairly straight, although the boat wiggled 5-10 degrees with each paddle stroke. There are small molded skegs under the bow and stern which helped the tracking. The boat turned easily without leaning. Cruising speed was where I was disappointed. I could not keep up with a sit-on-top and each paddle stroke felt like accelerating the boat. There was no perceptable glide and don't even think about paddling against the wind. Fortunately I found a fix: I made a plywood floorboard out of a 2x8 sheet of plywood. It made a night and day difference in the performance. Keeping up with hardshell yaks was not a problem, paddling no longer felt like a workout and the boat actually glided for more than a second before coming to a stop. Paddling into the wind was much easier. The wood floor also sat the paddler up higher and the boat felt tippier until you had the tubes half submerged.

Bottom line is that this is the best inflatable yak you can get for this price. It beats the Stearns(which cost more) hands down. I let someone who had the Stearns IK115 demo the Airframe and he was amazed at how much better the Airframe was. If you do use it on flatwater, a strongly suggest you make (not avaliable commercially) a plywood floorboard for it. It will double its performance (at least that's how it feels). I hope to try some class 2 rivers with it as soon as the spray skits are avaliable. Since I bought 2(one for my girlfriend), I'll be working on making a sailing cat frame for it.


The Bottom Line: This is a…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 5/30/2002

The Bottom Line: This is a well priced, high quality inflatable kayak that performs excellently on the water. Make sure you check it out.

Wondering about tracking? The key design feature for this boat is that the bow & stern are rigid, to provide for tracking that "rivals that of a hardshell". I paddled on a lake in mild and moderate wind conditions and was very impressed with how well it tracks. The kayak design really delivers here, in an area that is a major concern for inflatables.

Wondering about the quality you get for such an affordable price? Well, the materials are very rugged and the boat looks very classy. Special features like a spring loaded deck, inflatable splash ring, and layered protection for the air chambers lets you know that this craft was designed by someone who loves inflatables and loves to paddle.

Wondering about other stuff? Extras include a carrying case, repair kit, and toll free customer support.

All in all, a very nice inflatable kayak. I had been researching for about a year to find the "best" overall craft for me and I believe this is it.

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