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Due to storage restraints and portability I am looking at inflatable kayaks. Is there an inflatable that has the charictaristics of a hardshell? I am considering the Sea Eagle 385 fasttrack. Does anyone here paddle this kayak? Going to be paddling the Chesapeake Bay and it's tributaries.


  • AIRE
    is a very respected raft and whitewater IK company; they also have a couple of IKs that are more open water oriented. At the link, see under the speciality series and the touring kayak series for some possibilities. I have not paddled these non-whitewater inflatables, but like I said, the company has a great rep. Others will chime in maybe even with foldable (vs. inflatable) boat suggestions.

  • inflatables
    An Aire boat will outlast a Sea Eagle by 4-10 times.
  • inflatables
    An Aire boat will outlast a Sea Eagle by 4-10 times.
  • Options
    Sea Eagle 385
    Sea Eagle boats tend to have a reputation of not lasting very long, but the 385 is towards the top of their product line - it may be better than others. Probably the best thing about SE's is the light weight for transportation (the 385 is about 35 lbs).
    I'm not going to be an advertiser here, but I tend to like Advanced Elements kayaks. The worst thing about being on the market for an inflatable is the rare chances of being able to test them first. If you haven't already checked out airkayaks.com, they have a wide range of inflatables.
  • Curious why you most of the time
    double post.
  • sea eagle
    Thanks all, I looked at the aire sea tiger...a little pricy. I do know Sea Eagle has a 180 day money back guarantee. Will check out advanced elements.
  • inflatables vs. hardshells
    -- Last Updated: Apr-22-13 10:32 AM EST --

    There is no low cost inflatable that I know of that will have the characteristics of a hard shell touring kayak. Inflatables are by nature slower, more apt to catch wind and not great at tracking. They also tend to be wider than hardshell tourers which makes them more bargelike. And many cannot be fitted with a sprayskirt and have little storage space. You would need to spend thousands to achieve close to hard shell performance in an infatable, I'm afraid, with something like a Feathercraft Java.

    Some mid range inflatable hybrids or skin on frame folding boats (which have partial or full frames combined with inflatable sponsons) will give you close to hardshell performance. These would be the higher end Advanced Elements and the Pakboat Puffin series, all under $1,000. Though framed boats take a little longer to set up than pure inflatables, they are just as light and compact and have better performance. Pakboat is bringing in some new models this year and discontinuing others so many of their styles are on sale right now. You might want to check them out (as well as the Advanced Element models). We have two Pakboats and they are very nice kayaks -- light (they pack down to a duffel bag), easy to set up and they paddle pretty comparably to similar sized hardshells.

    Another new product on the market for people with storage hassles is the Orukayak, a foldable boat made of rigid panels (the name derives from "origami", the Japanese paper folding art). There have been some discussions here about it -- the design is new and they have just started production and shipments so there have been few field reports on it, but they are so far being sold for under $1,000, in the same range as the mid-price inflatables and Pakboat and Advanced Elements hybrids.

    There is a site for folding kayaks (which includes inflatables) where you might get more feedback on the specific model you are looking at.


    I would be cautious about taking a low end inflatable out in the Chesapeake. You will be dealing with strong currents, tides, waves, wind and large vessels. It can be extremely difficult to control an inflatable in those conditions. I have seen (and assisted) people panicked and exhausted trying to get an inflatable back to shore in conditions that didn't seem all that bad when they set out. If you ever went out in the ocean with an air mattress or inflatable pool toy when you were a kid you might have an idea of the difficulty involved in propelling something like that at the speed and direction you want it to go.

  • other options
    Someone responded that this a second post by you on this or a very similar subject. If I responded to that prior post with this same info, sorry about the duplication.

    I have a pair of low end Advanced Elements inflatables (ones without the frame). They are good for what they are, but very rarely get used. usually just used for when we are on a road trip and a paddle is something of an after though (so not a paddle-specific road trip). Even the best of them will not feel like a hard shell.

    I also have a Trak folding boat. Folding boats are expensive, so I can't say I have paddled a lot of them, but this boat does feel very close to a hard shell in paddling feel. But comes with some things you need to be aware of, like always using float bags and avoiding sharp edges.

    There are some hard shell options, including sectional boats.

    All of these options are talked about in an article on kayaking and Samll Living Places in California Kayaker Magazine. Issue #99, summer 2012. Can be read for free online at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html.
  • And another option...
    ...would be Folbot:


    I've never tried one out but I have read some favorable reviews.

    As mentioned above by Willowleaf, I would be hesitant, to say the least, of taking an inflatable out on any body of water much larger than a big pond. Add in a little wind, waves, and current and you will likely end up in another time zone. :)
  • inflatables
    I have never considered a folding kayak. I am seeing now there are many many options from which to choose. Are folding kayaks stable? Is the fabric prone to sharp objects? What about repairs while kayaking? So many questions trying to choose the correct kayak. I want to be able to paddle open water as well as tributaries. Maybe a trailer and self storage space is in store for me.
  • And in response
    "I have never considered a folding kayak. I am seeing now there are many many options from which to choose. Are folding kayaks stable? Is the fabric prone to sharp objects? What about repairs while kayaking? So many questions trying to choose the correct kayak. I want to be able to paddle open water as well as tributaries. Maybe a trailer and self storage space is in store for me."

    As for stability... it depends as there are many different types of designs out there and it also depends partially on how well you match the kayak's intended size/weight range. Additionally I wouldn't get too fixated on perceived stability. As you spend more time on the water your notions of stability will change considerably. Many of have found that some of the narrower kayaks are actually more forgiving in rougher conditions.

    The better folding kayaks are very resistant to tearing and are expedition capable. But if inflatables are at one end of the spectrum and hard shells on the other end, folders tend to be situated somewhere in the middle (but mostly closer to hard shells).

    One caveat concerning folding kayaks is the setup and tear down. This can be a pain in the butt. I've set up a few folders and it can make for a great upper body workout.

    Your last comment concerning a trailer and self storage might very well be the way to go, considering where you intend to paddle.

    You should be able to find some nice used equipment that won't break the bank and will get you the experience that you will need for when you end up buying your next boat... because if you like kayaking you will end up buying another boat because virtually no one gets it right the first time :)
  • I know the appeal of inflatables
    - I own five- three of which are duckies. That bein' said I can't say I'd ever consider taking one out on large open water. I believe there's better craft for that than an inflatable like the sea eagle. If you do go low end on price I think you get more for your money if you stay away from bladder boats (Aire tomcats). I know others will disagree. What can I say, I own both and it is my bladder boat that has had the most problems. When I use duckies I keep the distances short, always have some current, and throw in some good scenery and mild whitewater. This recipe works well for inflatables. Another drawback is that they are more susecptible to wind and don't provide much back support, unless you get one with a really good seat or thwart. They are very forgiving for beginners, easy to store and blow up, easier to manage with a swimmer and they definately have their niche. They excel at introducing first timers to whitewater.
  • more comments on folders
    Stability depends on the model, but due to most of them having inflatable sponsons (tubes that go along the sides that inflate to keep the skins tight) most folding kayaks are very unlikely to feel unstable to the beginner, with the exception of a few of the very expensive, very narrow versions. And, as has been mentioned, perceived stability changes as you get more comfortable with kayaking -- and most boats that "feel tippy" actually have good secondary stability and will not capsize easily. In fact, they will tend to ride better in rough water,

    As to hull ruggedness, they are tougher than most people realize. I have been using folding kayaks with rubberized hulls for 10 years, even in rocky streams and scraped on coral shelves, and have never had a puncture. We did get a small puncture in one of the sponsons of my boyfriend's folder (a Pakboat) from a sharp edge on the seat frame inside the kayak when we assembled it wrong the first time, but it did not affect the performance that day and we were able to fix it with the patch kit in about 10 minutes when we got home. NO problems since.

    Folding kayaks can be sort of addictive. You get a feeling for the water around you and how the boat moves through it when you are paddling that you don't have in hardshell boats. I have both hardshell boats and folders and like both, but there is something special about a good skin on frame folding kayak -- it feels more like an extension of my body.

    Another option is building your own folding or inflatable kayak. There are instructions at


    Many ordinary folks have built them -- check out the "gallery" on the site for there imaginative designs, including one by a woman who used tubing from discarded metal crutches for the frame.
  • low end?
    I am not looking for a low end "rec" kayak, I already have one of those....a sea eagle 330, and yes one day I took it a little too far out. Easy paddle out, but getting back was a real fight, I was exhausted. Is $1200.00 for a 385Fasttrack too much for this kayak? I do not know why I am fixated with this one.
  • closer look at 385
    -- Last Updated: Apr-23-13 10:26 AM EST --

    I took a closer look at the 385 and one thing that concerns me is those fat highbacked seats. I don't see how you could paddle effectively from them. The 34" width means it is going to be kind of a dog, speedwise. The included paddles are junk.

    Honestly, I would not pay that much for such a boat. Note that Sea Eagle carefully stresses that this is for calm protected waters or up to Class III streams, where it will function more like a raft. It is really more of a raft than a kayak.

    If it is a tandem kayak you really want, for $1125 you could get a Pakboat Saranac from REI with a tandem spray deck (though you can paddle with or without the deck). It has a frame and 4 inflatable sponsons and can be set up for solo paddling by moving the seat to the center:



    It weighs 28 lbs, but is 6" narrower and should perform better. I have the shorter version of this (which is now called the Saco.)

    For another $500 you could get a Pakboat XT-16, which is capable of even open ocean paddling (once you have the skills and gear).

  • Youtube of Pakboat
    There are quite a few YouTube videos of people using folding kayaks. Of course it is not the same as test paddling boats yourself, but you can get some idea of how they handle and set up from watching them.

  • Once again...
    ...I agree with everything that WillowLeaf has said and would like to repeat that, based on your location (Chesapeake Bay), this doesn't seem like a very good choice (well, at least to me).

    The inflatable that you are looking at lacks foot pegs. Consider that you might be putting out around 1/20th to maybe 1/10th of a hp. Foot pegs help to optimize your mechanical efficiency by allowing you to rely less on your shoulders and more on your core muscles. This wouldn't really be a concern if you were on large ponds or small lakes but you are talking about the Chesapeake Bay where currents, waves, wind, and boat wakes will all come into play.

    And if you manage to capsize, which we all do eventually, you will likely never see your inflatable again. Even a small breeze will send that thing to Portugal.

    I'm thinking that there should be some groups in your area that you can link up with, which could provide a wealth of good information along with more practical experience in the conditions that you will likely encounter. This will serve you well and allow you to make a much more informed decision.

    Anyhow, good luck with whatever you decide...
  • Options
    sea eagle
    I bought the Sea Eagle FastTrack 2 years ago. I use it mainly on local reservoirs and the Missouri River (I live in MT). I really like my boat but don't have much to compare it to, so I can't really say whether it's better than a hard shell kayak or not. I did more canoeing than kayaking before I bought it.

    I bought it because I wanted something I could store and set up easily by myself. It is great for that.

    I don't really think of it as a kayak or compare it to hard shelled kayaks. When I'm out alone I paddle with a kayak paddle, when I have a friend with me I sometimes use canoe paddles. It does track pretty well on open water when you have the skeg on, at least I think it is comparable to canoes I've used on lakes. I doubt it would be comparable to a hard shelled ocean kayak.

    I have taken it out on some lakes and had the wind come up. I had a memorable experience on St Mary Lake in Glacier NP last year, the wind really came up and I had to paddle back against the wind and big waves. It was a bit scary but I was really glad to be in the inflatable at that time because I never felt in danger of capsizing. It is a really stable boat. You can actually stand up in it and it will not tip. I also like that it is really comfortable and can be either a solo boat or hold two people (I have actually gone out with three for very short trips).

    I did get new lighter paddles for it, the ones that come with it are pretty heavy. It has held up pretty well over the last two years. In the summer I use it about every other week so it has seen some use.

    So, I guess it depends on what you're used to and what you expect it to do. I'm not really in to speed, I just wanted a boat I could take out and have fun with and it has been great for that. I have had a lot of fun with mine and definitely don't regret buying it.

    When I was doing a lot of research on inflatable boats this is a website I found helpful: http://www.inflatablekayakworld.com/
  • thanks for posting the link
    I enjoyed looking at it even though it felt a bit promotional
  • Sea Eagle on Rivers
    -- Last Updated: Apr-24-13 9:02 AM EST --

    I often paddle white water (in a hard shell) bit often meet a certain paddler in an inflatable, which I'm pretty sure is the sea eagle 380. The boat looks very sturdy and he has no issues paddling it on the river, attaining, surfing long waves, portaging by dragging short distances over rocks...

    He has thigh straps for added boat control.

    The boat is not a pool toy like the 330, which is ridiculously tall above the water. The 385 is probably less affected by winds than the average lightweight canoe would be.

    All that said, for a solo paddle on the Bay, it will be a handful but only when wind picks-up and if one is off-shore. However, there are many days (most days) and in most places (save for bay crossings) where one can paddle just about anything and be safe. If one stays close to shore, the tidal currents are not an issue (but they are off-shore, can be faster than a competitive swimmer, easily).

    The 380 or 385 would not be my choice, but I think will work for the area where the poster intends to paddle, as long as they mind the weather forecast and keep an eye on conditions, and stay close to shore...

  • It does look like a commercial ...
    And the lady paddling obviously is not a very good paddler, judging for how bad her paddling form is, so how am I to trust her impressions...

    One thing that I don't get is "pump the floor as much as you can" and no one, even the manufacturer, mentions the pressure for the drop stitch floor. For Aire I think "high pressure" means something like a measly 6psi (which is a lot by pool toy standards, but totally pitiful by SUP standards that go to 15psi). What does the FastTrack drop stitch floor take? 4-8psi? 10-12? For those that have the 385 - does it mention in the user manual?
  • inflatables
    "A Sea Eagle has a 180 day gurantee." Aire boats haven't been around long enough for any of them to wear out, only 20 years or so. They have replaceable bladders under the hypalon incase you have a leak.

    An overnight trip 40 miles from a road is the last place you want to hear the sound of air escaping from an inflatable boat. Rivers are full of hazards, like rebar, jagged shale and basalt and broken branches that all love to eat boats.
  • Inflatables
    I want to thank everyone for their input and advice. After much deliberation, I thought you might want to know my decision. I have decided to purchase a trailer, and am looking at either the "Wilderness Systems" "Tarpon 160" (for it's stability) or the "Tsunami 165" (for it's performance and to learn on). Any thoughts?
  • It should be noted
    I am 5'11" tall, and weigh 240lbs. A rather large paddler.
  • SOT vs SINK
    Tarpon is a sit on top, where the Tsunami is a sit inside. How do you see yourself using the kayak?
  • paddling
    I plan on touring the Chesapeake Bay and it's tributaries with some overnighters. The reason I am considering a SOT is because of my size. I am 52 years old, 5'1l" tall and weight 240 pounds and would like to take up serious kayaking. I see myself doing some offshore paddling in rough surf in the Atlantic once my skills improve. Probably some kayak camping down the Susquehanna River. I would like to join a club, and have been perusing the Chesapeake Paddlers Club web site. I do not know if any cold weather paddling is in my future, but if I enjoy the sport as much as I think I will then yes, I would probably enjoy paddling all year.
  • Checkout Annapolis Canoe and Kayak
    Dave & Dave from ACK are knowledgeable kayakers and CPA members. And definitely hookup with CPA and go out with one of their piracies near you for weekly outings. You missed Kayaking 101 and 102 this year, but these virtually free classess are great to get you started. Sign-up next year. There are a couple of events coming up at Truxton Park where you can just showup (member or not) and meet folks and paddle a variety of kayaks, canoes, and a SUP or two probably. Folks will be happy to talk with you and you might find a used boat too...

    That said, before you venture out away from shore, take a class or have someone experienced show you and spot you while you perform some self rescues. You will eventually flip the boat and you don't want to find out if you can get back in or not for a first time when your life may depend on it.

    The 165 is a great boat for your purposes, a Zephyr 160 will be more maneuverable but slower, Current Design makes some nice big person boats (and you can demo at ACK). SOT is good too but it is a wet ride and somewhat more limiting in skills development (but fine for paddling). Get something used to get started and buy also a nice paddle (there were some recent threads about those here).
  • Think Cold Water...
    ...not cold weather. The Chesapeake Bay waters may not be as cold all year round as the North Atlantic where I live is, but there will be times when it is dangerously cold even when the air temps are in the 70's. nMe, I'd want a SINK under me. A SINK might also be better for camping - more storage.
    ...would be one of the best things you could do. One big advantage of joining a club is not only getting the same information you'll get here, but getting it face-to-face, interactively, from engaged paddlers, who are usually more than happy to share experience and help out.

    You might even consider joining pre-purchase -in all probability you'll not only receive well-informed local knowledge of both boats and locales, but perhaps invitations to try some boats.

    Your move from a duckie to a hardshell is a good first step, considering where you want to paddle, what you want to do when paddling, and your size.

    The T (as in Tarpon)-160 is a venerable, long-time model that routinely garners a lot of pretty good reviews from the paddling community, especially for an SOT. It is a fast boat in the right hands, and it certainly is a stable boat, and can carry a lot of paddler and a lot of gear but 160s are heavy -and getting to and from your put-in from your car is a pretty important consideration for a lot of people. A trailer is a good first step -little lifting compared to a rooftop car rack -but it costs more, in terms of initial outlay for both trailer AND hitch (if you don't have one and your car is OK towing -many aren't so recommended, but kayak rigs are light, so they're probably OK even when not "recommended" (see threads here on PNET re. towing, etc., for firther discussions) -check first for potential warranty voiding if towing), licensing, possibly insurance, and you need to feel comfortable driving with a trailer, especially in reverse. Getting back on an SOT after a dump -it's a case of when, not if, trust us on that one! -is usually easier for most folks, and that should be a consideration when contemplating paddling in coastal, tidal, and wave/wind-prone areas like the Chesapeake regardless of type of kayak.

    The T(as in Tempest)-165, on the other hand, is a SINK (Sit-INside Kayak) that, no offense, but at your size I'd recommend that you at least try sitting in, and getting in and out of -even on dry ground -before further consideration. SINKs have many more positive paddling features and benefits, among which are -usually - efficiency of paddling (either getting more speed for the same amount of effort, or getting more distance for the same speed), and perhaps most importantly, seaworthiness. And SINKs are, broadly generally, lighter and therefore a bit easier to rack, than similarly sized SOTs

    On the other hand, SINKs in general are far more tippy or twitchy to newbies -and that level of comparative "instability" may put you off from one going thru with a purchase. Again, experience here overwhelming suggests you'll get used to that after initially needing to learn how to deal with it. I started out in a 34" wide tandem, and now my wife and I routinely paddle -and enjoy -21" boats. SINKs may be more difficult to enter and exit, and need good posture when paddling to develop comfortable, more efficient paddling strokes -which, while also the case for SOTs, aren't "needed" in the latter nearly as much as in SINKs.

    And a closing note -as noted in a prior post about Sea Eagle paddles -you'll not br buying just a boat -you'll be buying at least a minimum "paddling package":
    . 1) The boat;
    . 2) A good (it doesn't have to be great the first time out) paddle;
    . 3) A good (comfortable for paddling and wearing -so you WILL wear it) PFD;
    . 4) Boat transportation (roof rack or trailer, the better, the better…!)
    . 5) Suitable attire (a 2nd discussion re: cool/cold weather paddling)

    Don't fear buying used -of our 9 boats, 7 were bought used, as were 4 paddles, 2 roof racks, and 2 PFDs. They all work/worked well, and we saved a bundle!

    Good luck in your search, and may you find a good starter boat and get out on the water this year, with a big smile on your face, as you


    -Frank in Miami
  • the second T
    The second T he talked about was a Tsunami, not a Tempest...
  • ACK
    Thank you all, I am heading to Annapolis Canoe and Kayak and talk to the paddlers there and try to get a good feel as to what I am looking for. Also may join Chespeake Paddlers Association.
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