Advice on inflatable kayaks

Hello. I need some advice on purchasing an inflatable kayak. I have already searched the message boards and read all the product reviews. It seems that most of you prefer the stearns brand over the advanced elements and those were the two brands I was considering. I have been rafting and canoeing before in an inflatable and a hardshell and obviously the inflatable has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but because of storage space I need to go with an inflatable. Now I do not want to spend a lot of money on an inflatable because it will just be used recreationaly on lakes, but I also do not want to get a cheap coleman or inferior brand, so I was looking at stearns, advanced elements, sea eagle, and sevylor. After researching on the web, I eleminated the sea eagle and sevylor from my options for various reasons. So to make a long story short, my question is which inflatable is better for kayaking on a lake, the advanced elemnts airframe, or the stearns one man model. Stearns has the new spree model and the older b500 series. I have not yet found many reviews or comments about the stearns spree model. Also which has better tracking and holds up better in wind of those three models. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I Have A Stearns Mad Dog
I have a Stearns Mad Dog, which is the B500 in camoflauge. I thought it well worth the money. I still use it when I don’t want to rack a boat, or need and extra.

I haven’t tried the Spree or the Arielite, so I can’t compare.

I have the sell bailing sterns
I hate it! It’s too wide for white water or surf and I just cannot stand paddling the thing. After you paddle it, it takes a long time to dry. If you don’t dry it out then you have to deal with mold growing on it.

Please come borrow mine before you by one.

unfortunately it is hard to destroy the darn thing as well.

Stearns IK116
I just got a Stearns iK116 (same as B500) today. Got it new for 199.00. All I know so far is that it inflates as easily and quickly as they say. It also looks neat & sturdy. It is wider than I expected so I’ll have to adjust my paddle stroke for it. I have a hard shell kayak & will still use it but I thought it would be fun to try this out and maybe not always have to cartop a 17 footer.

Have you considered a Pakboat Puffin?
The Puffins may be more expensive than you are considering, but it seems like they would be much more suitable for lake use and also easy to store. Don’t have any experience with a Puffin myself - I’m a canoer, not a kayaker, but I’ve been happy with my Pakboat canoes.

Yes, I had looked into the Pakboat Puffin boats, as well as the other foldable kayaks and such, but I ruled them out because they were too expensive. I really won’t be using the kayak more than about 5 to 6 times this summer, so I do not want to spend a whole lot. If I had the storage area then I would just get a hardshell, but I just don’t have the storage area at home or in my vehicle. The folding kayaks seem really practical but their prices are pretty steep. So for now it seems an inflatable is the way to go.

Also I had another question for anyone out there that has experience with inflatable kayaks versus inflatable canoes. I was wondering if the inflatable canoes are more stable in the water and easier to paddle then the kayaks are. From what I can tell there isn’t much difference between the inflatable kayaks and canoes other than size. And I have seen more then a few complaints on the larger inflatable kayaks and canoes that seat 2 or more people. Most folks say they are hard to track.

sea eagle 330
I was also looking at the sea eagle 330 canoe, which seats two, but I have seen more then a few bad reviews on it.

We have 3 Stearns…
a Tandem Kayak and two solos. Make sure that you clean your boat well and allow it to dry thoughly before you pack it up. I am sure you will be pleased with the Stearns quality.

the boat people
Go to for everything on inflatables.

I have two inflatables and really like my innova solar II that I got from the boat people. My less favored inflatable is a sea eagle paddle ski that has everthing including sail kit, sliding rowing seat, etc. But at $1500 for that total outfit, you could get a low end folding kayak.

re:boat people
I already checked The boat people. They have no specific information on the Stearns or the Advanced Elements. In fact they do not sell either brand either.

re:boat people
I already checked The boat people. They have no specific information on the Stearns or the Advanced Elements. In fact they do not sell either brand either.

Clavey might be able to give you info about the spree, although I doubt they stock it. I am sure they can special order it for you.

Ebay has
used Aire Tomcat Tandems that you might could fit into your price range. We have a Stearns, the 9-footer, I guess. We use it on shallow rocky rivers, it takes a beating. It also takes water, and as The Boat People put it, it is in fact a wet and squishy ride on a splashing river. If you are not on a river, then that doesn’t matter. But it is a fat tub when the river is not moving, really not that pleasant, I wouldn’t think, on a lake. You might take a look at the tomcats, if this link works. If it does not, search ebay for “aire tomcat”.

Hope this helps. Tomorrow I should be able to report on the Aire Lynx tandem that I just got.


Advanced Elements
i’ve used the Advanced Elements

and LOVE it.

When inflated properly it performs great as a rec. i wasnt paddling with anyone else, so i cant attest to the speed, but it was plenty fast enough for exploring and photography. (i did a bit of fishing from it, and it worked out great)

I purchased it on ebay from the person in the link above and shipping was very reasonable for a package that size. it also was 1/2 the prics of me purchasing it here.

anyways, it;s a great boat and fast to inflate. 7 chambers that total about 15 mins of time to inflate properly with a dual action pump (dont use electric!)

good luck!

re: advanced elements
Thanks for the info groan. I had a couple more questions. How did your advanced elements track? And how well did it hold up in the wind?


I was also looking at the kwik tec airhead model kayaks, but I can’t find any customer reviews on those. Does anyone have experience with that brand of inflatable kayak? If so, how did it track?

What is interesting on TheBoatPeople
site is why they do not carry either of these brands. Although the site updates fairly often, I believe that is still in their FAQ.

Just remember it’s an inflatable
You are basically paddling a baloon so it will blow more than a hard shell. I did not ahve any problem in the wind. Of course, as i expected, the wind slowed me down and gives a hard workout going into it, but it wasnt terrible.

as for the tracking, a little bit of back and forth, but i won’t pretend to have good technique. I wanted a kayak for a small lake and this was the first one I have owned (i had done some yaking on rentals). When i paddled with it, it tracked from left to right about half a foot. I dont know how to compare that to anything, but like i said, it could be my bad technique.

ask again if you have any more questions.

construction wise, it’s a great boat.

heavy fabric/rubberized walls and many inflatable compartments means that you are not likeley to sink. Fliping it and sinking it would be near impossible.