First time IK buyer, recovered from 2 back surgeries & a shoulder surgery and I'd love something for the "kindler & gentler" me :)

Hi all! I’ve read lots of the advice on the forums for those of us who deal with back problems, but since many of the posts are dated several years back I thought I would ask again with all these great new IKs on the market. I’m looking to purchase my first inflatable kayak and I’m so excited but I’ve gotten completely bogged down with options and I would truly appreciate some guidance.

In my 20’s and 30’s I was quite active and did a lot of ocean kayaking and some whitewater. Now, after two back surgeries and a shoulder surgery I’ve slowed down a bit. I don’t have any back pain now but I want to make sure I choose a kayak with good lower back support, or one where I can upgrade to a seat with lumbar support if need be. That’s probably my first priority. Secondly, I’d like it in the lighter-weight range (below 35lbs if possible) so it will be easier for me to load up and carry on my own.

Since it’s my first foray into IKing, I’m okay with going with a cheaper model to try it out and see if it feels good. I had almost settled on the Intex Challenger because of the fantastic reviews and the cheapo price point, but I’m 5’11" with long legs and I’m not sure if it will be comfortable for my size.

I live in the Hill Country of Texas and will be using it mainly to explore the lakes and gentle rivers here. I don’t see myself doing much whitewater until I get more comfortable with the sport again after a decade away. I would love to keep my price point below $600. I would also consider a tandem IK so that my husband can join if he wants but since he travels for work a lot I think this will be an activity I’ll be doing on my own for the majority of the time.

Thank you!

Hi there. I recently bought an Advanced Elements Ultralite model. My previous experience with kayaking has been mixed. In my 30s and 40s I did several guided multi-day kayaking trips that utilized relatively high-end sea kayaks. (weeklong trips in Belize and the Virgin Islands, plus some 2-3 day trips around Maine and Vancouver Island.) Then I have rented basic rec boats on an hourly basis at various local lakes, etc. I am now 50+ and relatively fit, but also short (so hard to load a kayak on a roof rack by myself) and lacking in storage space.

So, the AE kayak does feel pretty slow, especially compared to those gorgeous sea kayaks, and the tracking is ok, but not great. It is comparable to the rental rec boats in those regards. But most importantly, I truly love just being able to throw it in the car and go anywhere. The set up is pretty easy, certainly comparable to the time folks spend loading boats on and off their car. (I use a manual pump and it takes me about ten minutes - depending on your shoulder issues you may want to get a powered pump.) It’s also very stable - something I appreciate since I frequently kayak on my own. Similarly, it isn’t appropriate for open water - which to be honest, right now I am not ready for from a knowledge/skills perspective, so for me its good to just have that not be an option.

I am a full foot shorter than you, and the ultralite model fits me great, which means it might be too small for you. I don’t know a lot about other inflatable brands, but I know AE has other models that might be a better fit. But in general, I am super happy I purchased an inflatable. It suits the way I use it and it has gotten me out on the water at least once per week. It was right around your stated price point, but that was without a PFD, paddle and pump.

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A canoe seat us much easier on the body than sitting on the floor of a kayak.

Your surgical twin here. In addition, I damaged the other shoulder and it can’t be fixed, but it still works if I don’t push it .
I just got back from a morning paddle in my WS Pungo 140. The Phase 3 seat is wonderful for repaired backs. You would fit in a 120.
They track well and turn fairly easily.
You should be able to find a used one at your budget, but don’t be in a hurry. People tend to hold on to them.

That is so helpful, thank you! Do you have any trouble with drying it after a paddle? I watched a few videos of kayak reviews and one of the complaints of the AE seemed to be that it was tough to dry. Enjoy yourself out there in your AE!

Thanks but I need something I can lift by myself since I’ll be paddling alone.

What’s your budget? Better inflatables and folding kayaks will run you $800 to $1200 but they will be light, easier to paddle and have better designed seats than cheap-o inflatables. Unless a collapsible kayak has a drop-stitched floor or some sort of rigid frame reinforcement it will tend to be floppy and have to be wide with fat tubes which makes them slow and not great at tracking – these problems get greater when you add the additional weight of a second paddler. I’ve got a strong preference for folding kayaks myself – super light, excellent seats, handle more like a rigid kayak. All of mine have seats that are inflatable with back supports that are either inflatable or are a lumbar back band (the best type of kayak seat back as far as I am concerned). Look at Pakboat models, especially the Puffin Saco solo and the Puffin Saranac tandem. The Saco is only 20 pounds but 12’ long and can be paddled open or with a deck. The Saranac is still under 30 pounds.

Photo of my 24 pound Pakboat Puffin. Second pic with the deck removed shows the frame and inflatable seat (the newer versions are fancier and can be paddled with or without the deck):

puffin_frame copy

Drying hasn’t been too bad. I have a quick-dry towel that I wipe it down with, then I partially deflate it and leave it in a sunny spot for about five minutes while I put away my other gear. It’s been quite hot, and that gets it most of the way dry. Occasionally I will have to take it out again when get home to let it fully dry out.

A solo canoe made of kevlar can be under 30 pounds.

By the way, with shoulder problems, you ought to consider a Greenland style kayak paddle once you get back to the water. Much easier on the body and the shoulders in particular.

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Before this discussion, I wasn’t aware of IK. The expression, not the boats
Last time I used that term we were teaching children that some things are better not touched.

There is a 15 pound Hemlock Nessmuk pack canoe for sale right now in Rochester, NY, on Facebook “Paddler’s Gear Market” group for $1400. Pretty decent price for such a light boat that looks to be in pristine condition and with a lovely cherry red hull. Heck, I have had cats that weighed more than that canoe! If I did not already have the Lady Bug I would be tempted. ideal paddler weight for that boat is 150 pounds, plus or minus 25.