I already have a 13ft WS Ride SOT that I’m very happy with, but I wanted a quality inflatable that I could take with me as checked luggage. The idea is to be able to kayak wherever I want, without having to deal with rentals and other hassles. I’m even hoping to take it overseas sometime next year.
I ended up buying the Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2, because it meets the following requirements:
- Under 50lbs (most airlines’ weight limit for checked luggage), including 2 PFDs, 2 paddles, pump, and other essential gear. (The Island Voyage by itself is only 32lbs.) In other words, it shouldn’t be more than 35-40lbs.
- Packs to the size of a large suitcase. (I am currently able to pack all the above, along with a spare pump and collapsible luggage trolley, in a 30x15x15 duffel.)
- Can be setup solo or tandem.
- Long enough to be able to track acceptably well. (The Island Voyage is 11ft and tracks well enough to get some decent mileage on a lake trip.)
- Replaceable–not just repairable–bladders and other parts, like the valves and skeg. This is critical if I’m able to take my dream trip overseas. (I spoke with Advanced Elements and they confirmed that I can purchase replacement bladders.)
- Repairable outer hull, ie material that can be stitched or patched in the field. (The Island Voyage has a poly canvas outer hull and thick tarpaulin bottom.)
- Under $500
I took a test trip out-of-state, to kayak with my brother, and this kayak worked really well. No issues with the airline and it handled okay in mild winds. I also like that the novelty of it serves as a great conversation starter. Every lake I’ve been on, at least one person has asked me about it. On one lake, I ended up sharing a meal with some other kayakers, comparing notes about the best places to lake kayak on the West Coast.
A friend of mine is interested in also getting a spare inflatable kayak. I didn’t want to just tell him to buy what I bought, but I’m having difficulty locating alternatives that don’t cost well over $700. I have already ruled out Sevylor and Sea Eagle, because neither offer replacement bladders. (Apparently Sevylor does in Europe, but not in the US.)
There are plenty of great inflatable companies out there. I’m sure at least one of them can hit the sweet spot outlined above.