Inflatable recommendations using the following criteria

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.

Answering my own question: the Airhead Montana 2. It also has replaceable bladders and it’s about the same price on Amazon as the Island Voyage.

The Montana has slightly better specs, 12ft long vs the IV’s 11ft and 840D vs 600D hull, but it is also 5lbs heavier and its skeg is much shallower than the Island Voyage’s. I haven’t paddled it myself, but I have seen more reviews commenting on the Montana’s tracking difficulty than I have with the Island Voyage. (IMO the Island Voyage tracks pretty well for an inflatable.) I also prefer the Island Voyage’s full front and rear skirts, which help to keep my dry bags out of direct sunlight. Another difference comes down to personal preference, I think: the Montana has inflatable seats whereas the Island Voyage’s seats are two sheets of closed cell foam. I prefer the Island Voyage’s seats. They’ll never puncture and are easily replaceable.

EDIT: looking at this YouTube review, I discovered an important advantage to my Island Voyage. It appears that you can’t put one of the seats in the dead center of the Montana 2. You can get it almost to the center, but you’ll have to fiddle with the seat and load distribution if you want to paddle it solo. My Island Voyage, on the other hand, has dedicated velcro strips in the center for easy solo configuration.

Overall, I think both kayaks are great choices if you’re following the criteria I posted. If any of you own the Montana, please let me know how you like it!

Grabner Kayaks are the point of the diamond as far as inflatables but they are far above your price range. That said they are stiffer and more efficient than plastic (but not quite composite). You pay for the premium though.

@CA139 said:
Grabner Kayaks are the point of the diamond as far as inflatables but they are far above your price range. That said they are stiffer and more efficient than plastic (but not quite composite). You pay for the premium though.

Those are indeed nice, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking something that expensive to a place like Laos or Kyrgyzstan, even if I could afford it. Too high profile for me. (No judgement on others, of course.)