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.

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.

An Aire boat will outlast a Sea Eagle by 4-10 times.

An Aire boat will outlast a Sea Eagle by 4-10 times.

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, 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

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. :slight_smile:

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 :slight_smile:

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…

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:

thanks for posting the link
I enjoyed looking at it even though it felt a bit promotional