Sea Eagle Explorer 420x or 380x?..or FT

So looking for my first inflatable kayak for myself (about 6’3", 185lbs) and my 6 year old (6 year old size, lol). Im indecisive about a couple of things. First, im sure the 380x is more suitable for our needs, but would love a kayak that could accommodate a 3rd adult should that opportunity arise, esp being as tall as i am. If i sprung for the 420x, does anyone know how much more of a beast that would be to try to handle rowing/maneuvering when its just the kid and i (so essentially by myself) than the 380x? Big difference there?

So even that indecision aside, I’m also still contemplating the FastTrack series. “Most” of our excursions will be open, reasonably calm water so the reviews are really appealing for that, but would still like to not worry if we hit some rough spots on a float. So would like advice from anyone who has experience with both, preferably experiences with kids.

Lastly, I’m my search the Sea Eagle line is most appealing for all of the accessories, of which i fully intend to equip myself with. But in the same (kit) price ranges, are there other models i should be considering for my recreational use with a kid?


other options
The Sea Eagles are more of a raft than a kayak. I’be seen people trying to paddle 3 person inflatables like it and it isn’t pretty. The problem is that all that weight makes the boats sag in the water and makes them very sluggish and the hull deflection makes tracking awful. The paddlers have to really struggle to make any progress. Not good on an open lake where they can really get blown around by the wind.

You might want to consider these options below.

Or a combination folder/inflatable. The two person Pakboat Saranac has a metal frame and inflatable sponson tubes – it paddles much like a hardbody kayak and can be used with the optional decks (as either a single or tandem closed boat) or without the decks as an open boat like the inflatables you are looking at. This can handle most reasonable conditions and and is enjoyable to paddle. I have the smaller version of it.

All the boats I’ve linked to have stiffening components in their design that the Eagles seem to lack. They rely on their fat raft-like tubes for rigidity but those big tubes make them bouncy, wide and slow. OK for small lakes and flat or mild whitewater streams, but not something I would want to be out in on a big lake with wind.

It would be helpful for suggestions if you could be more specific about the waterways where you intend to paddle.

Unless you are wedded to the idea of an inflatable, you might also want to consider a canoe. I used to have this model and it was great for two or 3 people:

Thanks. thats some great info, definitely going to refocus my research.

I live in Washington, so as far as water types (and anything outdoors) Washington has it all. So eventually a fleet for different types of waters would be nice, but for starters just looking for versatility, maybe with an emphases on recreation.

not a boat for the Pacific
That’s why I asked. You want to proceed with caution taking an inflatable in cold coastal waters. They can be very hard to get back to shore in tides, strong current or winds. I used to kayak in the coastal Great Lakes and one Summer there were so many people in inflatables that the Coast Guard had to fetch back to shore for those reasons that on some days they would not let them past the breakwaters or harbors. Also, the waters off Washington are cold, quite dangerous for a small child (as well as a parent not properly dressed).

But as long as you keep to warmer inland lakes and streams, an inflatable can be a fun way to spend a summer day.

There are lots of outfitters in your state – you might want to check and see which ones offer on-the-water demo days in the Spring. There is nothing better than actually sitting in a range of boat types in the water to get a feel for what the various options provide.

Ya i may try the demo route. I actually don’t foresee ever taking it off the coast, will be inland lakes and rivers on camping trips for the most part. Something more “raft” like may actually suit my needs, but definitely want something performant. Ive had some miserable wind fighting trips myself.

So I think I’m going to start strongly considering a hardshell. I initially opted for soft to avoid hassle of storage and transport. But the more research i do, looks like hassle of overall ownership is much higher with an inflatable. And ultimately i care more about the experience.

trade offs
Yes, you do sacrifice performance with most inflatables but not all. At the high end, Feathercraft makes some incredible inflatables that perform as well as most hardshells (the Gemini, Java and Aironaut) but they cost thousands. But the Pakboats make a decent compromise – we had one of their XT-15’s that performed just as well as most of our plastic touring kayaks. You can find YouTube videos of people using the Pakboat models on the water. Very popular with outfitters due to the ability to transport them even on airlines.

It does take more effort to set up and maintain folders and inflatables. YOu have to make sure they are dried out before storage or they can get funky. Also pump them up to maintain pressure as temps change (and if left in hot sun out of the water the air chambers can expand and actually blow out a seam, something that happened to me once – repairable but it was time consuming.) With a rigid boat you just grab it and go. I have folders because I like to travel long distances with them and I not only do not have a garage, my ski slope like property does not have a level area on which to build one.