Travel Kayak: Advanced Elements Elite vs Sea Eagle Explorer vs Neris Smart Pro Expedition

I’m looking at these kayaks that pack down enough to fit into one or two pieces of checked luggage (along with other travel gear). My expected use is going to mostly be in Europe, kayaking coastal waters, fjords, and Class I & II rivers. Any advice or alternatives much appreciated.

AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite AE1007-E inflatable kayak

  • Price: $1000 ($1200 w/ single & double decks, $1500 w/ decks and rudder)
  • Length: 15ft
  • Weight: 52 lbs
  • Capacity: 550 lbs


  • Dropstitch floor & aluminum frames in bow & stern.
  • Optional solo and tandem decks.
  • Optional rudder.
  • Replaceable bladders in a ripstop canvas shell.


  • Internal bladders are more difficult to clean and dry.
  • Optional decks and rudder drive up the price.

Sea Eagle Explorer 380x Pro Package inflatable kayak

  • Price: $1100
  • Length: 12.5 ft
  • Weight: 40 lbs
  • Capacity: 750 lbs


  • Dropstitch floor.
  • Single layer design is lightweight and easy to maintain. Also extremely tough (can be run over by a jeep).
  • 16 drain holes allows for use in heavy weather and whitewater.
  • Lightest and smallest of the three kayaks, could probably pack it and gear down to one piece of checked luggage and a carry-on.


  • No deck or rudder options.
  • Shorter length may not track as well as the other, longer kayaks.
  • Bladders not repairable if there is a catastrophic tear.

Neris Smart Pro Tandem Expedition hybrid folding/inflatable kayak

  • Price: $1800
  • Length: 17.5 ft
  • Weight: 58.2 lbs
  • Capacity: 551 lbs


  • Full aluminum frame.
  • Maintains hull integrity even if bladders deflate.
  • Expedition package includes deck and rudder.


  • Heaviest of the three kayaks.
  • Most time-consuming to setup.
  • Full frame means it will be the most difficult to pack for air travel.


Also look at Pakboats, specifically the Puffin Saranac. I have the solo version. Set up takes about 20 minutes. Mine is only 24 pounds and will fit in one bag. The tandem Saranac is 29 pounds and can be set up tandem or solo. Packed size is same as the solo (no frame sections longer than 28").

Here are photos of my Puffin and how I packed it in one standard 32" x 14" x 16" roller bag with ALL my paddling gear and clothing to fly from the US to England. You can see in the “unpacked” shot how small their frames fold down. The whole bag was under 50 pounds and within the airline guidelines so that I did not have to pay oversize baggage fees. Once I set it up outside my rental cottage I transported it on my rented Citroen using a Malone inflatable roof rack I brought with me.

Awesome setup!

I did look at the Puffin Saranac, since it’s the only tandem they offer. Am I correct in thinking that, with that narrow beam, it rides more like a sit-in kayak than an SOT? I’m looking for something more stable and higher weight capacity. Probably going to go with the Neris Expedition. It’s only $300 more than the AdvancedFrame, after adding the two skirts and rudder. I’m reading elsewhere that the Sea Eagle is pretty slow on open water, more suitable for rivers or short excursions.

Pacboats are pretty great, though!

Pakboat used to make a tandem version of their XT, the XT-16, which was convertible from solo to duo and had a wider beam and deeper hull – much more carrying capacity. My ex boyfriend had one for a few years but I used it more often than he did and I eventually sold it for him.

I think their main market is for their folding canoes and it has been hard for them to get people reliably interested in their kayaks, which is a shame because they are cleverly designed, comfortable, perform nicely and are reasonably priced. Their marketing has never been particularly aggressive – I used to wince at how vague their ads were in paddling magazines. It was clear to me (after nearly 20 years of owning and paddling folders) that most outdoor folk are oblivious to the fact that they even exist (both folding boats and Pakboat).

A bit over a year ago PB had a terrible fire at their New Hampshire location and lost an entire warehouse full of new boats. Alv, the US rep, is older than me and has backed out of being the American rep from what I understand though you can still buy the boats and parts via the US contact. ScanSports of Europe owns the brand.

I’ve looked at some other folding kayaks as well, but I the Neris is looking pretty good for my price range.

Put that Malone inflatable rack in my shopping cart btw. Looks like it would really come in handy if you’re driving a rental.

Yes, the Malone inflatable rack folds up incredibly small. the two tubes and the set of nylon straps rolled up in a little bag not much larger than a soup can. Best to arrange a rental vehicle with an integral rack for secure attachment, though it can be used on anything but you have to run the tie downs for the boat through the car windows. It’s perfect for light folders but I would not recommend it for heavy hardshell boats.

That Citroen C4 Cactus I rented in the UK had the lateral roof rails. I fastened the Malone tubes width wise across the roof, strapped to it through the car windows but then strapped the boat itself to the integral car rack. I could have just mounted the boat directly onto the car roof did not want to risk scratching or scuffing the rental – the inflatable tubes raised and cushioned it nicely.

I do have to say, that Citroen was a wonderful car. I was bummed that they decided not to import them to the US, as they had been reportedly planning in 2018 (I rented it in 2017) because I would have been sorely tempted to buy one. Nice 5 speed gearbox (I drive a 6 speed stick at home) so it was fun to drive, though mentally wrapping my head around motoring on the left side of the road, sitting on the “wrong side” if the car and shifting with my left hand was pretty challenging, especially on Yorkshire’s crazy single lane country roads and crazed multi-lane main highways with their roundabout interchanges. I’d driven Brit style before in the British Virgin Islands, but this was a whole new challenge. I loved that I could fold down the rear seats in the Cactus and crawl back there to take a nap during my travels afield in the 'Shire, Highly recommend if you do any European travel that you seek one out for rental if they are still offered.

i was examining the Neris specs and one thing I did notice is that the inflatable sponson tubes that give the boat it’s buoyancy and firm shape are quite large: nearly 9.5" diameter. Pakboat uses two or 3 stacked separate tubes, which means that the Saranac probably has far more baggage volume within the hull.

Large diameter sponsons intrude quite a bit into the interior space of the boat. This is visible in the photos on the Neris spec page. They will also give it a raft-like ride. At 34" the Neris is already almost more of a raft than a kayak. But though it is 7" wider than the Pakboat, the interior width space of the Neris will only be 15" at the widest point of the beam with a pair of 9 1/2" structural tubes. If the Pakboat Saranac’s tubes are like those in my Quest, they are only about 4" in diameter so the interior beam width will be about 19".

Also, are you planning to buy a Neris while you are in Europe? I note that the prices on the website do not include import duties so it will likely be more than $1800 if you place an order from the states. Import duty could be only 6% or as much as 25%, the latter per the European reaction to Trump’s added “protectionist” actions in 2018 which caused the European union countries to cease tariff concessions and add a 25% duty on dozens of products, including "non-powered pleasure craft under 100 kilos. I don’t know if that is still in effect. Maybe somebody else who sees this has better info on buying boats from Europe at this time.

I do like some of the accessories on the Neris page and they look like interesting and well constructed boats – good fishing platform and probably fun in mild whitewater. Too wide for me, though: I have a short upper body and short arms and would find that width awkward and tiring to paddle.

Just a few things to consider in weighing the specs and utility of the boats.

The Neris does have a narrower fit, but its weight capacity is 550lbs. One thing that concerns me about the Saranac is it only hold up to 400lbs. That doesn’t leave a lot left over is you have two people in it, especially if they’re both larger men.

Also, from what I’ve seen and read about the Neris, it seems similar to a touring SOT (like my 2001 Wilderness Systems Ride), in that you’re sacrificing some speed and agility for improved tracking and stability. It will still take you long distances, but it will just take a little longer vs a sit-in kayak.

I think Neris and Pacboat are both good choices for what I want in a general purpose, packable touring kayak, so I’m going to take my time before deciding.

Thanks for all the great info!

(BTW good point on the pricing. I looked at the Neris USA website, the MSRP on the model I want is only $150 more than the MSRP on the European site.)

If you want to go super cheap and have huge carrying capacity I heard this afternoon from my local outfitter shop (which also sells used gear and boats on consignment) just had a guy bring in an older Ally folding canoe, an 18’ that only weighs 47 pounds and has a cargo capacity of 915 pounds. These have always been real workhorses for remote camping, fishing and hunting and can survive class II and III whitewater (provided the paddlers have skills for that). I told them I would try to do some research on what price they should put on it, but considering the age and the missing parts it probably will not be more than a few hundred. I plan to stop by their shop tomorrow to look the boat over and see about setting it up. There are a couple of folks on this forum who have used Ally canoes and spoken highly of them. other than that they take 30 to 60 minutes to set up. They are reportedly very stable but still fast enough to keep up with hardshell boats. Supposed to be a bit stiffer than the PakBoat versions and come with a foam pad that goes into the hull to make kneeling more comfortable.

I have not seen the boat yet but it is about 30 years old and reportedly is missing the seats. Factory replacement seats from Bergans-Ally are costly and I am not sure if the current ones fit in the older boats, though I don’t think they have changed all that much. In fact, Alv Elvestad, the founder of PakBoats, originally worked for Ally (both companies are Norwegian) before he started his own company, so the designs and parts are similar.

It might be possible to rig seats using other materials – their seats are rather complicated, with an aluminum tube riser frame and ghastly expensive separate molded seat. Below are the current specs for the Ally 18 and a photo I found (there are plenty of them on the web).

Price for a new one is $3,850! The replacement seats are around $250 EACH in the only online listing I could find (maybe cheaper in Europe.) But if the boat was in decent shape and you could get it for around $400 or $500, even with buying the parts that would still be a lot cheaper than the Neris AND it would pack under the oversize baggage 50 pound limit for air travel. I’ll know more once I’ve inspected it:>

Also found a couple of good videos:

  • Weight: 46.3lb
  • Length: 18’ (550cm)
  • Width: 37.8" (96cm)
  • Gunwale Width: 36.6" (93cm)
  • Waterline Width: 34" (86cm)
  • Depth: 14" (36cm)
  • Bow Height: 18.5" (47cm)
  • Capacity: 415kg (915lb)
  • Packed: 112 X 50 X 42cm

Not the boat for me but thanks!

The Ally are great and I am on my second one , perfect for travel and long distance adventure .Now the problem is for parts , nearly impossible in the USA , in Canada you still can buy new part or you will have to order them from England, Norway,France. They take some time to learn how to fold them but with patience it is not to bad. I paddle mine with a canoe and paddle or a kayak paddle for long distances.