Kayaks - Inflatable, Rigid, Folding. . . whaddya have and how do ya like it?

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Well, the title of this thread says it all, pretty much. I've been pondering the purchase of a kayak to take along on my wanderings.

Mostly for getting out there alone for fishing and photography, though I may have a dog at some point and would like to be able to accommodate another person from time to time, so a tandem is more appealing.

Wondering what you have and how you like it and, as this would be my first kayak--done lots of canoeing over the years--any tips you might have for what to look for.

I'm presently leaning towards an inflatable kayak for a couple reasons. Packing, mostly, in that I won't have to keep moving it out of the way on a rack or on top of my RTT, but also so it is not as likely to go missing. I'm not one to hang overland bling all over my van or trailer, and keep my tools, jacks, shovels etc as inside as I can other than when actually on a trail.

I don't really need a sleek expert-level kayak, either, but one I can get out on lakes and slow moving streams and perhaps along the occasional ocean shoreline.

I looked at an interesting folding kayak, but in the end decided against it as being not as stable and likely more of a hassle to put together, and not as long-lived.

So, having an inflatable kayak seems to fit the bill, so far. I'm looking mostly at the Aire Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Whitewater Kayak, though with a long-assed name like that I'll probably call it Fred. Maybe Shirley.

Has a more rigid floor than others, has stong and movable thwart seats, and can be used solo with gear or tandem with another person. Packs up to around 25 x 21 x 16 and weighs between 42-50 lbs, depending on which site you look. That's plenty doable for an 82yr old like me and with my mongo van, I'll be able to secure it inside on day jaunts away from camp, or in my trailer for longer rides.

It's $799 most places and at REI I'll get $79 back in dividends.

Anyone have personal experience with one of these, or have experienced advice on another I should consider?

Suggestions/advice on paddles, other gear for the applications mentioned above? I don't see myself doing whitewater rapids, so won't need specific gear for that.

AIRE Tomcat Tandem Kayak.png
 
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Smileyshaun

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I'm actually considering getting rid of my hard kayaks for inflatable ones just for the packing ability I don't really put anything on my roof but slugging three kayaks on top of there making sure they're all strong and secured for 70 mile-an-hour runs down the freeway does get old after awhile. In a dream world I would just be able to afford a Hobie kayak but I think they cost as much as my vehicle does LOL.
If you look locally you should be able to find a kayak rental place that you could probably try out a inflatable if not ask around if someone has to have one you could try. They are a little slower then a hard kayak bit if your just using it for lakes and slow rivers it should fit the bill .
 

Billy "Poserlander" Badly

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I recently purchased a Sea Eagle 370, which is on the cheap end of their spectrum, but should work for the calm water kayaking we'll likely be doing. All of their kayaks seem to have pretty positive reviews, and the 380 might be more your speed.

I had a cheap Intex 2 person inflatable that I used for 3 years on the Cascade Lakes in Oregon, and it actually worked great. 2 people, sometimes a dog, always a cooler, occasionally a rod/tackle, I never had problems.
 

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I'm actually considering getting rid of my hard kayaks for inflatable ones just for the packing ability I don't really put anything on my roof but slugging three kayaks on top of there making sure they're all strong and secured for 70 mile-an-hour runs down the freeway does get old after awhile. In a dream world I would just be able to afford a Hobie kayak but I think they cost as much as my vehicle does LOL.
If you look locally you should be able to find a kayak rental place that you could probably try out a inflatable if not ask around if someone has to have one you could try. They are a little slower then a hard kayak bit if your just using it for lakes and slow rivers it should fit the bill .
Yes, that's the same thinking I had, hassle of loading and unloading, on top of worrying about being a potential target for theft. Interesting that after a hard shell you're maybe going for an inflatable. I see an awful lot of reviews saying some models are stable even for whitewater, and that some have firm bottoms so you don't feel like you're in a raft.

I suspect I'll end up with an inflatable for under 1,000, then have to decide on suitable/versatile paddles. Any advice in that regard as far as type, length, etc? Man, I see some that would be half as much as the kayak.
 
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I recently purchased a Sea Eagle 370, which is on the cheap end of their spectrum, but should work for the calm water kayaking we'll likely be doing. All of their kayaks seem to have pretty positive reviews, and the 380 might be more your speed.

I had a cheap Intex 2 person inflatable that I used for 3 years on the Cascade Lakes in Oregon, and it actually worked great. 2 people, sometimes a dog, always a cooler, occasionally a rod/tackle, I never had problems.
Good info, Billy, much appreciated. Glad to hear from someone who has had real, practical experience with inflatables. Haven't had the new one out yet? I want a stable platform mostly for photography, including at night, so I can shoot back towards the shore from the water. Also to be able to sneak along shorelines for wildlife and waterfowl.
 
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Billy "Poserlander" Badly

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Good info, Billy, much appreciated. Glad to hear from someone who has had real, practical experience with inflatables. Haven't had the new one out yet? I want a stable platform mostly for photography, including at night, so I can shoot back towards the shore from the water. Also to be able to sneak along shorelines for wildlife and waterfowl.
I have not yet had the new one out, but given the level of upgrade it is (presumably) over the old one, I expect good things. I was honestly surprised how stable my cheap one was. With a bit of caution, I could stand in it (not recommended).
 

chexmix

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We have a cheap 2 person kayak from Amazon. Had it for almost 2 years and used it once in Tahoe. When I did use it, it was awesome! Two adults and one baby and we paddled out to the center of emerald bay in Tahoe. Now that the little guy is older, hope to use it more this summer. It's nice that it collapses down to about a double milk crate (excluding the life jackets). For how much I use it, it's perfect.


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I have a 14' Jackson Journey touring kayak. Yes, it is a pain to load and unload on the 4Runner (I'm 5'8") and some of why I bought the trailer I did. It is quite a bit shorter. I really like how easily the Journey cuts through the water and tracks straight through the water. Deb has a 10.5' Dagger Axis, which is wider than mine. By comparison, it is harder to glide though the water, and doesn't track nearly as well unless the drop-down skeg is used. It all has to do with how fine the entry is at cutting through the water.

I used a cheap inflatable several years ago, and I might as well have been paddling in a truck inner tube. It required a *lot* of effort to get anywhere, and half your strokes seemed to be correcting the direction you were heading as opposed to moving forward. I imagine inflatables are better today, but nowhere as easy to paddle as a rigid hull.

I've seen the Oru folding kayaks in several stores, and if *I* were in the market again, I'd take a look at one. Not inexpensive, but the two lowest price ones are not much more than my Journey. https://www.orukayak.com/collections/kayaks

What paddle would you use with an inflatable kayak? Why, an inflatable paddle, of course!

15_paddle.jpg
 

NWNavigator

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I have a 14' Jackson Journey touring kayak.
Good to know you like the Jackson Journey. I just sold one of my Boston Whalers and ordered two boats from Jackson, the Journey for touring and the Coosa FD for fishing. I'll be using a trailer to transport them. I went with the Coosa FD over the Hobi angler based on weight and some of the other features of the boat. I'm doing some cross promotion with the kayak shop across the river and they are bringing in a rental fleet of the Coosa FD for anglers to use on the Willamette. We hope to share clients and I hope to expand my "fun on the water" factor this summer. You can never have too many boats.
 

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We have a cheap 2 person kayak from Amazon. Had it for almost 2 years and used it once in Tahoe. When I did use it, it was awesome! Two adults and one baby and we paddled out to the center of emerald bay in Tahoe. Now that the little guy is older, hope to use it more this summer. It's nice that it collapses down to about a double milk crate (excluding the life jackets). For how much I use it, it's perfect.
I have a 14' Jackson Journey touring kayak. Yes, it is a pain to load and unload on the 4Runner (I'm 5'8") and some of why I bought the trailer I did. It is quite a bit shorter. I really like how easily the Journey cuts through the water and tracks straight through the water. Deb has a 10.5' Dagger Axis, which is wider than mine. By comparison, it is harder to glide though the water, and doesn't track nearly as well unless the drop-down skeg is used. It all has to do with how fine the entry is at cutting through the water.

I used a cheap inflatable several years ago, and I might as well have been paddling in a truck inner tube. It required a *lot* of effort to get anywhere, and half your strokes seemed to be correcting the direction you were heading as opposed to moving forward. I imagine inflatables are better today, but nowhere as easy to paddle as a rigid hull.

I've seen the Oru folding kayaks in several stores, and if *I* were in the market again, I'd take a look at one. Not inexpensive, but the two lowest price ones are not much more than my Journey. https://www.orukayak.com/collections/kayaks

What paddle would you use with an inflatable kayak? Why, an inflatable paddle, of course!
View attachment 51066
I have a Solstice one person inflatable and I really like it. It has stood up well over the three years that I have had it. It works for me as I have no way to transport a hardshell kayak with my RTT.
Thanks for the replies, everyone, great info and very much appreciated.

@chexmix - which inflatable 2 seater from Amazon is it? And, does it track through the water fairly well without great struggle? Has a slight keel of some sort to keep it straight both while paddling or gliding?

@Steve - I like the looks of your 14' Jackson a lot, and have looked at them, and others similar, before. Gorgeous and sleek and must move through water like a skate on ice. If I had the space somewhere to store a rigid-hulled kayak when not using it, and in a place I could get to often, I'd go hardshell in a heartbeat.

I often end up on the road for months, though, and don't always get back to one of the places I keep stuff before going to the next place. I do as much urban exploring as I do back country, too, so am often parked in cities and small towns. I don't hang a lot of overly noticeable stuff from my van or trailer that may attract attention so am leaning now towards an inflatable I can stow away when not using, but which will be close at hand when I do want to use it.

Your mention of the inflatable paddling like an inner tube, and the importance of how the entry of the kayak goes through water, has me thinking. I want to be sure the inflatable I end up with has some sort of slight keel or at least good guiding bow and is overall easy to use. If it's not, I won't use it as much, which just defeats the purpose of having and hauling it in the first place. Many of the inflatables I've looked at seem to be geared more for whitewater, not lake or slow-moving stream, so a keel or guiding bow is not as important, I'm assuming.

I'd like a kayak I can slip along the shore with to sneak up on wildlife both just to observe and for photography. I've studied birds, reptiles, and amphibians since I was a kid, so love getting up close as I can to wildlife. I also want a good kayak to fish out of and to get to the other shore for overnights, etc, bush craft style. And one that will glide straight after several strokes of a paddle for better photography. I remember being in a canoe meant for whitewater, but that I was in on a lake. That thing kept twisting around in the slightest breeze like a horse that wanted me off its back.

I looked at the Oru folding kayaks before I left last Aug on my mongo gear-gathering trip. I almost bought one. I think it was the cost then, and reviews that ended up discouraging me from being as impulsive as I sometimes am in purchases. The older I get--I think I'm 82 or something now, my birth certificate got lost in the hurricane :tonguewink:--the less impulsive and more considerate I've become. I ponder and plan things a bit more now than I did before.

I'm definitely interested in seeing an Oru first person if you get one.

@Northernlady - Wow, those Solstice kayaks are really inexpensive. Haven't looked into them much yet, but will check out what users and reviewers say about them. Have you had any problems with needing to patch more often because the material is more prone to puncture? Has it been durable when you drag it in and out of the water? I want one I can put gear into and that has a tough enough skin and bottom I don't have to constantly worry about it, and that can take the occasional dog as well, toenails and all.

To others reading and wondering about kayaks, I just ran across the interesting Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews - 2018 Guide.
Haven't read through it all yet, so can't vouch for how impartial or not it is, but it looks good so far.


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theMightyGoose

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I’m really interested in the Oru folding kayaks. Sounds like you dismissed them. Most of what I have seen has been positive. I’m wondering what info you based your decision on. I’m not trying to talk you into it. I’m just curious. The folding kayaks are very expensive. But they seem lighter and capable of carrying more gear. And it sounds like you plan to carry some extra gear.

G-


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I’m really interested in the Oru folding kayaks. Sounds like you dismissed them. Most of what I have seen has been positive. I’m wondering what info you based your decision on. I’m not trying to talk you into it. I’m just curious. The folding kayaks are very expensive. But they seem lighter and capable of carrying more gear. And it sounds like you plan to carry some extra gear.

G-
Well, like I wrote, I think it was mostly the cost then, along with a bunch of reviews that discouraged me. Enough to dissuade me from spending over a grand on something I wasn't sure about.

I remember thinking last summer when looking at them online, that a lot of the faults and problems mentioned may be due to their being relatively new to market and that they were still tweaking designs and fixing common problems as they got feedback from end users. That it'd be wise to wait a bit, like with a new software release, 'til the kinks were further worked out.

I went back this afternoon to see what I could find for reviews I recall seeing, mostly at REI, paddling.com, and Amazon. Along the way I found that the company started production and releasing models for reviews in 2013. Reviews I read ranged from 2013 up through the present.

Reviews I found that I recall seeing then were mostly about changes between what a buyer ordered and what they received, differences between the instructions they received and what they had in front of them for model, and that enough things had changed in the manual between printing and shipping that it was frustrating. A few negative reviews were that a seam didn't last after just a few times folding and unfolding, zippers were hard to install, the kayak was hard to get folded back tight enough to strap closed, or that customer service failed to be much help or didn't answer.

I realize that often negative reviews on products are from people who just didn't take time to be thorough with instructions, or didn't read them at all, or are easily frustrated with most things in life, so fault the company. I sensed more frustration that seemed genuine, enough so that I thought it best to wait. One fellow, who seemed experienced, wrote that it took too long to put together but more importantly to me, that it did not track or glide well in the water.

For my purposes, of hopefully putting a kayak in and out of the water and vehicle regularly, and putting together and folding up or deflating regularly, the more durable and easier, the better. As I wrote, if I end up frustrated or it's a bit of a pain to put together and use, I'm a lot less likely to use it as often, then will end up not bringing it along as often.

I'm certainly not dismissing them outright, and may even end up with one, who knows. But right now I'm not leaning that way. I'm going to have to see the various models in person, try them out both in the water and putting one together before I decide.
 
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theMightyGoose

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Sounds good. This is good info. Nobody wants to spend $1,200 just to get frustrated. I think they look really cool, but maybe worth it to wait a bit longer until they start showing up used or the company has enough money to engineer away the problems. I would love to rent one. Maybe REI should add them to their rental inventory so people can try them out first. Thanks for the feedback.
 
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@theMightyGoose - look through the various model reviews for the Oru at REI - I saw someone ask under one model if the Oru would be in their rental pool, but did not read the answer.

I'm on the Maine coast--big ocean-going kayak population--for another month, maybe longer, and as the weather starts getting nicer and people have greater cabin fever, the kayaks will start coming out. Then I'll be able to get some first-hand observations and hopefully some time in a few. I almost bought a couple's used pair of kayaks last summer to at least get some experience, then upgrade later, but they were sold before I got to them.

Closest REI to here is about 80 miles away in Mass, and I may make a run down there to see what I can about a variety of kayaks. I checked out Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) here in town, but they didn't have as many in stock compared to online.

Still learning what types and features I want. As the Quakers say and I believe, and am fond of quoting, if it's meant to happen, "way will open."
 

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I've got a late 2000's Perception Carolina 14.5', a 2015 Pelican Trailblazer 10', and I just got rid of my Dagger Bayou 10'. All rigid kayaks and all sit inside. I love my Carolina the most due to storage and ease of paddling. The Dagger had such a flat bottom that it just tracked wherever it wanted to. The pelican was my first kayak and I quickly outgrew it when I started kayak camping. I ended up just giving it to my fiance hoping that she would want to paddle around with me -- Big Mistake! She flipped it on one our first paddles and ended up losing a fingernail during the scramble. She vows to never kayak again lol

I also recommend spending the extra dough and getting the carbon fiber paddle that Academy sells. Its not the best CF paddle, but it makes paddling oh so much nicer. Definitely is worth the money and a great combo for anyone kayak camping or touring!
 

James Deaton

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I was just in the Aire factory store yesterday... They had a Tomcat solo and a 2up in there... I personally do NOT kayak, but we have 2 Aire Tributary 14HD whitewater rafts. We have been rafting for a few years, and finally stepped into 2 of these new ones last fall at their 20% off labor day sale... I can honestly say the Tribs are awesome! Sure they aren't the (twice the price) USA made Aire models, but we don't need those for what we do.... We go out every weekend from June to September here in Boise and are super excited to finally have "new" rafts this year.

I love Aire's customer service, and Sara, their sales gal, is super willing to give you the best deal over the phone. She did some internet price matching for us last year. Their factory sale is coming up in like 2 weeks, they just sent a flier out to us about it. Call their factory store, Sara should answer, tell her James with the 2 Tributary 14HDs sent you, and ask her about the sales coming up....

James
 
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PicNick

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Im also interested in an inflatable kayak, for lakes in CO, but hoping one is strong enough to take a dog inside without ripping?? Suggestions??
If you're worried about the dog popping a whole in the floor, you could always lay down a yoga mat in the bottom for protection. I'd also carry some patches just in case, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. I guess it also depends on how lively your dog is
 
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