Review- Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Converitible

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Brahma
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Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:44 am

Review- Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Converitible

Post by Brahma » Sun Apr 28, 2013 5:54 pm

I bought a Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Convertible inflatable kayak and took it out yesterday for the first time. I am new to kayaking but very experienced in inflatable boating. The target consumer is someone like myself who is restricted by portability and/or storage size restrictions, and certain compromises are to be expected in performance, but I was pleasantly surprised. My target need was portability for storage to fish Tampa Bay and inshore coastal waters of the Gulf which kayaks are commonly used for that purpose.

The base AEC is a quality, albeit, expensive piece of gear, with compromises stated above, but also some not well thought out shortcomings. Being 6’2â€￾ and over 300 pounds, I knew I was stretching the design limitations of this kayak, but the specs, depending on which you read, state a rated load of either 500 or 550 pounds. None the less, I am often faced with issues surrounding my physical size, so what I found wasn’t a surprise, but as always, somewhat disappointing. Irrespective of size issues, I found a few glaring issues that anyone should be concerned about when investing this amount of money for an inflatable. Overall, the AEC will fit my immediate requirements but will require personal upgrades and design alterations at additional cost to render it fully useable.

I purchased and tested the following; AEC kayak, AEC Backbone, AEC inflatable foot brace, AEC Pack Lite 4 Paddle, AEC Single Deck Conversion, AEC Lumbar Seat, AEC Double-Action Hand Pump with Pressure Gauge and an AEC 12 volt Pump online at Amazon. Other considered AEC accessories pending my initial evaluation at purchase time were the AEC Double Deck Conversion, AEC Accessory Frame System and AEC Dura-Floor. Additionally, I purchased an AEC RapidUp Sail and an AEC Forum member recommended large spray bottle of 303 Fabric Guard, plus other needed marine supplies at a local West Marine store. Total investment for the purchased AEC components was over $1,400.00, with other AEC considered options of an additional $150 + the cost of the as of yet unpriced AEC Dura Floor. This investment takes it well within the upper range of fully equipped poly kayaks, and approaching actual marine grade inflatable, and trailerable boats and should not be considered lightly.

Currently having only an apartment with no garage facilitated the need for an inflatable. I had owned and used for years a fully accessorized 12 foot Sevylor Fish Hunter that took loads of abuse and wear and satisfied every need including loading into a Cessna for transport , so as stated, I am fully experienced in inflatable use, design compromises and care. I should mention also the Sevylor, at the time, was a considerable less investment with much more room, including a 50 lb. thrust Minnkota, but the comparison between the two styles of boats is not a fair comparison, but the cost factor is.

I fully built out the AEC in my apartment the night before, check-fitting all equipment and was pleased with the build process, and basic quality. What was immediately clear was I am too big to use the AEC Single Deck Conversion I bought. Unless you are an average person- or far less- in size, you will be using the AEC without a deck. This did not bother me as I live in Florida and am not afraid of being wet. It would be an immediate consideration elsewhere. The next thing that immediately became clear, and that I am always fearful about was the AEC Lumbar Seat, as well as the included standard seats, do not provide the support necessary for someone of my size. The AEC Lumbar Seat comes very close, but more on that later. Lastly, the AEC is almost completely void of any useable, and/or accessible storage areas, the most glaring a real, fixed anchor point, either for or aft. This is very bad for any vessel.

I collapsed and packed the AEC with relative ease and will mirror other reviews that the storage bag- while big enough to pack a wet AEC, is ill-designed as the zipper used does not allow the bag to be opened wide enough to conveniently stow the kayak, seats and floor. Ultimately, the bag should be designed larger to facilitate the additional purchased AEC components that make up a fully built AEC to include Deck Conversion, Dura Floor and or Drop Stitch Floor, possibly the AEC Back Bone and paddles- anything the becomes wet. This feature would demonstrate forward thinking and added value on the part of AE for the investment. Instead, this equates to additional cost and inconvenience to the customer in additional storage bags for wet gear.

I took the AEC to the Dunedin, FL causeway for the maiden voyage. At high tide, this represents a short grassy beach approach to the water, at low tide, a wide, sharp, rocky beach is exposed. The sea conditions were 2 foot swells with a 10 knot wind, not ideal for a maiden voyage, but good for a real evaluation. I setup the AEC as the night before which did not include the AEC RapidUp Sail. I found the $99 RapidUp Sail to be a novel idea, but in no way worth the cost and poor, cheap design. The plastic clips felt cheap and did not even fit the AEC D Rings without cursing. Above all other accessories, the RapidUp Sail was of a MUCH lower quality than expected. After completing the setup, I sprayed the entire bottle of 303 Fabric Guard on all exposed surfaces, including the AEC RapidUp Sail, let it cure before using it for 4 hours, 2 hours less than the minimum recommended but I got a late start to the day.

Finally, it was time to hit the water. For this, I had to remove the AEC Single Deck Conversion. Most kayaks in Florida are sit on, open styles and this was not a concern. In the surf, I managed to board with little water, and paddled away with little effort. However, I boarded with poor placement to the AEC Lumbar Seat and immediately leaned back nearly flat on me back. I continued, as it was fun anyway. I was impressed by the tracking and the speed I could make in the 2 foot seas and headwind of 10 knots. The RapidUp Sail I could not get to full collapse so it was some measurable impediment to progress. I continued into the wind until I thought better of going back and re-boarding properly to evaluate the additional cost of the AEC Lumbar Seat. Turned the vessel, released the too-short tie down of the AEC RapidUp Sail, and it worked, except one of the cheap plastic clips broke in front immediately. The RapidUp Sail became the RapidBroken Sail.

I tied the strap of the sail the D-Ring when back at shore and re-boarded. The AEC Lumbar Seat provided “betterâ€￾ support this time, but overall, proved that using the AEC will be a painful experience- not totally it’s fault but a better design will work for big people as well as others, and would be a value-add for the investment. This time I continued for thirty minutes in the conditions which provided a slight flooding I am certain could be avoided if the deck conversion could be used. Even with some water aboard, the vessel was very stable and fun. I finally turned and raised the RapidBroken Sail and used it all the way to shore.

I went out a third time with the same results of a painful but fun paddle, against the swells and wind and was convinced the AEC has potential, but at additional cost over and above the large investment.

Teardown was not any pain that wasn’t expected, especially now that the operator was tired- something a chore to consider in all inflatables. The storage bag design could be so much less of a hassle and a much more welcomed convenience, that I already anticipated this and shopped for- and didn’t find, a bigger storage bag before my AEC was delivered. This is a necessity as no wet inflatable packs, with wet accessories, like it arrives from the factory. Again, something to be very appreciated when in falling darkness, cold, tired and wet. AEC would do its customers well by making the storage bag bigger, redesigned with a full open zipper. HINT HINT.
Building an inflatable is easy dry and with excited anticipation of a fun day, packing a wet inflatable when exhausted sucks. Male that experience easier and you are well on your way to a successful total solution people will outwardly talk about.

For people who have absolutely no recourse for storage or portability issues, the AEC represents a quality “startâ€￾ that will make their dreams of inshore accessibility a reality. But be advised, certain issues will present themselves; setup, teardown and cleanup time associated with any inflatable, high investment cost of this particular product, and some items clearly designed with cost cutting measure in mind that need immediate upgrade- additional tie down/anchor points, unusable conversion decks, poorly designed sail, total lack of rod holder.

Would I purchase this again, knowing what I know now? Not for the cost- I would hold out and invest in something more costly, less portable but overall more satisfactory. The investment is that near that decision point. Will I keep using it? Yes, it will work out over time.

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PJohanson
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Post by PJohanson » Thu May 02, 2013 8:52 am

As another user, I can appreciate that these AE kayaks are not as cheap as some other companies' inflatables -- but I find that they seem better made. The hulls are tough and lasting. My friend has had to replace her cheap inflatable dinghy twice in the six years that I've been using a Dragonfly (an older version of the Lagoon model).

The Lagoon is much more affordable than the Convertible. I bought it at West Marine, which marks down prices a couple of times a year, and I've used it twice a week for six years, so that is the best price-per-use for any boat I own. Of course, it is a little boat, much smaller than the Convertible. A friend who is six feet tall and 220 pounds fits into it. As a short, plump woman I find this little boat has been a comfortable and affordable recreational boat to take on the bus, lift and carry on my own, and even to check as airline luggage.

Brahma, you're so right about the carrying case!
I've been saying for years that the zipper should go farther around the case and let the case open up like a clamshell. It's not that the folded kayaks (wet or dry) can't fit back into their cases -- the problem is that it's hard to hold open the case at the same time as I lift the folded kayak up and slide it into the open side of the case. It's so much easier to put the kayak away in its case when someone else holds the case open with two hands -- then I can use two hands to steer the folded kayak into the opening.
If we could zip the case completely open and let the case lie open and flat like a book or a suitcase, it would be so much easier to put the folded kayak onto one side of the case and then close the other side over it.
As good as the zipper tracks are, once the little metal zipper head corrodes it is broken. I have three AE kayaks, and one of the bags has a broken zipper head. So when I put that kayak away, in addition to shoehorning it into the case I have to use a bungy cord around the outside to hold the case together. Works!

NaturalPath
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Post by NaturalPath » Thu May 02, 2013 3:19 pm

I agree that the bag should be made to open like a clam shell, and I would also go one step further by reconfiguring the straps on the bag to be used as a backpack. This doesn't seem like something that would cost a great deal. Given the fact that the kayaks are so well made, you would think that innovations in the bag design would only compliment an already great product.

JCOOLEY
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Post by JCOOLEY » Fri May 03, 2013 8:56 am

Amazingly, it does change the cost quite a bit. There is the AE3011 which will fit the Convertible. It is a kayak pack with shoulder straps so it can be carried as a backpack or carrying bag. Of course I have been doing this for a long time and have never had an issue with the current style bag. I usually never remove air with the pump but simply push the remaining air out while folding the kayak. I then lay the bag on its side and slide the kayak in. I always have enough room for my pfd paddles and pump(either AE2001 or AE2009). We will continue to work on the design of the bags for easier use. Thank you for the suggestions. They have been passed along to the design team.

NaturalPath
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Post by NaturalPath » Fri May 03, 2013 11:24 am

Yep, the carrying straps are not really a big thing Jeremy but, I do think it would add to the already substantial functionality the kayak itself. I, for one, do not like carrying the kayak in the bag for any distance. It's awkward having all that weight on one side of your body.

Also, I usually don't have too much trouble getting the kayak back into the bag but I do think it would be that much easier if the bag opened right up like a clam shell. Sometimes it's the little things that make a big impression.

I do realize that cost is a factor, and I certainly wouldn't want to see anything taken away from the rugged design of the kayak in order to cover costs of making changes to the bag.

Brahma
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Post by Brahma » Fri May 03, 2013 5:49 pm

JCOOLEY wrote:Amazingly, it does change the cost quite a bit. There is the AE3011 which will fit the Convertible. It is a kayak pack with shoulder straps so it can be carried as a backpack or carrying bag. Of course I have been doing this for a long time and have never had an issue with the current style bag. I usually never remove air with the pump but simply push the remaining air out while folding the kayak. I then lay the bag on its side and slide the kayak in. I always have enough room for my pfd paddles and pump(either AE2001 or AE2009). We will continue to work on the design of the bags for easier use. Thank you for the suggestions. They have been passed along to the design team.
There is NO WAY that anyone can get the pump and paddles into the same storage bag as a wet AEC with floor, seats and deck. I think the general consensus is that the boat is quality and the bag sucks- listen to your customers.

Steve
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Location: Malta, Europe

Post by Steve » Mon May 06, 2013 6:25 am

I've also got the AEC and will add my comments.

In the bag I manage to fit the kayak, 2 seats & backbone, roll up bag, small anchor & painter. I don't see the pump fitting but then neither do the paddles. I haven't got the backpack type bag but I'm sure that these could be strapped on outside. A bigger bag starts to detract form its portability.

I have no problem fitting the kayak into the bag, but I do it the other way round drawing on my years of packing up tents. I fold the kayak and hold it up vertically between my knees. I then slip the bag (upside -down) over the kayak, never had a problem. Then just roll the bag right way up and pack in the rest of the gear.

The rapid up sail is precisely that. look at other designs and you'll see they fall into 2 categories. Simple & cheap downwind sails like the rapid up or much more costly sail rigs. I have only used the rapidup pnce but will try to experiment more. I'm sure you can leave it tied down only in the centre and pivot the sial round using the lanyards to get at an angle to the wind. However of course you can't also paddle. I'm considering a bigger sail kit but for the price I can get a small dinghy so still undecided.

All in all I'm happy with the AEC bar the comments I made in my own review a couple of weeks back.

Happy paddling all
Steve

Amuzed2pieces
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Location: Seattle WA

My experience as a Clydesdale..

Post by Amuzed2pieces » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:31 am

I am uniquely qualified to comment, as I weigh almost 300 lbs, have the Convertible (as well as a couple other AE Yaks) and have actually kayaked VERY near you (as well as the Pacific, and Salish Sea/Puget Sound areas).

First off on price. I priced out a hardshell and for my height and weight it would be a rare piece of fiberglass, there are formulas for sizing a hard shell. The total for the boat alone would have been $4600 not counting any other accessories. I could buy a used 22' sailboat for the same price, so I opted "no" for the hard shell.

The AE is buy far the most stable boat in that price range for us Clydesdales. We were in the Keys with 4 ft swells and the boat didn't even waver, it stayed level, took a few waves over the top but nothing nasty, and was easy to handle even in wind and waves of that level. We just bailed it every hour and were fine on a 8.5 n/mile round trip. Never tipped an AE yak, ever.... no matter what hit us.

Second. I wouldn't want my accessories in the same bag with the yak, as it would risk stretching or stabbing the boat fabric during a long storage. I carry a second duffel, its been no problem... ever.

Thirdly, having used multiple AE's their weight rating is conservative. I have had many of the boats at max without issue in stability and handling. I think the Convertible actually handles better with more than 250 lbs in the boat. So I wonder for the usage you described you might have done better with a different AE boat, either the Expedition (my fav) or the Straight Edge. That alone would have solved many of your issues.

The Expedition offers an included deck with zipper, and no entrance or exit problems. Its also smooth and easier to assemble than the Convertible, and the tracking is superb. Even my 7 year old niece can handle the Expedition too, in calm water.

We ONLY use the Convertible when we have guests, 2 rowers, or the dog with us. Its really a Tandem boat and in that role it works very well. In any other role its more touchy to assemble, doesn't handle as well, and as you noted...

The optional decks do not have zippers. They should, but in all fairness to AE its only us Clydesdales who need them. A hard shell would have an even smaller opening. There is sail shop that could add a zipper near me fairly cheap, but I don't think I need the deck.

So I agree that it would be nice if AE offered zippers on the Convertible deck. Its why I haven't bought the decks, and use our 2 Expeditions in conditions that need a deck or more protection.

And I agree the sail sucks, I broke mine in the living room when I unpacked it.

Overall, I LOVE the AE yaks. They are not perfect, but they are better than a Hard Shell in every way except set up.

And AE's customer service rocks, great people who love kayaking and treat their customers like they are small town friends.

Amuzed2pieces
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Post by Amuzed2pieces » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:43 am

As for seats, I knew before my first pump that I would need something stiffer and taller. So I ordered this one, took the buckles off, put the clips from my AE seat on, added a couple of zip ties for security and voila...

A seat that works for someone over 6 ft tall.

http://www.austinkayak.com/products/107 ... pport.html

They have other options a swell starting at $69.

Brahma
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:44 am

Post by Brahma » Wed Jul 17, 2013 6:27 am

Amuzed2pieces wrote:As for seats, I knew before my first pump that I would need something stiffer and taller. So I ordered this one, took the buckles off, put the clips from my AE seat on, added a couple of zip ties for security and voila...

A seat that works for someone over 6 ft tall.

http://www.austinkayak.com/products/107 ... pport.html

They have other options a swell starting at $69.
Great, another $120 to make this useable, but I might give it one last try. Still haven't made the sail operable from it's maiden deployment hardware failure.

Also, there was a recent new story in the Tampa area where a woman was attacked by a gator in the Everglades in her AE kayak, which they clearly showed on TV. Instant failure. She made it to something to get her out of the water, called 911 and rescue boats found her hours later, by dusk.

I bet she doesn't buy another inflatable...

JimD
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Post by JimD » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:54 am

I doubt if any inflatable boat is alligator proof, but are you sure it was an AE one? The only place I could find with a pic of the boat is at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/nationa ... -1.1389378 and I don't recognise the only bit of writing/logo I could see.

Matt02
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Post by Matt02 » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:14 am

thats a gumotex swing

JCOOLEY
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Post by JCOOLEY » Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:34 pm

Brahma wrote:
Also, there was a recent new story in the Tampa area where a woman was attacked by a gator in the Everglades in her AE kayak, which they clearly showed on TV. Instant failure. She made it to something to get her out of the water, called 911 and rescue boats found her hours later, by dusk.

I bet she doesn't buy another inflatable...

I watched the footage as soon as it was released. It is in NO WAY an Advanced Elements Kayak. It even says on the kayak "SWING". In the USA, it is called an Innova Swing. It has only one layer of material to go through in order for it to be punctured.

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