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Inflatables vs Folding Kayaks
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:59 am
I'm considering the purchase of an Expedition tandem and/or an Airfusion. I've also been researching folding kayaks. I currently own and use a little Folbot Citibot to paddle around the pond located behind my house; however, my wife and I are about to start regularly kayaking the rivers located in the NJ Pine Barrens and the bays and coastal waters located off Jersey. At a minimum, we need an additional single. Another alternative is going tandem.
The relatively low price of inflatables is a strong attraction; but, such a purchase would end up a poor bargain if the product proved seriously limited in comparison to the performance, reliability, and durability of folders.
I am concerned about punctures when navigating the narrow, branch and log strewn Pine Barren rivers. Small portages are often necessary to avoid various blockages (beaver dams, etc.). Realistically, how likely is it that I'll end up constantly patching an inflatable on site or later at home? How concerning is a single puncture when paddling a quarter mile offshore? I first assumed that each of these inflatables was designed with multiple chambers that would allow proper safety and performance if the boat should incur one or two punctures while in service. Is this true?
Many inflatable owners seem to be preoccupied with air pressure considerations, making constant adjustments when water and air temps significantly differ or when paddling on a clear day with hot sun. I initially assumed that the manufacturers designed their boats to successfully operate within a reasonably wide range of pressures. I also assumed that damaging over-inflation could only be achieved by truly careless pumping. Just how sensitive are these boats to inflation variations?
Thanks in advance for your comments.
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:01 am
"The relatively low price of inflatables is a strong attraction; but, such a purchase would end up a poor bargain if the product proved seriously limited in comparison to the performance, reliability, and durability of folders."
While I haven't had any personal experience with folding kayaks, I did do some research also, while I was trying to decide on which kayak would be best for me. As you mentioned, half decent folding kayaks are considerably more expensive than most inflatables and, for the most part, I don't believe that they are as portable, or as easy to set up. There are definitely trade-offs to be made here, and personal preference has a lot to do with it too. All you can do is gather your information and make a choice that you believe suits you best.
"I am concerned about punctures when navigating the narrow, branch and log strewn Pine Barren rivers. Small portages are often necessary to avoid various blockages (beaver dams, etc.). Realistically, how likely is it that I'll end up constantly patching an inflatable on site or later at home? How concerning is a single puncture when paddling a quarter mile offshore? I first assumed that each of these inflatables was designed with multiple chambers that would allow proper safety and performance if the boat should incur one or two punctures while in service. Is this true?"
I can personally attest to the fact that this will not likely be a problem. I've put my AdvanceFrame through all of these scenarios and I've come out clean. In fact, even I'm amazed that the hull of my kayak still looks new. The AdvancedFrame 10.5 does have separate main chambers, as you've mentioned, and I believe that the Expedition also has them. So, theoretically, if you sustained a puncture in one chamber, you should be ok to paddle to safety because the other chamber would still be sufficient to keep you afloat. However, I have not had the opportunity to verify this, since it's never happened to me.
The way I see it, many people are afraid of being attacked by a bear, while hiking in the woods, but how often does this really happen? I can tell you that it's not very often. In fact it could be said that it's very rare, and I've done a lot of research on this subject, as well as a lot of hiking in the woods.
"Many inflatable owners seem to be preoccupied with air pressure considerations, making constant adjustments when water and air temps significantly differ or when paddling on a clear day with hot sun. I initially assumed that the manufacturers designed their boats to successfully operate within a reasonably wide range of pressures. I also assumed that damaging over-inflation could only be achieved by truly careless pumping. Just how sensitive are these boats to inflation variations?"
You will likely get various opinions on this subject, so I'll just throw mine in there. Yes, you do have to be aware of heat expansion on hot sunny days, but this is not really an issue while you are paddling because the water tends to mitigate any heat expansion problems within the air chambers. However, if you pull up on shore, and leave the kayak sitting in the sun, you will definitely want to check for heat expansion after a certain amount of time. If it's possible, it would be better to keep the kayak in a shady spot while it's out of the water.
As far as "truly careless pumping" goes. I'd have to agree with you there to a point. For the most part, the resistance you feel, while inflating the chambers of the kayak, will become familiar to you, and will somewhat guide you to prevent an over-inflation situation. However, I think that there is one exception to that rule. The standard floor chamber in these kayaks is somewhat like an air mattress. Care needs to be taken while inflating this chamber because, unlike the other chambers, which are all contained within strong, heavy-duty fabric coverings, which will give you more resistance feedback, this chamber is not. Therefore, if you use the same resistance feedback measure on this chamber, over-inflation will be the result.
Having said that, I know that AE recommends certain pressures for each chamber. For those who like to use a pressure gauge, they will just read the pressure on the gauge and determine when the chamber is fully inflated. For myself, I've decided not to rely on a pressure gauge. I find it much more convenient to familiarize myself with how the chambers feel when they are fully inflated. This way I can just push on the chambers with my hand, any time that I want, to feel if there is too much air pressure building up, or if there is a low pressure situation. There is a certain amount of leeway on the pressure in each chamber, so it's not an exact science.
Ultimately, a lot of your decisions will come down to personal preference. It's somewhat the same as buying a vehicle. First you decide how much you can afford, and then you start looking at vehicles within that range. Certainly, the experiences of others can be taken into consideration, and given some weight in the decision making process. No one kayak will be perfect for everyone, so it's all relative. Just take all the information you can find and then put it on a balance scale to find which would be best for you.
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 7:19 pm
NaturalPath, do you paddle often in cooler weather (Late Fall/Early Spring) if so do you find you need to add air to the AF when out on the water or allow the kayak to adjust to the cool water temp before adding more air to it and then paddling? I live in NY and like to paddle in the cooler weather (still just renting hard shells though).
Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2012 7:37 pm
Adding extra air to the kayak in cooler weather hasn't been necessary for me. Remember, if you are inflating the kayak with cool, or cold air, it's not going to change much when you put it in the water. Usually, water temperatures are warmer in the fall anyways, after collecting heat from the sun during the summer months. The most important thing to remember here is, if you take the kayak out of the water and leave it in the sun, check it now and again to make sure that the pressure is not rising due to heat expansion or, better still, don't leave it in the sun.
The problem I find in cold weather is that the materials of the kayak are not as flexible. When the PVC stiffens up, due to cold, it is a bit harder to get everything in the right place while inflating the kayak. From now on, I will be keeping my kayak inside before I intend to use it in cold weather.
I have been using my kayak in temperature close to the freezing point and, other than the problem I've noted above, there have been no other issues.
Posted: Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:42 pm
I do paddle in cooler weather, with air temperature at freezing and water temperature about 5 C or 40 F.
These kayaks usually do NOT need to be inflated a little more after the cool water has chilled the air inside the chambers. If you really feel the boat is soft, go ashore and puff it up a little bit. But I like paddling the Lagoon or the Expedition when they're only 85% to 90% full, feeling a little soft.
If you inflate the chambers fully, be prepared when pulling the boat out of the water onto the shore that the sunshine will warm the boat somewhat even on a chilly day. Feel the firmness of the boat and let a little bit of air out if you're going to leave it in the sun for a half hour or so. That will give the chambers room for the air to expand. It's easy to re-inflate the boat to firmness when you've finished lunch and get back on the water. In hot weather, this is more important to remember than on cold winter days.
Posted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:59 pm
We paddled on Tellico Lake in E Tennessee this summer while on vacation and being a TVA lake there are many areas where snags and tree stumps were plentiful in areas. We missed almost all but we did go over one large stump and later we found not a single mark on the hull. After over 30 outings we have not had any scratches of any size on the hull. We have a Convertible. Great kayak!
Posted: Thu Sep 03, 2015 11:38 am
I have been using my advanced elements 10.5 for many years now. I've hit everything the river could throw at me. Rocks and boulders as as nothing to the hull. One time I hit a partially submerged jagged steel beam with the pointy end angled toward me like a spear. I figured that had to have done some damage. I barely noticed a scratch. I would never worry about a puncture. As for re-inflating, the only time I did this was once when I didn't inflate the floor enough.