Pros and cons on Inflatable Kayaks



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  • Pros and cons on Inflatable Kayaks

    I'd like to get a discussion going on the various brands and hull styles of IK's out there. I did a whitewater class for the Knik Canoers and Kayakers and we had several different brands of boats. It was interesting. Aire is popular here, in fact our school has a bunch of Tom Cats, but there are other brands out there that are not so common in Ak but maybe superior boats. For example in the for sale forum a guy has a Skill Kat IK for sale. That boat is TOTALLY different than any IK I have ever seen.

    I see this discussion falling into the following heading:
    Whitewater ultimate fun
    fly-in trips using the IK more like a canoe, Brooks Range and Western AK
    Trekking where one is hiking in. This will be good to discuss pack rafts vs IK's.
    Ocean Trips
    World Wide Treks

    What ya got folks
    Jim, Ak kayak Academy

  • #2
    Easy to carry and transport to destination
    No need for car rack
    No need for storage space at home

    Harder to maneuver
    Slower than a hard kayak
    May get punctured and leak
    Set up time (if you call 10-15 minutes a long time)
    Price - can be as expensive as regular kayaks


    • #3
      Aire vs. NRS

      I have Aire lynx I kayaks. I bought them both used at a good deal and I have been very happy with them. Durable, stable, maneuverable. I havn't done multi-day floats with them but I am confident if I packed light I could do a 5 day trip with no problem. My only gripe with these, is the bladder design. Because of this, they are much more bulky rolled up (more than a hypalon IK) and I've always thought an in the field repair would be more difficult because of the two layers. Having said this, I've never had a problem with mine, but there is always a first time.

      My next IK will be an NRS MaverIK II. My girls are getting old enough to bring along so this will be much better than my single AIRE IK's. Also, for extended trips, you can use these for one person and get a ton of gear into them if you need to. You would obviously only want to load them heavy on a non-technical river, but it's a good option to have. I would say these double NRS boats are almost as maneuverable with 1 person paddling as my single lynx. The maverIK I is is like a rocket ship in comparison to the lynx I. It's not as stable and you can't carry as much, but very nimble and fun. This would be my go-to boat for creeking and day trips of any kind.


      • #4
        IK Pros, Cons, Types

        I saw the thread kinda take 2 directions so i will follow suite
        Types-I own a Lynx 1, a Strike, and Tomcats my friend Chad has a force XL,
        This is what we are seeing.
        Overall when considering all issues, weight, performance, gear hauling ability, and sensible workmanship in the production of the boat etc. Aire has a great product, they are tough,and the bladder inside the tubes is a brilliant idea for more than one reason. Patching seems simple, fix the inner bladder sow the outer tube which in return will support your riverside handiwork on the inside bladder and i imagine will reduce the chance of your patch failing. The next good reason for this design is the ability to mount the adjustable foot pegs through the wall of the tube. They are not going anywhere and just a click of a button to adjust. Another good attribute of this design is the fact that a rock has to cut through two layers instead of one.Makes sense to me anyway, im sure Brian or Tracy could give real stats. on this.

        Packing is great, take out the seat in the lynx and it along with the force makes a small package. under 35 lbs. The strike is a few pounds heavier and not quite as packable but close, and not quite as ridged as the other two boats. On the river the strike is amazing,we have not had any complaints with the strikes performance and it is cheaper. Another important piece of equipment is the flip strap which most Aires have. They should call it the quick flip strap.
        The Force is more zippy than the lynx, but the lynx handles waves and holes better, i think and this seems to be contributed to the rocker.
        Almost the best part, a 10 year no fault warranty with the lynx and force.
        The best part I dont think I will ever have to use it. We quickly figured out how tough these boats are, its incredible. Probably not recommended,but often now instead of packing them on backpack frames we drag them semi inflated so they bend around obsticles if the grounds not sharp rocks. I have no worries with damaging the boat and it sure is easy.
        Jim has an Innova that i liked it is light,stable and seemed to get really ridged. I also boated with a guy in a Star it was a good boat also. I will not rip the undesirables.
        Our boats are not as light as pack rafts, they may be alittle heavier but IK guys are stronger than pack rafters,better looking and have hotter women
        A real pro for the IK to me is exploration, you can pack gear, they eliminate alot of scare when dealing with wood. We found you can just jump out in shallow water or on shore when boating fast, small steep streams without an eddy. Wood dangers are reduced....Another interesting point is the fact, plowing through a hole with a boat full of water weighing a few hundred more pounds is great with momentum.
        The con- Your always wet, wah wah


        • #5
          Inflatable Kayaks are far more stable than hard shells, and you don't need to be able to do a roll before using them. In fact you don't need to know much of anything. They are stable enough, and easy enough for many people to do some class III rapids with almost zero experience. I almost always bring an extra IK on rafting trips. I can put a total novice in one and as long as they stick with the rafts, they are quite safe and have a lot of fun. In Alaska a drysuit is almost a mandatory piece of equipment though.

          There are also some small class IV and V creeks that are easier in IKs than in hardshells. The advantage of being able to bail out fast and stop the boat can be a life saver.

          I have a couple Aire Lynx I's, and a Thrillseeker. ( I prefer the Lynx for most things. They are comfortable, can pack enough for a self supported multi-day trip, and they do whitewater fairly well. However, the T-Seeker is a better whitewater boat. It's faster, and surfs *much* better, but is not as comfortable to do long trips in.

          BTW, one of my Lynx I's is a foam floor model. Do they even offer this anymore? It was less money, and provides a flatter floor that performs better, but doesn't pack nearly as small. It's a fun play boat though.

          I rode in a Aire Force once. Far more tippy than the Lynx, and has little room for tripping gear. It was quick though. I also paddled a Sotar for a while, and found it a fun boat. But the one I used was quite narrow in the hips, and a little tippy compared to the Lynx.


          • #6
            Lynx rocker change

            Jim S. does your lynx have a 15 inch rocker? I guess Aire changed this a few years ago. I am wondering if this credits a improvement in the performance of the lynx. I am pondering this because yourself, and climbhunter made comment, pertaining to a lynx being only decent in whitewater.I believe he said he bought his used and im not sure how old yours are.
            This rocker modification theory of mine comes to mind becuase, I am just not seeing the boat as being sluggish or slow etc , but rather easy to manuever and excellent on waves and drops, but hey my perspective could change after paddling more boats.
            I read the IK Boat people website from time to time and they review several different types of IK'S. Anyway check this out if you have time.
            Take notice and check out Aires new boat, it looks like a lynx on the juice. This boat seems like it would shine when doing multi day trips.
            If anyone is remotely interested in resolving an issue like this i believe a trip where we could all paddle different boats would be great.
            Great topic MO


            • #7
              Both my Lynx' are the old style, I believe. I think they changed the bow/stern areas the year after I bought mine. Not sure what year that was. They may have changed it again in more recent versions.

              I don't think of my lynx as sluggish though. It's just that it's not as fast as the T-Seeker, which has a very flat solid foam floor with continuous rocker, end to end. Consequently it surfs better. It's also longer (13'), but has a slightly shorter waterline, so it turns just a little quicker. You also sit lower in the T-Seeker, with your butt wet all the time, so it's more stable. Not that the Lynx is tippy. I usually put a dense foam pad under me until the water gets rough.

              The Thrillseeker has no seat, just a backrest thwart and thigh straps. It's not real comfortable for long hauls, so I strap in a Krazy Creek chair most of the time. I think I have the only T-Seeker in Alaska, so most people around here have never even seen one. They are the original serious water IK though, and you see them featured in some older IK books. They are/were quite common on the East Coast, but Custom Inflatables is still a small outfit.

              The Aire Lynx has a great seat, BTW, and it can be removed easily to be used as a good camp chair. I have also used the boat with reduced aire pressure as a very nice "Aire bed." At 10.3' it won't fit in my tent though, so I use it with a small tarp on self supported trips.


              • #8
                I believe I also have the older model. I would be all for getting together and trying out some different boats. If life goes according to plan, I should be available anytime this summer!


                • #9
                  Wood Warning Moose creek

                  A very hard to spot, "dangerous log" in very fast water no eddies.
                  We just finished a Willow Creek Hard shell trip and decided to go boat Moose creek for a double decker late evening run. Due to the nature of the creek I grabbed my lynx, (I like my face). The creek was rippin, flowing around 250cfs, so away we went like many times before.
                  At the entrance of the steep section, ( about a quarter of a mile below the put in) there is a bunch of large boulders (The Guard Rocks) which form slots for one to maneuver through. We just boated this a couple of days earlier and thought nothing of wood. As we approached something was not right, then I saw the top 2 inches of a 12 inch log wedged in the rapid, river wide. All i could do was jump over the log and onto one of the boulders,(In the middle of the rapid) while my boat pinned. I was unofficially safer but far from being out of the situation. Swimming was not high on my list of desired options to free myself and a throwbag from shore was not a much better option. I really like my boat, so while standing on the boulder,-with luck and patience, managed to free my boat. I got a few pics and a video clip, balanced the boat on the rock, jumped in and plunged into the rest of the rapid. The run was great, fast and very continuous, a good class III+ run.
                  This situation is a for sure advantage of an IK.
                  I sure slept good.
                  A couple of pics shot from my perch on the boulder. The log and downstream view below the boulder drop, wish i could post the vid clip.
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    Tip for pins

                    Have you had your IK pin on a rock horizontally yet, and wonder if it was going to explode from the pressure? No matter how ridged your IK is, water pressure from horizontal pins will wrap your boat around a rock like a giant snake does it's prey.
                    Tip- As the unavoidable encounter is transpiring, move to the front or back of your boat, your weight shift will save your behind many times, and the boat will slide around the rock.
                    Tip- If your already pinned, move to the stern end, reach and grab your thigh straps, tug, bounce, etc., if you ride the high tub upon exiting the rock, you might not even have to reflip your boat. You will however, have to turn around and get back into your seat while moving. HE HE
                    Tip- the more common technique used, would be keeping contact with your boat(of course) and work off of the rock, or possibly from the eddy behind it.
                    The bottom line, you can ride them backwards, upside down, laying down, standing up- the thrills are nearly endless.
                    Oh!!!!!! and like our mothers would say....... Be careful, you shouldn't do that stuff.
                    Casey lying down body surfing his IK for his mom, Class II rapid, Class IV fun.
                    Cheers MO
                    Attached Files


                    • #11

                      I am very interested in this boat, do any of you guys have one? I would really like to test drive one. I am planning some long hauls, and need to reduce weight. I figure I can lose fifteen pounds or so.
                      I am aware of the stats etc., what I want is some real world response. For example, how does your boat hold up to abrasions, which is one of my concerns.


                      • #12

                        Hi Marko,

                        I have a bandit 2, it is the older model that is a few pounds lighter, 25 lbs with both seats. the new one are at 30 lbs from what I hear. The fabric is tough enough, but because it is a urathane coated fabric it isn't very durable to drag across dry pavement or what every dry. I believe the fabric/urathane build up heat and causes the fabric to wear out faster.

                        I could do a week long trip in the bandit 2 with no problem.

                        A friend of mine has used his bandit 2 on two different river in the arctic, each trip was about a week long.

                        Marko did you help Jim Gonski teach an IK class a couple weeks ago? if you did we met then, I was using Jim innova K1 boat, that boat handles almost the same as the Bandit 2.

                        I may be able to get out of work on Monday to go paddle a stream, if you would like to see how a bandit 2 handles


                        • #13
                          An inflatable will likely be a little slower, it's not seems. It's the rigidity of the material; hard plastic, will glide more than fabric, fiberglass or kevlar will glide better than plastic. However, modern inflatables are much more resistent to popping than in the past.

                          If you have room to store a hard shell boat, I'd get a sea kayak or SOT that isn't inflatable. The bets thing you can do is test paddle a bunch of different boats.


                          • #14

                            Sometimes I help Jim, when he needs it.I tell you,those IK classes are packed with action, swim, swim, swim ,swim, etc. I swam so much my first year I should have just went in my vest. LOL
                            I would be more than happy to run a creek. PM your number and we will go from there.

                            BTW... I would love to try the Bandit. Do you know anyone who has a solo Bandit?


                            • #15
                              Aire Super Lynx

                              I've used my Aire on moving water (Kenai, Willow), lakes, and open water. With the amount of space in the boat, I could strap down enough gear for a week of paddling, but to be honest I'm not sure I'd take it out on PWS or very far in Resurrection Bay. That's mainly because it tends to wander a little bit when you have a stiff breeze and it doesn't have nearly the glide of a hardshell kayak. It would be quite a bit of work doing crossings, and if the weather and swells come up I'd kind of like to be able to paddle as quickly as possible for a lee side of something.

                              I've got a homemade rodholder setup for trolling for salmon with it, which is tons of fun in Passage Canal and down in Valdez when the silvers show up. The Aire Lynx boats have lots of tie down loops, and you can secure just about anything in them conveniently. I strap in a softsided cooler when I'm fishing, along with my dry bag, extra paddle, rods, etc., and still there's plenty of room. The boat can carry quite a bit of weight. As mentioned before, the warranty is as good as it gets. I haven't installed foot pegs for it, because I found that the thigh straps work pretty well for giving me a good connection to the boat. I'll probably order the pegs, though, and make installing them a winter project. If I was going to use the boat strictly for open water I'd install a skeg to get better tracking.

                              Anyway, that's my two cents on my IK. Don't know if it added anything to the conversation. (I got mine at AK Raft and Kayak, by the way.)


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