Our Kayaks

Posted September 29, 2016

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Since we started full-time traveling in our Airstream, almost every time we launch our inflatable kayaks, we’re asked:

  • Where did we get them?
  • Who makes them?
  • Do we like them?
  • How do they handle?
  • What do they weigh?
  • Are they expensive?
  • How small do they pack up?

We’ve been kayaking since 2004, and began with both personal and small-group instruction with the experts at Southwestern Aquatic Center at the Silver Strand State Beach in San Diego.

I’d recently had major neck surgery following years of muscle atrophy in my arm, and I instinctually felt that paddling would be good physical therapy.

After our second summer of classes in 2005, I’d gained strength, repaired nerve damage and we became enthusiasts, purchasing two Wildernesss Systems Pamlico 145T kayaks. We liked that they could be set up as tandem two seaters or as solo crafts by  moving the front seat back.

These boats served us well on the San Diego Bay where we regularly padded to lunch, breakfast, the fish market and to concerts on the bay. But, at 14.5 feet and 73 pounds, these stable, sturdy, yet manuverable boats seemed to get heavier every year! We continually looked at lighter weight crafts, but never made a decision … Then, came the bad news that I needed a second neck surgery.

I needed a new neck – and because of a great surgeon, I got one. A very good one, Thank you Dr. Jeffrey Lee:

Jim’s neck surgery – September 2015

Carmen and I decided to be kinder to this new neck and lighten up our lives in more ways than just our kayaks.

We began selling everything we owned including the Wilderness Systems Pamlicos, because by that time we could barely pull them on the hand trailer, much less lift them on top of our new tall Ram truck with a cap – even ultra-light boats we’re beyond our ability to manage safely at that height. We needed kayaks that we could fit inside the truck … but with a generator, a ladder, grill, fire pit, table, tools, etc, there was simply no room.

New generation inflatable kayaks were intriguing, but we’d never seen one, didn’t know anyone who had one, and couldn’t find any in showrooms featuring them in San Diego. We certainly didn’t want to buy kayaks without a water test.

Then, one weekend in March 2016 when we were staying at Campland on the Bay, we couldn’t believe that the folks in the space right beside us had two Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks – the very kayak brand we’d been coveting on the internet for months – and they kindly invited us to test them out on the bay! By this time, we hadn’t paddled at all for about six months. The video below shows Carmen taking a test run.

When we asked where they got them, they said AirKayaks.com. We went to the website and were overwhelmed with all the options. So, right there, we called:

The owner, Holly Harris, spent over 30 minutes with me asking questions about our kayaking needs, experience, habits, and plans for the future.  We asked about the Innovo Swing which had also captured our attention since it was only 23 pounds, but Holly advised it was too fragile and light for our needs.

Innova Swing
Innova Swing

Finally, she recommended the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame DS-XL kayak – almost the exact one we tested that day. We bought two of them at $639 each with free shipping.

The Advanced Frame kayaks each take about 10 minutes to get out of the bag, inflate and set it up.  Here is the AirKayaks video showing how easy it is to set up and paddle.

For months we paddled in the San Diego Bay until we started full-timing, then, Big Bear Lake, Mono Lake, South Lake Tahoe, Lake of the Woods in Oregon and the Snake River in Idaho….and more to come.

We love these kayaks and have nothing but good to say about how easy they are set up and how nicely they handle.

As a bonus, while camping, they both fit under our Airstream trailer for quick and easy access:

Inflated, they are 10 feet 10 inches long and 33 inches wide. They fit into a small 31″ x 18″ x 10″ duffle bag and we store them in the back of the truck.

With the trucks bed slide puled out, you can see how we store our two inflatable kayaks.

They weigh 35 pounds each including the seat and floor. Here are the features:

  • Rigid-formed Bow and Stern with Aluminum rib
  • Integrated Tracking fin
  • Military-style Air Valves and Twistlok valves
  • Molded low-profile rubber handles
  • Durable double PVC-coated nylon ripstop material with tarpaulin fabric
  • Electronically Welded Seams
  • Bungee Deck Lacing to hold extra gear
  • Coaming area to keep out water
  • Durable, lightweight and compact – inflates in minutes!
  • Designed to be used in flat water to salt water.
  • Adjustable foot brace system
  • Ladder-lock straps on seat back to attach optional fishing rod holders
  • High-pressure inflatable 4-6 PSI dropstitch floor for extreme rigidity (we LOVE this feature and cannot recommend the high-pressure floor enough!)
  • AE2011 Double action high-pressure 14 PSI handpump with pressure-gauge
  • AE2013HB High-back lumbar seat for the ultimate in a comfortable with an adjustable back rest.
  • Carrying case, one year warranty, repair kit and instructions

Since we knew we would be using these boats regularly in our travels, we bought two very high quality Accent Kauai CBX 4 piece Carbon Adjustable kayak paddles

These are the paddles we bought

We also bought two Advanced Elements Stowable Kayak Dollies so we could walk them to their destinations. When we arrive to the water, we pop off the wheels and stow them behind the seats under the stern, then collapse the frame and stow it on top with bungie cords (you can see the dollie frame stored on top of the back with the wheels detached and stored underneath the zipper).

We bought two of these, one for each kayak
Here you can see where we store the dolly (cart) behind the seat with the wheels detached and inside the kayak and the frame secured on top with red bungie cords

The only negatives is risk of mildew. When you deflate them for storage they must be dry – especially for long-term storage. To avoid mildew, we drain them well and then dry in direct sunlight for a couple of hours, then towel dry before deflating.

If you decide to buy from AirKayaks.com, please tell Holly Harris that James and Carmen Beaubeaux sent you. It won’t get us any money, but we’d like them to know we’re sending folks their way.

Happy Kayaking!!!!!

16 thoughts on “Our Kayaks

  1. Okay, you hooked us! Just got off the phone with Holly at AirKayaks (she is great, by the way) and purchased two XLCs (they are out of stock until November), two dollies and two sets of the paddles you recommended. I did tell Holly we saw this in your blog and really liked what we saw. We have a good hybrid canoe, but it is getting a bit heavy to lift on and off our huge truck’s bike rack. Looking forward to using these here in Arkansas and the many places we hope to visit in our AS, “Rose,” over the next many years.

      1. We would love that as well. If you are ever in the Little Rock area, be sure to give us a call. Send me an email directly and I’ll give you our contact info. Re: bicycles; we just have not been able to convert to folding; have two road bikes each; travel with one set at a time, of course. Judy and I love your travel maps and enjoy following your blog. Thanks for taking the time and effort to do the very informative post on the kayaks; it is the reason we made the decision to buy them.

    1. Agreed, Jan. I think we’ll always have inflatables simply because we can’t do heavy lifting – but the space-saving aspect is truly revolutionary. The first time I saw a new generation inflatable was in Venice. A couple of American backpackers stepped off the train and onto the bank of the canal, took their backpacks off and pumped their boats, threw their gear in and before we boarded the train they were long gone … Awesome!

  2. We have the Sea Eagle Fastback 385 (12 1/2′) inflatable. Its an open design that accommodates us either tandem or solo. However, we are looking at the same kayak you previously had, the Pamlico 145T for tandem/solo use. The main reason is to free up space inside our Ram 2500 (with ARE cap). While inflating isn’t the issue, deflating and making sure it is dry is getting old and time consuming. Also when leaving it outside in the campground we have to find spots in the shade and deflate a little so the sun doesn’t expand the air. I’ve noticed some staining in our drop stitched floor. Our kayak can’t really be used on cold waters. Everything inside gets wet. Your Advanced kayak looks like you could put a skirt on for cold water kayaking. The wife doesn’t want individual boats.

    We figure with wth the correct rack system (we have the Yakima bar option on our ARE) we could store a Pamlico 145T on top our Ram and not spend so much time making sure our Sea Eagle is dry before storing. How is the 145T for cold water paddling? Do you find the 145T takes on a lot of water in tandem and solo? (I’m 190lbs, wife 135lbs).

    Kelvin

    1. Hey Kelvin, we have neen kayaking for 35-plus years. We have had inflatable, sit-upon, hard plastic, graphite, and fibreglass ones. We have had tandem and singles. Our favorites are our Voyager and Nekkie ocean-going touring kayaks. Though longer than some, they have a rudder that can be controlled by your feet, so steering and tracking are excellent. Fairly lightweight with ample storage for several days or more camping. They do not get wet inside and they seem fairly warm in cold water. Hope this helps!

    2. Hey Kelvin! Great to hear from you!

      Another happy surprise was that these inflatables are much drier than the Pamlicos. It’s rare to get any water in them at all. Once, rough swells in the San Diego bay got us a little wet, but the separate inflatable floor kept us dry. Also the seat is about 3 inches above the floor. We haven’t felt a need for the skirt. As far as cold, we’re still hot-house flowers and have never paddled in truly cold conditions – but when we do, we’ll let you know! If we were strong enough, we’d probably still be using the pamlicos or a craft that Laurie Roeder recommends 🙂 because of the inconvienence of planning for dry out and packing time. But, for us, if it weren’t for the inflatables we’d have to pass on paddling.

      Do you have bikes, Kelvin? If so, what kind and where do store them?

      We’re currently looking for folding bikes – perhaps, electric – but they have to be light enough for us to lift them onto the back seat of the truck.

    1. I’d love to go kayaking with you, Miriam! The inflatables get us on the water without stress or injury. I only wish there was a place to water test all of the different models that coming out. You’re welcome to try ours out in Yellowstone.

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