OK, so for my first boat, went with something inexpensive and easy to transport… an inflatable. This is not only because of the price, but because I do not have a roof rack on my car. (That means more $$$!) I shopped around and found a good deal on a Challenger K2 from Intex. The reason I chose the K2 (2 person) and not the K1 (1 person) was because of weight concerns. I weight much more than the max on the K1, but under the limits of the K2. However, using a 2 person inflatable for 1 person does pose some issues of its own when it comes to seating and weight distribution.
The Setup –
Setting it up is fairly easy. This morning, I took it from Bag to Boat in 13 minutes. Now, it helped that I had already done a dry run (Pardon the pun!) in my living room at home Saturday night. I had wanted to make sure the boat was fine and everything was there before getting all excited only to find a gaping hole in it or something missing. The instruction manual really needs a good editing job by someone who 1) knows the product & 2) has a firm grasp of the English language! But, I was able to make it through. It’s pretty much as simple as rolling it out, inflating it (you have 2 inflation points, numbered so you do them in the right order, assemble the paddles and put in the seats.
Inflation is really easy with the high-capacity pump they provide with the boat. There is also a marking in 2 places (1 for each air chamber) that is 10cm. They give you a little plastic gauge to use to measure those markings. They stretch as the boat inflates. When they reach 10cm, you know the boat is at the proper inflation pressure.
Setup Issue –
OK, here’s the issue with the seating. This boat is designed to ride 2 people, thus distributing their weight evenly. One seat in the rear, and one mid-boat. I decided to place the one seat where my weight would be slightly to the rear of center. The problem I ran into was the seat back. There is no support for it and it kept falling backwards. The first time I put in, I had to take out within 10 minutes as I was basically laying on my back in the boat. I then moved the seat to the rear position, putting the back of it against the edge of the cockpit. Now, there is an empty space between the upper hull and lower deck. About 15 minutes after I put back in, the seat back slipped down into that space, leaving me again, laying back, just not as bad. Also, sitting this far back, my weight caused the boat to bend right below my rump letting water slosh into the cockpit. So, I took out, bailed the boat and decided to move the seat back where I had it, but put my cooler between the seat back and the rear cockpit wall. This worked for about 20 minutes, then the cooler slipped into the gap and back I went. So, I had ONE last brain storm…. FILL THE GAP! I went back to the car and got the other seat. I inflated it, folded it over, and stuffed it in there. I then put my cooler against it, strapped it down, and put my seat back in. This worked like a champ! My weight was far enough forward that the boat rode even in the water. I’ve posted a picture below of how it looked over an hour later… nothing had shifted.
Now, keeping this in mind, I would think anyone using this kayak with 2 people would run into this issue with the front seat (They could just stuff a foam block behind the back seat.
The Performance –
Once I got the seating taken care of, I could focus on enjoying the ride. Now, many people complained online about the tracking of this boat. Between the comments and the fact that it’s an inflatable with a smooth hull (no keel) and only a small skeg in the rear, I had low expectations…. and I was right. Today was really breezy. Cross-winds blew me across the water sideways. What’s stranger is that the tracking was WORSE with the back to the wind. Turning the bow into the wind, she was very stable and I could actually get going much faster. I’ve read where people modified the plastic skeg to make it larger. I’m going to tinker with that to see if I can improve the tracking.
The other issue I had with performance was in paddling. The paddles are really too short for this wide of a boat. Intex could simple make them about a foot longer and they would be fine. Next outing, I’m thinking about adding the center piece from the second paddle. I’m not sure if that will make it too long, and or make it too weak having an extra joint in it.
The Summary -It’s not a bad boat for the money, especially just starting out. If you look, you can find it for under $100 on Amazon. Taking that into consideration, I think it did fine. I plan on using the heck out of it until I can save up enough to get a proper hard-shell boat.
I’ll try to come back and update this after a few more outings with the boat.