Sunday, July 5, 2009

Inflatable Kayaking Fun

Been doing some kayaking on a nearby lake lately. Wanted a kayak for years, and now I have a small fleet of inflatables. Since I was reviewing them on Amazon, I figured I'd share my thoughts here, too.


Picked up this kayak recently at a heavy discount at Dick's Sporting goods. I wanted something I could transport easily, without car carriers and such. This kayak fits the bill nicely. It fits in the trunk in a plastic tub (or across the back seat). I got a 50 gallon for it, but a 35 would probably do, or even a 30. I also picked up a nice paddle, though Coleman's sturdy aluminum ones (not included) would probably have done fine. Overall, I'm very pleased with this boat. It inflates easily (get a rechargable pump -- mine came from KMart) and quickly. You may want to inflate the headrest, which has a small valve, by mouth. The clip-in seat is comfortable and has good back support. About the only problem I had with this is that the instructions are terrible; there are not 5 Coleman inflation valves on the kayak. (Only 4, if you count the tiny headrest one.) I spent some time looking for that "missing" valve.

Having gotten a sit-on-top Coleman afterward, I have to say that this boat is probably more than I initially needed. The nylon hull that surrounds the inflatable core is very sturdy, probably enough to stand up to rocks, sticks, and other hazards not found on the placid lake where I'm paddling. My guess is that this would be great for whitewater or long trips -- it has plenty of storage space, and even a water dispenser. It's fun on the lake, too, don't get me wrong, but a bit unwieldy for just one person to get into the water without dragging. Of course, it's probably rugged enough to drag; I just don't like to. Anyway, I love this boat, and it's a good place to start kayaking. If you want something less ambitious (or cheaper), try the Coleman sit-on-tops; they're great fun, too.


I was having so much fun with my Coleman Fastback inflatable, I wanted at least one more kayak so I could take other members of the family out paddling with me. I was reluctant, however, to pick up another fastback -- even at a reduced rate, it's quite a bit of money, and adding a paddle makes it even more. Fortunately, I stumbled upon this little beauty on sale at Dick's. It was so cheap, in fact, that I picked up two on consecutive days without even trying out the first. I was worried about that. I'd been pleased with my Fastback, and was concerned that the Sit-on-Top would suffer from comparison, that it might not handle the lake chop, or might not be sturdy. I needn't have worried. Though this Coleman doesn't have the rugged nylon hull, it is still a well-put-together product. It's also smaller and lighter, easy to carry under one arm, even when inflated. Don't let that make you think it's tiny and vulnerable, though. I was surprised how solid it felt, and how high it kept my 190# bulk out of the water. (It's rated to 325# or so.) Which is not to say you won't get wet using this. You will.

The sturdy aluminum paddles (included) will drip on you, and you're likely to get some spray from the chop, and ship a little water getting in and out. I don't know if this would be any good on the ocean or whitewater, but on a lake or calm fiver, it's just fine -- brilliant, in fact. I was surprised how nimbly it moved over the water. No, it's not as sleek as a solid hull, but what solid hull kayak can you pack in a 15-gallon tote? My only complaint? My stainless steel water bottle was just too big for the drink holder. Oh, well! (I kept it in the front luggage net.) I had a blast paddling this around -- probably as much fun as my Fastback (though the Fastback does have spray guards). It's a perfect little boat for a quick trip on a summer afternoon. Get one and get out in the sun!

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