Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

New Express II Tandem Inflatable Kayak from Maxxon

Maxxon is probably better known for their inflatable boats, dinghies, river rafts and pontoon tubes, but they have recently moved into the inflatable kayak market, offering three tandem models – the MK1205, the Cayman II and the Express II. All three models feature three seating positions, allowing one to paddle tandem or solo by repositioning the seat.

As part of our ongoing writeup series, we recently took out the new Maxxon Express II inflatable tandem kayak for a test ride.

Getting Started:

We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, carrying cover, bellows foot pump, two seats,  removable tracking fin, repair kit and instructions.

Boxed up, the kayak and accessories weigh-in at 48 lbs with a shipping dimension of 42 x 25 x 12 inches, while just the kayak with both seats and carrying case measured 33 lbs and roughly 32 x 18 x12 inches folded inside.

Inflatation and Setup:

Set up is simple – unpack, unfold, inflate.

The included instructions are quite adequate.  First step is to insert the removable tracking fin as this is impossible to put on after the kayak is inflated. Make sure that it snaps into position. As mentioned in other reviews, the skeg is used to enhance paddling/improve tracking in deeper water; don’t use it in shallow water or white water.

There are three inflation chambers – two rear side chambers which use a Boston valve, and the floor chamber which also uses a Boston valve. Boston valves are standard and simple – screw the valve base onto the kayak, then unscrew the valve top to put air into the kayak. We pumped up the kayak until firm using the included bellows foot pump; while this is more portable, you may want to invest in a double action handpump, or a 12V pump to make setup faster. The manual says to inflate to 1.45 PSI , but you’ll need to pump up just to a “firm touch” as there are no pressure gauges included.

Inflate the floor first, then the sides. To evenly fill the kayak, we found it best to alternate from side to side, making sure that the bladders remain centered. The valves are located in a recessed opening with a flap cover – small side zippers allow you to reposition the bladders, if needed, to make sure the valves are centered under the flap.

After that, it’s just attach the seats and go. In less than 10 minutes we were ready to paddle.

Express II Features and Specifications

According to the specs and my measurements, the length is 132 inches (11 feet). The width is roughly 36 to 37 inches outer. The seating well/cockpit is 76 inches long by 16 to 21 inches wide, and 5 to 6 inches deep. The kayak is rated at 440 lbs maximum load persons and gear.

From the inner bow of the kayak (inside the cockpit), the velcro strips are located at (1) 22-33 inches, (2) 38-49 inches and (3) 54-66 inches from the front – this should give you an idea of the spacing available.

The side and floor inner bladders are made of K-80 polykrylar; the outside upper fabric is an 840 denier nylon oxford with a polyurethane coating, while the bottom material is 2200 denier PVC super-tough supported fabric.

The seats are 2 inch foam. A zipper allows them to ship/store flat, but once zipped turn into a fairly sturdy, higher-backed seat measuring 12.5 inches tall. Each seat has two-each front and back straps with quick clips attaching to D-rings – these cinch tight for support. A lidded pouch and two mesh cupholders on the back of each seat provide additional easy-access storage.

Other features include four rubberized carrying handles; two adjustable bungee areas on the bow and stern for lashing on supplies; 8 D-rings in the cockpit; built-in foam coaming; paddle holders each side. A single drain port with plug (not to be confused with self-bailing) is located in the stern of the boat behind the floor cushion. This creates a “well” so that water splashing over the side can collect outside of the seating area.

On the Water:

I first took the Express II out alone.

Solo paddling in the Express II is a breeze; it is quite paddle-able by one person, though you need to find the “sweet” spot balance for your height and weight. Some weight in the front (backpack, gear, etc.) would also be helpful. The higher-backed seat has four attachment points; it’s comfortable, and with one person, the cockpit is extremely roomy.  A “pooling” well behind the seat allows for water to run out the drain plug, so one is not sitting in  water. This is best for calm waters; the open cockpit design will allow waves to splash over, and the low profile does not ride through the swells as well as the Maxxon Cayman II.

I next went out with my husband. For both of our sizes (5’5″ and 6’2″) it was a little cramped in the cockpit; when we tried to position the seat back as far as possible, it upset the balance of the boat, making it back-heavy. Paddling and tracking was fine, though.

Lastly, two smaller friends took out the kayak together and it handled and tracked fine. The rear paddler had bent knees, but this did not seem to cause a problem.

Bottom Line:

I like this kayak – it looks sleek, it’s great for calm waters, it paddles and tracks well, and the kayak is very stable.

Convenient side handles and the kayak’s light weight make it very easy to carry. The three seating positions allow for versatility, but as a tandem, it will be most comfortable with two smaller adults or an adult and child. The open design and low profile make it a great choice for those interested in doing some diving, or on hot days when you want to jump in the water and cool off, as exit and entry are a cinch.

Where this kayak really shines is as a solo kayak for a person with gear; it’s also a great choice for a larger/taller paddler. It is roomy, comfortable, and tracks with minimal wag. Numerous d-rings present multiple storage attachment options for those interested in fishing or carrying gear for a camping trip. And of course, there is lots of room for canine paddling companions.

Best of all, with the included carrying case, you can take the Express II on your next vacation, or drop it in the trunk of your car. All with a 1 year warranty and a price tag of $699 including pump, seats and carrying tarp.

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