We previously wrote up our observations on using the new Advanced Elements drop stitch floor (DS floor) – a high pressure option to increase the rigidity of many Advanced Elements models.
The one version we did not test was the Convertible floor, but our recent write-up on the popular Advanced Elements kayak allowed us to rectify that situation.
About Drop Stitch Floor Technology
The term “drop stitch” is a method of construction which allows for much higher inflation and pressures than a standard PVC floor.
In a standard PVC floor (as shown above), long “I-Beams” run the length of the floor, connecting the floor ceiling to bottom. This allows the floor to maintain a fairly uniform thickness, but if one of the I-Beams pop (due to over-inflation) the floor will become more like a blob.
With drop stitch construction (shown above on the Convertible drop stitch floor), thousands of tiny threads connect both the top and bottom layers, creating a stronger link that can withstand much higher pressures. Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance. This is the technology used in inflatable SUP paddle boards. The image below is from an Airis Inflatable Sport Kayak showing the interior drop stitching.
Setting up the Drop Stitch Floor
A perception by many is that the DS floor is a long, rigid floor and the worry is on portability. While the DS floor ultimately becomes a long, rigid floor, it arrives folded in a small package – approximately 20 x 18 x 2 inches. The DS floor comes with a canister repair kit containing adhesive, material swatches, a wrench and the valve adapter. The wrench is used to tighten the valve, should it become loose. (AirKayaks update: While the dropstitch floor previously came with a repair kit, it now comes with just the adaptor. If repairs are needed, you can use the repair kit included with your kayak.)
Installation couldn’t be simpler – remove the PVC floor included with the kayak, unfold the DS floor and position in the base of the kayak, making sure the floor is flat and evenly spaced under both sides, bow and stern. The valve should be in the rear of the kayak, facing up.
Pump up the kayak side chambers as normal. Using the enclosed valve adaptor in the tool kit, twist the military valve on the floor into the closed position. Pump up the floor. While the floor does not come with a pressure gauge, pump until it starts to get tough, and it feels rigid – you probably will not be at 5 or 6 PSI at this point, but it doesn’t matter for performance and it will save wear-and-tear on your rear. Keep checking to make sure the floor is centered.
Finish setting up the kayak by attaching any seats, pumping up deck lifts, inflating coaming tubes. You’re done.
(Please note – if using this with the Convertible single deck, the step sequence is altered. As the valves are difficult to reach when the deck is installed, it’s best to pump up the floor first, then the inner chamber until it fills out. Attach the single deck and finish pumping up the outer main chamber.)
Comparison of Standard Convertible PVC Floor Vs. High Pressure Drop Stitch Floor
The image above shows the Convertible PVC floor on the left, and the Convertible drop stitch on the right.
The standard Convertible PVC floor measures 122 x 23 inches: it is 3 inches at the edge filling out to 4 inches on the interior. Weight is 9.1 lbs. At 1 PSI, the floor edges “squish” under the side chambers.
The drop stitch Convertible floor measures 120 x 20 inches with a thickness of 3 inches. Weight is 7.4 lbs. Why the difference in dimensions? Due to rigidity, the floor is designed to just slightly fit under the side chambers; if it was wider, the floor would push the side chambers up and in, making it slightly narrower.
Initially, we pumped up both the regular PVC floor and the Dropstitch floor to 1PSI to get a visual comparison. The image below compares the drop stitch side (left) versus the PVC (right).
The DS floor feels more rigid at the same presssure, and it’s slightly thicker – there is a fair amount of “squeeze” in the PVC. While this is less apparent in the shorter AdvancedFrame floor, it is very pronounced with the Convertible, which is nearly 50% longer. The standard PVC floor has quite a bit of give – in fact, you can almost fold it.
At 5-6 PSI the difference in rigidity between the two technologies – as shown in the image above – is very apparent. In this image, the drop stitch floor is on top and the PVC floor underneath.
(Please note that the original Advanced Elements drop stitch floors had a slightly different construction, and were inflated to 7 PSI. The recently released 2012 version has been slightly redesigned and is rated for 4-6 PSI, more than adequate for paddling purposes. The new version at 5-6 PSI is shown in the photos.)
Performance on the Water
We took out the Advanced Elements Convertible with the standard PVC floor, paddling tandem, on a calm day. As the PVC floor is pressed under the side bladders, the kayak seats itself well in the water. The floor is forgiving to the “rear” for long stretches of time, and the kayak is quite stable.
I then took the Convertible out solo. While it handles well, it is more sluggish without the added energy of a second paddler. I clocked myself with a GPS – I was running about 3.1 to 3.2 mph up to a speed of 4.3 mph.
We then replaced the PVC floor with the drop-stitch floor at 5 PSI. Immediately one can feel the difference – you sit a little higher, the kayak feels very stable, and it paddles beautifully. My husband particularly liked it, as the slight increase in height allowed his knuckles to clear the kayak while paddling.
I then took the kayak out solo and the difference again was pronounced. It was really a joy – paddling was smooth and easy, it felt secure and was much zippier. There was also an intangible feeling where I am at a loss for words – I felt extremely confident sitting in the kayak.
With the drop stitch floor at 5 PSI, I was running 3.6 to 3.7 mph up to 4.7 mph. As a side note, I also took Eddie, my traveling canine companion out for a cruise. While the floor is quite rigid, for safety measures I recommend placing down a thick towel or small rug to prevent any possible sharp nail punctures.
The Advanced Elements Convertible Kayak is a wonderful kayak, and performs well as-is. The softer floor will be “less stressful” to sit on over long periods of time. If you are not planning on long trips, will be paddling tandem most of the time, optimum performance is not an issue, and you are price conscious, the standard Convertible kayak will be a great choice.
Conversely, if you do plan on long trips or excursions, will be paddling solo, want optimum performance, and price is not an issue, by all means go with the drop-stitch floor. There is also a 2 lb weight savings.
For further information on the drop stitch floor – or to purchase – visit the website at Airkayaks.com.
You can also see our other articles on the drop-stitch floor:
New 7 PSI High Pressure Dropstitch Floors from Advanced Elements!
Observations on the Drop Stitch Floor versus Backbone.
Stay tuned. We have further test write-ups on one of our most frequently asked questions, “Can the Drop Stitch floor be used with a backbone to get even better performance?”