Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

New High-Pressure AdvancedFrame DS Series Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

As mentioned in prior posts, we have been awaiting the arrival of our specially-packaged high-pressure  AdvancedFrame DS (Drop-Stitch) Series, AE1012DS. Featuring the same high quality construction and materials, the DS Series has been bundled with upgraded accessories from Advanced Elements to enhance performance and comfort.

These upgrades include:

AirKayaks note: The AE1012DS AdvancedFrame has been replaced with the AE1044DS AdvancedFrame XL and XLC, now in a slightly longer 10’10” length to accommodate both taller and smaller paddlers. See our Detailed Review on the AE1044DS AdvancedFrame XL , and the AE1044DS AdvancedFrame XLC – with zip-off deck!

The kayaks sailed in last week – we’ve pumped them up and taken them out. So here are details on the AdvancedFrame AE1012DS Series, a 10.5 foot inflatable weighing in at 35 lbs. in the carrying case.


Setup is similar to the standard AdvancedFrame in many respects, so we will re-copy much of the instructions found in the writeup on the standard AE1012. The DS Series will have two sets of instructions – one can be found in the inner side pocket of the carrying case. This details the basic kayak instructions for inflation, deflation and folding. The second set of instructions is included in the dropstitch floor repair kit package, and details the floor inflation. TIP: Attach the floor instructions to the main manual.

First step, unfold the kayak. The AdvancedFrame features an “inner rib” in the bow and stern, which is basically a u-shaped aluminum rib, about a foot long and one-half inch wide.

This comes “pre-assembled” meaning it arrives already inserted into two sleeves inside the kayak cover. Unless you remove the inner bladder, they remain in position. When the kayak is pumped up, the inner bladder with rib presses against the kayak cover – that, in conjunction with two bow and stern plastic sheets, give the kayak a sharp silhouette which aids in slicing through the water.

The DS Series kayak features 8 inflation chambers – three military valves and 5 smaller twist-loks. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist one way to inflate (UP position) and the other to deflate (DOWN position).

The double action pump with gauge comes with several standard adaptors. One is a proprietary Advanced Elements screw-on adaptor – not to worry, if you lose it, a standard Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about 1/2 inch wide and also included) will friction fit into the opening.

If this is your first time out, lay out the dropstitch floor next to the kayak, with the military valve side up, and towards the rear. Position the floor inside the kayak body, centering it from side to side and front to back as much as possible, and flattening it out. You might need to open the front and rear zippers to do this. In the future, the floor is left inside the kayak and folded up.

First, attach the gauge to the pump “inflate” side, and then attach the hose to the gauge. Use the screw-on adaptor to couple to the first main chamber. The adaptor features a “lip” that pushes open the spring plunger, allowing the pump gauge to read the back-pressure; if using the Boston valve adaptor, the gauge will only register as you are inflating.

Pump up the first chamber, located on the top-rear of the kayak, until it begins to fill out. Unlike many other brands, the AdvancedFrame series of kayaks features an inner and outer chamber, with a floating “interior wall.” By pumping up the first chamber partly, you “center” the inner wall.

Check the side tubes to make sure they are even within the cover, and check the floor to see if it is still centered. Then pump up the second chamber, located inside the kayak behind the seat, until firm to touch (1.5 PSI on the pressure gauge), once again centering everything as needed. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later.

Now for the floor. Turn the spring plunger to the UP/inflate position. Inside the repair kit for the dropstitch floor is another adaptor with a short length of clear tubing. Take the Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it inside the clear tube until secure, then attach the bayonet fitting into the floor’s military valve with a slight twist until it locks into place. Pump up the floor to 4-6PSI – it will be very rigid, but it doesn’t take long at all. Remove the floor adaptor from the Boston valve and screw on the wingnut cap. TIP: Put the adaptor in the mesh pocket behind the seat, so you don’t lose it.

Move on to the two deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders” then the two coaming areas that run around the cockpit. The coaming tubes and deck lifts “sculpt” the body so that water has a tendency to run off – and not into – the kayak. The coaming tubes also allow one to attach an optional spray skirt.

Put the Boston valve nozzle OVER the twistlok valve on the first decklift. Pump this up until firm (1 PSI). Twist the valve shut, remove the adaptor and move on to the last three chambers – second deck lift and coaming tubes.

Last steps, insert the two plastic sheets into the bow and stern sleeves. Then pump up the twistlok on the lumbar seat (easiest just to use your mouth).

Attach the seat by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips, and attaching the velcro strip on the seat back to the coaming area. Less than 10 minutes and you’re done!

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.

Features and Specifications

The kayak consists of three layers. Inflatable PVC bladders are housed in a zippering fabric cover, allowing the bladders to be replaced if necessary. The covered bladders sit inside the kayak outer shell. The kayak upper is comprised of 600 denier polyester/PVC laminate in a diamond ripstop material.

The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin with electronically welded seams, integrated tracking fin and landing plate.

The AdvancedFrame AE1012DS DropStitch Series is constructed with two carrying handles (bow and stern), but it is fairly simple to carry by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.

Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 18 inches wide, tapering to 10 inches wide, and 16.5 inches deep – includes multiple d-rings and quick release clips, allowing one to add on various dry packs and gear – or to attach a nifty Rapidup downwind sail! Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck.

The 30 x18 inch cockpit area features two inflatable coaming tubes to keep water from running in. A front center zipper can open up an additional 24 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling. A rear zipper opens an additional 11 inches – this becomes handy for storage behind the seat, or for carrying large packs. Neoprene padded knuckle guards cover both sides, preventing knuckle abrasion when paddling.

The high-backed padded lumbar seat features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position while rear stiffening rods create a comfortable option for those needing a bit extra back support than the standard seat offers. The seat back has an inflatable bladder with an Extra long 36 inch TwistLok hose, allowing you to change the support level from 1-5 inches while kayaking!

Seat measurements are 14 x 21 x 0.5 inches for the base, while the back is 15 inches tall, by 21 wide and 1 inch thick; there are two pockets on the seat back which allow you to bring gear or supplies – one houses the repair kit.

We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 10’ 5 feet long and 34 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 7 to 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 6.5 inches deep.) Interior dimensions are approximately 65 inches long by 16 to 17 inches wide. When the seat is positioned towards the back of the coaming area, there is is approximately 49 to 50 inches from the seat back to the inner tip, leaving about 16 to 17 inches open behind the seat inside the cover. This can be somewhat repositioned by adjusting the seat straps. Weight limitations suggest 235 lbs for a person, or 300 lbs for person and gear.

On the Water

Having owned a standard AdvancedFrame for a few years, I was quite familiar with the kayak and its capabilities – it has always been comfortable, stable, rugged, and paddles well. The AdvancedFrame DS Series kicks it up a few notches.

To begin with, the dropstitch floor is remarkably rigid, allowing one to sit up slightly higher. In fact, it is possible to standup in the kayak while on the water, though I wouldn’t make a practice of it. Paddling is smooth and in calm water, the kayak is very zippy and paddles beautifully.  In fact, in prior tests to compare the standard PVC floor to the dropstitch floor, we were running from 3.1 to 4.3 mph with the PVC, while we ran 3.6 to 4.7 mph with the dropstitch floor.  There is also an intangible that I can’t quite put words to – one feels very confident in the kayak construction. Over long periods of time, the floor can be slightly tough on the rear, so extra padding might be helpful. While in the past I have used the backbone – which is also a great product – I find the simplicity of the dropstitch floor more to my style, and the added weight savings of 4-5 lbs more to my liking.

Initially I was not as impressed with the high-backed lumbar seat, as the inflatable portion cut down too low in my back. It finally dawned on me to open the zipper and move the inflatable bladder UP until I found the right spot. Bingo! The seat is extremely comfortable, offering much more comfort than the standard seat and higher back support. The long twistlok is very nifty, allowing you to adjust the seat inflation while paddling.

Over the years, I’ve taken out the standard AdvancedFrame in all types of weather, from calm water to swells. It has scraped through shallow water, been dragged on rocky beaches, run through duckweed and tules, hauled around in a pickup truck and battled white caps and wind.

For my height (5’4”) the kayak is very comfortable and easy to carry. I’ve been out for short jaunts and 10-12 mile treks. At 6’2”, my husband can paddle in it for short periods, but after that feels cramped – taller paddlers (over 6 feet) and those opting for multi-day trips should consider upgrading to the AE1007 Convertible DS Series kayak which is much roomier and has more real estate for storing gear, as well as the ability to be paddled solo or tandem.

Bottom Line:

The AdvancedFrame AE1012 DS Series has taken a great kayak to an all-time high. First developed in 2002 as the AirFrame kayak, Advanced Elements has tweaked the design over the past 9 or 10 years until the AdvancedFrame evolved into an inflatable classic offering performance, quality and price. The DS Series kicks it into the next level with performance, comfort and simplicity. It looks great, paddles beautifully, it’s stable and it turns-on-a-dime. In our opinion, it’s the best value on the market.

It is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. Numerous optional accessories – such as the inflatable foot brace, spray skirts, rapidup sail – can enhance the paddling experience and performance.

This is a great choice for travel – the carrying case is rugged enough to check as baggage, it’s relatively lightweight, and easily fits in the the trunk of a small car or RV.

All in all, the AdvancedFrame DS Series is a great multi-purpose kayak for people of many ages and experience levels. Novices and first-time users will be on the water in no time, while experienced paddlers will find the portability and low-profile hull a great boon. Unless you are a larger paddler, want the tandem option or plan on longer paddling excursions with multi-gear, the AdvancedFrame DS Series is a great choice. But for those needing something roomier, stay tuned for the Convertible DS Series in mid June – a true Cadillac in the inflatable kayak world.

The MSRP package value is $752 and available only at for $599.  Need more info? Watch our YouTube Video!


  1. We now own 5 inflatable kayaks from Advanced Elements. Today I am ordering the new DS blue model for myself after seeing my wife use the her Advanced Frame Expedition for this season. Thanks for making such a great product. We use our inflatables off of our 29 foot sailboat and they have given us and entirely new aspect to our annual sailing adventures.

    1. I am considering buying one. Do you have all different models and if so, which of the 5 do you prefer? I currently have a folbot and am looking for something inflatable but not too heavy for recreational kayaing.

      1. We have just the special DS package in the AE1012 AdvancedFrame and the AE1007 Convertible. But, we do have the optional DS floor for the Expedition, Lagoon2, Dragonfly2XC and AE Sport.

      2. Dear Yolanta, I doubt you would need the DS floor. My wife has the salmon coloured Advanced Frame with the standard “pillow style” floor. She loves it, it is light enough for her to carry and quick to inflate/set-up. I recently bought the newer DS blue model for myself. It is truly a tremendous Kayak. It’s fast on the water, very easy to set up, but more expensive. I bought this DS model because I weight 230 lbs. But the bottom line is that the inflatable kayaks from Advanced Elements are superior products. You will love their portability, easy set up, and quickness/stability on the water. And – NO! – I don’t work for the company. I just like proprietors who carry and service quality merchandise that you can rely on. Brad Moffatt, Michigan

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