After our previous review on the Innova Sunny, we awaited our first shipment of Innova kayaks, which included the Helios I and II EX, Twist I and Sunny. Swing IIs will be arriving in mid-September.
This will be the second in a series of write-ups on each of the Innova kayaks, beginning with the new Innova Twist single.
(AirKayaks note: Please see our review on the new Twist LN inflatable kayak made with Lite Nitrylon. The Twist LN has replaced the Twist LP.)
As previously mentioned, the Innova line is unique in that their kayaks are handmade in the Czech Republic rather than China or Korea.
The Twist is unique in that it utilizes materials that are PVC-free, making them a greener option.
This week we had the first opportunity to take out the Twist, an 8.5 foot single-person inflatable weighing a mere 16 lbs with a selling price of $399.
The box as received is incredibly small and incredibly light – only 18 x 12 x 10 inches with a weight of 17.6 lbs.
Inside is a plain drawstring sack, which houses the Twist body, cinch strap, multiple instruction sheets, tracking fin, foot rest, repair kit, and valve adaptor. At 16.75 lbs for all this in the sack, and a folded size of 17 x 11 x 7 inches, the Twist is certainly small enough to be considered travel carry-on luggage – with room leftover.
We read through the included instruction manuals. As with all the Innova manuals to date, the instructions are quite detailed – there is one instruction sheet for fin installation, one for utilizing the valves, and another on the kayak in general. As the kayaks are made in Europe, many of the details are based around European specs and regulations and can sound daunting.
First step, unpack and unfold the kayak body. What is immediately noticeable is how FLAT the kayak is when deflated – barely a bump on the landscape.
Install the tracking fin before inflating the kayak. The Twist utilizes a single fin with double slots. Slip the end with the larger slot in first, making sure that the fin is pointing towards the “back” of the kayak. This enables it to slide in enough to fit in the second slot. While the first time can be a struggle to get the back side into position, after a couple of rounds it becomes quite easy.
Attach the foot brace (this comes attached from the factory) by weaving the webbing through the floor connector and back, but don’t bother to pump it up just yet.
The Innova Twist features three main inflation chambers utilizing military valves – one for the floor and one for each side. The military-style plunger valve is simple to use – with your finger, twist the plunger slightly to the “up” position to inflate (air goes in but doesn’t come back out) and “down” to deflate (air comes out).
Locate the military valve adaptor in the repair canister. The Innova Twist does not come with a pump, but the adaptor allows one to use the Boston valve conical adaptor found on most pumps.(AirKayaks note: Before doing ANYTHING, attach the adaptor to your pump with the string.) Lock the Innova adaptor onto the military valve with a slight twist, and push the conical adaptor in to friction fit the two. Since the Innova main chambers are inflated to 3 PSI, it is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.
Pump up the floor chamber first. If using a pressure gauge, please note that the pressure will only read while you are pumping, since most gauges work on back pressure. At 3 PSI, switch over to one side chamber. Pump up each side chamber until it reaches 3PSI. Screw on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed. Please note – the military valve push pins can sometimes deceptively look as if they are UP while in the deflate mode. When this happens, as soon as you remove the pump adaptor all the air will swoosh out. So, make sure they are truly popped up. On the positive side, this is so easy to pump up, it’s not a big issue.
Now you can inflate the foot brace. This uses a twistlock valve. The Boston valves will not friction fit over the twistlok so you will have to do one of three things – have a buddy hold the valve over the twistlock; carefully negotiate holding the adaptor and twistlock together with one hand while pumping with the other; or give up and blow it up with your mouth.
What is unique in the Twist is that the seat is an integral part/connected to the kayak. It utilizes one twistlock valve – inflate this the same method as the brace, and then just “push it down” to create a back rest. There is no seat base; one sits on the floor chamber.
You’re done! The Twist is remarkably easy and fast to set up – just over 5 minutes.
Deflation is just as easy. Simply turn the valves to the open position and push out the air. Remove the tracking fin, but you can leave the brace in place. Screw on the valve wing nuts for protection. Fold up the kayak and then roll up, to get it back into the backpack. As a side note, while you can press out most of the air and get the kayak back into the pack, to really minimize the size/footprint, it is best to pump out the final air, using the deflate mode on your pump. Turn the valves to the inflate position so air doesn’t creep back in, and replace the wing-nut caps.
Features and Specifications
The Innova Twist is constructed from LitePack, a polyester ripstop fabric that is single coated with rubber on the inside to increase air retension. This is treated with a Teflon water repellant to aid in drying and prevent staining. LitePack is PVC-free, making it more environmentally friendly than standard inflatables using PVC bladders – there is no out-gassing. And unlike many other inflatables, both the upper hull and underside utilize the same material.
There are three 3 PSI inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor) and 2 Twistloks (backrest and foot brace.)
The hull has a removable tracking fin measuring 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, with sculpted i-beam tubes creating the hull shape.
As mentioned previously, the inflatable backrest is part of the hull body, so not adjustable; when inflated, it forms a rigid “shelf” over part of the back storage, which also increases the rigidity as one rests against it. The back rest measures 11 inches tall, tapering to 16 inches tall, and is positioned approximately 69 inches from the bow.
Behind the seat is an “open” storage compartment with bungee deck lacing, which helps prevent belongings from falling overboard. The compartment is 30 inches long by 12 inches wide, tapering to 6 inches towards the stern. The seat back creates a 7-inch “covering” about 6 inches deep.
There are two low profile rope handles located each at the bow and stern, and two molded rubber handles on each side, but the kayak is so lightweight it is easy to hook it over your shoulder.
The inflatable foot brace is attached via a web clipping system with three foot positions – by moving the brace and extending/shortening the webbing, these “rests” can be located from 30″ to 47″ from the seat back, giving lots of versatility.
A spray railing/coaming lip sits up approximately 1 inch around the cockpit perimeter.
We did measurement tests. The Innova Twist inflated is 8 feet, 6 inches long (102 inches) and approximately 31 inches at the widest point. Inner dimensions are roughly 15 inches wide with the seating well approximately 8 inches deep, plus the lip.
Total payload weight is 220 lbs. person and gear.
On the Water
We tested out the Innova Twist Single over a couple of days.
First, I took it out for a short jaunt in calm water. The kayak is pretty rigid, rides fairly high in the water and is easy to paddle – the seating is also surprisingly comfortable. As with all lighterweight and shorter kayaks, there will always be a certain amount of “wag” in the snout, particularly if you attempt to power paddle. This will be less noticeable with heavier people, or by adding weight to the front – I found that putting 10-12 lbs of gear before the foot brace made quite a difference, and using shallower, gentler strokes.
The Innova Twist also turns on a dime – you can almost breakdance with it.
The second day was in 1+ foot swells. I paddled into the wind, across the wind, and downwind. The Twist rides over swells hit dead-on quite easily, and with my weight/gear in the front, handled the side wind pretty well. On the downwind, it would drift a little but it wasn’t bad. One thing to note – the “coaming lip” will prevent some water from splashing inside, but not all. As you are sitting on the kayak floor, you will get wet. At times like this, I found that by flipping back the inflatable foot brace, it worked great as a elevated seat base.
I also brought out my paddling buddy, Eddie. If you are a smaller adult, the kayak is roomy enough and tough enough for a canine companion – or a small child. While the material seems to be quite rugged, if bringing a dog you might want to put a towel on the floor to be on the safe side.
Next, my 6’2″ husband took it out for a short while. He found it to be quite roomy, though he did feel the need to sit a little higher – the flipped-back foot brace worked well.
The rear storage well can fit a good amount of gear – both under and on top of the bungees. Backpacking vacationers might pick up more room by fastening a small pack between the front handle and the foot brace floor clip, utilizing the brace as a seat base.
On the beach, much of the water ran off, but under the waterline it took a little air-drying. Despite battling through patches of algae, it wiped pretty clean.
The Innova Twist is a perfect travel and backpacking companion. It’s rugged, at 16 lbs light-as-a-feather, and easily trekked into remote areas. The small folded footprint (no larger than a schoolbag) makes it a great choice for RVs, plane travel and those limited by space. It can easily be stored in the trunk of a car for spur of the minute activity. Set up is extremely easy, and barely takes 5 minutes.
The kayak is surprisingly roomy – even for someone 6’2 inches – yet still offers a good amount of storage space in the rear well.
Those paddlers that just want to get out on the water, and have fun without a lot of fuss, will find the simplicity of the Twist quite appealing. Environmentally-conscious paddlers will find the PVC and China-free construction equally as attractive.
The Innova Twist is good for paddling calm waters, mild swells, slow moving rivers and light surf – and small enough to make exploration of distant waterscapes a reality.
For more information or to purchase, see the Innova Twist product page on AirKayaks.com, or view the other Innova inflatable kayaks. Stay tuned for more product write-ups – and the arrival of the Twist II 2-person kayak in mid November. You can also watch our Innova Twist YouTube video, below: