This is the next in a series of writeups on each of the Innova kayaks, focusing on the Swing I inflatable kayak – Innova’s newest model featuring a more enclosed footprint. We reviewed the Swing II tandem earlier this fall. As previously mentioned, the Innova line is unique in that their kayaks are handmade in the Czech Republic rather than China or Korea. Additionally, the Swing I and Swing II – as well as the Twist series – utilize materials that are PVC-free, making them a greener option than most kayaks on the market.
This week we had the first opportunity to take out the Innova Swing I, a 10′ 4″ solo inflatable weighing a mere 23 lbs with a selling price of $599. Please note, some of this will be repeated from the Swing II review, as there are obviously many similarities.
(AirKayaks note: Please see our review on the new Swing LN inflatable kayak made with Lite Nitrylon. The Swing LN has replaced the Swing LP.)
The box as received weighs 25.2 lbs with dimensions of 29 x 17 x 11 inches.
Inside is the Swing I body – neatly folded with a cinch strap – multiple instruction sheets, 2 metal insertion bars, tracking fin, seat, foot rest, repair kit, and valve adaptor. At 23 lbs for the combined package and a folded size of 24 x 16 x 10 inches, the Swing I is small enough to fit in the optional Innova 40L backpack (not included), which can also fit inside plane overhead cargo bins.
Innova Swing Setup/Inflation
The main instruction manual covers set up for both the Swing I and Swing II kayaks, thus there will be overlap in both of our writeups. 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; the Swing has added instructions detailing the “insertion bars.” 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.
Install the tracking fin before inflating the kayak. The Swing I 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.
While the next step is to “attach” the seat, the Swing seat is actually permanently attached to the kayak floor with an elastic web, but also has two side straps and a rear seat clip. This is where we will veer a little from the instructions.
Take out the two aluminum reinforcement bars that give the kayak its upper shape. These are labeled 1 and 2 with a left (L) side and a right (R) side. These correspond to numbered slots inside the kayak, and are not interchangeable. Layout #1 before the front seat and #2 behind the seat.
The bars are installed in the same manner as the tracking fin. Match the labeling on the bars to the labeling on the bar “slots” inside the kayak, first #1 (left and right) then #2 (left and right). This takes a bit of gyration the first couple of times, but gets easier with subsequent installations. To reach the rear section, it is helpful to open the zipper for adequate work space, sliding in each side.
At this point – before doing anything else – loosely attach the seat-back loop to the metal bars #2, leaving the side straps unfastened. Completely zip up the rear deck. If you don’t do that, it is impossible to close it after inflation – take it from the voice of experience.
The Innova Swing I 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 Swing I 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.
Unlike the Innova Sunny and Twists, the Swing main chambers are pumped up first. If using a pressure gauge, please note that the pressure may only read while you are pumping, since most gauges work on back pressure. At 3 PSI, switch over to the other side chamber. Finally, pump up the floor chamber. 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 with 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.
Attach the adjustable seat side straps to the kayak. You’re done! The Swing I is remarkably easy and fast to set up – less than 10 minutes.
Deflation is just as easy. Simply turn the valves to the open position and push out the air. Remove the tracking fin. For the smallest package, remove the metal bars and detach enough seat connections to make it flat – you can leave the bars in place, but it won’t fold up as small. Fold in the kayak sides so you can only see the red upper. Fold over each end, and then fold up the kayak again, meeting in the middle – a diagram in the instruction manual is quite helpful. Tie it up with the cinch strap and you’re done. 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.
Innova Swing Features and Specifications
Just like the Twists, the Innova Swing I hull is constructed from LitePack, a polyester ripstop fabric that is single coated with rubber on the inside to increase air retention, with electronically-welded seams. The material 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.
The deck (upper) is constructed from a urethane-coated ripstop nylon to ensure water repellency, with seams glued to the hull.
There are three 3 PSI inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor). Next to the floor valve is a pressure release valve. The initial Swings were designed with a light gray hull. The US-distributed Swings have a black hull, which can absorb heat in hot sun, causing the chamber to expand. The pressure release valves are designed to release air pressure at about 3 PSI, ensuring that the floors do not become over-inflated.
Two low-profile, molded rubber handles are located in the bow and stern, but you can also carry it by hooking over your shoulder.
Two bungee decking systems – with 4 d-rings each – are located on the bow and stern, allowing one to attach deck bags and gear. The front deck lacing measures 17 inches tapering to 12 inches, by 10 inches and is located about 43 inches in front of the paddler when seated. The rear deck lacing measures 18 inches tapering to 11 inches, by 10 inches and is located 11 inches from the seat back.
A 27 inch front zipper allows one to access the foot brace and any gear that one might want to store in the snout.
Two aluminum bars/deck lifts sculpt the kayak body, supporting the coaming area and allowing water to run off. The bars also provide added rigidity to the hull, raise the seating well to about 10 inches in depth, fix the side-to-side dimensions and provide longitudinal stability, making the kayak stiffer.
The foam backrest seat is permanently attached to the floor with elastic lacing. Two seat side straps and one rear seat strap keep the seat fixed into position.
The cockpit opening has a 1.75 inch coaming lip, preventing much water from dripping into the seating area. The lips have 5 velcro strips that allow one to attach an optional
Innova spray skirt. The seating well is 31 by 18 inches, with a perimeter of 81 inches.
There is approximately 66 interior inches from the seat back to the bow, with the foam foot brace able to be positioned about 41 to 46 inches from the seat back. There is roughly 37 interior inches behind the seat about 8 to 9 inches deep and tapering to a point. This under-deck area can be used for storage, and is accessed via the top zipper, or putting down the seat back.
The hull has a removable tracking fin measuring 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, with sculpted i-beams.
We took overall measurements. The Innova Swing inflatable kayak is 10 feet 4 inches long, with an exterior width of approximately 34 inches and interior width of 17 to 18 inches. The side tubes are approximately 8 inches in diameter, while the deck lifts give up 9-11 inches in interior depth. Payload is 225 lbs. for one person and gear.
On the Water
We tested out the Innova Swing over a couple of days.
I first took it out solo on a fairly calm day. At 5’4″ I had no issues getting into the kayak seating well, and was able to reach the foot brace. First thing I noted, was how roomy it felt. Due to the front tension bar, the kayak had more wiggle room than many – from side-to-side as well as deck height. On the water, the kayak tracked and paddled well.
My 6’2″ husband then took it out for a spin. As a taller person, he had a little trouble easing himself into the seating well, and hit his back on the metal bar. He also felt the kayak paddled and tracked well. In particular, he was impressed with how roomy it felt compared to other kayaks the same length – as the Swing utilizes left and right inflation chambers (rather than inner and outer), it has a little more leg room. And as the deck lifts raise the hood slightly higher, foot crunching is less of an issue that with other enclosed inflatables.
I next took it out solo in swells. As the kayak is lighter, I had a tougher time paddling through the waves, and fought a bit to keep it on track. Taking it back to shore, I added a 15 to 20 lb pack to the front of the kayak (it also could fit up inside the snout) – this evened out the kayak weight distribution and made a huge difference. It should be noted that larger people don’t have this problem.
The only issue of note is that the kayak seats are a thin foam, and have a low back against the aluminum bar – this can become uncomfortable over time. Tim at Innova recommended loosening up the back seat strap, and tightening up the side straps, in effect moving the seat forward from the bar. This appears to work well.
The rear storage well can fit a fair amount of gear, though it is a little difficult to access – one needs to either unstrap the kayak seat back, or unzip the rear zipper. When the kayak is inflated, it is a little tough to get the zipper fully closed. So it’s best to store items that you won’t be needing on the water.
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.
As a last note, the kayak does not come with a carrying case, but an inexpensive backpack would do the trick. Innova plans on including one at some point, but was having difficulty finding a good PVC-free product that didn’t raise the package price drastically.
The Innova Swing I is a great choice for travel, particularly if one needs an enclosed cockpit for cold-weather paddling. It’s rugged yet lightweight – at 23 lbs it weighs 5 to 10 lbs less than most other single inflatables, and can be easily backpacked into remote areas, or stored in the trunk of a car.
The kayak is roomier than many “sit insides.” Due to the bar “deck lifts” the interior seating well has more headroom than other inflatables, and the enclosed deck provides protection from the wind, water and elements not found in open style cockpits or sit-on-tops. Optional spray skirts are available for both the Swing I and II, allowing a wider range of paddling choices in inclement weather.
The lighter weight also makes it a great option for smaller people, those with some physical limitations/disabilities or seniors, as it can easily be carried.
Multiple storage options – interior front snout, behind the rear seat and two decktop bungee lacing systems – make this a great choice for camping trips and explorations.
The kayak folds down small enough to classify as “carry-on” luggage, so it’s a great choice for far-off vacations. As the metal bars might be considered weapons, plan on staying safe and putting those in your checked-in luggage, which brings down the kayak package size even smaller.
Rated through Class II waters, the kayak is perfect for light whitewater, slow moving rivers, lakes, bays, inlets and coastal ocean.
Those paddlers that want a 1) lightweight, 2) portable kayak offering 3) quick setup and breakdown, with a more 4) enclosed design will find the Innova Swing I quite appealing. Environmentally-conscious eco-travelers will find the PVC and China-free construction equally as attractive.
For more details or to purchase, visit the Innova Swing I product page at AirKayaks.com.
You can also watch our YouTube video on the Innova Swing: