Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: The AE1009 Expedition Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

While reviewing our series of inflatable kayak write-ups, we noticed a glaring omission – the Advanced Elements AE1009 Expedition, a wonderful kayak that deserves the spotlight. As long-time paddlers, we can attest to the kayak’s performance and durability.

Advanced Elements AE1009 Expedition Inflatable Kayak

So, situation rectified. Here are details on the Expedition AE1009, a 13 foot inflatable weighing in at roughly 42 lbs.

Getting Started with the Expedition Kayak

The box as received measures 34 x 21 x 11 inches with a weight of 50 lbs. Inside is a rugged carrying case measuring 38 x 17 x 9 inches (seam to seam) which contains the kayak body, high-backed lumbar seat, repair kit, foot brace and instructions.

Expedition kayak folded up.

The kayak folded size is approximately 32 x19 x 11 inches leaving just enough room to store a pump and breakdown paddle (not included).

Expedition Kayak Setup/Inflatation

We re-acquainted ourselves with the Expedition by reading the updated manual – this has evolved over the years and gives excellent explanations on inflation, usage, refolding, etc. As the setup is similar to the standard AE1012 AdvancedFrame in many respects, we will re-copy much of the instructions found in our earlier writeups.

Unfold the kayak

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

Inner aluminum frame in bow and stern

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 Expedition kayak features 10 inflation chambers – two military valves (main chambers) and 8 smaller twist-loks (deck lifts, floor, seat and coaming tubes).

Screw-on adaptor (left) and Boston valve adaptor (right)

Each Expedition comes with a screw-on adaptor (found in the repair kit in the mesh pocket behind the seat) which will fit many pumps based on the hose fittings. Otherwise, a standard Boston valve adaptor will friction fit into the opening.

Spring plunger on military valve.

First step, open the military valve. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist one way to inflate (UP position) and the other to deflate (DOWN position).

Screw-on adaptor attached to valve

Attach the screw-on adaptor to your pump and then couple it to the first main chamber, located on the rear hull. While there is not a pressure gauge included with the kayak, the adaptor features a “lip” that pushes open the spring plunger, allowing a pump gauge to read the back-pressure; if using the Boston valve adaptor, most gauges will only register as you are inflating.

Pump up the first chamber 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 – this took about 25 to 30 full strokes with a double action hand pump.

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 (2 PSI), once again centering everything as needed. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later. AirKayaks note: There are two velcro strips inside the kayak cover which hold the main tubes in place. Occasionally, the tubes shift initially, making the kayak appear lopsided. If this happens, take two sheets of paper and insert between the velcro and tube, repositioning the tubes until even. Once everything is centered, remove the sheets of paper.

Pumping up the floor.

Using the same Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it OVER the twistlok valve on the floor cushion. Pump this up until fairly firm (1 PSI) but there should be slight give when depressed. Twist the valve shut. (AirKayaks note: Make sure to tuck the twistlok tube on the floor into the side of the kayak, so that you don’t accidentally twist it open while paddling.) How do you tell if you’ve pumped it up enough? If you lift the kayak up by one handle, and it sags in the middle, it needs more air.

TwistLok valve on coaming tube

Move onto the two coaming areas that run around the cockpit and the four deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders”. 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. Each of these should be inflated to 1 PSI – basically one or two full strokes each chamber are enough.

Installing the plastic sheet

Next, 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).

Attaching the seat.

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.

Attach the foot brace.

Last step – open the front zipper and attach the foot brace. This consists of a series of loops and buckles which can be varied to accommodate your paddling style and height. At first you may want to guess at the appropriate position and after your first test paddle, you can adjust accordingly. That’s it – less than 10 minutes and you’re done!

Features and Specifications of the AE1009 Expedition

The AE1009 Expedition 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.

Diamond ripstop material.

The kayak upper is comprised of 600 denier polyester/PVC laminate in a diamond ripstop material.

Rugged hull with landing plate and tracking fin.

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

Molded rubber handles.

There are two molded rubber 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 for attaching gear.

Bungee deck lacing in the bow (measuring 19 inches wide, tapering to 9 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! The deck lacing system begins 36 inches from the seat back.

Rear d-rings for attaching gear.

Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck, spaced 12-16 inches by 10 inches deep, and beginning 24 inches from the seat back.

Coaming tube with velcro fasteners

The 31 x17 inch cockpit area features two inflatable coaming tubes to keep water from running in. A front center zipper can open up an additional 37 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling. A rear zipper opens an additional 19 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.

High-backed lumbar seat.

The high-backed padded lumbar seat features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position. Rear stiffening rods create a comfortable option for those needing a bit more 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!

Mesh storage pockets on the back of the seat.

Two mesh pockets are located on the seat back; one houses the repair kit. The seat can be adjusted about 6 inches in location. Seat back dimensions are 13″ wide by 15″ tall (a total of 21 inches wide with curved seat sides) while the seat base is a tapering 16 to 21 inches wide and 16 inches deep.

Foot brace

The foot brace consists of a foam-covered bar with side straps and clips. There are a series of 6 loops on each side of the kayak main chamber – by passing each brace side strap through the loop and clipping shut, the bar allows you to “brace” your feet, aiding in paddling power. With the seat moved all the way forward, the brace can be set a minimum of 25 inches from the seat back. By moving the seat all the way back, the brace can be set from 33 to 49 inches (in increments of 3 inches) from the seat back – so, lots of flexibility for paddler sizes!

Expedition Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

We took measurements. The kayak inflated is approximately 156 inches long (13 feet) and 32 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 10 inches deep with the deck lifts. Interior dimensions are approximately 100 inches long by 15 inches wide. When the seat is positioned towards the back of the coaming area, there is approximately 65 inches from the seat back to the inner tip. Behind the seat is a covered storage well accessible by moving the seat down or opening the zipper, approximately 32 inches deep x 13 wide x 10 inches tall.

On the kayak upper, there is approximately 66 inches from the bow to the cockpit opening, and 55 inches from the back of the seating well to the stern. Weight limitations are 450 lbs for one person and gear.

On the Water in the Expedition Kayak

Having owned and paddled many inflatable kayaks, I was quite familiar with the Expedition and its capabilities – it handles beautifully and is comfortable, rugged and stable.

Expedition on the water.

Over the years, I’ve taken out the Expedition in all types of weather, from calm water to swells. It has battled the elements, been dragged on rocky beaches, scraped through shallow water and hauled around in a pickup truck.

Easy to carry over the shoulder.

For my height (5’4”) the kayak is very comfortable and fairly easy to carry solo (as long as the wind is down!) I’ve been out for short jaunts and 10-12 mile treks.  At 6’ 2”, my husband finds the Expedition to be infinitely more comfortable than the 10.5 foot AE1012 AdvancedFrame – as a rule of thumb, taller and long-legged paddlers over 6 feet will probably be happiest in the Expedition.

As mentioned in other reviews, initially I was not impressed with the high-backed lumbar seat, as the inflatable portion cut down too low on 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.

Lee Johnson in Vancouver

I would be totally remiss if I did not mention our friend, Lee Johnson, who has probably logged more time in the Expedition than anyone on the planet. He calculates that his trusty 2007 Expedition (fondly termed “Old Reliable”) has racked up nearly 5,000 miles over the past several years – and earned every bit of it. Lee has taken it through low level rivers, howling winds, snows and hailstorms, drenching rain and sub-freezing temperatures – as well as dodging ships around Vancouver.

Great for travelling through tight spaces!

As Lee explains, “The Expedition is my kayak of choice. It can do everything my hardshell can do – and much more – thanks to its portability, good hull speed, greater maneuverability, and comfort. Despite my heavy use, it is one tough, dependable watercraft. I doubt it will ever wear out.  I have used my Expedition on English Bay in 25-30 knot winds, 3′ swells, and impressive whitecaps: not once have I thought I would be swamped, even when riding crosswise in the troughs between waves. It tackles aquatic mayhem with aplomb.”

Which brings me to the next point. Becauses the Expedition is a longer kayak, I do highly recommend either the optional dropstitch floor or the backbone for added rigidity. What are they?

Advanced Elements Backbone

The backbone is a “stiffening rod” pieced together under the standard PVC floor, giving a totally rigid bow-to-stern silhouette, with a slight vee shape to the hull.

Rigidity of drop stitch floor versus standard Convertible PVC floor

The 4-5 PSI dropstitch floor utilizes a construction method which allows for much higher inflation pressures than a standard PVC floor. Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance. This is the technology used in inflatable paddle boards (iSUPs). The image above shows an inflated dropstitch floor on top of an inflated PVC floor.

I personally like the high-pressure floor due to simplicity and weight-savings, while others – such as Lee – prefer the backbone as better performance in rough waters as well as more economical. We won’t go into details here – you can read our previous blogs on the subject – Using the New High-Pressure Dropstitch Floors and Observations on the Backbone versus the High-Pressure Dropstitch Floor.

Bottom Line on the AE1009 Expedition:

The Expedition AE1009 is truly a great all-around kayak. Introduced in 2007 as the “big sibling” to the popular AE1012 AdvancedFrame, over the past 6 years Advanced Elements has tweaked the design, resulting in a high-quality inflatable kayak that is comfortable, paddles well, looks good and is quite stable. It is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. Numerous optional accessories – such as spray skirts, rapidup sail, the backbone and high-pressure dropstitch floor – can enhance the paddling experience and performance.

Expedition on the water.

The Expedition 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 maneuverability enticing. The longer length provides more real estate for taller paddlers, while extensive storage capacity makes it a great choice for multi-day trips.

The carrying case easily fits in a small car.

Headed off on vacation? The carrying case is rugged enough to check as baggage. It’s also perfect for RVs and easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

For more information, or to purchase, see the Expedition Product Page on  or watch our YouTube video, below.


  1. Hi airkayaks, do you have a good tip on how to clean the outer cover of AE expedition that has been through 2 years of extensive use, leaving it with stubborn stains that I so desperately wants to get rid of. I’ve looked through forums but I don’t think anyone has done such an extensive clean that I am planning to do. Perhaps soaking the outer cover in baking soda solution for a good 30mins might be a good idea? This kayak has been through good times with me, and it deserve to be decently clean to many more years with me. 🙂 Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Chris:
      I spoke with Ritchie at Advanced Elements – he said Simple Green does a great job. Glad to hear you love your kayak so much!

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