Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: Columbia One HB Inflatable Kayak from AquaGlide

We continue with our series on the new Aquaglide line of inflatable kayaks.

Our two previous reviews focused on the Chinook price-point line. Our next set of reviews features the Columbia HB series, AquaGlide’s flagship line of high pressure inflatables.

We begin with the Columbia One HB – a high-pressure touring model for one paddler. The Columbia HB line also consists of the Columbia Two HB (for one to two paddlers) and the Columbia Tandem HB (for 1 to 3 paddlers).

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak

Following is our writeup on the Columbia One HB, a 11.25 foot inflatable one-person model selling for $699.

Getting Started with the Aquaglide Columbia HB One:

We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, repair kit, foot brace, tracking fin and seat.

What's in the box.

Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs 26.5 lbs, with a backpack size of roughly 27 x 22 x 12 inches, while the kayak with seat, fin and brace – all in the backpack – weighs 32 lbs. Boxed up, the dimensions are 31 x 26 x 12 inches with a shipping weight of 42 lbs.

(AirKayaks Side note #1: When initially removing the kayak from the carrying case, take a good look at how the kayak is folded This is probably the most overlooked step and it is VERY helpful when trying to get the kayak back into the bag.)

The included instructions are adequate and include diagrams with inflation details.

Unfold the kayak body.

Set up is straight-forward and simple  – unpack, unfold, inflate.

There are two inflation chambers utilizing Boston valves – the two side chambers – while the high-pressure floor features a military valve. The floor is pumped up first.

Opening the military valve.

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).

The Columbia One HB floor requires a miltary valve adaptor, which does not come with most standard pumps. Here is where we came to our first issue – no military valve adaptor was included. Luckily, we rummaged through our box of parts and found one that fit. (AirKayaks note #2: We spoke with AquaGlide. The first couple of shipments did not include the adaptor, but subsequent shipments will. We did obtain a number of fittings that we will be including with the first shipments.) Lock the adaptor onto the military valve with a slight twist, and push the conical adaptor in to friction fit the two. Since the main chambers are inflated to 2 PSI, it is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.

Pumping up the floor chamber.

The floor is held in place with adjustable straps. Pump up the floor to  at least 6 PSI – this took us about 25 complete pumps with a double action pump. While the instructions say it can be inflated up to 12 PSI, at 6 PSI it is extremely rigid; most people will not need it to be higher than this. Replace the valve cap cover.

Boston valve

Move on to the side chambers, which use two Boston valves. Boston valves are two-part, screw-on valves. The bottom portion is threaded onto the kayak, the top valve is screwed open for inflation and then tightened shut after inflation. Air is easily released by unscrewing the base connector. How does it work? A flap inside the valve opens when air is pumped into the kayak, and falls shut when not pumped so that air will not rush back out.

(AirKayaks Side note #3: The Boston valves have a tether that keeps the valve attached to the kayak, ensuring that the valves don’t get lost after deflating. Make sure that the string does not get in the way when screwing on the valve base, and the valve is not cross-threaded, or you may have some air leakage. Also make sure the ring plate or “base” ring is also screwed on tightly.)

Using the Boston valve adaptor.

With the base portion screwed onto the kayak body, and the top portion screwed open, locate the Boston valve adaptor on your pump (conical nozzle about 1/2 inch in diameter) and friction fit it into the valve opening.

Pumping up the side chamber.

The instructions suggest pumping up each side about one-third, working back and forth to prevent twisting. We pumped up the side chambers until 2 PSI (about 45 strokes each side) but the kayak was distorted. At this point we realized that the floor belts had cinched the floor in place lopsided. We removed half of the air, then loosened and recentered the floor, and retightened the cinches. We then slowly repumped up the sides, alternating and giving little tugs on the side to make sure everything was centered. Bingo.

During this time, we also realized we broke rule #3 – the tether had caught under the valve and we could hear air escaping. By slightly unscrewing the valve, we were able to remove the jammed tether without have to do much repumping. (AirKayaks side note #4: If using a pressure gauge, please note that – since the gauges work on back pressure – the gauge will only register as you are pushing in air, and will drop to zero when you stop.)

Next attach the seat – this stays in position utilizing velcro and adjustable side straps. Here is where we came to the second issue; according to the instructions, the Columbia One comes with the Pro-Formance inflatable seat. Our kayak came with the non-inflatable whitewater seat found with the Chinook series.

Inflating the Proformance seat base.

We pulled a Pro-formance seat from a Columbia Tandem box.  First, inflate the seat base. The Pro-Formance seat uses a twistlock valve. The Boston valve adaptor will not friction fit over the twistlok so you will have to do one of three things – have another paddler 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.

Installing the Proformance seat.

Position the seat just rear of center, which will be just behind the side handles. Dependent on your weight and height, you may need to reposition the seat until you find the “sweet spot.”

Attaching the Proformance seat back strap

Attach the front seat quick-connect clips to the first set of d-rings, and the rear seat clips to the rear set of d-rings; once you get into the kayak, you can tighten up the side straps until you reach the support level that is comfortable for you.

Installing the foot brace.

Next place the foot brace on the velcro strips so that your legs are slightly bent when pressing against them – you can reposition these when you get into the kayak, .

Attaching the tracking fin.

The last step is to attach the removable tracking fin, which enhances paddling/tracking in deeper water. Remove the retaining pin from the fin slot by pulling on the string. Make sure the fin is pointing towards the rear of the kayak, then insert the front of the fin, pushing back and down, to lock the back end. Then slide forward until the holes line up, and replace the retaining pin. At this point, pull up on the fin to make sure you have it locked in position. Tie the string around the grommet just forward of the fin, keeping it loose – this ensures that you don’t lose the pin but have enough “string” to attach.

That’s it! You’re ready to paddle.

Features and Specifications on the Aquaglide Columbia One HB Inflatable Kayak

Molded rubber handles. Zippers to access bladders.

The Columbia One HB is constructed with four molded carrying handles (bow, stern and both sides), but can also be carried by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.

Bungee deck lacing and splash guards.

Two splash guards – front and rear – extend partly over the seating well and help prevent water from splashing in. Each has a bungee deck-lacing system for attaching gear. Each deck extends back 3 feet over the seating well with raised visor; the bungee deck lacing is 22 inches long by 16 inches wide tapering to 5 inches, with one cloth d-ring bow and stern. (AirKayaks note: We spoke with AquaGlide. They will be offering an optional one-seater spray deck which should be available later this summer. The spray deck will totally enclose the cockpit around the seating area, and will also accept an optional spray skirt – this will provide maximum protection from waves, wind and rain. The spray decks can be used on all Columbia’s currently available.)

There are two sets of velcro paddle holders, one set for each side.

Neoprene knuckle guards

Padded neoprene “knuckle guards” run 43 x 4 inches on each side chamber.

There are two sets of inner plastic d-rings (used to attach the seats as well as gear) and two sets of cloth d-rings on the outside of the hull along the rub guard.

Military valves, Boston valves

Two Boston valves with retaining rings are used on the side chambers, a military valve for the floor, and one twistlock for the seat base.

Proformance seat.

The padded, inflatable Pro-Formance seat features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position (Airkayaks note: the metal clips go towards the front, the plastic clips toward the rear). The straps can be adjusted up to 15 inches. The seat back is equipped with 2 fishing rod holders, one d-ring on each side and a deep mesh storage pocket (measuring 5 x 8 x 9 inches) for gear. Two mesh pockets and two side d-rings are found on the front of the seat base, as well as a velcro strip for attaching an optional cup holder.

Seat has mesh pocket and fishing rod holders.

The seat bases are 16 inches wide by 16 inches deep and can be inflated up to 5 inches, dependent on your comfort level. The backs are 12 inches tall in a 1-inch thick padded foam with “breathable” mesh, encircling 26-inches wide. A velcro tab locks the twist-lok into position so it doesn’t accidentally “get bumped” while paddling.

Drain wells and drain plugs

The Hard-Bottom (HB) floor is constructed from a 6-12 PSI high-pressure, drop-stitch material, and is designed as “raised seating,” creating two 3″ deep side-well cutouts that collect any water splashing inside; each side-well has a drain plug (not to be confused with self-bailing) which can be opened to let water out. The drop-stitch material allows the floor to feel quite rigid when inflated to higher pressures.

Velcro strips for ultimate latitude in seating arrangements.

Two 55-inch velcro strips are centered on the floor, and are used to position the seats and foot braces.

Adjustable foot brace.

The foot brace is padded – 10 x 3 inches long – with velcroed strips 8 inches in length.

Included backpack with Columbia HB series inflatable kayaks.

The backpack is quite roomy. Two-way zippers run along three sides, allowing the pack to be completely opened for easy access and stowage. Top, side and rear carrying handles provide a myriad of handling options, as well as two padded, adjustable backpack shoulder straps. A drawstring mesh pocket, approximately 14 x 18 inches deep, is perfect for storing a hand pump. Two adjustable cinch straps allow one to tighten the pack. Pack measurements are approximately 28 inches wide x 15 inches deep x 26 inches tall.

The kayak body consists of two inflatable 24-gauge PVC bladders (both sides) housed in a zippering fabric cover of commercial grade Duratex hull material blended with a rugged 600 denier polyester, allowing the bladders to be replaced if necessary.

Rugged hull with landing plate, removable fin

The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant material with removable tracking fin and landing plates.

Removable tracking fin.

The tracking fin is hefty, measuring 5 x 12 inches with locking pin.

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak

We did measurement tests. The Columbia One HB kayak inflated is 11 feet 4 inches long and approximately 35-36 inches wide (specs say 10’6 x 36 inches wide.) The side bladders are roughly 10 inches in diameter, making the sides 8 inches above the seating area. Interior dimensions are approximately 96 inches long by approximately 16-17 inches at the widest point.

Birdseye view of the Columbia One HB inflatable kayak

Dependent on where the seats are positioned, there is roughly 45 inches from the back of the seat to the end of the interior usable space (which tapers to nothing) and 5 feet from the seat back to the interior bow. The brace can be positioned about 35 to 44 inches from the seat back. Weight limitations are 300 lbs for person and gear.

AquaGlide Columbia One HB on the Water.

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak on the water.

I took the Columbia One HB out for a spin a couple of times. The first time was in slight chop – at my height of 5′ 4″, the kayak feels solid and is roomy – I was even able to stand up without tipping. The velcro strip paddle holders are long enough to hold the paddles, and the seat allows you to sit high enough that knuckle-rub was minimized. The ability to move the seat and foot brace to a multitude of positions is a plus. The kayak rode over the chop, but it felt slightly “drifty” to me – I had to paddle a little harder to keep on course.

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak on the water

My husband – at 6′ 2″ – found the kayak to be quite comfortable while the seat provided the support he likes. The open cockpit allows him to easily get in and out without feeling cramped, and he found it to paddle very well.

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak on the water with furry friend.

I then took my paddling buddy Woody out with me. Despite continuing attempts to explore all floating objects, the kayak is quite stable, and the material rugged enough that I had no worries about sharp claws. His added weight in the front of the kayak minimized the “drift” that I felt, and the kayak paddled and tracked well.

With that in mind, I decided to deflate the floor to 4-PSI and see how it felt. For my weight, the slightly lower pressure (down from 7 PSI) appeared to seat itself better in the water, and I found paddling to be much easier and the tracking better – with the added boon of less pumping.  My husband – at 180 lbs – found the higher pressure of 7 PSI worked for him.

Last of all, the kayak is very easy to fold up, and actually rolls up to a much smaller package than one would imagine possible. The bag is spacious enough to carry the seats, braces and paddle, and opens wide enough to easily get the kayak back into the pack.

Bottom line on the AquaGlide Columbia One HB Inflatable Kayak

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak is easy to get into.

The Columbia One HB is a good inflatable kayak choice for one paddler with room for gear. The open cockpit design will appeal to those who are uncomfortable being enclosed, paddlers who need easy entry and exit (such as seniors or those with physical limitations), those in need of a quick dip on a hot summer day, and kayakers who do not plan paddling in rough waters.

Columbia One HB inflatable kayak is set up with fishing rod holders.

Numerous “attentions to detail” have been incorporated, such as fishing rod holders, multiple d-rings, drain plugs, paddle holders, deck lacing and infinite seating positions. When cinched, the seat back provides a good amount of support, while the inflatable seat base is a real plus, allowing one to vary inflation pressures.

The Columbia One HB inflatable kayak is extremely stable.

The high-pressure floor provides extreme rigidity as well as stability.

Aquaglide Columbia One HB inflatable kayak is perfect for many sizes.

The longer waterline provides good glide and the tracking fin increases the handling performance. It’s a good choice for slow-moving rivers, lakes and coastal kayaking, or for some surf or light whitewater – probably through Class II.

The Columbia One HB is lightweight, easy to carry.

The Columbia One HB is lightweight and highly portable – it rolls up surprisingly well, easily fitting into the trunk of a small car, an RV or an option for vacation travel.

The Columbia HB series of inflatable kayaks

For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Columbia One HB product page at

Stay tuned, we’ll have the Columbia One HB video out within a couple of weeks, as well as write-ups on the Columbia Two HB inflatable kayak for 1-2 paddlers, and the Columbia Tandem HB inflatable kayak for 1-3 paddlers.

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