We continue with our series on the new Aquaglide line of inflatable kayaks. Our first two reviews focused on the Chinook price-point line. Our third and fourth reviews featured two in the flagship Columbia line of high pressure inflatables; the Columbia One HB – a high-pressure touring model for one paddler, and the Columbia Tandem for 1-3 paddlers.
We’ve now moved on to the Columbia Two HB, a 13.5 foot long inflatable kayak designed for one or two paddlers. (Please note: some of the information will be repeated from other writeups.)
Getting Started with the Aquaglide Columbia Two HB:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, repair kit, foot braces, tracking fin and two Pro-Formance seats.
Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs approximately 32.5 lbs, with a backpack size of roughly 27 x 23 x 14 inches, while the kayak with seats, fin and braces – all in the backpack – weighs 44 lbs. Boxed up, the dimensions are 30 x 29 x 15 inches with a shipping weight of 54 lbs. As a note, we were able to also get the pump in the case, with the paddles stuffed into the mesh pocket.
The included instructions are adequate and include diagrams with inflation details.
Set up is straight-forward and simple – unpack, unfold, inflate.
(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.)
There are two inflation chambers utilizing Boston valves – the two side chambers – while the high-pressure floor features a military valve. There are two more small chambers with twistlock valves, for the seat bases. The floor is pumped up first.
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 Two HB floor requires a military 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. We were aware of this from our previous write-ups and had one handy. (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 conical Boston valve adaptor by friction fit, and then attach to the military valve with a slight twist. 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.
The floor is held in place with adjustable straps. From our prior experience, we found it best to loosen up the straps, otherwise the floor could be inflated “lopsided.” Pump up the floor to at least 6 PSI – this took us about 35 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. Inspect the floor to see that it is centered evenly in the kayak cover, and then tighten the cinches. Replace the valve cap cover.
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.)
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.
The instructions suggest pumping up each side about one-third, working back and forth to prevent twisting. We pumped up the side chambers about 20 strokes each side, and then pulled on the sides and front spray deck to straighten everything out, and make sure the bladders were centered over the floor. If you’re not sure, flip the kayak over and look at the bottom. Another 15 pumps each side, again pulling and straightening. A final 12-15 strokes each side brought us to 2 PSI – the kayak felt nice and firm.
Next attach the seats – these stay in position utilizing velcro and adjustable side straps. 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.
For starters, position the back of the rear seat as far back as possible – about 2-3 inches from the velcro end – and the front seat back lined up with the front of the side handles; this can be fine-tuned later. Attach the front seat quick-connect clips (metal) to the first set of d-rings, and the rear seat clips (plastic) to the 2nd set of d-rings. Take the rear seat and clip the front connects to the 4th set of d-rings, and the rear straps to the 5th set; once you get into the kayak, you can tighten up the side straps until you reach the support level that is comfortable for you. If solo paddling, position the seat so you are just rear of center.
Next place the foot braces 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.
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.
As a last check, make sure the side drain plugs are screwed in tightly, otherwise water will seep in.
That’s it! You’re ready to paddle.
Features and Specifications on the Aquaglide Columbia Two HB Inflatable Kayak
The Columbia Two HB is constructed with four molded carrying handles (bow, stern and both sides), but – if not in a windy situation – can also be carried by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.
Two spray decks – 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 over the seating well with raised visor; the front bungee deck extends 39 inches with lacing 21 inches long by 16 inches wide tapering to 5 inches.
The rear deck extends 28 inches with lacing measuring 14 inches long by 16 inches wide tapering to 6 inches. There is one cloth d-ring bow and stern.
There are two sets of velcro paddle holders, one set for each side.
Padded neoprene “knuckle guards” run 57 x 4 inches on each side chamber.
There are ten inner plastic d-rings (five each side, used to attach the seats as well as gear) and five cloth d-rings each side of the outer hull along the rub guard. The inner d-rings begin 67 inches from the bow and are spaced from 11 to 19 inches apart.
Two Boston valves with retaining rings are used on the side chambers, a military valve for the floor, and two twistlocks for the seat bases.
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.
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.
The 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.
Two 80-inch velcro strips are centered on the floor three inches apart, and are used to position the seats and foot braces.
The foot braces are padded – 10 x 3 inches long – with extending strips 8 inches in length.
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.
The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant material with removable tracking fin and landing plates.
The tracking fin is hefty, measuring 5 x 12 inches with locking pin.
We did measurement tests. The Columbia Two HB kayak inflated is 13.5 feet long and approximately 37 inches wide (specs say 13.5 ft x 36 inches wide.) The side bladders are roughly 10 inches in diameter, making the sides 9 inches above the seating area. Interior dimensions are approximately 136 inches long (about two feet of that has tapered to “unusability”) by approximately 17 inches at the widest point.
Dependent on where the seats are positioned (we’ll use the layout mentioned above), the inside well behind the rear seat is approximately 10 inches to the spray visor, or about 24 inches from seat back to interior stern; not all of this is usable as storage due to the tapered sides. There is 43 inches from the rear seat back to front seat back, and roughly 33 inches to the end of the foot brace from the front seat back, or 45 inches from the front seat back to the bow cinch, at which point it tapers to nothing. All this can be repositioned.
When paddling solo with the seat attached just rear of center ( seat front positioned by the front of the side handle) and attached to the 2nd and 4th d-rings, there is roughly 35 inches behind the seat to the visor (open space) with an additional 12 inches of minimal storage under the spray deck. There is 50 inches from the seat back to the furthest foot brace position, with an additional 16 inches forward of the brace, tapering down narrowly.
Weight limitations are 400 lbs for person and gear.
AquaGlide Columbia Two HB on the Water.
We took out the Columbia Two HB for a couple of spins.
My husband took the Columbia Two out first as a solo. At 6-2, he felt it had plenty of room, paddled extremely well, tracked straight and felt solid. He was able to gingerly stand up, but felt that was just getting used to it. There was plenty of room for a small child, dog or camping gear.
I then took the Columbia Two solo in fairly calm water and felt the same – very roomy, feels solid, paddles nicely and tracks straight. At my size there is certainly enough room for an adult and child or dog – with a little leftover. I was able to stand up fairly easily without flipping the kayak.
We then took the Columbia Two out as a tandem. With our combined heights (6’2″ and 5’4″) by positioning the seat far back, and the front just forward of the handles, we both felt quite comfortable, though there was not much interior room for gear . This was not a problem as necessities for a day could fit in dry bags on the spray decks. My husband’s knees bent normally and did not impact his paddling. While my feet were slightly tight, I really didn’t have an issue. One again, it paddled well, was speedy, and tracked straight.
The ability to easily move the foot braces is a plus, as well as the infinite seat setup locations. 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 not an issue.
I did take the Columbia Two out solo in fairly choppy weather. The kayak rode the waves well, though it was a little tougher for me to keep on track with stiff winds – added weight should help with that. It was a little bit of a struggle to carry the kayak solo in winds; the body kept acting as a cantilever, so once again, a kayak dolly might be a benefit if you will be out alone.
While I did not bring my furry paddling buddy, Woody, out with me, I did take him out in the Columbia One HB (shown in picture above). The material is rugged enough that I would have no worries about sharp claws.
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 some select gear, and opens wide enough to easily get the kayak back into the pack.
Bottom line on the Columbia Two HB Inflatable Kayak
The Columbia Two HB is a great, versatile inflatable kayak. The ability to easily switch from solo to tandem is a bonus. It has just enough room for two normal-sized paddlers to feel comfortable, and becomes very spacious as a solo with plenty of room for a child, dog or camping gear.
The open cockpit design of the Columbia Two will appeal to paddlers who need easy entry and exit (such as seniors or those with physical limitations), those who are uncomfortable being enclosed, or those in need of a quick dip on a hot summer day. For paddlers planning on foraging out in cold, rainy or windy weather, AquaGlide will be coming out with single and double deck options later this year; these will retrofit the current production models.
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 high-pressure floor provides extreme rigidity – it feels solid while paddling.
The longer waterline provides good glide and the tracking fin increases the handling performance. It’s a good choice for rivers through class II, lakes, coastal and ocean touring.
The Columbia Two HB is highly portable – it rolls up surprisingly well and can fit into the trunk of a small car or an RV. By separating components, it could also qualify for check-on luggage for vacation travel.
Street price is $899. For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Columbia Two HB inflatable kayak product page at AirKayaks.com. Stay tuned, we’ll have the Columbia Two HB video out within a couple of weeks.