Introduced nearly a decade ago, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak series (originally called the AirFrame) has expanded over the years to include four models – the two 10.5 foot AdvancedFrame and Sport models, the 13 foot Expedition, and the 15 ft tandem Convertible.
One of the most popular questions is between the AdvancedFrame and Expedition – which one should I choose? While the lower pricepoint on the AdvancedFrame is appealing to many, the smaller size may not be as comfortable to some, or carry enough gear.
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame (photo above) is a 10.5 ft recreational and touring model while the Expedition (photo below) is an elongated 13 ft version with upgrades. Though they have many similarities, there are just as many differences. Ultimately your choice comes down to a personal preference, but here are some things to think about.
Both kayaks are made from the same materials, use the same valves and have the same 1 PSI PVC floor i-beam construction with 2 PSI side chambers. Both come with bungee deck lacing, molded rubber handles, multiple d-rings, neoprene knuckle guards, integrated tracking fin and carrying case. Both have the integrated aluminum rib/plastic inserts in the bow and stern to sculpt the shape. Both have the same size cockpit seating area with coaming tubes to attach optional spray skirts. Both models can use optional backbones and high-pressure floors for added rigidity and tracking, as well as a myriad of Advanced Elements accessories to enhance the paddling experience.
At 10.5 feet in length with a weight of 34 lbs in the pack, the AE1012 AdvancedFrame is lighterweight and shorter – easier to carry around solo in windy weather. It paddles well. This is a great choice with small or average-sized people concerned about kayak size and weight, who don’t plan on long or multiple days of touring and don’t need room for lots of gear. And it costs slightly less.
The Expedition AE1009 is 2.5 feet longer and weighs 10 lbs more (13 feet and 44 lbs). The longer waterline makes it a great choice for extended (and short) range touring. It paddles well and has great glide. Upgraded accessories – such as a foot brace and high-backed lumbar seat – come standard.
We put the AdvancedFrame and Expedition next to each other to get a better feel – in this photo shoot we had the AdvancedFrame DS (blue model with high pressure floor) available – the AFDS is identical in size to the standard red version. We set them up, mid-handle to mid-handle, and positioned each of the seats towards the back of the cockpit area.
We took measurements and then did the ultimate test – my “6’2″, 180 lb, 10.5 shoe-size” husband was asked to sit inside each.
Before we get into the statistics, we need to explain the kayak bladders. While some kayaks feature a left bladder and a right bladder, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame series features an inner and outer bladder – if you have a leak in one chamber, you will be held up by the other chamber. This also takes up more real estate, cutting down on the available interior seating area as compared to models with left and right bladders.
The AE1012 AdvancedFrame had 47 inches from seat back to the “bow inner bladder wall.” There was 15 inches from seat back to the “stern inner bladder wall” – this is leg room and covered storage area. On top of the kayak, there is 54 inches from the bow to the beginning of the cockpit coaming, and 42 inches from the stern to the cockpit coaming – this is the area where one could bungee gear on top.
The AE1009 Expedition had 66 inches from the seat back to the “bow inner bladder wall.” There was 33 inches from seat back to the “stern inner bladder wall”. On top of the kayak, there is 69 inches from the bow to the beginning of the cockpit coaming, and 60 inches from the stern to the cockpit coaming.
We put my husband in each, starting with the 10.5 ft AdvancedFrame. At 6’2, with the front tapering, my husband’s feet are pressed down by the hull upper, reaching the interior bladder.
His knees then become bent, hitting the upper hull by the coaming area. While he can paddle for short times, in the long run it is uncomfortable for him. At 5’4, I find the AdvancedFrame to be quite comfortable, particularly with the use of the optional inflatable foot brace. The foot brace is probably a good choice for people up to about 5’8 – those taller may not need it.
He then sat in the Expedition. Even with his feet pressed down from the upper hull, his legs can remain stretched out and still not reach the inner wall – in fact, he had about 15 inches to go. For long paddling trips he finds the Expedition infinitely more comfortable. At 5’4, I also find the Expedition to be extremely comfortable and to paddle well.
What can you glean from this? Most heights can fit into the Expedition without any issues. For the AdvancedFrame, the gray area seems to begin at 5’11. In this case, factor in your inseam length, and your shoe size. Those with shorter legs and smaller feet may be comfortable while those with larger feet or longer legs may not.
As a side note, some larger (taller) paddlers wanting a smaller kayak feel more comfortable in the Advanced Elements Sport (shown above). While it is the same footprint as the AdvancedFrame, because the cockpit is larger and more open, it is easier to paddle with slightly bent knees.
AE1009 Expedition: Faster, sleeker, better glide. Upgraded accessories such as the brace and high-backed lumbar seat are included. Heavier, longer. More exterior and interior gear capacity. Good touring choice. Good for many sizes. Slightly higher pricepoint at $599
AE1012 AdvancedFrame. An all-time classic. Shorter, easier to haul around in wind, lighter-weight. Best for smaller and average-size adults. Lower price point at $449.
Of course, you can read all the details on each model. Check out our Detailed Product Review: AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements and the Detailed Product Review: Expedition Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements.
And if you REALLY need more room or the ability to bring two, certainly check out the 15 foot AE1007 AdvancedFrame Convertible for one or two paddlers, shown in the Limited Edition DS series above.