We continue with the second in our series on the new 2015 Aquaglide line of inflatable kayaks – our first review focused on the high-pressure Chelan HB Tandem XL touring kayak.
This year AquaGlide debuted the Columbia XP recreational line of kayaks consisting of three standard-pressure models – the Columbia XP One for solo paddling, the Columbia XP Two for one to two paddlers and the Columbia XP Tandem XL.
This review features the Columbia XP Tandem XL, a 15 foot long inflatable kayak designed for one or two paddlers, with extra space for gear, child or pet. (Please note: some of the information will be repeated from other writeups.)
Getting Started with the Aquaglide Columbia XP Tandem XL:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, repair kit, foot braces, tracking fin, two standard seats and a jumper seat.
Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs approximately 40 lbs, with a backpack size of roughly 27 x 22 x 18 inches, while the kayak with seats, fin and braces – all in the backpack – weighs 49 lbs. Boxed up, the dimensions are 30 x 23 x 16 inches inches with a shipping weight of 59 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.
Set up is straight-forward and simple – unpack, unfold, inflate.
There are three inflation chambers utilizing Boston valves – the two side chambers and floor. There is one more small chamber with a twistlock valve for the jumper seat base. The floor is pumped up first.
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 #2: 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. It took about 35 full pumps with a double action hand pump to reach the floor’s recommended pressure of 1 PSI – this will have slight give.
Next move to the side chambers. While we pumped up each side partly to check centering, each side pumped up evenly. It took about 45 full pumps each side to reach the recommended 2 PSI – the kayak felt nice and firm. Screw on the valve cap covers.
(AirKayaks side note #3: 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 seats – these stay in position utilizing velcro and adjustable side straps. While the instructions say to inflate the seat bases, this is leftover from the prior model instructions; the current Columbia XPs use the Core seats with foam base.
For starters, position the back of the front seat at the same level as the first velcro paddleholder; this can be fine-tuned later. Loosen up the straps and attach the front seat quick-connect clips (metal) to the first set of d-rings, and the rear seat clips (plastic) to the third set of d-rings.
Position the back of the rear seat at the same level as the end of the neoprene knuckleguards, and clip the front (upper) connects to the 4th set of d-rings, and the rear straps to the 6th 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.
If bringing along a child or small friend, inflate the center jumper seat. The jumper 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. As it only takes several puffs, it’s probably easiest to manually blow it up.
Twist the lock shut and position the jumper seat on the velcro several inches behind the front seat back; the rear paddler may-or-may-not need the foot brace.
The last step is to attach the removable tracking fin, which enhances paddling/tracking in deeper water. 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.
As a last check, make sure the rear drain plug is screwed in tightly, otherwise water will seep in.
That’s it! You’re ready to paddle.
Features and Specifications on the Aquaglide Columbia Tandem XP Inflatable Kayak
The Columbia Tandem XP 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 and a raised visor; the front bungee deck extends 36 inches with lacing 22 inches long by 14 inches wide tapering to 2.5 inches.
The rear deck extends 26 inches with lacing measuring 14 inches long by 16 inches wide tapering to 6 inches. Zippers run partially under each deck lacing, allowing one to access the interior bow and stern if needed.
There is one cloth d-ring bow and stern, which can be used to attach the optional single and double spray decks, or for attaching gear.
There are two sets of velcro paddle holders, one set for each side. Padded neoprene “knuckle guards” run 68 x 4 inches on each side chamber.
There are twelve upper plastic d-rings (six each side, used to attach the seats as well as gear) and six cloth d-rings each side of the outer hull along the rub guard – these also are used for the optional spray decks or to attach extra gear. The upper d-rings begin 66 inches from the snout and are spaced from 15 to 19 inches apart.
Three Boston valves with retaining rings are used on the side chambers and floor, while one twistlok is used for the jumper seat base.
The two main padded, Core seats feature adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position; the straps can be adjusted up to 15 inches.
Each of the seats comes 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. The 1-inch thick seat bases are 15 inches wide by 16 inches deep, and the backs are 12.5 inches tall in a stiff foam, encircling 26-inches wide.
A third, padded jumper seat – perfect for kids – measures 10 inches wide, by 16 inches long and 4 to 6 inches deep; this features a twist-lok inflation valve with velcro to position on the floor. A velcro tab locks the twist-lok into position so it doesn’t accidentally “get kicked” while paddling.
The 144-inch long inflatable floor features a 1-PSI PVC i-beam construction with a covering, offering protection from claws or fish hooks as well as integrating the floor with the walls and providing a slightly stiffer construction. The floor is designed as “raised seating,” creating a front and rear well that will collect any water that splashes inside.
Two 106 inch velcro strips are centered on the floor, 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 XP floor uses an inflatable chamber with a proprietary X-beam technology to produce a stiffer, more durable PVC beam floor – the PVC floor chamber is protected with a material cover.
The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant material with removable tracking fin, landing plate and one drain plug (located in the stern).
The tracking fin is hefty, measuring 5 x 12 inches with locking pin.
We did measurement tests. The Columbia Tandem XP kayak inflated is 15 feet 1 inch long and approximately 37 to 38 inches wide (specs say 15 ft x 36 inches wide.) The side bladders are roughly 10 inches in diameter, making the sides 7 to 8 inches above the seating area. Interior dimensions are approximately 144 inches long (before tapering down to “unusability”) by approximately 17 to 18 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 13 inches wide with 36 inches from the back of the seat to the end of the interior usable space (which tapers to nothing) – 20 inches of that is outside the deck cover (open). There is 44 inches from the rear seat back to front seat back, and roughly 58-60 inches front seat back towards the bow, until it tapers to nothing; fully extended, there is 44″ from seat back to foot brace. All this can be repositioned with about 4 inches leeway each seat, using the suggested d-rings.
If using the jumper seat, there is room for the rear person’s legs to go around the side.
When paddling solo with the seats attached just rear of center (seat back at the 2nd paddleholder level) using the 2nd and 4th d-rings, there is roughly 65 inches behind the seat, and 72 inches from seat front to interior bow.
Weight limitations are 600 lbs for persons and gear.
New Columbia XP Tandem vs Columbia HB Tandem.
So as not to get confusing, this year’s high-pressure, smooth-skin Chelan HB series replaced last year’s high-pressure Columbia HB series. Last year’s Columbia HB series was redesigned into a standard-pressure Columbia XP series – this alleviated some of the twisting problems occasionally seen with the bladders. The current Columbia XP series now bridges the gap between the higher-priced Chelan series, and the price-conscious Chinook Series.
AquaGlide Columbia Tandem XP on the Water.
We took the Columbia XP Tandem out for a spin in all three configurations – tandem with small friend, tandem and solo.
My husband and I took out the Columbia XP Tandem for a short jaunt – the kayak is roomy, it paddles well and tracks straight. The velcro strip paddle holders are long enough to hold the paddles. The new Columbias come with the Core seat, which features the one-inch foam base. As one is sitting lower than in the Chelan, my husband thought it was slightly wide, and felt he needed a longer paddle. While I have a “lower center of gravity” and thus more often have the issues, since I was sitting in front, the kayak was probably a bit narrower. At our heights of 5’4″ and 6’2″, we had room to spare (and thus not clanging our paddles), and could easily see room for a small child, dog or camping gear.
Our cattledog, Woody, came out for a spin. Apparently still in the late puppy phase, Woody spent his time jumping around to see what was in the water. Despite this, the kayak is quite stable, and the hull material is rugged enough that claws are not an issue. The PVC floor has a fabric covering that protects the blader. There is certainly enough interior space to fit two adults and a child – or lots of camping gear – particularly with the weight capacity of 600 lbs. The jumper seat is slim enough that the rear paddler’s legs can slip around the sides, or the seat can be positioned back farther.
I took the kayak out solo – with the ability to move the seat and foot brace to an optimal position, it really paddles nicely. When paddling solo, one is positioned closest to the beam of the kayak, so it felt slightly wide – using the Aquaglide Pro-formance seat, or adding a little more cushion base, would ease this.
My husband took the kayak out solo, and still felt he was sitting down a little bit too low. Other than that, the kayak paddled well, tracked straight. While the open cockpit allows him to easily get in and out without feeling cramped, the PVC floor – softer than the Chelan high pressure – is a bit less firm to get into.
The one thing I should note. If you are planning on taking the kayak out solo, be aware that this 15 ft kayak is tough enough to carry alone, and nearly impossible in windy conditions. A word to the wise – take a look at one of the breakdown dollies such as the Advanced Elements kayak cart, which will make your life easier, AND allow you to pack your gear inside.
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 Columbia Tandem XP
The Columbia XP Tandem XL is a great inflatable kayak choice – particularly for price-conscious individuals wanting good performance, stability, extensive storage space/carrying capacity, the flexibility to paddle single, tandem, or tandem with child or dog. The velcro strips on the floor allow infinite seating and brace positions, which can be customized specifically for the paddler(s), and the seats provide a good amount of support if you cinch them tight.
Numerous “attentions to detail” have been incorporated, such as fishing rod holders, multiple d-rings, drain plugs, paddle holders and infinite seating position and deck lacing. The velcro strips also allow one to add the optional “fishing cooler” – as shown in the image of the AquaGlide Blackfoot inflatable kayak, above.
The open design will appeal to those who need easy entry and exit – such as seniors or those with physical disabilities – as well as paddlers in need of a quick dip on a hot summer day. But, optional single and double decks will also provide enclosed seating for those in rougher waters, rain, spray and cold weather.
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, and coastal.
The Columbia Tandem is portable – it rolls up surprisingly well, easily fitting into the trunk of a small car, an RV or an option for vacation travel.
And at only $799, the Columbia XP Tandem is a truly versatile option with lots of amenities at a middle-of-the-road price. For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Columbia XP Tandem product page at AirKayaks.com. Stay tuned, we’ll have the Columbia XP Tandem video out within a couple of weeks.