Last year, Aquaglide – a division of North Sports – launched their inflatable kayak line with a series of 13 models. For 2015, Aquaglide expanded to 19 models – including 7 new kayaks and 3 redesigns – with MSRP pricing from $199.95 to $1099.95.
The current line includes three Tandem XL models designed for one to two paddlers with extra space for gear, child or furry friend. This includes the Chelan (new model), Columbia (redesign) and Chinook (original model) inflatable kayaks.
The new Chelan high-pressure touring series is a hybrid of the original Columbia HB and Klickitat models. The Chelans feature the Columbia’s long sleek waterline but are constructed in the smooth skin Duratex material used on the Klickitats, which reduces drying time.
The Columbia HB series has undergone a significant manufacturing change from a high-pressure version to a standard pressure version, and is now called the Columbia XP, bridging the gap between the Chinook and Chelan product lines.
The Chinook XP series remains with its original design as an economical, standard pressure, recreational kayak.
We often get questions – which one should I choose?
The Columbia and Chelan Tandems are 15 ft touring models with a sleek silhouette and long waterline, while the Chinook is a 12.5 ft recreational model built for price-point. While they have many differences, they have just as many similarities. Ultimately it comes down to a personal preference, so here are some things to think about.
AquaGlide Tandem XLs: What’s the same?
All three kayaks feature an open design for 2+ paddlers, but they can also be easily paddled by one. They each utilize velcro floor strips and multiple d-rings to create infinite seating positions while still leaving room enough for gear, a child or furry friend. All come with two seats with integrated fishing rod holders, a third jumper seat with TwistLok valve, foot braces, splash guards, bungee deck lacing, drain plug, removable tracking fin and molded rubber handles. Each have similar widths of 36 to 37 inches.
AquaGlide Tandem XLs: What’s different?
At 12.5 feet in length with a weight of 42 lbs in the pack (34 lbs kayak only), the Chinook XP Tandem is lighter-weight and the shortest. The XP construction consists of three PVC chambers (floor and two side bladders) utilizing three Boston valves. The inflation chambers have a zippered fabric covering, which allows the chambers to be replaced if necessary, but also increases drying time. These chambers can be inflated 1 to 2 PSI respectively. Despite the lower pressure, the floor covering is attached to the sides, which helps in durability and increasing structural rigidity somewhat. Other features include paddle holders, drawstring carrying case and one drain plug. The Core seats have a one-inch foam base (paddlers sit lower in the kayak) and two adjustable straps each seat. It paddles well, with good glide. This is a great choice for people concerned about kayak size and weight, who don’t plan on long days of touring, who want an open design and aren’t concerned about colder waters or wind, who want to have some fun on the water, or maybe a day of fishing, without sacrificing versatility – it can be paddled by one or two, yet still has room for gear or a third smaller being. Capacity rating is 550 lbs persons(s) and gear. And it is the least expensive option at $499.
The Columbia XP Tandem is 2.5 feet longer and weighs 7 lbs more in the pack (15 feet and 49 lbs, or 40 lbs kayak only) – it is the heaviest of the three. Just like the Chinook XP, the Columbia XP features the same construction with three PVC chambers, Boston valves, lower 1-2 PSI inflation and zippered fabric covers with replaceable chambers. And just like the Chinook, the Columbia includes paddle holders, one drain plug and the foam-based Core seats. Unlike the Chinook, the Columbia also has neoprene knuckle guards, more surface area with bungee-deck lacing and sculpted splash guards. The Core seats feature 4 adjustable straps each, and it comes with a zippering back pack. It paddles well, with good glide. The long waterline makes it a great choice for extended (and short) range touring. There is plenty of room for gear or a third smaller being, yet is versatile enough to be paddled by one. While it sports an open design – making it easy to get in and out of – optional single and double spray decks allow one to be in a more enclosed cockpit and utilize spray skirts. Capacity rating is 600 lbs persons(s) and gear. It is in the mid-range of prices at $799.
At 15 ft 5 inches, the Chelan HB is the longest – 5 inches longer than the Columbia and nearly 3 feet longer than the Chinook – yet weighs the least of the three at 42 lbs in the pack (32 lbs kayak only). This is due to the HB construction, which features high-pressure, tubeless side chambers, and a high pressure floor; recommended inflation is 3 and 6 PSI respectively via three military valves. The high-pressure construction is rigid enough that someone can stand up, making it easier to enter if in the water, or from a boat. With a smooth-skin material and 7 floor wells/drain plugs, drying time is much quicker and the material is slightly more rugged. The Chelan does not include paddle holders or neoprene knuckle guards. It comes with the upgraded Proformance seats, which feature an inflatable seat base rather than foam; this allows the paddlers to sit up a few inches more, making the seating area more “spacious.” It comes with the same zippering pack as the Columbia, sculpted splash guards, but also sports a sculpted/molded nose cone. The Chelan features the longest waterline and slightly more topside gear storage capacity, though the interior seating dimensions are fairly identical to the Columbia. It paddles beautifully with great glide. The long waterline makes it a great choice for extended (and short) range touring. There is plenty of room for gear or a third smaller being, yet is versatile enough to be paddled by one. While it sports an open design – making it easy to get in and out of – optional single and double spray decks allow one to be in a more enclosed cockpit and utilize spray skirts. Capacity rating is 600 lbs persons(s) and gear. It is the most expensive at $1099.
We put the kayaks next to each other to get a better feel. The Columbia and Chelan kayaks have nearly identical interior seating measurements, though the Chelan has a hint more storage capacity in the inside well, and on the upper front deck. The Chinook is less spacious in the seating area and in gear capacity. (Please note, the rear seat of the Chelan is set up at the farthest back d-rings, in the images. The other two are not.)
Bottom Line on the Chelan, Columbia and Chinook Tandem XL inflatable Kayaks
Chelan HB Tandem XL: Highest pressure of 3/6 PSI. Fastest, sleekest silhouette, best glide, most rigid. Open design with ability to use upcoming optional single and double spray decks. Lightest weight and longest. Tubeless construction. Most exterior gear storage capacity and great weight carrying capacity. Easiest to dry off. Best touring choice. Good for lakes, bays, slow-moving rivers, coastal and ocean. Highest price point at $1099
Columbia XP Tandem XL: Standard pressure of 1/2 PSI. Good speed, sleek silhouette, good glide. Open design with ability to use optional single and double spray decks. Heaviest, long, great weight carrying capacity. Inflation tubes are replaceable. Harder to dry off. Good exterior gear storage capacity. Good touring choice for lakes, bays, slow-moving rivers, coastal and ocean. Middle range price point at $799
Chinook XP Tandem XL: Standard pressure of 1/2 PSI. Not as fast but not slow. Open design with no deck options. Shorter, easier to haul around in wind, mid-range weight and carrying capacity. Inflation tubes are replaceable. Harder to dry off. Good recreational or fishing choice for calmer waters such as lakes, bays, slow-moving rivers, calm coasts. Economical price point at $499.
Of course, you can read all the details on each model in our product reviews:
- Product Review: Columbia XP Tandem XL Inflatable Kayak
- Product Review: Chelan HB Tandem XL Inflatable Kayak
- Product Review: Chinook XP Tandem XL Inflatable Kayak
To purchase, visit the Columbia Tandem, Chelan Tandem or Chinook Tandem product pages at AirKayaks.com