Last summer, AquaGlide unveiled their inflatable kayak lineup for 2015, which included a series of new models and revamps. Based on the number of inquiries, we were anxious to try out the new Chelan HB high-pressure series.
Our third AquaGlide review for 2015 focuses on the Chelan HB One, an 11′ 4″ long, high-pressure, inflatable kayak designed for solo paddling. (Please note: some of the information will be repeated from other writeups.)
Getting Started with the Aquaglide Chelan HB One:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, repair kit, foot brace, tracking fin, seat, valve adaptor and two plastic splash guards.
Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs approximately 22 lbs, with a folded size of 25 x 9 x 21 inches. The kayak with seat, fin and brace – all in the backpack – weighs 29 lbs with a backpack size of roughly 27 x 22 x 18 inches, which can be cinched down. All boxed up, the dimensions are 27 x 23 x 14 inches with a shipping weight of 35 lbs. We were able to get everything – plus a pump and paddle – into the pack.
(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 appeared adequate and include diagrams with inflation details.
Set up is straight-forward and simple – unpack, unfold, inflate.
There are three military valves (both sides and the floor) with one more small chamber utilizing a twistlock valve for the seat base.
The instructions say to pump up the floor first, to 6 PSI. As the floor is held in place with two adjustable straps, from prior experience, we found it best to loosen up the straps, making it easier to center if necessary.
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 Chelan HB One military valves require a special adaptor, which does not come with most standard pumps. In Aquaglide’s first year, the military adaptors were not included with the high-pressure kayaks. All the 2015 high pressure models now include the adaptor, which is found in the repair kit.
The Aquaglide military adaptor couples to the valve with a Boston valve adaptor; this is a common fitting, slightly conical and about 1/2 inch thick. Friction fit the adaptor onto the Boston valve fitting, then attach the fitting to the military valve with a slight twist. It is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.
Here is where we came to our first issue – we absolutely could not connect the adaptor to the valve, as we couldn’t get enough “grip.” This was probably compounded since it was the first time the kayak was inflated. While we solved it using another pump with a fixed adaptor, if you experience the same issue, our suggestion is to open the valve and “pull” on it, to create some air space in the chamber. Or glue the adaptor onto the Boston valve fitting.
AirKayaks note #2: The military valve adaptor has a bar across the inside, which pushes open the spring valve, allowing pressure gauges to take a reading. While this is great when working correctly, if you haven’t securely coupled the military adaptor to the Boston valve fitting, the hose can blow off, allowing all the air to escape – while that did not happen this time, we did have that happen with the Chelan Tandem XL. If you experience this, recouple the adaptors, pressing on tightly. This can also be rectified by gluing the adaptor onto the Boston valve fitting, or roughing up the BV fitting surface so there is “more grab.”
We began pumping up the floor, when came to the second issue, which we had also experienced with the Chelan Tandem XL – at about 2 PSI, we heard air leaking. Upon inspection, it was coming from the o- ring on the adaptor. We continued pumping and were able to fill the kayak without a problem.
It took us about 30 complete pumps with a double action pump to reach 6 PSI. 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 also use military valves.
The instructions suggest pumping up each side about one-third, working back and forth to prevent twisting. Rather than moving back and forth, this time we pumped up each side fully (about 35 full strokes each side to 3 PSI) and it inflated perfectly centered.
Next attach the seat – this stays in position utilizing velcro and adjustable side straps. First, inflate the ProFormance seat base, which 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. AirKayaks note: Here is a nifty little home-made adaptor that works with these twistlocks.
For starters, loosen up the straps on the seat. As there are only two sets of top d-rings – one set towards the stern and one set on the side handles – its pretty obvious where the seat will be placed. Position the back of the seat just forward of the rear drain wells (you want to be just rear of center) – this can be repositioned later if needed. Attach the upper seat quick-connect clips (metal) to the handle d-rings, and the rear seat clips (plastic) to the rear set of d-rings. Tighten the straps.
Now install the two unmarked, plastic splash guards – which are not mentioned in the instructions. These are meant to stiffen the front and rear visors. While there are no ID’s on the sheets, there is definitely a “right or wrong” way. Both sheets are identical, but one side has more of an arc. Place the “arced” side toward the sky, and fit into the slots – you will need to bend the sheet to get it in the second slot. Then fasten with the velcro strips. If you put it in “upside-down” the sheet will not lie flat with the guard.
Next place the foot brace on the velcro strips so that your legs are slightly bent when pressing against them – you can reposition this when you get into the kayak.
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 insert the retaining pin. At this point, pull up on the fin to make sure you have it locked in position. (Please note: The 2017 Chelan features a new US Fin Box which is different from the fin above. The instruction manual does not include the updated fin instructions. See our instructions on Installing a Fin on a Red Paddle SUP which uses the same process.)
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 Chelan HB One Inflatable Kayak
The Chelan HB One is constructed with four molded carrying handles (bow, stern and both sides), but can very easily be carried by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.
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 over the seating well with raised visor; the front bungee deck extends 37 inches with lacing 23 inches long by 14 inches wide tapering to 3 inches; this begins 14 inches from the bow.
The rear deck extends 27 inches with lacing measuring 22 inches long by 14 inches wide tapering to 3 inches; this begins 14.5 inches from the stern. Each bungee deck lacing has five sets of cloth loops. There is one cloth d-ring bow and stern, which can be used to attach the optional spray deck, or for attaching gear.
There are four upper plastic d-rings (two each side) used to attach the seats as well as gear, and two cloth d-rings each side of the outer hull along the rub guard – also for the optional deck or attaching more gear. The upper d-rings are located 67 inches from the bow cone (on the handle) and then 30 inches back from the first set.
The cloth d-rings are located 60 and 82 inches from the bow.
There are three military valves for the floor and side chambers, and one twistlock for the seat base.
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 bases are 16 inches wide by 16 inches deep and can be inflated up to 5 inches, dependent on your comfort level. 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 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. 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 PSI high-pressure, drop-stitch material, and is designed as “raised seating,” creating four 3.5 inch 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 44-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 features tubeless side chambers constructed from 1000 denier 850 GSM Duratex reinforced PVC with a smooth finish. The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant 500 denier 600G Duratex reinforced PVC with removable tracking fin and landing plate.
The tracking fin is hefty, measuring 5.5 x 12 inches with locking pin.
The bow and stern feature a rugged “molded” snout.
We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 11 feet 9 inches long from end cap to end cap, and approximately 33 inches wide (specs say 11 ft 4 inches x 36 inches wide.) The side bladders are roughly 9-10 inches in diameter, making the sides 8 inches above the seating area.
Interior dimensions are approximately 117 inches long (length of floor before tapering down to “unusability”) by approximately 16 inches at the widest point; as the ProFormance seat allows one to sit up higher, the width is a bit of a moot point.
Dependent on where the seat is positioned (we’ll use the layout mentioned above), the inside well behind the seat is approximately 13 inches wide and 22 inches deep (open) with an additional 19 more inches under the deck, before tapering into unusable space. There is roughly 42 inches from the front seat back to the bow spray deck, with another 20 inches under the deck, tapering towards nothing. All this can be repositioned.
Weight limitation is 300 lbs for person and gear.
Chelan HB One vs the original Columbia HB One
So what is different about the new Chelan model versus the original Columbia HB?
The new Chelan features a “tubeless” construction, making the kayak lighter by roughly 15%. All three chambers now feature military valves rather than a mixture with Boston valves – and the valve adaptor comes standard with the kayak. There are no neoprene knuckleguards or paddleholders, but the Duratex smooth skin is less abrasive to touch. Coupled with 4 drain wells and 4 drain plugs, water now collects in the wells, while the sleek skin and plugs make drying time much quicker.
The Chelan kayak silhouette is a bit less pronounced than the original Columbia HB, providing a roomier feel in the snout, and less potential twisting problems during setup.
Chelan HB One inflatable kayak on the water.
We took the Chelan HB One out for a spin a couple of times.
The first time was in calm water. At my height of 5′ 4″, the kayak felt solid and remarkably lightweight. Paddling was smooth with a good glide, though just slightly “drifty” in the snout; possibly weight would even this out. The high PSI floor was quite rigid, and I was able to stand up without tipping. While there is no knuckleguard, the seat allows you to sit high enough that knuckle-rub was not an issue. The ability to move the seat and foot brace to a multitude of positions is a plus. It’s also quite nimble.
My husband then took the Chelan out for a spin. As the kayak is 32-33 inches in width (rather than the 36″ stated in the specs) at 6’2″, he felt he sat too high in the seat – the kayak felt initially tippy due to his higher center of gravity – though he got used to it after a few minutes. This can also be solved by deflating the seat base, allowing one to sit down lower. The open cockpit allows him to easily get in and out without feeling cramped, and he found it to paddle very well without experiencing the “drift.”
I took the Chelan out another day in chop. While the kayak rode over the waves, it was drifty; there was not quite enough weight to hold it down and I had to paddle harder to keep on course.
With that in mind, I decided to add some weight in the front and see how it felt. As the kayak is narrower, there was not enough width for me to put the seat back far enough to bring my buddy Woody. I stuffed a 12-15 lb pack into the snout, and took it out in mild chop. Bingo. As the Chelan has a fair amount of rise in the snout, the added weight made the kayak seat itself in the water better, thus paddle more smoothly, and handled the chop pretty well.
One last test. Back on shore, I let out some of the air in the floor, so it was not quite as rigid, and added weight in front. Again, I felt the Chelan paddled better in chop.
So, there are options. Dependent on your size/weight and paddling conditions, tweaks can be made to optimize paddling.
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 Chelan HB One
The Chelan HB One is a good inflatable kayak choice for one paddler with room for an afternoon of 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.
An optional spray deck makes the kayak more enclosed, and allows the use of an optional spray skirt, for paddlers out in rougher waters or inclement weather.
The Duratex smooth skin and multiple drain plugs allow water to run off the skin and out of the crevices, making drying times much shorter.
Numerous “attentions to detail” have been incorporated, such as fishing rod holders, multiple d-rings, drain plugs, 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 as well as seat height.
The high-pressure floor provides extreme rigidity.
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.
But best of all – it’s very lightweight. The tubeless construction reduces the kayak body to 22 lbs, or all the gear in the pack at 29 lbs, this is a great option for those needing portability. it rolls up surprisingly well, easily fitting into the trunk of a small car, an RV or an option for vacation travel.
Street price is $799. For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Chelan HB One product page at AirKayaks.com. Stay tuned, we’ll have the Chelan HB One video out within a couple of weeks.