Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: The Limited Edition Expedition LTD Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

Last summer we were able to get a sneak preview of the new Limited Edition Expedition LTD inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements. As long-time fans of the current yellow model, we were impressed with the LTD’s spiffed up graphics and feature enhancements.

Advanced Elements Expedition LTD

Last week, the AE1009LTD hit the West Coast, and we managed to grab one before our first shipment sold out – not to worry, we picked up more.  Here are details on the Expedition LTD AE1009LTD, a 13 foot inflatable weighing in at roughly 42 lbs.

Getting Started with the Expedition LTD LTD Inflatable Kayak

The box as received measures 33 x 21 x 11 inches with a weight of 52 lbs. Inside is a rugged carrying case measuring 37 x 17 x 9 inches (seam to seam) which contains the kayak body, high-backed seat, aluminum riser, repair kit, foot brace and instructions.

What's in the box.

The kayak folded size is approximately 31 x16 x 10 inches leaving just enough room to store a pump and breakdown paddle (not included).

The included manual features the current Expedition – set up is pretty much the same – so we will re-copy some of the instructions written in our initial Expedition write-up.

Unfolding the kayak body

First step, unfold the kayak. The Expedition LTD features an “inner rib” in the bow and stern, which is basically a u-shaped aluminum rib, about one foot long and one-half inch wide.

Inner rib frame

This comes “pre-assembled” meaning it arrives already inserted into two sleeves inside the kayak cover. Unless you remove the inner bladder, they remain in position. When the kayak is pumped up, the inner bladder with rib presses against the kayak cover – that, in conjunction with two bow and stern plastic sheets, give the kayak a sharp silhouette which aids in slicing through the water.

The Expedition LTD kayak features 9 inflation chambers – two military valves (main chambers) and 7 smaller twist-loks (deck lifts, floor and coaming tubes).

Each Expedition LTD comes with a screw-on adaptor (found in the repair kit in the mesh pocket behind the seat) which locks onto many pumps with pin/slot hose fittings. Additionally, a standard Boston valve adaptor will friction fit into the opening.

Opening the military valve.

First step, open the military valve. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist one way to inflate (UP position) and the other to deflate (DOWN position).

Attaching the adaptor

Attach the screw-on adaptor to your pump and then couple it to the first main chamber, located on the rear hull. While there is not a pressure gauge included with the kayak, the adaptor features a “lip” that pushes open the spring plunger, allowing a pump gauge to read the back-pressure; if using the Boston valve adaptor, most gauges will only register as you are inflating.

Pumping up the side chamber

Pump up the first chamber until it begins to fill out. Unlike many other brands, the AdvancedFrame series of kayaks features an inner and outer chamber, with a floating “interior wall.” By pumping up the first chamber partly, you “center” the inner wall – this took about 30 full strokes with a double action hand pump.

Pumping up the side chamber

Check the side tubes to make sure they are even within the cover, and check the floor to see if it is still centered. Then pump up the second chamber, located inside the kayak behind the seat, until firm to touch (2 PSI), once again centering everything as needed – this took another 30 to 35 pumps. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later. (AirKayaks note: There are two velcro strips inside the kayak cover which hold the main tubes in place. Occasionally, the tubes shift initially, making the kayak appear lopsided. If this happens, deflate the kayak, then take two sheets of paper and insert between the velcro and tube. Pump up the kayak slowly, repositioning the tubes until even. Once everything is centered, remove the sheets of paper.)

Pumping up the twistlok valve

Using the same Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it OVER the twistlok valve on the floor bladder. Pump this up until fairly firm (1 PSI) but there should be slight give when depressed. One nifty new feature with the Expedition LTD is the addition of a pressure release valve built into the floor, which automatically releases air if you 1) overinflate the floor or 2) leave it in the hot sun – this is located at the very rear of the kayak interior. As the floor features long, welded i-beams, this particular chamber was one of the easiest to over inflate.

Pressure relief valve

As we were pumping, we purposely did not watch the gauge and – sure enough – we heard a short hiss as we reached the 1 PSI mark. Twist the valve shut and remove the adaptor. (AirKayaks note: Make sure to tuck the twistlok tube on the floor into the side of the kayak, so that you don’t accidentally twist it open while paddling.)

At this point we realized there were no instructions for the aluminum deck riser. After a quick phone call to Advanced Elements, we found that that factory had forgotten to include the one-page instructions. We have uploaded the PDF, so click this link to get the Supplemental Instruction for the AdvancedFrame Expedition Model AE1009-LTD.

Installing the deck riser

Open up the front zipper slightly, and you will find two webbed pockets on each side tube. Take the aluminum riser and slip each end into the sleeves.

Attaching the foot brace.

At this point we veer slightly from the instructions. Now is the best time to attach the foot brace, as the deck is open and it is easier to access. This consists of a series of loops and buckles which can be varied to accommodate your paddling style and height. At first you may want to guess at the appropriate position and after your first test paddle, you can adjust accordingly.

Coaming tube with twistlok valves

Zip the cover shut and re-velcro the zipper lips. Now, move onto the two coaming areas that run around the cockpit and the four deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders”. The coaming tubes and deck lifts “sculpt” the body so that water has a tendency to run off – and not into – the kayak. The coaming tubes also allow one to attach an optional spray skirt. Each of these should be inflated to 1 PSI – basically one or two full strokes each chamber are enough.

Inseting the plastic sleeve

Next, insert the two plastic sheets into the bow and stern sleeves.

Attaching the seat

Attach the seat by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips.

Easy to carry

That’s it – less than 10 minutes and you’re done!

Features and Specifications of the AE1009 Expedition LTD

The AE1009 Expedition LTD consists of three layers. Inflatable PVC bladders are housed in a zippering fabric cover, allowing the bladders to be replaced if necessary. The covered bladders sit inside the kayak outer shell.

Rugged hull material

The kayak upper is comprised of 600 denier polyester/PVC laminate.

Integrated tracking fin

The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin with electronically welded seams, integrated tracking fin and landing plate.

Molded rubber handles

There are two molded rubber carrying handles (bow and stern), but it is fairly simple to carry by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.

Bungee deck lacing

Bungee deck lacing in the bow (measuring 22 inches wide, tapering to 14 inches wide, and 17 inches deep) includes multiple d-rings (now with larger openings for easier handling) and quick release clips, allowing one to add on various dry packs and gear – or to attach a nifty Rapidup downwind sail! The deck lacing system begins 42 inches from the bow.

Foot brace

The foot brace consists of a foam-covered bar with side straps and clips. There are a series of 6 loops on each side of the kayak main chamber – by passing each brace side strap through the loop and clipping shut, the bar allows you to “brace” your feet, aiding in paddling power. With the seat moved all the way back, the brace can be set from 27 to 37 inches (in increments of 2 inches) from the seat back – so, lots of flexibility for paddler sizes!

Coaming tubes for attaching an optional spray skirt.

The 34 x16 inch cockpit area features two inflatable coaming tubes to keep water from running in. A front center zipper can open up an additional 38.5 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling.

Neoprene knuckle guard

Neoprene padded knuckle guards (measuring 26 x 6 inches) cover both sides, preventing knuckle abrasion when paddling.

Paddle holders

Two sets of velcro paddleholders are now located on each side of the kayak.

Rigid, high-backed seat

The high-backed padded seat features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position. Rear stiffening rods create a comfortable option for those needing a bit more back support.

Mesh pocket behind seat

A gusseted, mesh pocket is located on the seat back; this houses the repair kit. The seat can be adjusted about 10 inches in location. Seat back dimensions are 17 inches tall, with a seat base 18 inches wide and 14 inches deep.

Rear integrated storage hatch

Approximately 30 inches behing the seating well is an integrated storage hatch with velcro hatch cover and handle; the opening measures 9 x 15 inches. Gear can be stored inside, then simply roll the “neck” down 2 or 3 times, clip shut and velcro-seal the cover. (AirKayaks note: The well behind the seat is not sealed, thus if water gets into the kayak, your gear can still get wet. Put valuables into dry sacks or ziplocks if concerned.)

Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck, spaced 13-17 inches by 9 inches deep, and beginning 24 inches from the seat back.

Advanced Elements Expedition LTD

We took measurements. The kayak inflated is approximately 158 inches long (13 feet, 2 inches) and 34 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 10.5 inches deep with the deck lifts. Interior dimensions are approximately 99 inches long by 17 inches wide. When the seat is positioned towards the back of the coaming area, there is approximately 63 inches from the seat back to the inner tip. Storage area behind the seat is approximately 26 inches deep x 14 wide x 7 inches tall – tapering down. On the kayak upper, there is approximately 66 inches from the bow to the cockpit opening, and 52 inches from the back of the seating well to the stern.

Weight limitations are 450 lbs for one person and gear.

Advanced Elements Expedition LTD on the Water

Having previously owned the standard Expedition, I was quite familiar with the Expedition LTD and its capabilities – it handles beautifully and is comfortable, rugged and stable.

Expedition LTD on the water

Over the years, I’ve taken out the standard Expedition in all types of weather, from calm water to swells. It has battled the elements, been dragged on rocky beaches, scraped through shallow water and hauled around in a pickup truck. I’ve been out in short jaunts and 10-12 mile treks.

For my height (5’4”) the kayak is very comfortable and fairly easy to carry solo (as long as the wind is down!)

Expedition LTD on the water

The Expedition LTD is no exception. At 6’ 2”, my husband finds the Expedition to be infinitely more comfortable than the 10.5 foot AE1012 AdvancedFrame – as a rule of thumb, taller and long-legged paddlers over 6 feet will probably be happiest in the longer kayak, while the deck riser gives just enough extra foot room for larger paddlers.

We did note that water could pool a bit behind the seat. By attaching a slightly longer bungee cord to the d-ring on the seat back, the bungee can be looped through (under) the coaming area and back, thus pulling up the rear hatch so more water will run off.

So what’s different between the two models?

Installing the deck riser

The LTD’s deck riser definitely makes the kayak feel more spacious by raising the deck well. The LTD seating well is also about two inches wider than the standard AE1009 (interior and exterior dimensions) which makes a large difference in comfort level.

Rear integrated storage hatch

The integrated storage hatch makes it much easier to access gear, as one no longer has to take down the seat; the positioning allows easy access as it’s located in the center of the kayak rear storage area.

Other slight tweaks in bungee locations, dimensions, d-rings with larger clipping openings, and the addition of two sets of paddleholders, add to the kayak’s versatility and usage.

The new pressure-relief valve in the floor greatly decreases the chance of popping an i-beam by overinflation.

Add in the new ocean-blue color scheme and graphics, and you have a great-looking kayak.

As we’ve stated before, because the Expedition LTD is a longer kayak, we do highly recommend either the optional dropstitch floor or the backbone for added rigidity. What are they?


The backbone is a “stiffening rod” pieced together under the standard PVC floor, giving a totally rigid bow-to-stern silhouette, with a slight vee shape to the hull.

Rigidity of drop stitch floor versus standard Convertible PVC floor

The 4-5 PSI dropstitch floor utilizes a construction method which allows for much higher inflation pressures than a standard PVC floor. Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance. This is the technology used in inflatable paddle boards (iSUPs). The image above shows an inflated dropstitch floor on top of an inflated PVC floor.

I personally like the high-pressure floor due to simplicity and weight-savings, while others prefer the backbone as better performance in rough waters as well as more economical. We won’t go into details here – you can read our previous blogs on the subject – Using the New High-Pressure Dropstitch Floors and Observations on the Backbone versus the High-Pressure Dropstitch Floor.

Bottom Line on the Advanced Elements AE1009 Expedition LTD:

The Expedition LTD AE1009 is truly a great all-around kayak.

Advanced Elements AE1009 Expedition Inflatable Kayak

Introduced in 2007 as the “big sibling” to the popular AE1012 AdvancedFrame (image of standard Expedition, above), over the past 9 years Advanced Elements has tweaked the design, resulting in a high-quality inflatable kayak that is comfortable, paddles well, looks good and is quite stable. It is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. Numerous optional accessories – such as spray skirts, rapidup sail, the backbone and high-pressure dropstitch floor – can enhance the paddling experience and performance.

The Limited Edition Expedition kicks it up a notch. With the added features – deck riser, integrated storage hatch, paddleholders, slightly widened silhouette and pressure-relief valve, the Expedition LTD is a real winner.

Advanced Elements Expedition LTD

The Expedition LTD is a great multi-purpose kayak for people of many ages and experience levels. Novices and first-time users will be on the water in no time, while experienced paddlers will find the portability and maneuverability enticing. The longer length provides more real estate for taller paddlers, while extensive storage capacity makes it a great choice for multi-day trips.

Easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

Headed off on vacation? The carrying case is rugged enough to check as baggage. It’s also perfect for RVs and easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

Advanced Elements Expedition LTD Inflatable Kayak

Street price: $679.

For more information, or to purchase, see the Expedition LTD Product Page on  or watch our YouTube video, below, on the original AE1009 Expedition.


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