Two years ago, AirKayaks introduced the specially-packaged, high-pressure AdvancedFrame DS series of kayaks from Advanced Elements. Featuring the same high quality construction and materials as the standard AE1012 AdvancedFrame and AE1007 Convertible, the DS Series™ was bundled with upgraded accessories to enhance performance and comfort.
The upgrades included:
- AEDS High-pressure inflatable 4-6 PSI dropstitch floor for extreme rigidity
- AE2011 Double action high-pressure 14 PSI handpump with pressure-gauge
- AE2013HB High-back lumbar seat(s) for the ultimate in a comfortable, adjustable back rest.
The kayaks were wildly popular, and this past week, AirKayaks introduced the next generation in the DS Series – the AdvancedFrame AE1044 DS-XL™* and DS-XLC™*.
The new DS-XL series is an elongated version of the classic AE1012 AdvancedFrame. With an additional 5 inches in length and an adjustable foot peg, the kayaks are comfortable enough for both taller and smaller paddlers. The longer, streamlined body – in conjunction with the high pressure floor – provides better tracking and increased glide with minimal increase in weight.
We grabbed two from the limited supply that recently arrived – more are available in mid-September. Our first review focuses on the AE1044 AdvancedFrame DS-XLC (Cover). This kayak features a zip-on deck with storage options, allowing paddlers the flexibility of paddling an open style design for easy entry, or a closed deck design which can take an optional spray skirt.
So here are details on the AdvancedFrame AE1044 DS-XLC, a 10′ 10″ inflatable with zip-in cover, weighing in at 35 lbs. in the carrying case.
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, carrying case, instructions, repair kit, foot brace, double action pump with gauge, zip-on deck (installed on the kayak) and high-back lumbar seat. The kayak with seat, floor and brace weighs 35 lbs, or 39 lbs in the bag with the pump. Bag measurements are approximately 32 x 19 x 10 inches. The kayak box as arrived weighs 40 lbs, measuring 33 x 21 x 10 inches. The dropstitch (DS) floor weighs 5 lbs and comes in a second box with adaptor and repair kit.
(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.)
Set up is straight-forward and simple – unpack, unfold, inflate. As this is similar to the standard AdvancedFrame in many respects, we will re-copy much of the instructions found in the writeup on the standard AE1012. The DS XL Series will have two sets of instructions – one can be found in the inner side pocket of the carrying case. This details the basic kayak instructions for inflation, deflation and folding. A second set of instructions is included in the dropstitch floor repair kit package, and details the floor inflation. TIP: Attach the floor instructions to the main manual.
First step, unfold the kayak. The AdvancedFrame features an “inner rib” in the bow and stern, which is basically a u-shaped aluminum rib, about a foot long and one-half inch wide.
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 DS XL Series kayak features 8 inflation chambers – three military valves and 5 smaller twist-loks. 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 double action pump with gauge comes with several standard adaptors. One is a proprietary Advanced Elements screw-on adaptor – not to worry, if you lose it, a standard Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about 1/2 inch wide and also included) will friction fit into the opening.
If this is your first time out, lay out the dropstitch floor next to the kayak, with the military valve side up, and towards the rear. Zip open the deck half way (zipper is located behind the seating position under the velcro tab).
Position the floor inside the kayak body, flattening it out while centering it from side to side and front to back as much as possible. In the future, the floor is left inside the kayak and folded up.
First, attach the hose to the pump “inflate” side. Use the screw-on adaptor to couple to the first main chamber. The adaptor features a “lip” that pushes open the spring plunger, allowing the pump gauge to read the back-pressure; if using the Boston valve adaptor, the gauge will only register as you are inflating.
Pump up the first chamber, located on the top-rear of the kayak, 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.
Check the side tubes to make sure they are even within the cover, and check the floor to see if it is still centered. At this point, zip the deck back fully into position – you don’t want to do this when the kayak is fully inflated.
Then pump up the second chamber, located inside the kayak behind the seat, until firm to touch (2 PSI on the pressure gauge), once again centering everything as needed. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later.
Now for the floor. Turn the spring plunger to the UP/inflate position. Included with the dropstitch floor repair kit is another adaptor with a short length of clear tubing. Take the Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it inside the clear tube until secure, then attach the bayonet fitting into the floor’s military valve with a slight twist until it locks into place.
Pump up the floor to 4-6PSI; it will be very rigid, but it doesn’t take long at all – we measured about 20 pump strokes. (AirKayaks note: Unlike the screw-on adaptor, this particular adaptor does not hold the valve open. As the gauges work on back pressure, they will only register as you are making the pump stroke – meaning, the needle will go up and down. So just watch how high the needle reaches.) Remove the floor adaptor from the Boston valve fitting and screw on the wingnut cap. TIP: Put the adaptor in the mesh pocket behind the seat, so you don’t lose it.
Move on to the two deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders” then the two coaming areas that run around the cockpit. 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.
Put the Boston valve nozzle OVER the twistlok valve on the first decklift. Pump this up until firm (1 PSI). Twist the valve shut, remove the adaptor and move on to the last three chambers – second deck lift and coaming tubes.
Last steps, insert the two plastic sheets into the bow and stern sleeves.
Then pump up the twistlok on the lumbar seat (easiest just to use your mouth).
Attach the seat by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips, and weaving the clip on the seat back to the clip on the coaming area – this acts as a “decklift” as well as keeping the seat in an upright position.
Less than 10 minutes and you’re done!
About Drop Stitch Floor Technology
The term “drop stitch” is a method of construction which allows for much higher inflation and pressures than a standard PVC floor.
In a standard PVC floor (as shown above), long “I-Beams” run the length of the floor, connecting the floor ceiling to bottom. This allows the floor to maintain a fairly uniform thickness, but if one of the I-Beams pops (due to over-inflation) the floor will become more like a blob.
With drop stitch construction (shown above on the Convertible drop stitch floor), thousands of tiny threads connect both the top and bottom layers, creating a stronger link that can withstand much higher pressures. Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance. This is the technology used in inflatable SUP paddle boards. The image below is from an Airis Inflatable Sport Kayak showing the interior drop stitching.
Features and Specifications
The kayak 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. The kayak upper is comprised of 600 denier polyester/PVC laminate in a diamond ripstop material.
The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin with electronically welded seams, integrated tracking fin and landing plate.
The AdvancedFrame AE1044XLC DS DropStitch Series is constructed with two carrying handles (bow and stern), but it is fairly simple to carry by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.
A zippering spray deck measures 62 x 21 inches – this arrives installed on the kayak. The 30 x18 inch cockpit opening features two inflatable coaming tubes to help keep water from running in.
There are 23 inches before the cockpit opening on the spray deck, and 5 inches behind. Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 8 inches deep and 7 to 9 inches wide – includes 4 d-rings and quick release clips, allowing one to add various dry packs and gear. A gusseted, zippering mesh pocket is 11 x 4 inches, located just forward of the cockpit.
To remove the deck, simply open the velcro tab located behing the seating area, and zip it fully open and off.
Neoprene padded knuckle guards – measuring 24 x 5 inches – cover both sides and prevent knuckle abrasion when paddling. There are two sets of velcro paddleholders, one set on each side.
Eight d-rings run the perimeter of the kayak, and are located 33, 54, 82 and 105 inches from the bow, on each side. These can be used for attaching gear, or using an Advanced Elements Rapidup sail.
Rear bungee deck lacing measures 11 deep by 12.5-16 inches wide with 4 d-rings, located 6 inches behind the cockpit.
An adjustable foot brace features a padded peg with side clips and four loops. This allows one to adjust the peg into different positions about 3 inches apart for an 8.5 inch spread; further adjustability can be gained by looseing the side straps.
The high-backed padded lumbar seat features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position while rear stiffening rods create a comfortable option for those needing a bit extra back support than the standard seat offers. The seat back has an inflatable bladder with an extra long 36 inch TwistLok hose, allowing you to change the support level from 1-5 inches while kayaking! In addition, a side zipper allows you to open and move the bladder up or down until you “hit the right spot.”
Seat measurements are 14 x 21 x 0.5 inches for the base, while the back is 15 inches tall, by 21 wide and 1 inch thick; there are two mesh pockets measuring 4 x 7 inches on the seat back which allow you to bring gear or supplies – one houses the repair kit. Two side cinching ladder locks can be used to attach more gear, or to use optional fishing rod holders.
We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 10’ 10 inches long and 33 to 34 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 7 inches deep; with the deck lifts, the well is about 10 inches deep mid-center.
Interior dimensions are approximately 70 inches long by 16 to 17 inches wide.
With the deck in place and the seat positioned all the way back, there is 13 inches of interior space behind the seat, approximately 14 inches wide and 7.5 inches tall, tapering down to a curve. The upper rear deck measures approximately 39 inches. There is 53 inches from the seat back to the inner front. Brace positions are located 32 to 41 inches from the seat back, with an additional adjustment of 4 inches by loosening the brace straps. The seat can be moved forward about 5 inches.
With the deck removed and the seat positioned all the way back, there is 58 inches from the seat back to the interior front. The cockpit opening is 61 x 21 inches with minimal inside covered space. Brace positions are roughly 37 to 49 inches from the seat back.
Weight limitations suggest 285 lbs for a person, or 350 lbs for person and gear.
On the Water
Having paddled a standard AE1012 AdvancedFrame (with low pressure PVC floor) for short jaunts and 10-12 mile treks over the years, I was quite familiar with the kayak and its capabilities – for my height of 5′ 4″ it was comfortable, stable, rugged, and paddled well.
The 2012 introduction of the DS (Drop Stitch) series with high pressure floor kicked it up a notch. To begin with, the dropstitch floor is remarkably rigid, allowing one to sit up slightly higher. In fact, it is possible to stand up in the kayak while on the water, though I wouldn’t make a practice of it. Paddling is smooth and in calm water, the kayak is very zippy and paddles beautifully. In fact, in prior tests to compare the standard PVC floor to the dropstitch floor, we were running from 3.1 to 4.3 mph with the PVC, while we ran 3.6 to 4.7 mph with the dropstitch floor. There is also an intangible that I can’t quite put words to – one feels very confident in the kayak construction. Over long periods of time, the floor can be slightly tough on the rear, so extra padding might be helpful. While in the past I have used the backbone – which is also a great product – I find the simplicity of the dropstitch floor more to my style, and the added weight savings of 4-5 lbs more to my liking.
At 6’2”, my husband would paddle for short periods but always felt cramped in the standard 10′ 5″ AdvancedFrame; his kayak of choice was the 13 foot Expedition. Thus, we were eager to test out the 10′ 10″ AdvancedFrame DS XLC with it’s slightly longer length.
My husband first took out the DS XLC without the deck on a mildly choppy day. The open cockpit design was very much to his liking, making exit and entry a breeze. With the seat positioned towards the back, he was easily able to extend his legs without bending. The added length of 5 inches was just enough extra room to make paddling quite comfortable; while he used the foot brace, he was not sure he really needed it. He felt the XLC to be roomy, paddle beautifully and track very well.
He then took the XLC out with the cover zipped into position. Getting into the cockpit took a bit of maneuvering due to leg length, but once inside, he felt it to be comfortable. This time he did not use the foot brace, so his size 10.5 feet were able to angle down. (AirKayaks note: Our friend Ryan tested out a prototype with cover. At 6’2″ with size 13 Merrill shoes, he said he had no problem paddling.)
I took the kayak out both with and without the deck. In each case, the kayak paddled beautifully, was zippy, and tracked well. The added 5 inches was not enough to make the kayak cumbersome, yet just long enough to enhance the performance and comfort. The adjustable foot pegs were a “must have” for my size. With the high-pressure floor, the kayak felt solid.
I then put the seat all the way back, and brought out my paddling buddy Woody. With the cockpit open, there was more than enough room for a small adult and a 40 lb dog – in fact, there was still an additional 15+ inches of unused space, so possibly an average adult and small dog or child might work.
Initially I was not as impressed with the high-backed lumbar seat, as the inflatable portion cut down too low in my back. It finally dawned on me to open the zipper and move the inflatable bladder UP until I found the right spot. Bingo! The seat is extremely comfortable, offering much more comfort than the standard seat and higher back support. The long twistlok is very nifty, allowing you to adjust the seat inflation while paddling.
While there is a bit more real estate for attaching gear, those opting for multi-day trips should consider upgrading to the AE1007 Convertible DS Series kayak (shown above) which is much roomier and has mega storage space, as well as the ability to be paddled solo or tandem.
Finally, some paddlers with mobility difficulties needing an enclosed cockpit – due to paddling or weather conditions – might prefer the AdvancedFrame DS XL (shown above). While it does not have the zip in deck, there is a center zipper that can be opened to provide a larger entry area.
First developed in 2002, Advanced Elements continually tweaked the AE1012 design until the AdvancedFrame evolved into an inflatable classic offering performance, quality and price. The DS Series kicked it into the next level with elevated performance. The new AdvancedFrame AE1044 DS-XL Series takes a great kayak to an all-time high! It looks great, paddles beautifully, tracks well and is stable.
The additional 5 inches in length and an adjustable foot peg, provide versatility and comfort for a wider range of paddler sizes. The rigidity of the high pressure floor – in conjunction with the longer, streamlined body – provides better tracking and increased glide with minimal increase in weight.
The zip-in deck option on the AdvancedFrame DS-XLC kayak provides paddlers the flexibility of paddling an open style design for easy entry, or a closed deck design for blustery weather or waves.
Multiple d-rings around the perimeter, mesh pockets, front and rear deck lacing all add up to a versatile kayak perfect for casual paddles or serious day trips. Anglers will also like the ability to add their own optional rod holders to the seat backs (not included).
This is a great choice for travel – the carrying case is rugged enough to check as baggage, it’s relatively lightweight, and easily fits in the the trunk of a small car or RV.
The AdvancedFrame DS XL series is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. Numerous optional accessories – such as spray skirts, rapidup sail, accessory frame and the upcoming AdvancedTrak rudder system – can enhance the paddling experience and performance.
All in all, the AdvancedFrame DS XL and XLC Series is a great multi-purpose kayak for people of many ages, sizes and experience levels. Novices and first-time users will be on the water in no time, while experienced paddlers will find the portability and low-profile hull a great boon. It’s a winner and in our opinion, it’s the best value on the market today.
The MSRP package value on the AdvancedFrame DS-XLC is $872 and available only at AirKayaks.com for $699 – the DS-XL version without fixed deck is $639. For more information or to purchase, visit the AE1044 DS-XL or AE1044 DS-XLC product pages on AirKayaks.com. You can also watch our YouTube video on the AE1044DS-XLC, below:
*DS, DS Series, DS-XL and DS-XLC are trademarks of Harris & Lamb, LLC