We continue with our reviews on the new Advanced Elements AE1044DS™ series of kayaks.
As previously mentioned, 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.
This past year, AirKayaks worked with the designers at Advanced Elements, to introduce 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, higher payload capacity and increased glide with minimal increase in weight.
We grabbed two from the limited supply that initially arrived. Our first review focused on the AE1044 AdvancedFrame DS-XLC (Cover). The XLC 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.
We now turn to the AdvancedFrame AE1044DS-XL, a 10′ 10″ inflatable with fixed deck, weighing in at 35 lbs. in the carrying case. Please note, some of this information will be repeated from previous writeups.
AdvancedFrame DS-XL Setup/Inflatation
We unpacked the boxes and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, carrying case, instructions, repair kit, foot brace, double action pump with gauge, 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 – the DS floor utilizes the same repair kit as included with the kayak.
(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. 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. Unsnap the front deck lacing and zip open the front deck to access the interior.
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 (we did about 40 pumps). 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 cover shut (or at least partially), and refasten the bungee clips – you don’t want the zipper fully open when the kayak is fully inflated.
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 that locks onto the end of the pump hose. 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. Remove the floor adaptor and screw on the wingnut cap.
(AirKayaks note: There are two varying adaptors that were included with the DS floors. One is similar to the adaptor shown above with clear tube. 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.
The second adaptor (similar to the one shown above) does not have the clear tube. This particular adaptor friction fits over the Boston valve. While it holds the valve open for real time readings, if you pull the adaptor off the Boston valve – rather than twisting off the adaptor – all the air will rush back out of the kayak. So, take note.)
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 deck lift. 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, PVC on left, DS floor on right), 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, 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 – the photo above shows the Convertible drop stitch floor sitting on top of a PVC floor. 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 on the AdvancedFrame AE1044DS-XL
The kayak consists of three layers. Inflatable PVC side 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 AE1044DS-XL (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.
Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 17 inches wide, tapering to 10 inches wide, and 17 inches deep – begins 36 inches from the bow, and 32 inches from the paddlers seat. Four plastic d-rings, 8 cloth d-rings and bungee quick release clips allow one to add on various dry packs and gear – or to attach a nifty Rapidup downwind sail!
Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck. These measure 10.5 to 15 inches wide by 9 inches deep, and are located 8 inches behind the seat.
The 30 x 18 inch cockpit area features two inflatable coaming tubes to keep water from running in. A front center zipper can open up an additional 30 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling. A rear zipper opens an additional 12 inches – this becomes handy for storage behind the seat, or for carrying large packs. Neoprene padded knuckle guards – measuring 27 x 5 inches – cover both sides, preventing knuckle abrasion when paddling.
There are three military valves (two main chambers and floor) and five twistloks (2 coaming, 2 deck lifts and the lumbar seat).
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 a 9 inch spread; further ajustability can be gained by loosening 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 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 32 to 33 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 9 inches deep mid-center.
Interior dimensions are approximately 70 inches long by 16 to 17 inches wide.
With the seat positioned all the way back, there is 17 inches of interior space behind the seat, approximately 13 inches wide and 7.5 inches tall, tapering down to a curve. The upper rear deck measures approximately 44 inches, while the bow upper deck measures 56 inches from snout to coaming area. 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 7 inches.
Weight limitations suggest 285 lbs for a person, or 350 lbs for person and gear.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame DS-XL Inflatable Kayak on the Water
Having paddled a standard length AE1012 AdvancedFrame for short jaunts and 10-12 mile treks over the past 10 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.
At 6’2”, my husband would paddle for short periods but always felt cramped in the standard AdvancedFrame; his kayak of choice was the 13 foot Expedition. Thus, we were eager to test out the 10′ 10″ AdvancedFrame DS-XL with it’s slightly longer length.
My husband first took out the DS-XL on a calm day. As usual, the cockpit opening is a little too-confining for his size, making entry difficult.
But, by unsnapping the bungee deck lacing and unzippering the deck, he is able to get in “without a splash” – not as easily as the XLC without a deck – but enough to make it comfortable. Once inside, he was able to extend his legs and feet without bending, but also not using the foot brace. The added length of 5 inches was just enough extra room to make paddling quite comfortable; he felt the XL to be roomy, paddle beautifully and track very well.
I took the kayak out next. My smaller size has no issues getting into the cockpit without opening the center zipper. And just like the sibling XLC, the XL 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 brace was a “must have” for my size.
With the high-pressure floor, the kayak felt solid. 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 a bit smoother and faster than the standard AdvancedFrame. Years ago we did 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.
The high-backed lumbar seat is extremely comfortable once you find your “sweet spot” – this can entail opening the zipper and raising or lowering the inflatable bladder, and playing around with the bladder thickness. The high back offers more support than the standard seat while the long twistlok allows one to adjust the seat inflation while paddling.
AdvancedFrame AE1044DS-XL vs AE1044DS-XLC Inflatable Kayaks
We currently have two versions of the longer length AE1044 AdvancedFrame DS with high-pressure floor – the XL and the XLC. While the basic footprint on the two models is identical, the XLC (Cover) also features a zip-off deck, allowing one to paddle in an open or an enclosed position.
Which one to choose?
The two DS Series (XL and XLC) are both 5 inches longer in length than the standard AE1012 AdvancedFrame, and have a slightly higher payload of 350 lbs carrying capacity. Despite the increased length, both kayaks are only 1 lb more than the standard AE1012. Both have coaming tubes, allowing one to attach optional spray skirts and neoprene knuckle guards. The XL and XLC packages additionally both include the high-pressure floor, double action pump with gauge, high-backed lumbar seat and foot brace.
The AdvancedFrame XL is a bit simpler and costs less. There is more top bungee deck lacing, allowing more gear to be attached in front of the paddler. While one is always paddling enclosed, the front center zipper can be opened for very easy entry, or for a degree of openness.
The AdvancedFrame XLC includes a zip-out deck, providing the flexibility to paddle an open or enclosed-style kayak. With the deck off, the seat can be moved back further to provide more paddling space for those with longer legs, bigger feet, or more gear. With the zip-in deck, there is less bungee cording in the bow, but there are more d-rings along the side of the kayak, for attaching gear. The zip-in deck also features a mesh storage pocket. Bungee-deck lacing is included on the back deck, and there are two sets of velcro paddle holders.
Those paddling in a variety of climates, those who need very easy entry access, multiple users with varying paddling styles, or smaller adults interested in bringing a small child or dog, may find the XLC to be a great choice. With the deck removed, the XLC seat can also be moved back another few inches, providing even more leg room.
While the XLC in the “open style” is extremely easy to get into, with the deck on, it becomes slightly more difficult. The XL with fixed deck has a center zipper which can be opened for easier entry, and more bungee deck lacing on the cover; those with agility problems might be best sticking with the XL if they need the enclosed spray skirt option.
Read our Detailed Product Review on the AE1044DS-XLC AdvancedFrame with Zip Off Cover.
Bottom Line on the AdvancedFrame AE1044DS-XL Series:
The AdvancedFrame DS-XL – along with its sibling, the XLC – is a fabulous kayak. 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 with 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 closed deck design is perfect for paddlers in colder climates, or for blustery weather or waves, who need the option of adding an optional spray skirt.
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 are great multi-purpose kayaks 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, the best values on the market today.
The MSRP package value on the AdvancedFrame DS-XL is $821 and available only at AirKayaks.com for $639 – the DS-XLC version with removable deck is $699. For more information or to purchase, visit the AE1044 DS-XL or AE1044 DS-XLC product pages on AirKayaks.com.
Those needing a tandem version, or single paddlers needing more space for gear, can take a look at the AE1007DS Convertible, a 15-foot option for 1-2 paddlers.
You can also watch our YouTube video on the AE1044DS-XL, below.