We continue with our series on the new Aquaglide inflatable kayak models for 2016. Our last review focused on the new Cascade 11’0″ inflatable paddle board. We now switch gears to take a look at the AquaGlide angler series, in particular this year’s new Blackfoot HB SL inflatable fishing kayak.
At 11-feet in length with a price tag of $799, the high-pressure Blackfoot HB SL is a stripped-down solo inflatable kayak featuring a more economical price point than the current Blackfoot XL tandem. Please note, some of this will be repeated from other reviews.
Getting Started with the AquaGlide Blackfoot HB SL:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, repair kit, foot brace, tracking fin, visor lift and seat.
Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs 25 lbs while the kayak with seat, fin and brace – all in the backpack – weighs 30 lbs. Backpack size (filled) is roughly 26 x 19 x 12 inches. Boxed up, the dimensions are 26 x 23 x 14 inches with a shipping weight of 39 lbs.
(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 are adequate and include diagrams with inflation details.
Set up is straight-forward and simple – unpack, unfold, inflate.
There are three inflation chambers utilizing high-pressure military valves – the two side chambers and the floor. The floor is pumped up first.
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 Blackfoot HB valves require a military valve adaptor, which does not come with most standard pumps. Here is where we came to our first issue – no military valve adaptor was included. We did manage to grab the AquaGlide Dual Action pump from our previous writeup on the AquaGlide Cascade 11-0 inflatable paddle board – this had the correct adaptor, so we were ready to keep going. In the interim, Aquaglide has shipped us adaptors to include with each kayak and will make sure upcoming shipments have them included.
While we used the AquaGlide pump, if using the “included” adaptor, friction fit the military valve adaptor onto the Boston valve adaptor, then lock onto the military valve with a slight twist. Since the chambers are inflated from 3 to 12 PSI, it is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.
The floor is held in place with two straps. Pump up the floor to at least 6 PSI. With the dual action pump, the gauge started registering at 43 pumps and was at 6 PSI by 54 pumps. While the instructions say it can be inflated up to 12 PSI, at 6 PSI it is extremely rigid; most people will not need it to be higher than this. Replace the valve cap cover. (AirKayaks note: When using an inline pressure gauge, dependent on the adaptor used, some of the pressure gauges will read in “real time” and some will go up and down when making a stroke. If the reading goes up and down, watch for the highest point it reaches.)
At this point, we suggest that you double check the floor positioning. Pull up on the sides, and make sure the floor looks evenly centered. If it appears off, loosen up the straps and reposition.
Move on to the side chambers. The instructions suggest pumping up each side about one-third, working back and forth to prevent twisting. We pumped up one side chamber about 40 strokes (the gauge just started registering), and then moved to the other and did the same. Once again, pull up on the sides to make sure the floor looks evenly placed – you can even flip the kayak over to check the outline of the hull. Then another 10 to 12 on each side brought it to 3 PSI. Replace the valve caps.
Next attach the Core seat – this stays in position utilizing velcro and adjustable side straps. The seating position will be dependent on the size of the paddler, but initially place the seat slightly rear of center. Attach the front seat quick-connect clips (upper set) to the set of handle d-rings, and the rear seat clips (lower set) to the rear set of d-rings; once you get into the kayak, you can tighten up the side straps until you reach the support level that is comfortable for you, or relocate the seat to find the “sweet” spot.
Next place the foot brace on the velcro strips. Ultimately, you want your legs slightly bent when pressing against the brace, but this can be repositioned when you get into the kayak.
At this point we were faced with the unmarked “plastic sheet” which was not mentioned in the instructions. From prior write-ups, we knew this was to stiffen the front splash guard. Indeed, the underside had two slots and a large flap/velcro strip. An arrow shows you which way to install the sheet. Here was our second issue; since the kayak was fully inflated, we were not able to push the plastic fully into position and close the velcro flap. So, we released some of the pressure in the two side chambers.
Bingo, the sheet went in easily. We then repumped the side chamber up to 3 PSI. (AirKayaks note: Probably the best time to install the plastic sheet is after the first round pumping up the side chamber. The kayak will be firm enough to grab onto, yet soft enough to position the sheet.)
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 push the retaining pin through the holes. At this point, pull up on the fin to make sure you have it locked in position.
That’s it! You’re ready to paddle.
Features and Specifications on the Blackfoot HB SL Inflatable Kayak
The Blackfoot HB SL is constructed with four molded carrying handles (bow, stern and both sides), but it’s light enough to hook the side of the kayak over your shoulder.
A 35-inch front splash guard with 5-inch raised visor, extends over the seating well and helps prevent water from splashing in. This also features a bungee deck-lacing system for attaching gear. Deck lacing measurements are 5 to 16 inches by 17 inches with cloth “d-rings” and begins 13 inches from the nose.
A rear splash guard is flat and extends 20 inches over the back.
There are five sets of integrated Scotty mounts; two on each side on top of the side wall fore and aft, 45 inches apart. The first set is positioned 51 inches from the nose, while the rear set is 31 inches from the stern. One Scotty mount is integrated into the floor, centered between the front drain wells. The Scotty mounts are 4.25 by 2.25 inches and use 4 each 1/4-20 x 7/8th stainless steel screws. PLEASE NOTE THE SCREWS ARE NOT INCLUDED. One can use 3/4 inch as well, but not longer than 7/8th inch.
There are four sets of plastic d-rings (used to attach the seats as well as gear). Three are located on the upper wall – one set each on either side of the handle, and one rear set. These are located 67 and 75 inches from the bow, while the rear set is located 37 inches from the stern. The inner set is positioned 51 inches from the snout, just below the front Scotty mounts.
A 20-inch long ruler is printed on the right inner wall, also in centimeters and millimeters. This is located by the inner d-rings to the seat back location. (Please note: if important, please check on this. Our 20-inch ruler measured 19 inches when fully inflated.)
Two velcro paddle holders are positioned one on each side, between the handle and front Scotty mount, allowing one the strap the paddle across the kayak.
There are three military valves – both side chambers and the floor.
The padded, Aquaglide Core 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 front straps are adjustable up to 15 inches, while the rear set can be adjusted 7 inches.
The seat comes 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 1-inch thick seat base is 15 inches wide by 16 inches deep, and the back is 12.5 inches tall in a stiff foam, encircling 26-inches wide.
The floor is constructed from a 6-12 PSI high-pressure, drop-stitch material, and is designed as “raised seating,” creating four 3″ deep side-well cutouts that collect any water splashing inside. Though technically not “self-bailing,” each side-well has a screw-in port which can be opened or closed, dependent on whether you are in whitewater (open to let the water drain through) or flat water (closed to not allow water to seep in). There is one rear drain plug.
Two 71-inch velcro strips are centered on the floor, three inches apart with a skip over the mount, and are used to position the seats and foot braces. The velcro begins 21 inches from the floor end.
The foot brace is padded – 10 x 3 inches long – with velcro 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 consists of commercial grade Duratex hull material, which is rugged and puncture-resistant; the smooth skin allows water to run off, and easily dry.
There is one landing plate.
The bow and stern feature a beefed-up cone, able to take a beating.
The tracking fin is hefty, measuring 5 x 12 inches with locking pin.
We did measurement tests. The Blackfoot HB SL kayak inflated is 132 inches long and approximately 38 inches wide (specs say 126 x feet x 37 inches wide.) The side bladders are roughly 10 inches in diameter, making the sides 8 to 9 inches above the seating area. Interior dimensions are approximately 102 inches long (length of the raised seating area) by approximately 16-17 inches at the widest point.
Dependent on where the seats are positioned (in this case we were just rear of center using the first and third set of d-rings, with the seat back positioned at the front of the rear drain well ) there is roughly 47 inches from the back of the seat to the end of the velcro or 68 inches from the seat back to the floor end. There is 45 inches from the seat back to the inner stern, roughly 15 inches wide tapering to nothing, with 16 inches under the rear splash deck. The front upper Scotty mounts in this position are located 28 inches from the seat back, while the floor mount is 35 inches from the seat back and 40 inches from the inner snout. Upper rear mounts are located roughly 16 inches behind the seat.
The seat can be repositioned about 4 inches forward and 8 inches back.
Weight limitations are 400 lbs for person and gear.
AquaGlide Blackfoot HB SL Inflatable Kayak on the Water.
We took the Blackfoot HB SL out for some short paddles in mild chop and wind.
My husband – at 6’2″ – found the kayak to be quite comfortable. The Core seat provided enough back support, while the open cockpit allowed him to get in and out easily without feeling cramped. He felt it tracked and paddled well, and appeared to be somewhat zippy. The side walls were high enough to keep chop from getting inside and while the kayak is not technically self-bailing, opening the drain plugs in white water will help. The ability to move the seat and foot brace to a multitude of positions is a plus. The molded Scotty mounts were positioned within reach.
At my height of 5’4″, the kayak is VERY roomy – I could easily see a pack or small dog behind the seat. While I did not take my canine paddling buddy Woody this time out, a previous foray in the AquaGlide Chelan (made of the same materials) showed the kayak to be quite stable with restless companions, and the material rugged enough that I had no worries about sharp claws.
The high-pressure floor and wider width make it pretty stable – I was able to stand up. I also was impressed with the paddling performance and tracking, and noted the Blackfoot turns well/is maneuverable. As the kayak is fairly wide – and the Core seats have one sitting down inside the kayak – we used a longer 240cm paddle. Using a high-paddle stance, I didn’t notice any problems, though my husband felt he kept scuffing the side.
To note, there are only two velcro paddle holders allowing one to rest the paddle across the top of the kayak. It would be helpful to have an added rear velcro strip, allowing one to place the paddle down one side, making it easier to carry. But, it’s also almost as easy to hook the blade under the splash deck.
At this point, I should also mention one side chamber of the Blackfoot had lost air by the following day. We took out the valve wrench (located inside the repair kit) and tightened up the valve, which fixed the problem.
When done for the day, the Blackfoot is pretty 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 seat, brace and paddle, and opens wide enough to easily get the kayak back into the pack.
Comparison: Blackfoot HB SL versus Blackfoot HB XL Inflatable Kayak:
So, which one would you choose?
The Blackfoot HB SL single version (shown in the foreground above) is 11 feet long, 37-38 inches wide with a payload of 400 lbs. The Blackfoot HB XL (shown behind) is a 1-2 paddler version running 13 feet long, 39 inches wide with a payload of 600 lbs.
Both kayaks are made of the same materials, same high pressure floor, same Core seat, integrated Scotty mounts, foot brace, beefed up nose and tail cones, backpack and fin.
If you don’t need the bonus booster cushion ($59 value) or fishing cooler ($65 value), plan on paddling solo, are looking for a smaller, lighter weight kayak for fishing/camping, or prefer a more economical option, the Blackfoot SL at $799 is a great choice.
If money is not an issue and you want all the “bells and whistles”, the ability to carry mega-gear and toys, super stability and the versatility to paddle solo or tandem paddling, the Blackfoot XL at $999 is right up your alley.
Bottom line on the AquaGlide Blackfoot HB SL
The Blackfoot HB SL is a really nice inflatable kayak! Loaded with enough fishing-specific features to pique the sportsman’s interest, the kayak also provides good performance and handling in a variety of situations. It’s a great choice for anglers wanting a lightweight vessel, that can cross from calm water to some rapids, and still carry an array of gear.
It’s similar in many features to the AquaGlide Klickitat, but with more attention to detail, such as the integrated Scotty mounts, paddle holders, ruler and added length. The wider beam makes it more stable while the high pressure floor provides the rigidity to stand up – though I wouldn’t want to make a practice of it.
The Duratex smooth skin material is very easy to dry off and pack up. It rolls up surprisingly well, easily fitting into the trunk of a small car or an RV, making it a portable option for vacation travel.
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) or those with lots of gear. When cinched, the seat back provides a good amount of support.
By removing the fin and opening the drain plugs, paddlers will find a kayak capable of threading mild rapids.
The Blackfoot HB SL inflatable kayak is a great fishing option for slow and somewhat fast moving rivers (probably through Class II), lakes and coastal fishing, as well as plain old kayaking.
For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Blackfoot HB SL inflatable kayak product page at AirKayaks.com. You can also watch our YouTube video on the Blackfoot HB SL, below.
Also see this short YouTube trailer put out by AquaGlide.