We continue with our series on the new AquaGlide line of inflatable kayaks, specifically the fishing models. We previously reviewed the new high pressure Blackfoot HB Angler SL single-person inflatable kayak followed by the 11-0 Blackfoot Angler Inflatable Paddle Board. We now turn to the Blackfoot HB Angler XL – an elongated 13-foot version which can be set up as the ultimate one-person fishing machine, but can easily switch to a two-person model by adding an optional seat.
Please note, some of this will be repeated from other reviews.
Getting Started with the AquaGlide Blackfoot HB Angler XL:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, repair kit, foot brace, tracking fin, visor lift, booster seat, adaptor, fishing cooler with rod holders and Core seat.
Initial measurements showed the kayak body with bolster weighs 31.75 lbs while the kayak with seat, fin and brace in the backpack (everything but the cooler) weighs 37.4 lbs. Backpack size (filled) is roughly 27 x 20 x 14 inches. The fishing cooler weighs an additional 3.25 lbs and flattens to 20 x 13 x 3 inches; we did manage to fit it into the backpack. Boxed up, the entire package dimensions are 24 x 20 x 14 inches with a shipping weight of 48 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 XL valves require a military valve adaptor, which does not come with most standard pumps. The adaptor was located inside the repair kit. Friction fit the military valve adaptor onto the Boston valve adaptor (slightly conical-shaped nozzle), 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.
Here we had our first issue – we could not get the adaptor to couple to the valve. From past experience, we found this could be two things. One, the o-ring can be very stiff initially or two, there is such an initial vacuum in the kayak body that when the adaptor tried to lock onto the valve, there is no “room” for the spring plunger to open.
We set the o-ring in the sun, and then went back to the valve. By putting the valve into the open (down) position and pulling up on the valve ring, we were able to get more air to enter into the chamber, enough that there was an air gap. We then tried the adaptor again. Bingo! We had to push firmly but it then locked into place.
The floor is held in place with two straps. Pump up the floor to at least 6 PSI. With our standard double action pump, the gauge started registering at 31 pumps and was at 6 PSI by 48 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.
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 each side chamber about 25 strokes (gauge was not yet registering). 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.
At this point we turned to 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. We also knew that once the kayak is fully inflated, it is nearly impossible to get the strip fully into position – this is a great time to install it.
Open the velcro flaps, and with the “flatter” side down, push the ends into the slots. Secure the plastic by closing the velcro flaps, making sure the strip is firmly seated.
Resume pumping up the side chambers. After 30 strokes the gauge started registering, and after 40 strokes each side, we reached 3 PSI. Replace the valve caps.
Next, inflate the bolster seat (if using). This also uses a military valve and is a simple 10 strokes to 6 PSI. Place the velcro strips on the seat over the velcro on the floor. We installed the bolster with the valve side up, as it seemed to attach better.
Next attach the Core seat – this stays in position utilizing velcro (onto the floor or the bolster seat) and adjustable side straps. First install the two shorter plastic tubes (rod holders) into the two deep pockets on the seat back. The seating position will be dependent on the size of the paddler, but for solo paddling, initially place the seat slightly rear of center. There are 6 sets of d-rings. Attach the front seat quick-connect clips (upper set) to the set of handle d-rings (3rd set), and the rear seat clips (lower set) to the 5th 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.
AirKayaks note: The booster seat positions one quite high, so it is recommended to test it out first to make sure the kayak does not feel “tippy” to you. As a suggestion, one can put the booster behind the seat while paddling, and then sit on top of it when fishing.
For tandem paddling with an optional seat, place the back of the included seat roughly at the mid side handles, and the second seat as far back as one can, about 10 inches from the end of the velcro. Use the 2nd/4th and 5th/6th d-rings. It is also possible to purchase a second booster seat if higher seating is desired.
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. Please note there is only one foot brace.
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.
If using the included fishing cooler, install the four plastic tubes into the four corner pockets. Position the velcro strips over the floor and place where desired. For added safety, take the included clip and attach it to one of the d-rings.
That’s it! You’re ready to paddle.
Features and Specifications on the Blackfoot HB XL Inflatable Kayak
The Blackfoot HB XL 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 6 to 16 inches by 18 inches with cloth “d-rings” and begins 14 inches from the nose.
A rear splash guard is flat and extends 21 inches over the back.
There are seven sets of integrated Scotty mounts; three on top of each side wall. Each set is located 50, 65 and 95 inches from the nose cone. 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 six sets of plastic d-rings (used to attach the seats as well as gear). These are positioned 45, 59, 82, 89, 104 and 126 inches from the nose cone. 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.)
There are three military valves – both side chambers and the floor – as well as one for the booster seat.
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 bases are 15 inches wide by 16 inches deep, and the backs are 12.5 inches tall in a stiff foam, encircling 26-inches wide.
A removable “booster” seat is inflated to 6 PSI and measures 19 x 15 x 6 inches. Velcro on each side allows one to affix it to the floor, and then affix the Core seat on top. Additionally, one can remove the booster seat and sit down further inside for paddling.
The removable BlackFoot fishing cooler features 9 quarts of lined and insulated storage space, with the ability to hold up to 24 12-oz cans. Velcro strips on the bottom allow it to be attached to the floor. Other features include adjustable handle, multiple lashing points, four rod holders, 2 side zipper pockets, large front pocket with flap and a clear map/license pocket. Dimensions are 15 inches wide x 10 inches deep and 14 inches tall. Weight is 3.3 lbs.
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 89-inch velcro strips are centered on the floor, 2.5 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 8 inch velcro strips.
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 XL kayak inflated is 157 inches long and approximately 39 inches wide (specs say 152 inches x 39 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 118 inches long (length of the raised seating area) by approximately 16-17 inches at the widest spot; this is a moot point if using the booster seat.
For solo paddling, 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 between the 4th d-ring and rear Scotty mount) there is roughly 54 inches from the back of the seat to the end of the velcro/foot brace or 75 inches from the seat back to the floor end. There is 54 inches from the seat back to the inside stern, or 45 inches from the seat back to the floor end, roughly 15 inches wide tapering to nothing; there is 16 inches under the rear splash deck.
The front upper mounts in this position are located 24 and 37 inches from the seat back, while the floor mount is 36 inches from the seat back. Upper rear mounts are located roughly 2 inches behind the seat.
The booster seat and fishing cooler can fit behind the seat. The seat can be moved almost infinitely due to the location of d-rings and strap adjustability.
If you’ve purchased an optional second seat, to set up for tandem paddling place the front seat back at the mid-side handles using the 2nd and 4th d-rings, and the rear seat back about 10 inches from the velcro end using the 5th and 6th d-rings. In this position, there is 58 inches from the front seat back to the floor end in the bow, and 44 inches to the foot brace at the farthest position. Seating well is roughly 16 inches wide. There is 43 inches from seat back to seat back, with 14 inches open behind the rear seat for a total of 31 inches including the covered splash deck; interior dimensions behind the seat are 14 inches tapering to nothing.
The front upper mounts in this position are located 10 and 25 inches from the front seat back, while the floor mount is 24 inches from the seat back. Upper rear mounts are located roughly 16 inches behind the front seat. The rear Scotty mounts are 23 inches from the rear seat back.
The rear seat can move back up to 5 inches, and forward 10 inches. The front seat can be moved extensively due to d-ring locations and strap adjustability.
Weight limitations are 600 lbs for person and gear.
AquaGlide Blackfoot HB XL Inflatable Kayak on the Water.
My husband and I took the Blackfoot HB XL out for some short paddles in mild chop, both solo and tandem.
My 6’2″ husband found the Blackfoot to be very comfortable, particularly with the open cockpit design. He loved the booster cushion, which provided him the “high up” seating comfort that he likes. Even using a 230cm paddle, he had no issues with knuckle-rub, and felt the kayak paddled and tracked very well. He was also able to easily get in and out of the kayak without contortions.
I then took the Blackfoot HB XL out for a short spin. The “high seating” felt a little odd at first, but I rapidly got used to it. I also had no problem with a 230cm paddle. And despite the extra-wide 39″ width, I felt the kayak handled very well, paddled and tracked very nicely, and was surprisingly zippy. It also is fairly maneuverable and handles chop well. The ability to move the seat and foot brace to a multitude of positions is a plus.
As a solo, this kayak is ROOMY, easily fitting lots of gear, a dog.
We then took the Blackfoot XL out as a tandem by removing the booster seat, and adding another Core seat. With the seat all the way back, and the front seat just forward of center, it was perfectly positioned for both of us – and still featured some storage area behind the rear seat. We both felt quite comfortable. The kayak tracked well, paddled nicely and was fairly speedy. The Scotty mounts were positioned within reach of both paddlers. And despite sitting lower in the kayak with the Core seats, we had no issues with knuckles rubbing against the sides, though we did note some scuff marks from paddling.
With purchase of an additional booster seat, both paddlers could sit higher – though do check first to make sure your center of gravity isn’t thrown off. As the kayak is narrower at both ends, don’t fully inflate the booster seat in order to fit it between the side walls.
My husband’s only complaint was the handle location – he had a little difficulty balancing the kayak when carrying, and felt it should be positioned back slightly further. We did note the lack of paddle holders made it slightly less convenient when hauling around.
Once again, I did not take my furry paddling buddy Woody along for the ride. But previous experience in the Klickitat (which uses the same floor and materials) showed that doggy antics have no effect – the kayak is stable enough for jumping around and rugged enough that claws are not an issue.
And speaking of stable, not only could I stand up, I could probably take a couple steps. The 6-12 PSI floor and 39 inch width make this one of the most stable platforms I’ve been on.
The kayak is very easy to fold up and easily slips into the storage bag, which is spacious enough to carry the seat, brace and paddle.
While the Blackfoot is not technically self-bailing, one can open the multiple drain plugs when in white water to let water pass through.
Comparison: Blackfoot HB SL versus HB XL Inflatable Kayaks:
So, which one would you choose?
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, lighterweight 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 XL
The Blackfoot HB XL is a really great inflatable kayak! Attention to detail and performance make the BlackFoot HB XL a winner, easily transcending from single to double. It feels great to paddle, tracks and maneuvers well, and is actually surprisingly zippy for a wider kayak.
Numerous integrated Scotty mounts, multiple rod holders, d-rings, the fishing cooler and booster cushion, are just some of the fishing amenities guaranteed to pique most angler’s interest.
With the addition of an optional seat, the kayak is spacious enough for two average-sized adults, yet easily turns into a solo workhorse with ample room for fishing supplies and camping gear, capable of carrying up to 600 lbs.
It’s similar in many features to the AquaGlide Klickitat Two, but feature-rich. The added width makes it super-stable while the high-pressure floor provides the rigidity to easily stand up.
The Duratex smooth skin material easily sheds water, making it easier to dry off and pack up. It rolls up surprisingly well, and fits in the trunk of a small car or an RV; with the included backpack, it becomes 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), 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 XL is an excellent option for slow and somewhat fast moving rivers (probably through Class II), lakes and coastal kayaking.
For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Blackfoot HB XL product page at AirKayaks.com. You can also watch our YouTube Video on the Blackfoot HB Angler XL, below: