In May we received our first shipment of the newly-updated Innova Twist LN and Swing LN inflatable kayaks for 2016. Made in the Czech Republic, the new Twist and Swing models are now constructed from Light Nitrilon (LN), a lighterweight version of the rugged material used in the traditional Innova Sunny, Helios and Safari models. Light Nitrilon is known for making the kayaks more rigid as well as water and abrasion resistant, without substantially increasing weight. It’s also PVC-free, thus environmentally friendly.
Other new features on the Swing LN include an improved coaming area which can take optional redesigned spray skirts.
This week we had the first opportunity to take out the revamped Innova Swing I LN, a 10 foot 4-inch one-person inflatable weighing a mere 22 lbs (including seat and foot brace) with a selling price of $599.
Please note: Some of this information will be repeated from prior write-ups.
Getting Started with the Innova Swing I LN Inflatable Kayak
The box as received weighs 26 lbs with dimensions of 29 x 16 x 12 inches.
Inside is the Swing I LN body – neatly folded with a cinch strap – multiple instruction sheets, 2 metal insertion bars, tracking fin, seat, foot rest, repair kit, sponge, and valve adaptor. At 23 lbs for the combined package with accessories, and a folded size of 25 x 16 x 11 inches, the Swing I LN is small enough to fit inside plane overhead cargo bins.
Innova Swing LN Setup/Inflation
The main instruction manual covers set-up for both the Swing I LN and Swing II LN kayaks, thus there will be overlap in both of our write-ups. As with all the Innova manuals to-date, the instructions are quite detailed – there is one instruction sheet for fin installation, one for utilizing the valves, and another on the kayak in general; the Swing has added instructions detailing the “insertion bars.” Most include IKEA-style graphics which are occasionally mind-boggling and while some steps are dauntingly detailed, some are not mentioned. As the kayaks are made in Europe, many of the details are based around European specs and regulations.
First step, unpack and unfold the kayak body. What is immediately noticeable is how FLAT the kayak is when deflated. Ascertain which is the bow and which is the stern; while the instruction manual says the stern has the Innova logo, the logo and the floor valves are located at the front of the kayak.
Install the tracking fin before inflating the kayak. The Swing I LN utilizes a single fin with double slots.
Slip the end with the larger slot in first, making sure that the fin is pointing towards the “back” of the kayak. This enables it to slide in enough to fit in the second slot. While the first time can be a struggle to get the back side into position, after a couple of rounds it becomes quite easy.
Attach the foot brace (this comes attached from the factory) by weaving the webbing through the floor connector and back.
While the next step is to “attach” the seat, the Swing seat is actually permanently attached to the kayak floor with an elastic web, but also has two side straps and a rear seat clip. This is where we will veer a little from the instructions.
Take out the two aluminum reinforcement bars (deck risers) that give the kayak its upper shape. These are labeled 1 and 2 with a left (L) side and a right (R) side. These correspond to numbered slots inside the kayak, and are not interchangeable. Layout #1 before the front seat and #2 behind the seat.
The bars are installed in the same manner as the tracking fin. Match the labeling on the bars to the labeling on the bar “slots” inside the kayak, first #1 (left and right) then #2 (left and right).
This takes a bit of gyration the first couple of times, but gets easier with subsequent installations. To reach the rear section, it is helpful to open the zipper for adequate work space, sliding in each side.
At this point – before doing anything else – loosely attach the seat-back loop to the metal bar #2, leaving the side straps unfastened. Completely zip up the rear deck. If you don’t do that, it is impossible to close it after inflation – take it from the voice of experience.
The Innova Swing I LN features three main inflation chambers utilizing military valves – one for the floor and one for each side. 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).
Locate the military valve adaptor in the repair bag. The Innova Swing I LN does not come with a pump, but the adaptor allows one to use the Boston valve conical adaptor found on most pumps. (AirKayaks note: Before doing ANYTHING, attach the adaptor to your pump with the string.) Lock the Innova adaptor onto the military valve with a slight twist, and push the conical adaptor in to friction fit the two. Since the Innova main chambers are inflated to 3 PSI, it is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.
The Swing LN main chambers are pumped up first. If using a pressure gauge, please note that the pressure may only read while you are pumping, since most gauges work on back pressure. It took us approximately 25 strokes each with a double action pump – approximately one minute per side – to reach 3 PSI on each chamber.
Finally, pump up the floor chamber to 3 PSI – this took about 22 strokes. Screw on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed. Please note: the military valve push pins can sometimes deceptively look as if they are UP while in the deflate mode. When this happens, as soon as you remove the pump adaptor all the air with swoosh out. So, make sure they are truly popped up. On the positive side, this is so easy to pump up, it’s not a big issue.
Attach the adjustable seat side straps to the kayak, and then fasten the rear strap which keeps the seat back upright.
At this point we are left with a coiled white tube – and no instructions. From our past experience with the Swing EX, we knew this was a coaming pipe – a long piece of plastic tubing that will slip inside the coaming casing around the cockpit. Once installed, it will help prevent water from pouring back in while paddling, and will also allow you to utilize an optional standard spray skirt, if desired.
This was probably the hardest part in setting up the kayak. Pull the plastic tube apart, and located the opening at the back of the cockpit. Slide in the tube. This is very easy until you hit the front curve, where it hangs up. By angling, pushing on the tubing and grasping, keep at it and you can get it all the way inserted until it comes back out the other side. Re”cork” the tube and fasten the flap. (AirKayaks note: We subsequently spoke with Maureen at Innova, and she suggested inserting the plastic tubing BEFORE inflating – less tension. We have not had a chance to try that out.)
You’re done! The Swing I LN is remarkably easy and fast to set up – less than 10 minutes.
Deflation is just as easy. Simply turn the valves to the open position and push out the air. Remove the tracking fin. For the smallest package, remove the metal bars and coaming tube, and detach enough seat connections to make it flat – you can leave the bars in place, but it won’t fold up as small. Fold in the kayak sides so you can only see the red upper. Fold over each end, and then fold up the kayak again, meeting in the middle – a diagram in the instruction manual is quite helpful. Tie it up with the cinch strap and you’re done. As a side note, while you can press out most of the air and get the kayak back into the pack, to really minimize the size/footprint, it is best to pump out the final air, using the deflate mode on your pump. Turn the valves to the inflate position so air doesn’t creep back in, and replace the wing-nut caps.
Innova Swing I LN Features and Specifications
Just like the Twists, the Innova Swing I LN hull is constructed from Light Nitrilon (also spelled Lite Nitrylon). Light Nitrilon (LN) is a lighter-weight version of the rugged Nitrilon material used in the traditional Innova Sunny, Helios and Safari models.
The base polyester ripstop material is coated with an outer layer of synthetic rubber, improving longevity as well as making the kayaks more rigid, water and abrasion resistant, without substantially increasing the kayak weight. LN is PVC-free, making it more environmentally friendly than standard inflatables using PVC bladders – there is no out-gassing.
The deck (upper) is constructed from a urethane-coated ripstop nylon to ensure water repellency, with seams glued to the hull.
There are three 3 PSI inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor). Next to the floor valve is a pressure release valve. The US-distributed Swings have a black hull, which can absorb heat in hot sun, causing the chamber to expand. The pressure release valves are designed to release air pressure at about 3 PSI, ensuring that the floors do not become over-inflated.
Two low-profile, molded rubber handles are located in the bow and stern, but you can also carry it by hooking over your shoulder.
Two bungee decking systems – with 4 d-rings each – are located on the bow and stern, allowing one to attach deck bags and gear. The front deck lacing measures 17 inches tapering to 12 inches, by 11 inches and is located about 29 inches from the bow. Underneath is a 27 inch front zipper, allowing one to access the foot brace and any gear that one might want to store in the snout.
The rear deck lacing measures 18 inches tapering to 11 inches, by 10 inches and begins 22 inches from the stern. A second 25-inch zipper is located on the rear upper. Small items can be accessed through the zipper, though the bungee is in the way. Larger items can be stashed inside by putting down the seat.
Two aluminum bars/deck lifts sculpt the kayak body, supporting the coaming area and allowing water to run off. The bars also provide added rigidity to the hull, raise the seating well to about 10-11 inches in depth, fix the side-to-side dimensions and provide longitudinal stability, making the kayak stiffer.
The foam backrest seat is permanently attached to the floor with elastic lacing. Two seat side straps and one rear seat strap keep the seat fixed into position. Seat dimensions are 20″ wide by 12.5 inches tall for the seat back, and 14 inches deep by 15-13 inch wide for the seat base; the seats are about 3/4 of an inch thick.
The cockpit opening has a 1.75 inch coaming lip, preventing much water from dripping into the seating area. Plastic tubing provides enough form to allow one to attach an optional Innova spray skirt. The seating well opening is 31 by 19.5 inches, with a perimeter of 83 inches.
The cockpit opening begins 53 inches from the bow, and the backside is 44 inches from the stern.
We took overall measurements. The Innova Swing I LN inflatable kayak is 10 feet 6 inches long, with an exterior width of approximately 33 to 34 inches and interior width of 17 to 18 inches. The side tubes are approximately 8 inches in diameter, while the deck lifts raise the interior depth from 9 to 11 inches. Payload is 265 lbs. for one person and gear.
There is approximately 68 inches from the seat back to the interior bow. The padded foam brace measures 12 x 5 x 3 inches deep, and can be positioned 38 to 45 inches from the seat back; at the 38 inch position, there is another 26 inches forward of the brace, which could be used for some storage.
There is roughly 39 interior inches behind the seat, 18 inches wide and 8 to 11 inches deep, tapering to a point. This under-deck area can be used for storage, and is accessed via the top zipper, or putting down the seat back.
The seat can be moved up to 3 inches forward if needed.
The hull has a removable tracking fin measuring 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide, with 7 sculpted i-beams.
Innova Swing I LN On the Water
I took out the Innova Swing LN for a short jaunt on a slightly windy, choppy day.
At 5’4″ I had no issues getting into the kayak seating well, and was able to reach the foot brace. First thing I noted was how roomy it felt. Due to the front tension bar, the kayak had more wiggle room than most – from side-to-side as well as deck height.
On the water, the kayak paddled pretty well, riding over the waves. Headed downwind it was a bit drifty, and I had a little tougher time keeping on track. Taking it back to shore, I added a 12 lb pack to the front of the kayak (it also could fit up inside the snout and be used as a foot brace if shorter) – this evened out the kayak weight distribution and made a huge difference. It should be noted that larger people don’t have this problem.
Whle my 6’2″ husband did not take out the updated Swing LN, he did take out the prior version which has the identical footprint. As a taller person, he had a little trouble easing himself into the seating well, and hit his back on the metal bar. He also felt the kayak paddled and tracked well. In particular, he was impressed with how roomy it felt compared to other kayaks the same length – as the Swing utilizes left and right inflation chambers (rather than inner and outer), it has a little more leg room. And as the deck lifts raise the hood slightly higher, foot crunching is less of an issue than with other enclosed inflatables.
The only issue of note is that the kayak seats are a thin foam, and have a low back against the aluminum bar – this can become uncomfortable over time. If this becomes an issue, loosen up the back seat strap, and tighten up the side straps, in effect moving the seat forward from the bar.
The rear storage well can fit a fair amount of gear, though it is a little difficult to access – one needs to either unstrap the kayak seat back, or unzip the rear zipper. When the kayak is inflated, it is a little tough to get the zipper fully closed. So it’s best to store items that you won’t be needing while on the water.
On the beach, much of the water ran off, and the new Lite Nitrilon made drying much easier.
As a last note, the kayak does not come with a carrying case, but an inexpensive backpack would do the trick.
Bottom Line on the Innova Swing 1 LN Inflatable Kayak:
The Innova Swing I LN is a great choice for travel, particularly if one needs an enclosed cockpit for cold-weather paddling. It’s rugged yet lightweight – at 22 lbs (kayak, brace, seat, fin and bars) it weighs 5 to 12 lbs less than most other single inflatables of comparable size, and can be easily backpacked into remote areas, or stored in the trunk of a car.
The kayak is roomier than many “sit insides.” Due to the deck lifts the interior seating well has more headroom than other inflatables, and the enclosed deck provides protection from the wind, water and elements not found in open style cockpits or sit-on-tops.
The new plastic coaming works better than the velcroed coaming found on the earlier Swings, but is tougher to install. Updated optional spray skirts are available for both the Swing I LN and Swing II LN, allowing a wider range of paddling choices in inclement weather.
The new Lite Nitrylon material is certainly a step-up, providing more ruggedness and rigidity without drastically increasing the weight. The smooth skin also makes drying out the kayak hull less of a chore.
The lighter weight is a great option for smaller people, those with some physical limitations/disabilities or seniors, as it can easily be carried, though the fixed cockpit opening may not be as user-friendly for larger paddlers, or those with joint problems.
Multiple storage options – interior front snout, behind the rear seat and two decktop bungee lacing systems – make this a great choice for camping trips and explorations.
The kayak folds down small enough to classify as “carry-on” luggage, so it’s a great choice for far-off vacations. As the metal bars might be considered weapons, plan on staying safe and putting those in your checked-in luggage, which brings down the kayak package size even smaller.
Rated through Class II waters, the kayak is perfect for light whitewater, slow moving rivers, lakes, bays, inlets and coastal ocean.
Those paddlers that want a 1) lightweight, 2) portable kayak offering 3) quick setup and breakdown, with a 4) more enclosed design will find the Innova Swing I LN quite appealing. Environmentally-conscious ecotravelers will find the PVC and China-free construction equally as attractive.
You can also watch our YouTube video on the Innova Swing LP – this features the previous version in LitePack rather than Lite Nitrylon: