This past week we had the opportunity to take our first look at the Innova Helios 2 inflatable kayak – a two person kayak with integrated decks providing expanded storage options.
The Innova line is unique for a number of reasons. First, all the kayaks are handmade in the Czech Republic; the factory has manufactured inflatable boats for well over 50 years. In Europe, a similar line is marketed under the name Gumotex.
We previously published our review on the single version Innova Helios 1. So here is our write-up on the the Innova Helios 2 inflatable tandem kayak, which weighs 36 lbs in the pack, is 12’6″ inches in length and has a payload of 396 lbs for two persons and gear. (Please note: some of the information will be duplicated from other Innova reviews).
Getting Started with the Innova Helios 2
The box as received is surprisingly small – only 25 x 16 x 11 inches – and weighing in at 38 lbs.
Inside is a very nifty and compact backpack with adjustable shoulder straps, front pouch pocket and roll top closure. This contains the kayak body, foot rests, repair kit, instructions, valve adaptor and sponge. At only 36 lbs for the pack and contents, the Helios 2 is small enough to be considered carry-on luggage, and will fit in an airplane overhead bin. Packed dimensions are 22 x 15 x 9 inches as received in the bag.
Helios 2 Setup/Inflatation
We read through the included instruction manuals. Just like all the other Innova products, the Innova Helios manual is surprisingly detailed in some aspects, while lacking in others. As the kayaks are made in Europe, many of the details are based around European specs and regulations and can sound more complicated than it actually is.
First step, unpack and unfold the kayak body. What is immediately noticeable is how FLAT the kayak is when deflated – of course, this makes it quite compact for travel.
The Helios 2 has a “shoe” for those using an optional tracking fin. (Please note: both Helios kayaks do not come with the tracking fin, though we tested the following Helios 2 with one.) Install the tracking fin before inflating the kayak. 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 side. The first time we tried this, we struggled for a few minutes to get the second slot into position; this gets easier with use. (AirKayaks note: The second time we installed the fin, the kayak was wet and it was much simpler. According to Innova, utilizing McNett UV Tech also helps initially, but after a few times the mounting gets much easier. After the third or fourth time, we found it slipped in/out readily.)
The instructions suggest attaching and inflating the foot braces first, but these come already attached from the factory. The foot brace utilizes a twistlock valve, which performs as it sounds – twist the end to open or close the valve. The Boston valves will not friction fit over the twistlok so you will have to do one of three things – have another paddler hold the valve over the twistlock; carefully negotiate holding the adaptor and twistlock together with one hand while pumping with the other; or give up and blow it up with your mouth. It took about 2 to 3 puffs to get each one filled out.
The Innova Helios 2 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 canister. The does not come with a pump, but the adaptor friction fits onto the Boston valve conical adaptor found on most pumps.(AirKayaks: 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. We did have a hard time preventing the Boston nozzle on our pump from popping off the adaptor – possibly some slight sandpaper might rough up the surface for a better friction fit. Worst case, one could glue the adaptor to the Boston valve nozzle. Tuck the foot brace under the sides.
Pump up the side chambers first. It took us 32 pumps to reach 3 PSI on each side. If using a pressure gauge, please note that the pressure will only read while you are pumping, since most gauges work on back pressure. At 3 PSI, switch over to the other side chamber. Tuck the foot braces under the sides.
Then pump up the floor chamber, which also took 32 to 33 pumps. Screw on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed.
The Helios 2 is designed with integrated, inflatable seats/deck covers. Next, pump up the rear deck/back rest to 1 to 1.5 PSI (the pressure is not mentioned in the instruction manual). Since this also utilizes a twistlok, once again you need to balance – holding the adaptor over the valve unless you have someone to hold it in position – this took about 8 pumps holding the pump onto the adaptor. Press the seat back down and move to pump up the front seat. Last, pump up the bow deck – this took about 10 puffs by mouth. AirKayaks note: Here is a nifty little home-made adaptor that works with these twistlocks.
Done, less than 10 minutes, surprising simple and very quick.
Deflating the Innova Helios 2 kayak
Deflation is just as easy. Simply turn all the valves to the open position and push out the air. Remove the tracking fin (if installed). The air can be quickly pushed out by either rolling up the kayak towards the valves, or pumping out the final air, using the deflate mode on your pump – once done, turn the valves to the inflate position so air doesn’t creep back in, and replace the wing-nut caps. Then fold the sides in over themselves, with the decks and brace on top. Fold both ends to center, then in half.
Innova Helios 2 Features and Specifications
The Innova Helios 2 is constructed from a 1200 denier rubber-coated laminate material called Nitrylon – this consists of a synthetic rubber coating over polyester on the inside and outside of the tube.
Nitrylon is the same material used in high-end Zodiac-type yacht tenders, and is stronger, more abrasion and puncture resistant than PVC as well as being greener – there is minimal out-gassing.
There are three 3 PSI inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor) and 5 Twistloks (both seats/decks, front deck and the foot braces.)
The front deck keeps water from splashing over the sides. This includes a mesh cargo net with 4 d-rings spaced 12 to 14 inches wide by 11 inches deep, with the first set located 20 inches from the nose. The cargo net has a tightener clip. The deck is approximately 32 inches from the front paddler and stretches for 34 inches, creating a covered well 9 inches tall.
The front seat and center deck cover are one unit. The center deck is 17 inches long, with a second cargo net measuring 17 inches wide x 10 inches deep. This center deck is roughly 28 inches from the rear paddler, and a few inches behind the front paddler. The covered well is 9 inches deep.
The rear seat and deck cover are also one unit. The back deck extends 34 inches with bungee deck lacing and 4 d-rings. This starts 7 inches behind the rear paddler and measures 14 tapering to 11 inches wide, by 9 inches deep. The deck creates a covered well behind the rear seat, measuring 29 x 13 wide x 9 inches tall – a great spot to store gear, though make sure it is properly protected as water can get in. While not totally waterproof, it will keep much of the water out.
The inflatable foot braces each measure 18 x 8 inches and can be repositioned from 28 to 38 inches from the front seat back with more room in the snout. The rear brace can be positioned from 28 to 39 inches from the rear seat back.
There are two rubber handles located each at the left side bow and right side stern. Rope decking around the front deck and rear seating well can also be used as a carrying handle or to attach gear.
There are 10 grommets along the perimeter (3 front/4 center/3 back) for at attaching gear or running lines. Three small holes at the stern are for attaching an optional rudder system.
Each of the plastic deck d-rings has a cloth loop for attaching more lines or gear.
The hull has 5 sculpted i-beam tubes creating the rounded hull shape. The optional tracking fin measures 4.5 inches tall and 7 inches wide.
We did measurement tests. The Innova Helios 2 inflated is 152 inches (12’8″) and aproximately 28 inches wide. Interior dimensions of the kayak are about 16 inches wide at the wider points, and about 64 inches from the front seat back to the interior bow. There is 45 inches seat-back to seat-back with 15-16 inches covered. Tube sides are approximately 7 inches deep.
Total payload weight is 396 lbs. person and gear.
Innova Helios 2 On the Water.
We tested out the Innova Helios 2 in some mild chop, using the optional fin.
First of all, the Helios 2 is roomy enough for two average adults, though slightly narrow. The kayak handles/paddles very well – it’s speedy and turns pretty easily. It handled swells with aplomb, riding over them easily. The seat backs are comfortable, but one thing to note: As the side walls are lower, boat wake and swells can crest over the sides, pouring water in. As there are no seat bases, one would be sitting in some water – so bring along a pad to sit on.
I then took the kayak out solo.
As the handles are located on the bow and stern sides, it is a little awkward to carry solo. It’s not possible to hook over one’s shoulder, due to the central deck location, but I found by running my arm under the center deck, I could get enough grip to carry it.
By sitting in the rear with weight in the front, the Helios 2 paddles very well. The rounded hull is slightly tippier in feel initially, but one easily gets used to it. Tehe slimmer silhouette makes it quite zippy.
This would also be a great choice for an adult and child or dog, or those needing storage space to haul gear. The numerous grommet locations looked like they could be fashioned to attach homemade spray decks/tarps. The covered decks – while not impervious to water – will still be helpful in preventing some splash-over, as well as keeping out some wind.
The material is rugged enough that I would not hesitate to bring along a canine buddy – and there’s certainly room. The photo above shows me paddling with my buddy Eddie in the Innova Sunny, constructed from the same material.
Packing up took just a few minutes. The “smooth skin” of the Nitrylon material allows one to just wipe down the kayak to dry it off, and then fold up into the pack. I did notice slight scuffing – Innova says the McNett UVTech is very helpful as a coating to keep the kayak lustrous and prevent scuffs.
Bottom Line on the Innova Helios 2 Inflatable Kayak:
The Innova Helios 2 is a wonderful inflatable kayak for those wanting portability, simplicity, easy entry and lots of storage options. The kayak paddles smoothly and tracks well. I highly recommend the optional fin, which helps the kayak tracking and performance in swells.
Those paddlers wanting more control can purchase the optional Helios rudder.
Set up is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes. Take down is equally simple – wipe down and fold/roll up.
The integrated front, center and rear decks provide a fair amount of protection from the elements, while providing lots of interior storage space for day or camping gear, as well as numerous options to bungee items to the upper hull.
The Nitrilon material is rugged and easy to clean, yet still packs up extremely flat and compact.
Environmentally-conscious paddlers will find the minimal-PVC and China-free construction appealing.
The included backpack is compact and rugged, perfect for a trek into remote areas or riding mass-transit. It can also be stashed in the trunk of a small car, and is small enough to qualify for carry-on during your next plane flight – it’s a great choice for travel.
MSRP on the Helios 2 inflatable kayak is $999, and it’s available in two colors – green or red. For more information, or to purchase, visit the Innova Helios 2 product page at AirKayaks.com. The Helios also comes in a one-person version at $799.