Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: Updated AE1012 AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

We recently received our first shipments of the newly updated AE1012 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak – a classic model blending performance, price and portability. Having paddled the AdvancedFrame through all iterations since 2002, we were interested to see some of the fine-tuned enhancements.

ancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

In 2015, Advanced Elements began a factory expansion, moving the production line to Indonesia. While plant construction was completed in the fall of 2015, the reopening took longer than anticipated, causing delays in spring 2016 production for several models. Despite stockpiling, huge customer demand caused the AdvancedFrame to be out of stock for nearly a year.

In late spring 2016, the first shipment of AdvancedFrame inflatable kayaks sailed into port, now featuring an integrated 1-PSI pressure relief valve in the floor bladder, enhanced high-backed seating, redesigned hardware and the addition of velcro paddle holders.

As our previous write-up was several years ago, we took the opportunity to also update our readers with details on the newly updated AdvancedFrame AE1012, a 10’5″ inflatable weighing in at roughly 34 to 35 lbs with an MSRP of $539. (Please note: some of this will be repeated from prior reviews.)

Getting Started with the AdvancedFrame Kayak

What's in the bag.

The box as received weighs 41 lbs, measuring 32 x 19 x 11 inches. Inside, the rugged carrying case measures 32 x 18 x 10 inches, and houses the kayak body, seat, repair kit and instructions. The kayak folded size is approximately 30 x17 x 10 inches. The case has just enough room to include a small pump and breakdown paddle (not included). AirKayaks note: Take a good look at how the kayak is folded BEFORE setting up, this will help during breakdown.

AdvancedFrame Kayak Setup/Inflation

We re-acquainted ourselves with the kayak by reading the updated manual. This, too, has evolved over the years and gives excellent explanations on inflation, usage, refolding, etc.

Unfolding the kayak.

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.

Aluminum rib in bow and stern

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.

Opening/closing the valve.

The kayak features 7 inflation chambers – two military valves and 5 twist-loks. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist one way to inflate and the other to deflate.

Screw-on valive adaptor

The kayak comes with a screw-on adaptor (found in the repair kit in the mesh pocket behind the seat) which will fit some pumps based on the hose fittings. Otherwise, a standard Boston valve adaptor will friction fit into the opening.

Inflating the side chamber

Pump up the first chamber, located on the top-rear of the kayak, until it begins to fill out. 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. In this case, we pumped it up about 30 strokes with a double action hand pump.


Pump up the second chamber, located inside the kayak behind the seat, until firm to touch (2 PSI) – this took us another 25 pumps. At this point we noticed that the cover was not quite centered evenly, so we let some air back out, repositioned the main chamber, and pumped it back up. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later.

Inflating the floor.

Next, pump up the floor. First, make sure the floor is centered and flat. Using the same Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it OVER the twistlok valve on the floor cushion. Pump this up until firm (1 PSI) but there should be slight give when depressed. We pumped it up about 10 to 12 strokes, at which point we heard a slight hissing sound; the pressure relief valve had kicked in. Twist the valve shut. (AirKayaks note: Make sure to tuck the twistlok tube on the floor into the side of the kayak, so that you don’t accidentally twist it open while paddling.)

How do you tell if you’ve pumped it up enough? If you lift the kayak up by one handle, and it sags in the middle, it needs more air.

Pumping up the side chamber.

Move onto the two deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders” then the two coaming areas that run around the cockpit. Both of these use the twistlok valves. 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. As the coaming tubes take half a pump, and the decklifts one pump, they are sometimes just as easily inflated with one’s mouth.


Last steps, insert the two plastic sheets into the bow and stern sleeves.

Attaching the seat

Then attach the seat by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips, and attaching the seat back to the coaming area.

Easy to carry.

Less than 10 minutes and you’re done!

Features and Specifications of the AdvancedFrame Kayak

Molded carrying handles

The AdvancedFrame AE1012 is constructed with two molded rubber carrying handles (bow and stern), but it is fairly simple to carry by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder.

Front bungee deck lacing

Front bungee deck lacing begins 31 inches from the bow, and measures 9.5 to 17 inches wide by 16 inches deep.


There are four d-rings featuring a new, lower profile, making it easier to attach the optional rapidup sail or dry bags. Three quick release clips allow one to easily access the front zipper and interior; the front decking system is roughly 32 inches from the paddler.

Front zipper for easy access

A front center zipper can open up an additional 24 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling.

Cockpit with coaming tube and neoprene knuckle guard

The 32 x17 inch cockpit area (87 inch perimeter) features two inflatable coaming tubes to keep water from running in. There are two quick connect clips at the end of each coaming tube, as well as velcro “zipper lips” which keep the coaming area sealed.  Neoprene knuckle guards span each side, measuring 27 x 6 inches at the widest points.

Velcro paddle holders

New features include two sets of velcro paddleholders – one on each side of the kayak – located 40″ and 83″ from the nose.

High-backed seat

Also new is the high-backed, stiffer, padded seat, featuring adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position. Now 16 inches tall, the back wraps 19 inches and is 1.25 inches thick with breathable mesh. The seat base measures 18 inches wide, by 11-15 inches deep, and is 0.5 inches thick.

Mesh pocket behind seat.

One gusseted mesh pocket measuring 9 inches tall by 6 inches wide, houses the repair kit. There is one d-ring for attaching gear.

Rear zipper and d-rings for attaching gear

A rear zipper opens an additional 10 inches – this becomes handy for storage behind the seat, or for carrying large packs. Four more d-rings are located 24 inches from the stern, measuring 10 inches deep by 12 to 15 inches wide. This is located just behind the paddler and could be a great candidate for some additional bungee deck lacing.

Pressure relief valve

There are two military valves and 5 twistlock valves (2 deck lifts, 2 coaming tubes and floor.) New features include the integrated 1 PSI pressure relief valve in the floor, ensuring the chamber is not over-inflated.

Velcro paddleholders

The kayak consists of three layers. Inflatable PVC 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.

Hull with tracking fin

The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin with electronically welded seams, integrated tracking fin and landing plate.

AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 10’ 4 feet long and roughly 32 inches wide. There are 54 inches of the upper hull before the cockpit, and 38″ upper hull behind the cockpit. The side bladders are roughly 7 to 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 8 inches deep with the deck lifts.

Interior dimensions are approximately 63 inches long by 17 inches wide. When the seat is positioned towards the back of the coaming area, there is is approximately 46 inches from the seat back to the inner tip, leaving a rear covered well roughly 16 inches deep by 15 inches wide behind the seat inside the cover. This can be somewhat repositioned as the seat straps can be adjusted several inches forward. Weight limitations suggest 235 lbs for a person, or 300 lbs for person and gear.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak On the Water

Just like all the previous versions, the AdvancedFrame kayak is comfortable, stable, rugged and paddles well. Over the years we’ve taken it out in all types of weather from calm water to swells. It has scraped through shallow water, been dragged along rocky beaches, run through duckweed and tules, hauled around in a pickup truck and battled white caps and wind.

AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak on the water.

For my height (5’4”) the kayak is very comfortable and easy to carry. I’ve been out for short jaunts and 10-12 mile treks.

Expedition kayak

At 6’2”, my husband can paddle in it for short periods, but after that feels cramped – taller paddlers (over 6 feet) and those opting for multi-day trips should consider upgrading to the AE1009 Expedition (blue kayak shown above) which is much roomier and has more real estate for storing gear.

AdvancedFrameDS-XL Kayak

Another option is the 10’10” AE1044 AdvancedFrameDS-XL (shown above) with 5 more inches in length and also featuring the more rigid, high-pressure, dropstitch floor.

Performance can be enhanced with the optional AE2023-AF1 backbone – it’s a very subtle enhancement in the shorter kayaks such as the AdvancedFrame or Sport, but one I feel is very real. The backbone is pieced together under the floor, giving a totally rigid bow-to-stern silhouette, with a slight vee shape to the hull – this allows one to pick up about 0.4-0.5 mph more in speed.

Rigid enough to stand up in.

My favorite is the high-pressure drop stitch floor (shown in an AdvancedFrameDS-XLC above) ; while more expensive, it offers a weight savings of 4 to 5 lbs, simplicity and enhanced performance/rigidity.

Packing it Up

Packing the AdvancedFrame up is easy. Open all the valves to let the air out – this can be helped by using the deflate mode on your pump.

Folding up the AdvancedFrame

Tighten and close the valves so air doesn’t creep back in, and then simply fold in half the long way, then fold the two ends towards the center, just behind the landing plate and fin. Then fold in half again. This should slip back into the bag if you’ve gotten enough air out.

Bottom Line on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

The AdvancedFrame AE1012 inflatable kayak is a winner – a great all-around kayak. First developed in 2002 as the AirFrame kayak, Advanced Elements has tweaked the design over the past 14 years, evolving the AdvancedFrame  into an inflatable classic offering performance, quality and price. In our opinion, it’s a great value and is certainly one of our biggest sellers.

AdvancedFrame with Rapidup Sail

The kayak is comfortable, paddles well, looks good and is quite stable. It is able to handle lakes, class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. Numerous optional accessories – such as the high-back lumbar seat, an inflatable foot brace, spray skirts, rapidup sail (shown above), the backbone and high-pressure drop stitch floor – can enhance the paddling experience and performance.

AdvancedFrame with canine buddy

The material is rugged and puncture-resistant – certainly strong enough for dog claws, though an extra towel (or Advanced Elements DuraFloor) add another level of protection.

The new pressure relief valve takes the guesswork out of the floor inflation, while the high-backed seat offers vastly superior support than the previous padded seat.

Easily fits in the trunk of a car.

This is a great choice for travel – the carrying case is rugged enough to check as baggage, it’s perfect for RVs and easily fits in the trunk of a small car.

AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak on the water.

All in all, the AdvancedFrame is a great multi-purpose kayak for people of all ages – one of our youngest paddlers was 7 years old, and our oldest customer to-date was 94. Unless you are a larger paddler or plan on longer paddling excursions with multi-gear, the AdvancedFrame is is a great choice.

AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak on the water.

For more info or to purchase, see the AdvancedFrame AE1012 product page on,  or watch our YouTube video, below.


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