Guides Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Guide to Choosing Your AdvancedFrame or Sport Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

We recently reviewed two of the popular Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks – the AE1012 AdvancedFrame and AE1017 Sport – which had undergone a series of upgrades.

AdvancedFrame (rear) and Sport (foreground)
The AdvancedFrame (rear) next to the Sport (bottom).

First introduced in 2002 as the AirFrame, the AdvancedFrame has evolved over the past 15 years into one of Advanced Elements most popular models, well-known as an excellent value for performance, quality and price. This was followed by the Sport in 2009, loosely modeled after its big brother but without all the “bells and whistles.”

One of the most commonly asked questions is – which one is right for me? Below we have compiled a list of similarities and differences to help guide you in making that personal decision.

What’s the same in both kayaks?

The Sport (left) next to the AdvancedFrame (right).

Both kayaks are constructed from the same same diamond ripstop, hull material and PVC i-beam floor construction with 1 PSI pressure relief valve. Each has the same molded rubber handles, high-backed seat, inflation valves, rear d-rings, tracking fin and landing plate. Both have the same aluminum rib inserts, plastic sleeve inserts, deck lifts, similar neoprene knuckle guards and velcro paddle holders. The basic footprint – length and width – are roughly the same at 10′ 4 inches by roughly 32-33 inches wide with interior dimensions roughly the same at 63-65 x 17.

So what’s different?

While there are many items that are similar, the AE1017 Sport is a stripped-down, simpler version of the AE1012 AdvancedFrame.

Comparison of cockpit opening
The Sport (bottom) has a wider cockpit opening and can not use a spray skirt.

The Sport features one main inflation chamber and three twistloks (floor valve, and two deck lifts). The Sport has a thin, non-inflatable coaming lip around the cockpit which will not accept a spray skirt. The top decks do not zipper open. The cockpit opening is a generous 44 x 19 inches. The bungee deck lacing area is about half the size in the Sport, with less d-rings. By removing some of the features and enlarging the deck opening, the weight is a lighter 26 lbs for kayak and seat, or 28 lbs in the carrying case. The carrying capacity is slightly lower at 250 lbs person and gear (235 lbs person). MSRP is slightly less at $449 ($399 street price). Most of the standard accessories – inflatable foot brace, backbone, high-pressure floor, advancedtrak rudder, accessory frame, lumbar seat, durafloor – will work with the Sport.

Comparison of front decks
The AdvancedFrame (top) has more gear attachment points.

The AE1012 AdvancedFrame features two main inflation chambers and five twistloks (floor, decklifts and coaming tubes). The AdvancedFrame has a more enclosed cockpit measuring 32 x 17 inches with zippers on both front and rear decks. The front deck can be zipped open 24 inches for easier entry, or a more open feel, while the rear deck sports a 10 inch zipper. The more enclosed seating area is surrounded by an inflatable coaming tube; this allows one to attach an optional spray deck, for even greater protection from the elements. The front bungee deck lacing area measures about 9.5 to 17 inches wide and about 16 inches deep, with multiple d-rings and quick-release clips – double that of the Sport. Due to the increased deck area and second main inflation chamber, the AdvancedFrame weight is roughly 35 lbs, an increase of 9 lbs over the Sport. The carrying capacity is slightly higher at 300 lbs person and gear (235 lbs person). MSRP is higher at $539 ($499 street price). There are many optional accessories that can be used with the kayak – inflatable foot brace, spray skirt, backbone, high-pressure floor, advancedtrak rudder, accessory frame, lumbar seat, durafloor.

Bottom line:

If you plan on milder kayaking activities (lakes, calm rivers, inland waters), prefer the ease of a lighter-weight kayak for backpacking or hauling around, feel more comfortable in an open design, or are on a tighter budget, the Sport will be a great choice.

Wider cockpit is more spacious

It’s pretty snappy, maneuverable and paddles well – in short, it’s fun. It’s a great choice for those who don’t need all the “whizbangs.” The single main bladder and larger cockpit opening decrease the kayak weight about 9 lbs over the AdvancedFrame. Storage options for carrying gear are more limited. It’s easier to haul around, and easier to enter/exit the cockpit. Taller paddlers may be happier as their knees can be bent without hitting the upper deck. And it is less expensive.

If you can afford the extra money, need more flexibility in paddling conditions and weight is not an issue, go for the AE1012 AdvancedFrame.

AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak on the water.

It’s a great kayak, great performer and is versatile enough to use year-round in mild whitewater, lakes, coastal routes and bays – where the ability to use a spray skirt might be a plus. Its added weight makes tracking a bit better. The extra decking and rigging allows paddlers to carry more gear.

Need more info? Both updated product reviews can be seen here:

Product Review: Newly Updated AE1017 Sport Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements
Product Review: Updated AE1012 AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

Or if you wish to purchase one, see the AE1017 Sport product page or AE1012 AdvancedFrame product page at


    1. HI Neil:
      The backbone is very helpful in adding to the handling. That said, we prefer the high-pressure dropstitch floor, which saves on weight and assembly time. We do have the SportDS – it is the Sport with the high pressure floor on our website at – AE1017DS.

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