Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes Reviews

Product Review: Aire Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable Tandem Kayak

Well-known in the paddling world for top-notch quality, Aire has been manufacturing high-end inflatable rafts and kayaks out of their plant in Idaho for over 25 years ago. With the increased interest in inflatables, Aire introduced their Tributary line, an economical version made overseas, nearly 14 years ago. The Tributary models offer great value for those on a budget or unwilling to make a large investment; these include the Strikes, Sawtooth and Tomcat kayaks as well as several rafts.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable Kayak.

This week we had the first opportunity to take out the Aire Tributary Sawtooth, a 13 foot 3-inch two-person inflatable weighing 35 lbs with a price of $749.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable Tandem Kayak: Getting Started

The box as received measures 25 x 22 x 12 inches, weighing in at 40 lbs.

What's included

Inside is the Sawtooth body, two inflatable seats, removable tracking fin, instructions and repair kit with adaptor, adaptor tube, wrench and patch material (including some TearAid) but does not come with a carrying case.The Sawtooth body alone weighs 31 lbs; each seat weighs 1.7 lbs for a total of 35 lbs with fin. The folded body measures roughly 26 x 18 x 10 inches.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth 2 Setup/Inflatation

Unfolding the kayak body

We read through the included instruction manual. First step, unfold the kayak body. Then pump up the main chambers until softly filled.

Closing the valve for inflation

The Aire Tributary Sawtooth features three main inflation chambers utilizing Summit II 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). Please note – the military valve push pins can sometimes deceptively look as if they are UP when actually in the deflate mode. When this happens, as soon as you remove the pump adaptor all the air will 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.

Valve adaptor set-up.

Locate the military valve adaptor in the repair kit. The Sawtooth does not come with a pump, but the adaptor allows one to use the Boston valve conical adaptor found on most pumps. To couple the Sawtooth adaptor with the Boston valve adaptor, Aire has included a two-inch clear plastic tube. Insert the end of the Sawtooth adaptor into one side of the clear tube, and then insert the Boston valve adaptor onto the other side, via friction fit. Lock the Aire adaptor onto the military valve with a slight twist. Since the Sawtooth main chambers are inflated to 2.5 PSI, it is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately. AirKayaks note: Be very careful to stash the adaptors some place where they won’t get lost.

Pumping up the kayak

Pump up the side chambers first. As the instructions stated to “fill until a soft pressure” we placed 30 strokes each side with our double action hand pump – these were still soft but mostly unfurled. We then pumped up the floor 20 strokes.

The instructions next state to attach the “pillow seats.”

Attaching the pillow seat.

Begin by positioning the seats; typically, the front paddler will be roughly mid-center with the rear paddler towards the back. For the initial setup, we placed the front seat back between the 5th and 6th loops, and the rear seat back at the tenth loop.

Attaching the pillow seat.

Each of the seats feature “fore and aft” web straps (four to each seat), which are attached to the kayak via a series of 12 cloth loops (each side) that are integral to the kayak. This is done by unweaving the webbing from the strap clips, then looping the webbing through the floor loops and then back onto the strap clips. (AirKayaks note: You may want to obtain eight small carabiners – or even a set of bathtub curtain rings – to clip onto the ends of the seat strap loops. This would allow you to easily attach the seat to the cloth loops without all the buckle weaving.)

Attaching the pillow seat.

The instructions state to span two loops for each seat. So, we placed the front seat webbing at the fourth and seventh loop (skipping 5 and 6) and the rear seat webbing at the 8th and 11th loops. The seats can easily be repositioned by changing loops, or adjusting the strap lengths, dependent on paddler sizes.

Attaching the adaptor to the seat valve

Next, pump up the seats. Each seat back has one tube filler. Remove the tube dust cap and then remove the clear plastic tube from the kayak adaptor, and use the clear plastic to couple the Boston valve adaptor to the tube head. It took about 3 pumps to fill it out, as the seats have a max pressure limit of 2 PSI. Additionally (if lazy) one can leave the clear tube intact and blow up the seat back by mouth – this took about 5 puffs. At this point we will note that you can vary the softness/rigidity of the back to a desired comfort level by varying the amount of air put in.

Replace the dust cap on the tube filler, then tighten each of the seat straps by grabbing both web ends on one side and pulling.

Pumping up the kayak

Now, top off the kayak by filling each side and floor chambers to 2.5 PSI. If using a pressure gauge, please note that the pressure will only read while you are pumping (needle drops up and down), since most gauges work on back pressure. It took us another 15-16 strokes to fill each side.

We moved on to the floor and put in another 22 strokes to reach 2.5 PSI. As we put in the last pump, we heard a sharp hissing sound, which sounded very much like a pressure relief valve – but there was not one in sight, and nothing mentioned in the instructions! A quick phone call, and we found out – yes – the Sawtooth has a pressure relief valve integrated into the floor chamber which releases at 2.5 PSI, under the floor covering, and rear of the floor Summit II valve. This is a “safety net” to ensure one doesn’t over inflate the floor and pop an i-beam, or have the floor expand in the hot sun.

Finish off by screwing on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed.

While it is not mentioned in the instruction manual, now is the time to install the fin if you will be doing deep-water paddling; for shallow water, this can be left off, but it won’t track as well.

Installing the tracking fin.

Flip the kayak over and layout the fin, making sure the fin is pointing towards the rear of the kayak. Remove the retaining pin from the hole, by pinching the slotted side.

Installing the tracking fin.

Then push the front of the fin down into the slot and pull back – there is a lip that will catch the front of the fin. If you pull back far enough, the hole in the fin railing will line up with the hole in the fin. This was our only issue – we could not get the hole to line up, and thus could not get the retaining pin back in position. This was solved by using a small rock to gently tap the fin back into position until the holes lined up, and the pin slid through. As a precaution, pull up on the fin to ensure it is truly attached.

Easy to carry

You’re done! The Sawtooth is remarkably easy and fast to set up – less than 10 minutes.

Packing Up the Sawtooth Inflatable Kayak

Deflation is just as easy. Remove the tracking fin and “unweave” the seat straps to remove the seats. Then simply push down and lock the Summit II valves (military) to the open position and the air will swoosh out. You can then fold in each side to the center, then in half (into fourths), and then fold up to a “square” or roll up. To deflate the seats, use the back of the seat tube dust cover to “push open” the valve. It’s helpful to obtain a cinch strap to fasten the perimeter of the kayak body and seats together, and keep it from unrolling. As a side note, while you can press out most of the air, 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.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth Kayak Features and Specifications

Rugged hull easily dries

The Aire Tributary Sawtooth is constructed with a 500 denier PVC upper, and a 1000 denier PVC hull.

Interior vinyl bladder.

Two-way zippered compartments run the length of the sides, floor and seat backs, housing replaceable 10-mil vinyl bladders.

Zipper locks.

There are five “zipper locks” ensuring that the compartments do not accidentally open. The seams connecting the hull to upper are welded.

Summit II valve.

There are three 2.5-PSI inflation chambers utilizing Summit II military valves (both sides and floor).

Molded, adjustable carrying handle

Two carry handles can be found at the bow and the stern. Each of these consist of a molded rubber handle with webbing straps and buckles; the handles can be lengthened or shortened roughly 2-6 inches by tightening or loosening the webbing, or the handle can be removed completely. Adjustments can be made for hand size/gloves, or total removal for better comfort across the shoulders if portaging.

Series of cloth loops

There are twelve sets of 3.5-inch long cloth loops on each side – these are used to attach/readjust the seating positions, or for attaching gear. The loops are positioned approximately 12, 23, 33, 44, 54.5, 65, 76, 86.5, 97.5, 108, 118 and 129 inches from the interior snout, with the last set positioned 12 inches from the interior rear point.

Sculpted hull with removable tracking fin.

The underside features sculpted i-beam tubes and a removable tracking fin measuring 9 inches tall and 6.5 inches wide at the base.

Flip loop on underside

There are two cloth “flip handles” mid-center on the underside; these can be used to right the kayak if flipped in the water, but can also serve as quasi-carrying handles.

Mesh-covered bailing ports

The Sawtooth is considered to be “self-bailing.” Four mesh “screens” (two fore and two aft, one on each side) cover openings, allowing any splashed-in water to fall into the side wells and seep out. Conversely, water may seep back in if the kayak is heavily loaded. The mesh screens ensure that no debris enters into the kayak from below.

Oral-matic valve

There are two inflatable-backed “pillow” seats with oral-matic  valves, which can be inflated to 2 PSI. The seat backs measure 20 inches wide by 10 inches high and about 7 inches thick fully inflated (this can be adjusted). These have four attachment straps. In conjunction with the 12 sets of cloth loops, the Sawtooth offers virtually infinite seating arrangements. The seat back base is tapered, making it easier to relocate.

We did measurement tests. The exterior measures 13 ft 1.5 inches – close enough to the published 13′ 3″ – and is 33 inches wide, with a 9″ rise both bow and stern. The interior dimensions are 141 inches “point to point” and 15 inches at the widest point. The tubes are 9 inches in diameter and – with the humped floor – creates a seating well roughly 6-8 inches deep.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable Kayak.

With the seats set up for tandem paddling as previously outlined (front seat on the 4th & 7th loops, rear seat on the 8th and 11th loops) there is 33 inches behind the rear seat back, 13 inches wide and tapering to a point. There is 36 inches between the two seats, and 57″ from the front seat back to the interior snout. All this can be repositioned based on the paddler sizes.

Set up for solo paddling

We set the Sawtooth up for solo paddling, with the seat attached to the 5th and 8th loops. This setup provides 64 inches behind the seat-back to the interior stern and 69 inches from seat-front to interior bow point – plenty of room for gear!

Suggest payload is 400 lbs. The Sawtooth has a one year warranty.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable Kayak On the Water

We tested out the Sawtooth over a couple of days.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth kayak paddled tandem.

First, my husband and I took it out together for a short jaunt in pretty calm water.  After eyeing the locations, I moved the front seat to the 3rd and 6th loops, to give him enough leg-room. First impressions – the Sawtooth is a wonderful kayak. It’s speedy, tracks and paddles well, and is fairly maneuverable for its size. It also feels rugged. The lower side walls – in conjunction with the 2.5 PSI chambers (which provide rigidity) – make it easy to get in and out. The front/rear handles make carrying the kayak a cinch, while the 35 lb. kayak weight with seats is quite “carry-able.”

At 5’4″, I was fairly comfortable in the front while my 6’2″ husband had plenty of space behind. He was able to use my seat back as a foot brace, while my feet were pressed into the nose – in the future I would opt for moving the seats back a loop.

As the Sawtooth is constructed with mesh-covered self-bailing ports, my husband quickly noticed some water coming back in through the ports, while I had none in the front. A subsequent discussion with Aire and NRS provided some better understanding. The weight capacity of 400 lbs is based on a 2-inch waterline of evenly distributed weight, with a recommended maximum level of 1/3 the tube submerged. As most of the kayaks we carry are not self-bailing (or have removable plugs) we realized that it is probably best to even out the load by putting the heavier person in the front position (over the widest part of the kayak). This would remove some of the weight over the mesh ports, lessening water entry. This will also lessen the amount of water that can get into the zippered compartments. (AirKayaks note: I did notice water was trapped inside the zipper despite the locks, but it easily poured out when the kayak was turned upside-down to drain.)

Aire Tributary Sawtooth kayak paddled solo.

I then took the kayak out solo, with the seat hooked to the 5th and 8th loops. One thing to note is that this is a long kayak, with no foot pegs. Following a suggestion, I disconnected the back straps of the front seat, flipped it over towards the nose and used it for a foot brace – it worked perfectly (thanks Josh!).

Aire Tributary Sawtooth kayak paddled solo.

As a solo kayak, the Sawtooth also handles beautifully. It feels great, paddles well and is slightly more maneuverable. The sides were low enough (and kayak narrow enough) that I didn’t experience “knuckle rub.” With my weight in the center, I did not notice any water getting back in.


And despite the humped center, it is actually stable enough to stand up – though I wouldn’t make a point of it.

I then took the Sawtooth out solo on a windy day with chop. The Sawtooth rode over the waves pretty well, though I did struggle with the wind and certain cross waves. Some water crashed over the sides, but the self-bailing ports drained pretty quickly. To be sure, if you plan on kayaking in rough weather, dress accordingly.

There are no side handles, so to carry it solo one must hook it over the shoulder, or attempt using one of the flip straps on the underside. There are also no paddle holders, so a leash might be in order.

Backside of the pillow seat.

My only slight criticism is with the pillow seats. While the thickness/rigidity of the bladder can be varied by removing/adding air, the low-height does not provide the best back support. I did grab an AquaGlide core fishing-ready seat that was sitting nearby, and this worked well, also providing storage compartments (as well as fishing rod holders) close at hand.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable Kayak Bottom Line:

The Aire Tributary Sawtooth inflatable kayak is a winner – a great option for those interested in calm water paddling that either need a tandem or a solo kayak that can hold lots of gear – or both. It’s easy to set up, paddles and tracks well and is very speedy.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth kayak paddled tandem.

As a tandem, it is roomy enough for two average-sized adults to paddle comfortably, yet still offers storage space behind the rear seat. The cloth loops systems – in conjunction with the adjustable seat straps – allows for quite a bit of flexibility in the seating positions as well as for attaching gear. While the ability to inflate the seat back provides varying levels of comfort and support, I would suggest looking into an upgrade if you plan on paddling for any length of time – such as the AquaGlide core seat.

Parents wanting a lightweight and simple paddling option will find this is a great choice for enjoying the water with a child. The material is rugged enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to bring along my canine buddy.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth kayak paddled solo.

As a solo option, the Sawtooth also shines; there is plenty of room for a wide range of paddler heights as well as room for extended camping gear. The 12 sets of cloth loops provide ample attachment options.

While the Sawtooth does not come with a carrying case, by purchasing a simple cinch strap one can easily keep the bundle together.

Easily fits in a car trunk.

The 35-lb weight and folded/rolled-up footprint make the Sawtooth a great choice for RVs, plane travel and those limited by space. It can be stored in the trunk of a car for spur-of-the-minute activity. Set up is simple and takes less than 10 minutes. The smooth, water-resistant material provides for easier cleaning and drying though the zippers can trap in water.

Aire Tributary Sawtooth kayak paddled solo.

The open cockpit design makes entry and exit a boon to seniors or those with physical limitations. The Aire Tributary Sawtooth is best-suited for paddling calm waters, mild swells and slow moving rivers through Class II. MSRP is $749.

For more information or to purchase, see the Aire Tributary Sawtooth product page on, or view the other Aire Tributary inflatable kayaks. Stay tuned for more product write-ups on the Aire Tributary kayaks, in particular the Strike 1, coming soon.


  1. Nice review! I’ve seen this kayak in a shop and the quality looks very good. How would you compare it to the Innova Swing EX with regards to paddling speed, stability, and build quality? I’m a kayaker with a SOT and SIK, but looking for a good performing travel kayak. Thank you very much

    1. Hello Jim:
      These are really two different kayaks, each with their own special qualities, so it would depend on your application. In general:
      1) The Sawtooth is quite open and so more suited for calm waters unless you are suitably dressed. The Swing EX has the enclosed deck which can take a spray skirt. In general, the Sawtooth would be more closely aligned with the Innova Sunny or Innova Solar 410C.
      2) Both are speedy. The Sawtooth is more stable than the Swing EX (one can actually stand up without flipping).
      3) The materials on the Sawtooth are a bit more rugged, but it is also a bit less portable. Once again, trade-offs.
      Hope that helps and thanks for the comments!

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