We recently posted our first review on Aire’s Tributary inflatable kayak product-line. The Tributary models – which are made overseas – 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.
This week we had the first opportunity to take out the Aire Tributary Strike 1, a 10 foot 3-inch one-person inflatable with a price of $799. The Strike is billed as a crossover kayak, capable of spanning calm water to rapids. Please note, some of this may be repeated from other write-ups.
Aire Tributary Strike I Inflatable Kayak: Getting Started
The box as received measures 29 x 16 x 13 inches, weighing in at 33 lbs.
Inside is the Strike body, one Cheetah seat, flip strap, instructions and repair kit with adaptor, adaptor tube, wrench and patch material (including some TearAid). The Strike does not come with a carrying case. The body alone weighs 26 lbs, or 29.5 lbs with the seat. The folded body measures roughly 28 x 15 x 12 inches.
Aire Tributary Strike Setup/Inflatation
We read through the included instruction manual. First step, unfold the kayak body. Then pump up tthe main chambers until softly filled.
The Aire Tributary Strike 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.
Unlike many kayaks, the Aire Tributary Strike has two main inflation valves at opposite sides of the kayak – one on the upper rear right and one on the upper bow left.
Locate the military valve adaptor in the repair kit. The Strike 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 Strike adaptor with the Boston valve adaptor, Aire has included a two-inch clear plastic tube. Insert the end of the Strike 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 Strike 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. If you don’t have a gauge, pump up until rigid but with about a half-inch “give” when pressed with your thumb. (AirKayaks note: Be very careful to stash the adaptors some place where they won’t get lost. Even better, if you don’t need the clear plastic tube for another valve, glue it onto the end of the Strike adaptor so it is one less thing to lose.)
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 17 strokes.
The instructions next state to attach the “Cheetah seat.” While the seat setup is fairly simple, there is an online video showing how to connect the strapping.
The seat features “fore and aft” seat clips, two each side for a total of four. These attach to the kayak via a series of 8 cloth loops (each side) that are integral to the kayak. Begin by positioning the seat roughly mid-center – we chose to place the front seat back at the fifth loop. For the initial set up, one needs to attach the base straps to the kayak loops on the floor. This is done by detaching the four straps from the kayak seat, unweaving the webbing from the strap clips, then looping the webbing through the floor loops and then back onto the strap clips. In the future (once you’ve decided where you want the seats) the base straps can be left in position, allowing one to easily clip in the seat as needed.
The video suggests spanning three loops, but the straps were not long enough to do that. So, we placed the seat front webbing at the third loop and the back at the sixth loop (skipping 4 and 5). The seats can easily be repositioned by changing loops, or adjusting the strap lengths, dependent on paddler sizes.
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 14 strokes to fill each side, with another 17 on the floor.
At this point we want to point out a great feature not mentioned in the instructions. The Aire Tributary Strikes (as well as the Tomcats and Sawtooth) each have a pressure relief valve integrated into the floor chamber. If you happen to over-pump – or the floor heats up in the sun – the pressure relief valve will release air at 2.5 PSI with a short hissing sound. The valve is pretty unnoticeable, as it is located under the floor covering, and rear of the floor Summit II valve.
Finish off by screwing on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed.
At this point, tighten up the seat straps. You will notice another long piece of webbing with buckles – this is the flip strap. Attach the flip strap to one rear upper buckle on the seat back, then wind the strap around and under the kayak, then up the other side, attaching to the other rear upper buckle. Cinch tight. The flip strap has two purposes – one, it can be used to right the kayak in the water if it overturns and two, it provides more structural rigidity for the seat back.
You’re done! The Strike is remarkably easy and fast to set up – less than 10 minutes.
Packing Up the Strike Inflatable Kayak
Deflation is just as easy. Unclip the seats and flip strap (leave the floor straps in place). 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. It’s helpful to obtain a cinch strap to fasten the perimeter of the kayak body and seat together, and keep it from unrolling. In a pinch, one can set the Cheetah seat on top of the kayak body, and use the flip strap as a cinch, bundling up the seat with the kayak. 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 Strike Kayak Features and Specifications
The Aire Tributary Strike is constructed from 1000 denier PVC on both the upper side and hull. Two-way zippered compartments run the length of the sides and floor, housing replaceable 10-mil urethane bladders.
There are three “zipper locks” ensuring that the compartments do not accidentally open. The seams are welded.
Side tape runs along the perimeter and floor, to cover the zippers.
There are three 2.5-PSI inflation chambers utilizing Summit II military valves (both sides and floor). The main chambers are located opposite each other, and are billed as “wrap around” tubes. According to Aire, this gives the Strike more rigidity and stability when going through rapids.
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 removing for better comfort if needed.
There are eight sets of 3.5-inch long cloth loops on each side – these are used to attach/readjust the seating position, or for attaching gear. The loops are positioned approximately 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 71, 84 and 96″ inches from the interior snout, with the last set positioned 12 inches from the interior rear point.
There are two stainless d-rings on the hull underside at the bow and stern.
Two cloth “flip handles” are located mid-center on the underside; these can also be used to right the kayak if flipped in the water, but can also serve as quasi-carrying handles.
The Strike is “self-bailing.” Four mesh “screens” (towards front and rear, 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. The floor is quite sculpted (humped) which helps funnel the water into the sides.
There is one “Cheetah” seat with a waterproof cover and some foam padding. The seat back measures 22 inches wide (at the widest point) by 14 inches high and about 1 inch thick. The seat base is roughly 12 inches deep by 15 inches wide and slightly padded at 0.75 inches thick. There are four attachment straps (measuring 16 inches long when doubled) with roughly 4 to 5 inches of leeway, so in conjunction with the 8 sets of cloth loops, the Strike offers virtually infinite seating arrangements. The seat back base is tapered, making it easier to relocate. One flip strap attaches to the seat back and measures 93 inches long.
On the back of the seat is a very nifty integrated pack which measures 12″ wide by 10″ tall and 5″ deep with mesh rear and side panels. The top zippers shut with some additional velcro and three cloth loops. On the back of the pack is another slim “pocket” with velcro closure, measuring 10″ wide by 5.5 inches deep. A padded drink holder sits next to the pack – this could possibly be rigged up to house a fishing pole.
We did measurement tests. The exterior measures 126 to 127 inches – a few inches longer than the published 10’3″ – and is 36 inches wide, with a 12″ rise both bow and stern. The interior dimensions are 108 inches “point to point” and 16 inches at the widest point. The tubes are 10 inches in diameter and – with the humpbacked floor – creates a seating well roughly 5 to 7-or-so inches deep.
With the seat set up as previously mentioned (using the 3rd and 6th loops) there are 44 inches behind the rear seat back, 13 inches wide and tapering to a point. We measured 60″ from the front seat back to the interior snout.
Suggest payload is 300 lbs. The Strike has a five-year warranty.
Aire Tributary Strike Solo On the Water
I must preface this by saying we have no whitewater – just a large lake, waves and boat wake. So I took out the Aire Tributary Strike over a couple of days in calm weather.
First off, the Strike is very easy to hop into – the 2.5 PSI sides and 1000 denier hull feel firm and rugged. The Cheetah seat is quite comfortable, and the ability to access small items easily is a plus.
As to be expected, the nose wafted when attempting to paddle straight. While this may be disconcerting at first, one starts to get used to it and compensate – no power paddling. On calm water, the Strike is not speedy, nor overly slow, but it IS phenomenally responsive, reminding me of a phrase I once read – “turns on a dime and still gives you back change.”
Despite the wider beam, with the humped floor, I sat up high enough that I did not notice any knuckle rub. While the lower center of gravity feels quite stable when seated, I was not able to standup.
As the bow is somewhat open (and there are openings in the bow and stern), in wave situations the water can crash over, but will quickly drain out through the mesh-covered holes. Larger paddlers may experience some water naturally seeping back in from the drain holes, and may wish to dress accordingly. That said, I did not notice any water coming into the seating well.
I came back to shore and put a 12-lb pack into the snout. Bingo. This was enough to seat the kayak in the water slightly better and even out the paddling – but not totally. Additionally, the added weight allowed me to stand up briefly without feeling tippy. I still did not notice any water creeping in.
The Strike does not have side carrying handles. You can do one of three things: try using the flip handle, fashion a strap between the flip handle and one of the cloth loops, or simply loosen up the seat and hang the kayak over your shoulder.
Aire Tributary Strike Solo – Bottom Line
The Aire Tributary Strike is billed as a “crossover” capable of both flat and whitewater, but in effect, it is a bit more whitewater than flat water – if you plan on doing a lot of calm stretches, you might consider gluing on a finbox for a removable fin. That said, this could be a great choice for those paddling in situations requiring both long, gentle stretches and bouts of rapids or for those interested in a wider range of paddling situations without investing in multiple kayaks. For those only interested in whitewater, the Aire Tributary Tomcat might be more appropriate.
In calm water, the v-hull design provides better paddling , though addition of weight in the front will stabilize the tracking. The Cheetah seat is quite comfortable, providing support and storage options. The multiple floor loops offer virtually infinite seating positions for all types of paddler sizes, as well as providing attachment options for gear.
In whitewater, the Strike is fun and agile; the raised nose and tail – with the flatter base – make the kayak quite maneuverable while the wider beam provides a bit more stability. The mesh-covered ports allow water to pass through quickly, while ensuring that debris doesn’t come back in.
At 29.5 lbs with the seat, the Strike is quite portable, and easily fits in the trunk of a small car or a closet. The smaller folded footprint makes it a great choice for RVs, plane travel and those limited by space.
Set up is extremely easy, and takes just over 5 minutes. The smoother, water-resistant coating provides for easy cleaning and drying, making take-down less of a chore – though water will get trapped inside the zippers. Yet the 1000 denier hull also feels quite rugged – almost bombproof.
Those paddlers that just want to get out on the water, and have fun without a lot of fuss, will find the simplicity of the Strike quite appealing. The open cockpit design makes entry and exit a boon to seniors or those with physical limitations.
MSRP is $799. For more information or to purchase, see the Aire Tributary Strike Solo product page on AirKayaks.com, or view the other Tributary inflatable kayaks. Stay tuned for more product write-ups coming soon.