This past week we had the opportunity to take our first look at the Innova Solar 410C inflatable kayak – a 2+ person kayak for recreational paddling.
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. Secondly, the manufacturing process produces kayaks that can become quite compact, making them a great choice for travel. And third, the kayaks are environmentally-friendly as they are mostly PVC-free.
While various iterations of the Solar have been available in Europe for years, Innova recently brought in the newly-redesigned Solar 410C. We had our first opportunity to take out the kayak late last year. So here is our write-up on the the Innova Solar 410C inflatable tandem kayak, which weighs 36 lbs in the pack, is 13 feet 2 inches in length and has a payload of 595 lbs for two persons and gear. (Please note: some of the information will be duplicated from other Innova reviews).
Getting Started with the Innova Solar 410C
The box as received measures 25 x 16 x 11 inches, weighing in at 40 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, tracking fin, foot rests, repair kit, instructions, valve adaptor, seats and sponge. Packed dimensions are 25 x 16 x 10 inches as received in the bag, with a weight of 38 lbs for the pack and contents.
We read through the included instruction manuals. Just like all the other Innova products, the Innova Solar 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. Please also note that some of the instructions/diagrams have errors.
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.
Install the tracking fin into the “shoe” 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 to get the second slot into position but this gets easier with use.
The instructions suggest attaching and inflating the foot braces and seats first, but these come already attached from the factory – the front seat is attached to the 2nd set of floor clips, and the back seat to the 4th set; the braces are attached to the first and second sets. Both utilize 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 twistlock 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 1 to 2 puffs to get each foot brace filled out. Then pump up the inflatable seats to 1 to 1.5 PSI (the pressure is not mentioned in the instruction manual). Since this also utilizes a twistlock, once again you need to balance – this took about 5 pumps/puffs. Press the seat back down and loop the seat bottom strap through the plastic buckle on the floor behind the seat. Move up to the front seat and do the same, tucking the seat base edges under the side chambers. AirKayaks note: Here is a nifty little home-made adaptor that works with these twistlocks.
At this point, you want to attach the seat side straps to the side d-rings. Loop the strap (located on the rear of the seat back) up through the d-ring and then back, looping it through the seat buckle. Use the 1st and 3rd set of d-rings for tandem paddling, the 1st, 2nd and 4th for three, and the 2nd for solo paddling. AirKayaks note: It is much simpler to purchase some small carabiners and attach them to the end of the strap loops. Then you can simply clip these into the d-rings without all the “reweaving.”
The Innova Solar 410C 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 kayak 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).
The Innova instructions suggest pumping up the side chambers first, and the floor last. We found it easier to pump up the floor first, then pump up each side chamber half way. This provides enough “give” to install/move the seats and braces. Then top off each side.
Following this format, 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.
Pump up the floor chamber – this took approximately 42 pumps with a double action hand pump. Screw on the valve cap to protect the plunger from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed.
Pump up the side chambers, partially, on each side – we did about 25 strokes each.
Reposition/tuck in the foot braces and seats.
Finish topping off both main side chambers – this was another 13 pumps each side to reach 3 PSI. Screw on the valve caps to protect the plungers from sand and salt, or from accidentally being pressed.
Done, less than 10 minutes, surprising simple and very quick.
Deflating the Innova Solar 410C 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 seats and braces can be left in place. 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 kayak in half the long way, then in half again – smooth it out. Starting at the rear, fold over the snout up to the fin boot, then fold again. Starting at the other end, fold back about a foot, then again and again. Fold the two sides together and use the cinch belt to hold it shut. This should then slip back into the bag.
Innova Solar 410C Features and Specifications
The Innova Solar 410C 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 seven inflation chambers – three 3 PSI inflation chambers utilizing military valves (both sides and floor) and 4 Twistlocks (both seats and foot braces.)
There are two molded rubber handles (front and rear) which sit on top of 17-inch splash decks with rope tie-downs.
The front foot brace has two “positions” (humps) and measures roughly 12 inches deep by 13 inches wide, with the sides stuffed under the main tubes. The humps are 7 inches apart. The brace position has a leeway of about two inches forward and back. There is one d-ring at the back of the brace buckle, which can be used as a gear tie-down.
The inflatable seats have one twistlock valve, a bottom strap and two side straps. The seat base measures 19 inches wide by 16 inches deep (inflatable portion is 17″ wide by 15 inched deep, and 3 inches high). The back is about 17 inches wide by 15 inches tall (14 inches inflated).
A rear foot brace is more rectangular, measuring 17 inches wide by 9 inches deep and up to 5 inches thick. It has about 15 inches of strapping.
There are four sets of upper d-rings which can be used with the seats or for attaching gear. These are located 57, 89, 107 and 117 inches from the outer snout.
There are five sets of straps and loops on the floor, for attaching the foot braces, seats and/or gear. These are located 27, 67, 97, 115 and 124 inches from the inner snout – each of these has d-rings except the second, which has two buckles for seat back and brace.
A numbered boot system is located 55 to 65 inches from the snout. This features slots three inches apart: these are referenced in the instructions, and used to attach the foot brace based on paddler height, when paddling solo.
A mesh cargo net is situated at the rear, measuring roughly 13 x 14 inches. There are four d-rings tucked under the side tubes, to attach gear under the net; these are located 23 and 41 inches from the inner tail.
The floor features an integrated pressure relief valve just behind the military valve. This will release pressure at 3 PSI, whether over-inflated or from air expansion due to heat.
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 measured the Solar. Outer dimensions were 164 inches from “eyelet to eyelet” with an exterior width of 33 inches at midpoint. The interior length was 160 inches with a 14-15 inch width, again at midpoint. The tubes are roughly 8-9 inches wide and create a well 8 inches deep.
We measured the tandem paddling set-up as previously mentioned. With the front seat-back attached to the 2nd set of floor d-rings, the side straps attached to the 1st set of tube d-rings and the brace extended as far farward as possible, there is 39 and 46 inches from the seat back to the brace humps; the brace can move back about 4 inches, giving a tapered 11 inches from brace to inner snout. As the seat base strap is fairly short, by not buckling the seat base, the front seat can move up about 10 inches and back about 3 inches. With the rear seat-back attached to the fourth floor d-ring, the side straps attached to the 3rd set of tube d-rings and the rear brace extended as far farward as possible, there is 45 inches from the seat back to seat back, and 41 inches to the brace flipped forward (35 inches when flipped back). There is 48 inches behind the rear seat (30 inches of this is open) and is 13 inches wide, tapering down. Again, by not buckling the seat base, the rear seat can move up about 10 inches and back about 5 inches.
We then set up the Solar for three paddlers using a Seawave seat for the third. By moving the front seat all the way forward and moving the rear seat all the way back, we were able to position the middle seat using this configuration – the 1st, 2nd and 4th tube buckles and 2nd, 3rd and 5th floor buckles. This gave measurements of 59″ from front seat back to inner snout, and 40 to 48 inches to the brace. The second seat had 27 inches to the front seat back, and 27 inches from the second seat back to rear seat back. There was 36 inches behind the rear seat to the inner tail, with about 21 inches open. If you don’t use the floor buckle, you can move the front seat up another 9 inches, giving more room to the two back paddlers – who will greatly appreciate it.
Last set up was for solo paddling. We attached the seat base to the 3rd set of floor clips and the side straps to the 2nd set of d-rings. This gave 91 inches from seat back to inner snout, and 64 inches behind the seat (50 inches open) – plenty of room for gear. There are four slot positions for the foot brace on the floor, each one set up for various paddler heights. Weave the foot brace strap through the slots and clip. Measurements were as follows from seat back to brace: Slot 4 – 39 inches, Slot 3 – 36 inches, Slot 2 – 33 inches, Slot 1 31 inches.
Total payload weight is 595 lbs. person and gear.
Innova Solar 410C On the Water.
We tested out the Innova Solar 410C over a few days.
I first took it out solo on a calm day. As the handles are located on the bow and stern sides, it is a little awkward to carry solo, though it is possible to hook it over your shoulder. With two people carrying, it’s great.
First of all, this is incredibly roomy for my 5’4″ – perfect for carrying lots of gear. I was impressed with how well it handled, and how easily it rode over the water. The kayak is pretty zippy and – for a kayak this long – it turns very easily. While I calculated the foot brace Slot 2 as appropriate for my height (based on the instruction manual) I actually felt more comfortable on Slot 3.
My 6’2″ husband then took it out solo. He felt it handled well, though mentioned a slight wag in the front, feeling the nose was up a bit out of the water – not something I noticed, but weight in the front would help. He loved the easy entry and exit.
We then took it out tandem in slight wind. The Solar paddles well as a tandem, it’s fast and with the extra weight just slightly less maneuverable – but still pretty good. We headed into the wind and it paddled well. With hindsight, I would have positioned my seat up closer to the nose, and Chuck’s seat back a little farther, as his knees were bent a bit too much – possibly moving back to the fourth set of d-rings. Based on that, I am a bit hard-pressed to see three people paddling this kayak unless they are fairly small. Certainly, a dog or child would fit in-between the two seats – in fact, the inflatable foot brace could be a great child’s seat.
I then took the kayak out solo in a somewhat windy situation with good-sized chop. With no weight in the kayak – and the long length – I really struggled to paddle. It would ride over the waves, but I wasn’t really in control. In high waves, with the lower side walls some water will splash in. For solo paddling, this is best used in calmer waters, or possibly with more weight.
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 Solar 410C Inflatable Kayak:
The Innova Solar 410C is a good recreational kayak suitable for those wanting portability, simplicity, easy entry and lots of storage options. On calm waters – such as lakes, inlets and slower-moving rivers – the kayak paddles smoothly and tracks well as both a single and a tandem. On rougher waters, be prepared to add weight if paddling solo, and to dress appropriately, as waves can splash over the side walls.
The Solar 410C is roomy enough for two average adults with an afternoon of gear, though slightly narrow. This would also be a great choice for an adult and child or dog, or those needing enough storage space to haul camping equipment.
While it’s possible to add an optional third seat, three paddlers would be cramped unless they were fairly small.
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.
Set up is very simple and takes less than 10 minutes. Take down is equally simple – wipe down and fold/roll up.
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 easily take on your next plane flight – it’s a great choice for travel.
MSRP on the Solar 410C inflatable kayak is $749, and it’s available in two colors – green or red. For more information, or to purchase, visit the Innova Solar 410C product page at AirKayaks.com.