Inflatable Kayaks, SUPS & Canoes

Product Review: New AdvancedFrame Ultralite 17.5lb Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

At last summer’s Outdoor Retailer show, Advanced Elements unveiled their 2018 inflatable kayak product line with announcement of the new AE3022 AdvancedFrame Ultralite – a redesigned version of the AdvancedFrame Sport, weighing in at a minimalist 17.5 lbs.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite Kayak

We avidly waited for the first shipment to arrive in early March. The boxes had not been off the truck for two hours, before we were headed down to the beach.

So following is our “hot off the truck” review of the new Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite – a 10 ft 5-inch performance kayak.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite

The box as received weighs 29 lbs, measuring 32 x 19 x 11 inches.

What's in the box

The rugged carrying case/backpack houses the kayak body, seat, repair kit, foam floor, screw-on adaptor, instructions (located in the small plastic pocket inside the backpack), foot brace, deck riser and deck pole. The kayak folded size is approximately 29 x 18 x 9 inches. Everything in the case weighs 21.5 lbs, while the kayak with seat is 19.5 lbs. 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 Ultralite Kayak Setup/Inflation

Unfolding the kayak

First step, unfold the kayak. The AdvancedFrame Ultralite – along with all AdvancedFrame models – 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.

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.

Installing the floor.

Now unroll the foam floor, centering it under the two main chambers, with the narrower side pointing toward the nose. The first time this can be a little tricky – smooth out the hull so it’s not wrinkled and then try to evenly position the foam. This can be fine-tuned later.

Putting the valve in the closed position

The kayak features 2 inflation chambers utilizing military valves and 1 twist-lok. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist up to inflate (this is the closed position where air goes in and doesn’t come out) and down to deflate (air goes in and comes back out).

Boston valve and screw on adaptors

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. AirKayaks note: Make sure to attach the screw-on adaptor to the pump tether, so that it doesn’t get lost.

Pump up the kayak

Unlike the rest of the AdvancedFrame series, the Ultralite features both a left and a right main chamber – one valve for each side. To begin, pump up each side until it starts to fill out – in this case we pumped up each side about 15 strokes each with a double action hand pump. This gives the kayak just enough form to install the deck pole and deck riser.

Fabric sheath for deck riser bar

Look inside the kayak nose, and you will see a cloth tube opening.

Install the riser bar

Push the deck bar into the tube until it can go no farther.

Install the deck lift

Locate the two webbing slots on each of the main bladders, roughly under the end of the deck pole. Take the deck riser bar, and insert each side into the webbing, with the center notch cradling the deck pole.

Pump up the kayak

Now, go back and re-pump up each side about 10 pumps, and then re-arrange the tubes and floor so that the tubes are centered inside the kayak cover, and the floor is centered under the tubes – if you flip over the kayak, you can sometimes see the floor indentation to check.

Finish pumping up each side chamber to 2 PSI. Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plunger isn’t accidentally twisted open later.

Install the plastic bow and stern inserts

Install the bow and stern plastic inserts into their sleeves.

Inflate the foot brace

Next pump up the inflatable foot brace. This uses a twistlok valve. Twist open the orange cap. Then using the Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it OVER the twistlok valve and inflate to 1 PSI. Or the easiest method is just to blow it up by mouth, which takes about 6 puffs. Friction fit the foot brace into the snout. (AirKayaks note: if you are a bit taller, it is quite likely you won’t need to use this.)

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.

Install the seat

Then attach the seat by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips. While there is an elastic “attachment” at the back of the seat, there is no place to attach it on the Ultralite – this is used on the other AdvancedFrame models.

Lightweight and easy to carry

Just over 5 minutes and you’re done!

AdvancedFrame Ultralite Kayak Design and Construction

Ripstop materia

The AdvancedFrame Ultralite upper hull is constructed from a lighter-weight 300 denier nylon ripstop material rather than the standard 600 denier; while one would think this is half the thickness, the weave is actually more dense, making it tougher.

Polyurethane tarpaulin hull.

The underside consists of a polyurethane tarpaulin rather than PVC, which is thinner but has a higher weld strength.

While the rest of the AdvancedFrame series features an inner and outer chamber with floating wall, the Ultralite features left and right bladders, also made of a lightweight – yet rugged – polyurethane rather than PVC. Both bladder covers on the AdvancedFrame Ultralite feature open ends without a zipper, allowing the bladders to be pulled out for cleaning or replacement.

AdvancedFrame Ultralite Features and Specifications

Plastic bow and stern inserts

Two plastic sheets in the bow and stern – in conjunction with the interior aluminum ribs – provide added structure and rigidity.

Molded rubber carrying handles

The AdvancedFrame Ultralite 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 with d-rings

Front bungee deck lacing with 6 d-rings starts 28 inches from the bow, measuring 14 to 10 inches wide by 11 inches deep.

Neoprene knuckle guards

The wide 40 x 18 inch cockpit opening features a low profile coaming tube to keep water from running in. Neoprene knuckle guards span each side, measuring 29 x 7 inches at the widest points.

Velcro paddleholder

One set of velcro paddle holders are positioned on the right side of the kayak, at 41 and 84 inches from the bow.

Closed-cell foam floor

Instead of the traditional low-pressure PVC floor, the AdvancedFrame Ultralite sports a closed-cell foam floor similar to that found in the Lagoon series.

High-backed padded seat

A high-backed, stiffer, padded seat, features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position.

Mesh pocket behind seat

The seat measures 17 inches tall, the back wraps 20.5 inches and is 1.25 inches thick with breathable mesh. The seat base measures 19 inches at the widest point, by 13.5 inches deep. A 1.5 inch EVA closed cell foam seat base compensates for the thinner foam floor. A gusseted, mesh pocket is located on the seat back; this houses the repair kit and screw-on adaptor. There is one d-ring for attaching gear.

Inflatable foot brace

The inflatable foot brace measures 9.5 inches tall by 9 inches wide, and can be inflated up to 6 inches deep. The brace friction fits into the snout.

Rear bungee deck lacing.

A rear set of bungee deck lacing with 4 more d-rings begins 3 inches behind the cockpit opening, measuring 10 inches deep by 12 to 16 inches wide.

Integrated tracking fin

The hull features electronically welded seams, with beefed-up bow and stern, integrated 2.5 x 7.5 inch tracking fin and landing plate.

Backpack carrying case.

The traditional Advanced Elements carrying case has been updated, now coming with two adjustable shoulder straps, allowing one to use it as a backpack. There are also two top carrying handles. Bag size is a generous 36 x 16 x 11 inches and looks like it will house a pump and paddle.

Other features include a thin aluminum bar riser (as found on the Expedition Elite) and an anodized aluminum cross bar (as found on the AirFusion) which together provide a pitched deck, allowing water to run off.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite Kayak

We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 10′ 3″ long and roughly 33 inches wide. There are 46 inches of the upper hull before the cockpit, and 36 inches of upper hull behind the cockpit. The side bladders are roughly 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 11 inches deep with the deck lifts.

Interior dimensions are approximately 76 inches long by 15 inches wide. With the seat positioned all the way back, there is a well approximately 23 inches deep by 12 inches wide (tapering down) and 9 inches tall, behind the seat. Seat back to interior snout measures 50 inch inches forward without the foot brace, which can be shortened to 35 inches with the brace. The seat can be repositioned up to 12 inches forward by shortening the side straps. Weight limitations suggest 225 lbs for person and gear.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite Kayak On the Water


Advanced Elements Ultralite on the water.

I was very interested in seeing how the Ultralite paddled, and immediately hopped in despite the wind kicking up. It’s zippy, tracks well and is very maneuverable. For my size of 5’4″, it is quite roomy – and it’s easy to carry. Heading into the wind, the Ultralite rode over small swells easily, still tracking pretty smoothly. Downwind was just as nice with just a slight bit of drift.

Advanced Elements Ultralite on the water.

I next took the Ultralite out on a very calm and balmy day – this is where the Ultralite REALLY shines. It was fun, responsive and quick. The open-style cockpit was refreshing and roomy – really a joy to be on the water. For my size of 5’4″ the inflatable foot brace made a huge difference in paddling comfort, by giving me something to push against.

Open cockpit design

My 6’2″ husband took the Ultralite out next with the seat positioned all the way back, and the foot brace removed. The open cockpit design made it easier to maneuver his larger frame, while allowing him to bend his knees slightly. He also felt the kayak paddled and tracked well. His only critique – despite wearing low-profile paddling shoes, his 10.5 shoe size forced his feet together into the snout, making it slightly uncomfortable.

Advanced Elements Ultralite on the water.

It is to be noted that the backbone and dropstitch floor – while technically usable – are not suggested. The backbone will have a tendency to move around slightly, and there is not enough head room to use the high-pressure floor at full inflation. The Ultralite also can not use a spray skirt.

The Advanced Elements Ultralite weighs under 20 lbs.

Oh yes, and did I forget to mention how incredibly lightweight this kayak is!

Packing Up the Ultralite Kayak

Packing up the AdvancedFrame Ultralite is easy. Open all the valves to let the air out – this can be helped by using the deflate mode on your pump. By removing the floor and rolling it up, the folded package will be smaller.

Packing up

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 removed all the air.

Bottom Line on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements Ultralite on the water.

The AdvancedFrame Ultralite AE3022 inflatable kayak is a real joy to paddle! It’s a great, streamlined kayak at a very good price, the perfect choice for those wanting “fun on the water” without the extra weight yet just enough “bells and whistles.”

Advanced Elements Ultralite on the water.

The kayak is comfortable, paddles well, looks good and is pretty stable. The open cockpit design of the AdvancedFrame Ultralite AE3022 will appeal to those who want ease of entering/exiting, though taller paddlers with a larger shoe-size may feel cramped.

Lightweight and easy to carry

The switch to open bladder cover, foam floor, polyurethane bladders and polyurethane tarpaulin hull provide most of the weight savings, making the AdvancedFrame Ultralite roughly 10 lbs lighter than the Sport, and nearly half the weight of the AdvancedFrame.

Numerous optional accessories – such as the high-back lumbar seat or rapidup sail (shown above on the AdvancedFrame model), can enhance the paddling experience and performance.

The AdvancedFrame Ultralite is best-suited for lakes, bays, calm rivers and inland waters. This is a great choice for travel or remote trips– 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. And at 21.5 lbs including the seat, brace and backpack, it won’t break your back.

Street price is $599. For more info or to purchase, see the AdvancedFrame Ultralite AE3022 product page on, or watch our YouTube video, below:

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