Advanced Elements of Benicia, California recently introduced two exciting new kayaks as precursors to the 2021 season – the AirVolutions. What makes them so special? The AirVolution solo and AirVolution2 tandem are constructed entirely from dropstitch material. With just two inflation chambers, and inflation pressures of 10 to 12 PSI, the kayaks are extremely rigid.
AirKayaks Note: See our writeup on the 2021 Advanced Elements AirVolution Dropstitch Kayaks – What’s New
The Airvolution production models arrived this past week so we took the opportunity to check them out. Here are details on the Advanced Elements AirVolution2 AE3030 (Patent Pending), a 14.5 foot high-pressure inflatable kayak weighing in at roughly 52 lbs.
Getting Started with the AirVolution2
The box as received weighs 68 lbs, measuring 45 x 23 x 15 inches.
Inside, is a super-sized, backpack-style carrying case with wheels (7 lbs) , kayak body (47 lbs), 2 EVA seats (2.2 lbs each), pump with gauge (3.25 lbs), tracking fin (0.45 lbs), cinch belts, repair kit (0.8 lbs) and instructions. The kayak with backpack and parts weighs in at 62 lbs, while the kayak body with seats is 52 lbs. The folded kayak size is roughly 44 x 18 x 10 inches.
We began by reading the manual. This includes pump set-up, inflation, deflation, folding, repairs and troubleshooting. And here we come to AirKayak’s Tip #1: No matter how excited you are, take a good look at how the kayak is folded before you set the kayak up, so that you can get it back into the carrying case.
First step, unfold the kayak.
The Advanced Elements AirVolution2 utilizes two main military valves for inflation, similar to the ones found on many standup paddle boards. These are very simple to use and feature an inflate mode (spring plunger is UP) and a deflate mode (spring plunger is DOWN). By using your finger to gently push on the plunger, it can be moved to the inflate mode (air goes in and doesn’t come back out) and deflate mode (air goes in and comes back out). Before you go to all the effort of inflating the kayak, PLEASE make sure the plunger is in the inflate position.
Next, set up the pump. The AirVolution2 comes with a very nifty, collapsible, dual-action pump with built-in pressure gauge. First step, attach the feet.
The bottom of the pump barrel features tabs that match up to slots on the feet; if you look carefully, you will see that two of the slots are longer than the third – meaning the foot will only go on one way. Line up the tabs, push the barrel into the foot and then twist to lock into position. Attach the hose to the side that says Inflate (there is also a Deflate side). There are two pieces of plastic tubes in the plastic packaging – these are screw on handles. The pump parts could be stored in the carrying bag side pocket, but you may want to buy a mesh laundry bag to keep everything together.
The pump features a dual action mode operated by a push button on the side of the pump. Instructions are printed on the pump, but by pushing in the button, you will see the words change from Double to Single, letting you know at all times what mode you are in. In double action mode, air is pumped on the up and down stroke, while in single action air is pumped only on the down stroke, making it easier to get to high pressures.
We started in double-action mode. Attach the hose to the military valve by twisting on, and start pumping.
The instructions say to pump up both chambers (upper and bottom) 10-12 PSI, starting with the upper chamber. As gauges work on back-pressure, in double action mode, it took about 50 strokes before the gauge needle started registering. At 75 pumps we were at 4 PSI and it was getting tough. We switched to single action – 45 more strokes took us to 10 PS.
We then moved on to the second chamber, the floor. As the floor chamber is larger, it took 100 strokes in double action mode before the gauge started moving. At 120 pumps we were at 3 PSI and we changed to single action mode. Another 25 strokes took us to 5 PSI.
At this point we will mention a nifty Advanced Elements product that will cut your inflation time significantly – the AE2003 Advanced Elements 12-Volt car pump which plugs into your car’s power point. We hooked up the 12-volt and then – without using an adaptor – simply held the pump over the valve while in the up/closed position. In this mode, the pump nozzle presses open the plunger, allowing the air in. It took about a minute for the floor chamber to fill out – you can tell when it’s reached the max as the motor sound changes. Then when the nozzle is not pressing on the plunger, it goes back into the closed position without losing air. Then we continued inflation using the dual action pump.
Screw on the wing caps to keep the valves protected.
Next, attach the seats. There are no details in the included manual, but Advanced Elements has put together a Seat Guide which we will include here.
Each of the seat backs feature two upper and two lower strap attachments, consisting of two ladder locks each (to total 8) – this is designed to give maximum support. As a starting point, begin by shortening each of the lower two clips on each seat to their shortest position. Then lengthen each of the top straps to about 13 inches, measured from clip tip to ladderlock.
Attach the bottom straps to each of the four upper d-rings and the top straps to each of the d-rings on the floor. Check each seating fit and adjust forward if needed.
If planning on paddling solo, position the seat just rear of center. Attach the top straps to the first set of upper d-rings, and the lower straps to the rear set of lower d-rings. Tighten up the straps so the back is fairly straight, with a slight curve.
If you have straps flopping around, you can tie them up to keep them out of the way.
Last step, install the fin. Flip the kayak over and point the fin towards the rear.
Slide the fin into the fin box. If aligned correctly, the little tab can be pushed back into position, locking the fin. Pull up to make sure it is truly in the locked position.
About Drop Stitch Technology
The term “drop stitch” is a method of construction which allows for much higher inflation and pressures than a standard PVC bladder or floor.
Drop-stitch (DS) material is the same used in the inflatable paddle board market, where thousands of threads string the top and bottom panels together, allowing it to be pumped up to higher pressures, thus making it more rigid. The photo above shows a dropstitch floor on top of a low-pressure PVC floor.
The AirVolutions are innovatively constructed using PVC Tarpaulin laminated to high-pressure drop-stitch material. This gives a smoother finish, increased rigidity and a sculpted outline for greater paddling performance – almost like two inflatable paddle boards connected on the sides.
Features and Specifications on the Advanced Elements AirVolution2
There are two neoprene-covered, padded carrying handles (bow and stern).
There are two soft cones on the nose and tail.
The front hull is sculpted, allowing water to drain off. Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 20 inches wide, tapering to 9 inches wide, and 20 inches deep – includes six d-rings, allowing one to add on various dry packs and gear. The deck lacing begins 20 inches from the nose.
The open deck features a curled coaming, also preventing some water from entering the cockpit. The cockpit begins 45 inches from the nose and measures 21.5 inches wide by 91 inches long.
There are two military valves and two pressure relief valves, one each for the upper deck and the floor.
The pressure relief valves are triggered at 18 PSI, ensuring the chambers are not overinflated. While the optimum inflation pressure is 10-12 PSI, paddlers may find performance acceptable at 6 PSI. Please note: while there are two pressure relief valves, it is not a good idea to leave the kayak sitting in the hot sun.
One 4-inch deep drain well features a screw-on port to allow water to drain out.
There are 4 sets of d-rings, two sets on the floor and two sets on the hull, which can be used for attaching the seats as well as gear.
The two pair of floor d-rings (used for the upper seat straps) are 45 inches apart, with the first set located 27 inches from the cockpit opening (72 inches from the nose) and the second set located 20 inches from the back cockpit opening (55 inches from the tail).
The two pair of upper d-rings (used for the lower seat straps) are 45 inches apart, with the first set located 46 inches from the cockpit opening (90 inches from the nose) and the second set located 39 inches from the tail.
The d-rings are basically positioned 72″, 89″ 117″ and 132″ from the nose.
The high-backed seats are constructed from a sculpted EVA foam. The seat back is 16 inches tall, and 19 inches wide by 1 inch thick. The seat base measures 15 inches wide by 12 inches deep, also 1 inch thick.
There are four straps on the seat back – two upper and two lower – each with two ladder locks. Four stainless steel clips quickly connect to the kayak’s d-rings. The straps can be adjusted from 4 to 24 inches in length.
Rear bungee deck lacing – measuring 18 inches wide, tapering to 11 inches wide, and 9.5 inches deep – includes 4 d-rings, providing more area for attaching gear. The deck lacing begins 15 inches from the tail.
The AirVolution2 comes with an oversized clam shell case with two-way zipper, backpack straps and roller wheels. Case measurements are a generous 45 inches tall by 18.5 inches wide and 15 inches deep. There are two handles – top and one side. The other side features a large mesh pocket 31 x 15 inches with top cinch strap.
A clear, plastic front sleeve pocket measures 16 x 9 inches with zipper. Two backpack straps with waist belt can be stashed in the 21 inch by 18 inch rear chamber. The straps can be adjusted from 15 to 27 inches in length, while the waistband expands from 32 to 50 inches in circumference. Two integrated interior cinch straps allow one to keep the kayak in position.
Two 60-inch cinch straps are provided to tie up the kayak when deflated.
A nifty 9 x 5 x 2.5 inch repair kit contains glue, valve wrench and patch material, but is large enough to keep other small items.
The included dual-action pump can be disassembled into smaller components. When assembled, the pump measures 25 inches tall, 11.5 inches wide at the foot, with a 3-inch barrel. The hose is 48 inches long with one military valve adaptor. The pressure gauge measures up to 20 PSI.
We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 14.5 feet long and 37 inches wide.
The bow upper deck is roughly 45 inches long. The interior well underneath is about 32 inches deep and 23 inches wide, with a max head room of 4.5 inches, tapering down to the sides. The well interior/side walls are about 9 inches deep.
The rear upper deck is roughly 35 inches long. The interior well underneath is about 22 inches deep with a max head room of 5 inches, tapering down to the sides.
In tandem mode, when the front seat is ratcheted close to the upper d-rings, approximately 41 inches of legroom is available from the seat back to the front cockpit, while the rear paddler has 42 inches from the seat back to the front seat back. There are 5 inches behind the rear seat. The front seat could be moved up about 10 inches. Please note that one can’t really put one’s feet inside the front chamber.
When solo paddling, with the back of the seat roughly 3 to 4 inches before the drain well, there is approximately 56 inches from the seat back to the front cockpit, and about 36 inches behind the seat. This can be somewhat repositioned by adjusting the seat straps.
Weight limitations suggest 500 lbs for two persons, or 550 lbs for two persons and gear.
Advanced Elements AirVolution2 On the Water
We first took the AirVolution2 out as a tandem on a mildly choppy day. First impressions – this is one rugged and rigid kayak. The sculpted hull is sleek and the kayak looks great!
The AirVolution paddles and tracks very well, is pretty zippy, though slightly less maneuverable.
It was roomy for the two of us (5’4″ and 6’2″). I managed to get my seat up close enough to use the cockpit as a foot brace, while my husband had his feet fairly straight.
While there are no paddle holders, we stuck the paddles under the front well or bungee deck lacing when carrying. And with the front and rear handles, it is quite easy to carry.
We do want to point out that the 9-inch tracking fin improves paddling performance, but you will also need to launch it in slightly deeper water, and be aware if the water level gets too low.
Each of us then took the AirVolution2 out solo. My husband at 6’2″ found the AirVolution2 to be very roomy, paddling and tracking well. It easily rides over small swells without a blip. He did feel that a 240cm paddle might be better when paddling solo.
Despite my shorter size of 5’4″, the kayak was quite easy to paddle; the dropstitch material makes a huge difference in this situation, as standard low pressure floors in longer kayaks can be sluggish. In fact, I found the floor stiff enough to be able to stand up without any issues. That said, with no foot brace and the long interior space, the AirVolution2 would not be my first choice for solo paddling – the AirVolution single is a much better fit.
There are a few things I want to point out. While the carrying case is big enough to fit most gear needed, at 45 inches tall and 60 lbs filled, it would not be possible for me to carry solo – this is a bag for Paul Bunyan. The roller wheels are also smaller, and thus suitable for only very flat surfaces. I did try to pull it along a gravelly surface, and only succeeded in abrading the base. Thus I would consider this a great bag for containing the kayak and gear, but less so for travel. It also may be too large to fit in the trunk of a small car – you may want to check on the dimensions.
Determined to use it alone, I grabbed an Advanced Elements collapsible dolly cart. Bingo. By strapping the dolly to the nose, I was able to put the paddles in the kayak and wheel it around.
An added bonus is that the dolly frame can slip under the front deck well, and the wheels under the back well while paddling. Or, it could just be packed back into the plastic carrying case and strapped under the bungee deck lacing. We would suggest maybe placing a thin towel around the parts if stashing under the well, so that pointed edges or wheel rubber don’t mark up the body.
The second point is the 10-12 PSI inflation. If you own an inflatable SUP, you know that pumping up to high pressures – while making the board incredibly rigid – is not fun. It can tire you out before you are on the water. While inflating the AirVolution2 to the recommended pressures will enhance the sculpted silhouette, my husband and I found it to perform perfectly well at 6 PSI in both single and tandem mode. So, we are suggesting that you start out lower and go higher only if you feel you need it, or are carrying lots of weight. And as previously mentioned, the use of an electric pump – such as the Advanced Elements 12-Volt, will severely decrease your initial pumping.
As we get so many questions about kayaking with dogs, we show a picture above with my (past) buddy Eddie, out for a spin in another Advanced Elements kayak, the Convertible with dropstitch floor. The material is rugged enough to handle dog claws.
Packing it Up
Deflating the kayak is pretty simple, and there are diagram instructions in the manual. Open the valves and let the air out. Remove the fin and seats. Flatten the body and start folding up roughly 5 times from the rear, and twice from the other end. Then fold over and secure with the included cinch straps. If you need to get out more air, you can put the pump in the deflate mode and pump it out.
Bottom Line on the Advanced Elements AirVolusion2 Kayak:
The Advanced Elements AirVolution series is the next generation of inflatable kayaks. The sculpted profile, sleek lines and bold graphics are visually exciting.
The high-pressure, dropstitch material feels incredibly rugged, rigid and solid. It’s also stable.
And – forgetting about the inflation – with only two chambers the AirVolution is very simple to set up. While the dual-action pump is pretty nifty, this would be a great candidate for one of those high-pressure, electric pumps used in the SUP industry.
The two-chambered smooth surface is easy to clean off/wipe out, without many areas for water to hide. And there are no twisting issues sometimes found with covered bladder design.
As a low-profile, open-cockpit, sit-inside kayak, the AirVolution is best suited for recreational, fairly flat water paddling and day use. It is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets and calmer bays.
It’s also very easy to get into.
As a tandem, it is roomy, paddles smoothly and is zippy. Yet it’s versatile enough to be used solo with mega-room for gear.
Smaller paddlers looking for a solo option should take a look at the 38 lb AE3029 AirVolution single (shown above), which will be easier to carry and a little bit less exertion to pump up. The single version is