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.
We initially posted a Sneak Preview on a pre-production sample of the solo AirVolution as well as a complete review on the AirVolution2 tandem.
Hot weather, fires, power outages and inventory shortages prevented us from reviewing the single Airvolution. This week we took the opportunity to check out the Advanced Elements AirVolution AE3029 (Patent Pending), a 13 foot high-pressure inflatable kayak weighing in at roughly 39 lbs.
Getting Started with the AirVolution
The box as received weighs 56 lbs, measuring 39 x 21 x 13 inches.
Inside, is a super-sized, backpack-style carrying case with wheels (6 lbs) , kayak body (37 lbs), an EVA seat (2.2 lbs), 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 49 lbs, while the kayak body with seat is 39 lbs. The folded kayak size is roughly 35 x 18 x 13 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 AirVolution 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 AirVolution 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 30 strokes before the gauge needle started registering. At 50 pumps we were at 3 PSI and it was still easy. By 60 full strokes we were at 6PSI and pumping was beginning to get tough. At 70 strokes we were at 8 PSI and stopped – while the instructions suggest 10-12 PSI is optimum, our experience is that 8 PSI is just fine.
We then moved on to the second chamber, the floor. As the floor chamber is larger, it took 70 strokes in double action mode before the gauge started moving. At 85 pumps we were at 3 PSI and by 110 pumps (getting tough!) we were at 8PSI and stopped. The last 10 or so pumps were rough – switching to single mode would be much easier.
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. While we did not use it on the solo version, we did use it on the tandem. Without using an adaptor, we 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 seat. There are no details in the included manual, but Advanced Elements has put together a Seat Guide which we will include below.
The seat back features 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 12 inches, measured from clip tip to ladder lock.
Position the seat back a few inches from the rear cockpit.
Attach the bottom straps to each of the two upper d-rings at the upper rear of the cockpit opening, and the two top straps to each of the d-rings on the floor. 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. The first time was a little tough, and we needed to straddle the back of the kayak and pull – the second time it slid in easily. 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.
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.
This is probably a good time to point out a frequently asked question – what are those bumps on the bottom of my kayak?
With drop-stitch material, the upper and lower panels of tarpaulin (the outer skin that you see) are held together with thousands of threads – this allows the bladders to be inflated to high pressure. In order to insert the valve and pressure relief valve into the drop-stitch material, some of these threads need to be cut away at that spot, creating a bump on the opposite side of these valves. Additionally, to create the V-hull shape at the boat’s entry, threads are also cut away. This is part of the construction process and nothing to be concerned about.
Features and Specifications on the Advanced Elements AirVolution
There are two neoprene-covered, padded carrying handles (bow and stern) with two soft cones on the nose and tail. (AirKayaks note: The AirVolutions have blue nose cones. Some of the pictures below show the kayak with black nose cones – these were photos taken while paddling the preproduction sample.)
The front hull is sculpted, allowing water to drain off. Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 18 inches wide, tapering to 9 inches wide, and 20 inches deep – includes six stainless steel d-rings, allowing one to add on various dry packs and gear. The deck lacing begins 27 inches from the nose.
The open deck features a curled coaming, also preventing some water from entering the cockpit. The cockpit begins 52 inches from the nose and measures 19 inches wide by 49.5 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 to 8 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 2 sets of d-rings, one set on the floor and one set on the hull, which can be used for attaching the seat as well as gear.
The floor d-rings (used for the upper seat straps) are located 32 inches from the cockpit opening while the second set of d-rings are located 16 inches further back, on the upper rear cockpit, positioned 14 inches apart. The d-rings are basically positioned 86 inches and 101 inches from the nose.
The high-backed seat is 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 (see photo during the setup section). 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 21 inches wide, tapering to 8.5 inches wide, and 20 inches deep – includes 6 d-rings, providing more area for attaching gear. The deck lacing begins 11 inches behind the seating well.
A 9-inch removable, deep-water tracking fin increases paddling performance while the underside features a sculpted hull or “chine”.
The AirVolution comes with an oversized clam shell case with two-way zipper, backpack straps and roller wheels. Case measurements are a generous 40 inches tall by 18.5 inches wide and 11 inches deep. There are two handles – top and one side. The other side features a large mesh pocket 10 x 25 inches with top cinch strap.
A clear, plastic front sleeve pocket measures 14 x 8.5 inches with zipper. Two backpack straps with waist belt can be stashed in the 20 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.
One 60-inch cinch strap is 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 13 feet long and 33 to 34 inches wide.
Both the bow upper and stern decks are roughly 54 inches long. The interior wells under the decks are wedge-shaped. The bow inner well is about 21 inches wide initially and 36 inches deep with a max headroom of roughly 5 inches. The rear interior well is about 38 inches deep and initially 23 inches wide with a max head room of 4.5 inches, tapering down. The well interior/side walls are about 7 inches deep.
With the seat positioned all the way to the back, measurements are 46″ from the seat back to front cockpit. While there is not a foot brace, the front well can be utilized as one. Please note that one can’t really put one’s feet inside the front chamber.
The seat can be moved up about 13 inches, allowing a shorter person to utilize the deck as a foot brace.
Weight limitations suggest 235 lbs for one person, or 300 lbs for person and gear.
Advanced Elements AirVolution On the Water
We each took the AirVolution out for a maiden voyage in mild chop. Both of us felt the kayak paddled and tracked well, was rugged and incredibly stable. It easily rides over swells. The sculpted hull allows water to drain off, and the smooth skin is very easy to dry. Everything in the package looks great, from the graphics and sculpted silhouette to the EVA-foam molded seat and included accessories. I subsequently took the AirVolution out on a calm day. Wow1 The kayak is responsive, has great glide and tracks well. It was a joy to paddle.
At 5’4″, I found that moving the seat up 9 inches from the rear well allowed me to be balanced and use the front deck as a foot brace. In fact, I found the floor stiff enough to be able to stand up without any issues.
At 6’2″, my husband had the seat all the way to the back. While his knees were slightly bent, he actually prefers that position when paddling. With “water socks” on, he was able to lay his legs down flat. So, I would feel comfortable saying the AirVolution can be paddled by customers up to 6’2″.
He did note that the deep water fin provides improved tracking, but one needs to push the kayak into deeper water when launching so the fin doesn’t “hang up.”
As the seat features a four-way ratchet design with 2 ladder locks per buckle, it is a little daunting at first. To set the seat up properly, you want to even the straps and get the seat back as vertical as possible, then ratchet the buckles to get curvature.
While there are no side handles, one can hook the kayak over one’s shoulder while transporting.
There are two things I want to point out. While the carrying case is big enough to fit most gear needed, at 40 inches tall and 49 lbs filled, it is too unwieldy for me (at 5’4) to use as a backpack. The roller wheels are also smaller, and thus suitable for only very flat surfaces. 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.
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 AirVolution to the recommended pressures will enhance the sculpted silhouette, my husband and I found it to perform perfectly well at 6-8 PSI. 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 of a woman paddling her AirVolution with her canine companion. The material is rugged enough to handle dog claws.
Packing the AirVolution 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 once from the other end – you basically want it narrow enough to fit in the bag. Then fold over and secure with the included cinch strap. 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 AirVolution
The Advanced Elements AirVolution series is the next generation of inflatable kayaks and a wonderful addition to the recreational flat water paddling niche. The sculpted profile, sleek lines and bold graphics are visually exciting – it looks great!
The entire kayak features an innovative construction using PVC Tarpaulin laminated to high-pressure drop-stitch material – this gives increased rigidity and a sculpted outline for greater paddling performance. The v-shaped hull design in the bow and removable deep-water fin increase tracking performance, allowing the AirVolution to slice through the water.
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.
The high-pressure, dropstitch material feels incredibly rugged, rigid and solid. It’s also very stable and very easy to get into.
The sculpted EVA foam seat can be ratcheted four-ways, providing maximum support, adjustability and comfort.
Front and rear bungee deck lacing provide plenty of options to attach gear, yet there are still options for storing small items under the decks
And with only two chambers to inflate, 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.
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.
Larger paddlers looking for a solo option should take a look at the 52 lb AE3030 AirVolution2 tandem (shown above), which will be roomier and hold more gear.