Last year, AquaGlide unveiled their updated inflatable kayak lineup for 2020, which included a series of new models – Deschutes, McKenzies and Navarros – with revamps to the Chinook model. For 2021, Aquaglide completed the line by redesigned two remaining models – the Chelans and the Blackfoots.
With inventory rapidly becoming as scarce as the 2020 paddling season, we decided to snag a few of the new models for inflation and review, initially focusing on the AquaGlide Chelans.
Our first review on AquaGlide’s revised products for 2021 was on the Chelan 120, an 11′ 4″ long, high-pressure, inflatable kayak designed for solo paddling. We will now turn to the Chelan 155, a 15’6″ foot tandem that is roomy enough for 2+ paddlers, yet can still be paddled solo. (Please note: some of the information will be repeated from other writeups.)
Getting Started with the Aquaglide Chelan 155:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable kayak, backpack, instructions, 2 foot braces, tracking fin, 2 Pro-formance seats, one jumper seat, valve adaptor, four mesh pouches, two plastic splash guards and a repair kit. The repair kit contains glue, patch material, valve wrench, instructions, adaptor, screws for the universal mount and some repair brushes. First thing to note – the kayak is nicely packaged with bubble wrap protecting valves, handles, etc. Also to note – the repair kit features generous-sized repair patches.
Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs approximately 38 lbs. The kayak with seats, fin and braces – all in the backpack – weighs 54 lbs with a backpack size of roughly 39 x 17 x 18 inches. All boxed up, the dimensions are 30 x 22 x 16 inches with a shipping weight of 61 lbs.
(AirKayaks Side note #1: When initially removing the kayak from the carrying case, take a good look at how the kayak is folded. This is probably the most overlooked step and it is VERY helpful when trying to get the kayak back into the bag.)
We started off by reading the instructions. While Aquaglide’s manuals were somewhat sketchy in the past, the included instructions were detailed and easy to use (all languages are now in their own section). Additionally, a QR Code tag is now attached to the kayak; a quick scan with your cell phone allows you to access the instructions online.
Set up is straight-forward and simple – unpack, unfold, inflate.
There are three military valves (both sides and the floor) with three more small chambers utilizing a twistlock valve for the seat bases. 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).
The instructions say to pump up the side chambers to 3 PSI, first.
The Chelan 155 military valves require a special adaptor, which does not come with most standard pumps, but this is included in the repair kit. The Aquaglide military adaptor couples to the valve with a Boston valve adaptor; this is a common fitting which is slightly conical and about 1/2 inch thick. Friction fit the adaptor onto the Boston valve fitting, then attach the fitting to the military valve with a slight twist. It is helpful to use a pump with pressure gauge to ensure the kayak is inflated appropriately.
We closed the valve, attached the pump and began to inflate. It took 58 strokes with a double-action hand pump to reach 3 PSI on one side – please note that the gauge needle did not start registering until 45 pumps.
While we had no issues, we have had some in the past and would like to point this out. The military valve adaptor has a bar across the inside, which pushes open the spring valve, allowing pressure gauges to take a reading. While this is great when working correctly, if you haven’t securely coupled the military adaptor to the Boston valve fitting, the hose can blow off, allowing all the air to escape. If you experience this, recouple the adaptors, pressing on tightly, and make sure you do not pull on the hose to remove the fitting, but twist off the adaptor from the valve. This can also be rectified by gluing the adaptor onto the Boston valve fitting, or roughing up the BV fitting surface so there is “more grab.”
We moved over to the second side chamber. At this point we decided to try out Kokopelli’s new miracle pump, the Feather. The Feather pump is a very small (fits in your palm), rechargeable 12-volt battery pump that can inflate and deflate.
The Feather pump comes with a number of adaptors, but we found it easiest to use no adaptor. There are two ways to do it. 1) Put the valve in the open position, hold the Feather over the valve and let it rip. When it stops filling, quickly close the valve. Or (2) While the valve is in the closed position, hold the Feather over the valve with an edge pressing down on the plunger. When it stops filling, pull the pump up and the plunger self closes.
We opted for scenario (2). After 1 minute 12 seconds, the tube had fairly much filled out (you can hear a change in the motor), so we pulled back on the pump. We then topped it off to 3 PSI with 17 quick pumps using the hand pump – quite an energy saver! See our detailed review on the Feather Pump.
In the past, there were sometimes “twisting” issues with the bladders, but these inflated perfectly centered.
We then moved on to the floor, which is inflated 4 to 6 PSI. Once we began pumping, we realized that the floor straps (designed to keep the floor attached to the kayak body) were a little too tight. We loosened them slightly and continued. At 30 pumps, the needle started registering. It took us 45 pumps to get to 5 PSI, at which point it was getting very tough. So we stopped and cinched up the floor straps.
Replace the valve caps on each of the valves. The caps provide an extra level of air seal, as well as keeping dirt out of the wells and preventing the valve from being accidentally “opened.
Next attach the seats – these stay in position utilizing velcro and adjustable side straps. First, inflate the ProFormance seat bases, which uses a twistlock valve. Twist open the valve. While you can fit the military valve adaptor over the twistlok, we found it easier to inflate with one’s mouth. It took about 8 puffs to fill it out to somewhat firm; later on you can adjust until you find the right comfort level. Twist the valve shut.
Position the rear seat back so that it is roughly 6 inches from the end of the velcro strips, and connect the side straps to the 4th set of d-rings and the back straps to any loop behind the seat.
While not mentioned in the instructions, a pair of straps on the back of the seat can be used to provide more rigidity. Simply run the straps through one of the cloth loops on the floor (in this case we used the loops that were positioned right behnind the seat) and thread them back through the ladder locks. These can also be removed and used to cinch up the kayak when folded.
Tighten the straps – these can be readjusted when on the water to get the support that is most comfortable.
We then placed the front seat so that the base was 6 inches back from the forward edge of the 2nd set of velcro strips. There are four sets of d-rings on the upper side tube – attach the quick-connect clips on the seat straps to the first set of d-rings.
If bringing along a child or small friend, inflate the center jumper seat and position it on the velcro several inches behind the front seat back; the rear paddler may-or-may-not need the foot brace.
Now install the two unmarked, plastic pieces – these are the splash guards which are meant to stiffen the front and rear visors. Open the velcro flaps and insert the plastic into the two side pockets. Close the velcro flaps to secure the pieces.
Next place the foot braces on the velcro strips. You will readjust this when in the kayak so that your legs are slightly bent when pressing against them.
The last step is to attach the removable tracking fin, which enhances paddling/tracking in deeper water. Remove the fin pin/plate from the fin, and drop the plate into the center of the slot, moving it forward (it’s sometimes easiest to use the pin/screw to push it.) Make sure the fin is pointing towards the rear of the kayak, then insert the front of the fin into the groove, pushing back and down, to lock the back end.
Then slide forward until the hole in the fin plate lines up with the hole in the fin, and screw in the retaining pin. At this point, pull up on the fin to make sure you have it locked in position.
As a last check, make sure the side/floor drain plugs are screwed in tightly, otherwise water will seep in.
That’s it! In about 10 minutes you’re ready to paddle.
Features and Specifications on the Aquaglide Chelan 155 Inflatable Kayak
The kayak body features tubeless side chambers constructed from 1000 denier 850 GSM Duratex reinforced PVC with a smooth, quick-drying finish.
The Chelan 155 has four molded carrying handles with textured grip (bow, stern and both sides), but can very easily be carried by hooking the side of the kayak over your shoulder. The side handles are located 91 inches from the bow.
Two spray decks – front and rear – help in preventing water from entering the cockpit. The front deck features a bungee deck-lacing system for attaching gear. The bungee deck lacing begins 16 inches from the nose, and measures 3 to 15 inches wide by 21 inches long. There are 4 sets of cloth d-rings. The deck extends 39 inches over the seating area.
The rear deck extends 30 inches with lacing measuring 13 inches long by 14 inches wide tapering to 5 inches, and 6 cloth loops; this begins 14 inches from the stern.
Two spray visors (front and rear) – each with one gear loop – rise 5 inches to help deflect splashing water.
New on the 2021 Chelans are 4 sets of 15-inch MOLLE strips – 2 each side. These feature a series of 9 loops 1.5 inches apart. The first set of molle strips begin just over the front drain wells, putting them at 56 inches from the nose. The second strips are situated by the rear paddler, roughly 110 inches from the snout. The strips can be used to fasten all types of gear, such as the Aquaglide cup holder or fishing attachments.
The Chelan 155 comes with four mesh pockets 12 x 4 inches with 2 drawstring cords. These can be mounted on the molle plates to store small items.
Two Scotty-style universal mounts are centered on the floor, just before each the seat, or about 59 and 114 inches from the bow. This can also be used for attaching gear.
There are four sets of stainless steel d-rings located on the upper portion of the side bladders. handles (two each side) used to attach the seats as well as gear. The d-rings are positioned 69, 91, 100 and 123 inches from the bow.
The floor is constructed from a 4-6 PSI high-pressure, drop-stitch material, and is designed as “raised seating,” creating 3 sets of 3-inch deep side-well cutouts that collect any water splashing inside; each side-well has a drain plug which can be opened to let water out when riding through surf (make sure they are closed in flatwater). The wells are located 45, 92 and 132 inches from the snout. A 7th floor drain plug is located in the stern.
Three sets of velcro strips are centered on the floor three inches apart, and are used to position the seats and foot braces. The first set is is 9.5 inches long, 2.5 inches apart and 1.5 inches wide, beginning 45 inches from the bow – these are for the foot brace. The second set begins 63 inches from the nose and extends 45 inches. The third set is 28 inches long and used to position the rear seat.
The foot braces are padded – 10 x 3 inches long – with extending strips 10 inches in length, allowing for variable positioning.
There are 16 sets of cloth loops positioned between the floor and side walls; these can be used to attach gear. The loops are positioned from 42 to 153 inches from the nose, and vary from 3 to 10 inches apart.
Two buckling straps keep the floor in position.
There are three military valves for the floor and side chambers, and three twistlocks for the seat bases.
The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant 500 denier 600G Duratex reinforced PVC with removable tracking fin and landing plate. The Positrak weedless fin uses a universal fin box, so can be easily replaced if lost.
The padded, inflatable Pro-Formance seats features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position The straps can be adjusted up to 14 inches. The seat bases are 16 inches wide by 16 inches deep and can be inflated up to 5 inches, dependent on your comfort level. Two mesh pockets and two side d-rings (1) are found on the front of the seat base.
The seat back is equipped with 2 fishing rod holders, one d-ring on each side and a deep mesh storage pocket (measuring 5 x 8 x 9 inches) for gear. The backs are 12 inches tall in a 1-inch thick padded foam with “breathable” mesh, encircling 26-inches wide. A velcro tab locks the twist-lok into position so it doesn’t accidentally “get bumped” while paddling.
The new Crossroads DLX Backpack is constructed from a rugged 600d Polyester/PVC laminate and heavy duty components. Two-way zippers run along three sides, allowing the pack to be completely opened for easy access and stowage. The fully padded shoulder straps are adjustable, with chest straps and waist belt support for comfort. With dimensions of 39 x 17 x 13 inches and a 141 liter capacity, the bag is over-sized, allowing you to carry the kayak, pump and paddle. Extra compression straps on both sides keep the load centered, while the two mesh side pockets and adjustable bungee cords on the back let you store extra gear. A zipper pocket allows the straps to hide away when not in use.
Included with the repair kit is a set of bolts which can be used with the universal mount (nuts are not needed) as well as some brushes should a patch ever be needed.
We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 15 feet 4 inches long from end cap to end cap, and approximately 36 inches wide – very close to the specs. The side bladders are roughly 9-10 inches in diameter, making the sides 8 inches above the seating area.
Interior dimensions are approximately 142 inches long (length of floor chamber) by approximately 16 inches at the widest point; as the ProFormance seat allows one to sit up higher, the width is a bit of a moot point.
Dependent on where the seats are positioned (we’ll use the layout mentioned above, with the front seat positioned 6 inches from the beginning of the second velcro strips, and the rear seat back positioned 6 inches from the end of the velcro strips), there are 66 inches from the front seat back to the inner snout. The front brace can be moved from 30 to 44 inches from the seat back. There are 56 inches from the front seat back to rear seat back. The rear brace can be positioned 30 to 54 inches from the seat back. The jumper seat can be positioned anywhere between the two; it is possible to have one’s legs extend around the jumper seat, though it is roughly 32 inches from the rear seat back to the jumper seat. There are 28 inches behind the rear seat, 9 inches are open. The rear well measures 11 inches wide, tapering to a point. Both seats can move forward 12 to 15 inches, while the front seat can also move back 12 inches.
If set up as a solo kayak, position the seat just rear of center (seat back about 3 inches behind the 3rd set of d-rings) and use the 2nd set of d-rings to attach the seat straps. This gives 46 inches of open space behind the seat, and 62 inches before the seat. Additional space is available under the decks.
Weight limitation is 600 lbs for persons and gear.
Aquaglide Chelan 155 inflatable kayak on the water
My husband and I took out the Chelan 155 for a couple of spins. The Chelan as a tandem kayak paddles extremely well, tracks straight, feels solid and is ROOMY. At our heights of 5’4″ and 6’2″, we had room to spare (and thus not clanging our paddles), and could easily see room for a small child, dog or camping gear. The ability to move the seat and foot brace to a multitude of positions is a plus.
My husband took out the kayak solo, with the seat attached just slightly rear of center. The open cockpit allows him to easily get in and out without feeling cramped, and the high pressure floor provides enough stability to enter from the water. He found it to paddle very well, with the seats high enough that knuckle-rub was not an issue. (Photo above shows the prior color scheme.)
I took the Chelan out solo. At my height of 5-4, the kayak tracked and paddled well, seating felt good and it was quite rigid – I could easily stand up in the kayak without fear of tipping, so stability is not an issue here. Turning was a little bit of a challenge, but if you’re paddling a shoreline, not an issue. I will point out that – as a smaller paddler – I would probably opt for the Chelan 140 as a solo.
While I did not get a chance to take out our paddling buddy Woody, we did take him out in the previous Chelan 155. It was roomy enough for the three of us (shown in the photo above) and despite his repeated interest in all floating objects, the material was rugged enough that there were no worries about sharp claws.
The one thing I should note. If you are planning on taking the kayak out solo, be aware that this 15 ft kayak is tough enough to carry alone, and nearly impossible in windy conditions. As a smaller person, the Chelan 155 would not be my first choice to paddle solo – the shorter length of the Chelan 140 is easier to handle. Take a word to the wise – take a look at one of the breakdown dollies such as the Advanced Elements kayak cart, which will make your life easier, AND allow you to pack your gear inside.
I do need to note that there are no paddleholders; one needs to stuff the paddle under the deck, or under the deck lacing, though the splash guard gets in the way.
I did attempt to use the mesh bags with the molle strips – typically one would just push the strings on the mesh bag through the loops. But the molle strips on the Chelan 155 I used were sewn on too tightly to attach while fully inflated. This could be solved my adding a couple of inexpensive carabiners to the loops.
I also want to point out that – while the carrying case is big enough to fit most gear needed – at 39 inches tall, it is not possible for me to use it as a backpack without hitting the back of my knees. And the only carrying handle is on top, so very difficult to carry as a case. One’s only option is to try and sling the backpack strap over one shoulder, or paddle with a tall friend.
Last of all, the kayak is very easy to fold up. If you use the pump to deflate the kayak compactly, the bag is spacious enough to carry the kayak, seats and braces and opens wide enough to easily get the kayak back into the pack.
Bottom line on the AquaGlide Chelan 155 inflatable kayak
The Chelan 155 is a great, highly-versatile inflatable kayak. The ability to easily switch from solo to tandem – and even to a third person or lots of gear – is a bonus. The velcro strips on the floor allow infinite seating and brace positions, which can be customized specifically for the paddler(s).
The open cockpit design will appeal to those who are uncomfortable being enclosed, paddlers who need easy entry and exit (such as seniors or those with physical limitations), those in need of a quick dip on a hot summer day or kayakers who don’t require decks.
The “tubeless” construction brings the kayak body and seats to 45 lbs, (54 lbs all in the bag) making it fairly lightweight despite it’s 600 lbs carrying capacity and roomy 15 foot 4 inch length.
The Duratex smooth skin and multiple drain plugs allow water to run off the skin and out of the crevices, making drying times much shorter. The plugs can also be opened to get through surf or mild whitewater.
Numerous “attentions to detail” have been incorporated, such as universal Scotty-style mounts, molle plates, multiple attachment loops, deck lacing and infinite seating positions. When cinched, the seat back provides a good amount of support, while the inflatable seat base is a real plus, allowing one to vary inflation pressures as well as seat height.
The high-pressure floor provides extreme rigidity.
The longer waterline provides good glide and the tracking fin increases the handling performance. It’s a good choice for rivers through class II, lakes, coastal and ocean touring.
The Chelan 155 is highly portable – it rolls up surprisingly well and can fit into the trunk of a small car or an RV.
The Chelan 155 is a great choice for two paddlers needing room for extra gear or a small companion or as a solor for a larger paddler. If there is a need for solo paddling often, the Chelan 140 might be a better choice for smaller paddlers (shown above).
Street price is $1299.99. For more details or to purchase, visit the AquaGlide Chelan 155 Tandem XL product page at AirKayaks.com. You can also watch a YouTube video on the Chelan 155 HB Tandem XL, below.