Folding Kayaks Forum

Inflatable choices
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Author:  Jake [ Wed Mar 06, 2019 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Inflatable choices

I’ve been thinking about replacing/supplementing my Feathercraft Kurrent for an inflatable to be used in Florida’s Gulf Coast waters during the winter months and as a take-along for casual paddling when traveling. The Innova Safari seemed attractive mostly because of its light weight, easy set-up, small packed size and reputation as good performer for so short a boat and one that would be fun to paddle. And, my wife having been shown a photo of the Safari, without hesitation pronounced it to be “so ugly that it’s cute”. But now it appears that the manufacturer has replaced the original Safari with an version that’s slightly longer and considerably wider which causes me to wonder if this new Safari 330 is, like most inflatables, more barge than boat. Another inflatable that has recently got my attention is the Razorlite 393. The Razorlite has a greater length to width ratio making it potentially more efficient and it’s manufactured using drop-stitch technology that should enhance general performance. The trade off is the greater weight of the Razorlight as well as certain design factors that I find suspect. And I’m not sure just how well it measures up in the highly subjective “fun” category. I really don’t expect any inflatable to perform as well as a skin-on-frame folder any more than I’d expect a folder to perform at the level of a lightweight, monocoque hardshell kayak. At this time I’m simply looking for input from any forum members who have experience with inflatables regardless of their type.

Thanks, Jake

Author:  Jeremiah [ Wed Mar 06, 2019 11:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Hi Jake,

I don't have the experience with inflatables but like you I have been researching them and was seriously considering the Feathercraft Aironaut. I have not paddled one or seen it in person but the Innova Swing EX LN looks very impressive and almost resembles the Aironaut. It seems to meet most of your criteria. There is a very detailed description of one at (and they are on sale).

Author:  siravingmon [ Thu Mar 07, 2019 7:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Hi Jake,

Alternatively, you could look for someone who has a secondhand incept K 40 for sale. Ideal for warm Florida waters due to the possibility of unzipping the deck :-)

Author:  onsafari [ Thu Mar 07, 2019 7:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Hi Jake

First off, the feathercraft aironaut - awesome as it is/was - is no longer produced, so only available used if you can find one.

The Safari has gone through a number of iterations, each getting progressively less tippy and more user friendly. I have the model that came two before the 330 and it's my favourite of all of the Gumotexes (Innovas) that I own. I haven't paddled the 330 but from Laurent Nicolet's vids, it looks to have retained most of the sporty characteristics of its predecessors

Gumotex has now fully taken over Innova, so you get more of the range in the US than you used to (but not all of it) and there are still some discrepancies between the fabrics used. (The Framura, for example, which is the euro version of the Swing EX that Jeremiah highlighted, has always been made of full thickness nitrilon but the Swing EX is made of the light version. The ranges will probably align fully in due course once old stock is sold off.)

No experience of the dropstitch sea eagles I'm afraid, although if it was my money I'd be looking at the cheaper and seemingly better designed dropstitch Itiwit X500. Not sure whether you can get it sent to the US but might be worth exploring.

If you want something small and light then the Innova Twist might be worth a look. It's light nitrilon in the US and on sale with a 20% discount. It's 10lbs lighter than the 330 and packs smaller too. You lose the Safari's performance, but that may not matter so much depending on the type of paddling you're looking to do in it. However, you're also starting to stray into packraft territory - not really my thing but check out Chris's excellent blog

Author:  Jeremiah [ Thu Mar 07, 2019 2:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

To onsafari

Unfortunately I'm painfully aware that the aironaut and the great Feathercraft company are no longer. I mentioned the aironaut because I knew Jake was very interested in purchasing one and I thought the Innova model I suggested was similar in many ways. I appreciate your knowledge of this company and would love to hear your opinion of the lighter nitrilon material compared to the heavier version. Do you feel it is robust enough or only for light duty?

Author:  Jake [ Sat Mar 09, 2019 9:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Thankyou all for your helpful advice. As Jeremiah notes, I was ready to place my order for one of Feathercraft’s lovely and wonderfully named Aironaut inflatables. 14 feet long, a relatively slender 26 inch beam and weighing in at just 20 pounds. And then Feathercraft’s claim that it could be inflated and paddle ready in just six minutes. What was not to like? Unhappily, when I called Theresa at Feathercraft with credit card in hand, she informed me that, alas, the Aironaut had been discontinued and there were no plans for future production. Apparently there were some production “issues” that made the Aironaut more costly to make and, thus, less profitable. I considered a used Aironaut but read a couple of reports on the forum of boats developing seam failures and so I gave up thinking about what might have been close to the ideal inflatable, at least for me. Still, the Aironaut’s design, paddling potential and weight yet intrigue me and I’d like to see Gumotex with its long experience with inflatable design and manufacture develop a boat similar to the Aironaut: lightweight, durable enough to withstand the occasional bump or two and with performance potential approaching that of a folder of similar length. If I could find a lightweight inflatable that would perform as well as my Kurrent but weighing 11 pounds less, I’d likely be on the phone, credit card once again in hand. I see that Gumotex has added a boat they call the Thaya to their line which uses drop-stitch technology to allow for a higher inflation pressure, thus making it considerably more rigid and perhaps somewhat heavier. But at 39 pounds my seventy-seven year old body sends a strong “no” message to its boat besotted brain. If I were to chance a guess, I’d say that that the market for well-designed, lightweight, inflatable kayaks using new technology and highly durable, lightweight material like Gumotex’s nitrilon has a good deal of upside to it and maybe it will be Gumotex that produces the next iteration of the Aironaut. In the meanwhile, I’ll follow up on these and other suggestions. Thanks, Jake

Author:  ChrisvonS [ Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Interesting changes and great sale prices at Innova right now.
I wonder what's on the Gumo-horizon: more D/S perhaps?

The 2019 Twist 2 (which can move seats for 1) is a speed-useful foot longer, just an inch wider but a kilo heavier than a self-bailing 330.
And is (or soon will be) in proper Nitrilon which which may well hack the Florida UV better.
Or get the dead cheap and lighter old T2 in the sale.

Yet to try one, but I do wonder how these flat, D/S floored IKs like the Thaya handle at sea. Even more barge-like than a conventional, rounder-hulled IK, I suspect. But maybe DS has become cheaper to make than I-beam IKs with Seawave- Incept- or Grabner-like pressure levels.
Rigid sure makes a difference - and there are times when you want that at sea.

Author:  onsafari [ Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices


From what I can gather from my rudimentary Czech/google translate, offering two thicknesses of nitrilon is nothing new to Gumotex. Twenty or so years ago, they did 'normal' thickness (500 or so denier if memory serves) and the more robust 1100 (I think) denier, with boats made from the thicker stuff identified by EX. I don't know why they dropped the thinner option but I would speculate that, given the choice, most people chose extra toughness over lighter weight particularly as there wasn't much difference in price as far as I recall. That's not to say that the thinner material of the time was poor. I have a very vintage Barum-Gumotex that is made of it and it feels plenty tough, with no patches on it.

As you probably know, Gumotexes are very labour intensive to make so I'm guessing that in recent years they have looked to compete on price with boats at the lower end of the market by saving on materials costs in the form of a thinner fabric. They've had various attempts at it in the last decade but clearly it isn't satisfactory. I don't know why exactly, although I have read a couple of google-translated reports of the most recent light nitrilon ripping badly in circumstances that you'd expect a full nitrilon boat to simply bounce off. I must admit that I find these surprising but I suppose we have to take them at face value. I would imagine though that in most scenarios the light nitrilon would be fine and the boats made from it do benefit from being lighter to carry (a very important but often under-emphasised quality).

Jake, have you looked at the MRS Nomad? Chris talks about it on his blog - it's somewhere between packraft and kayak ... ft-review/

Author:  Jeremiah [ Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Thanks onsafari for all that detail! I also went to the website you recommended to Jake and found even more information on Gumotex IK 's. Now I don't know if I should recommend the Innova Swing EX LN because it is a last season closeout and apparently Gumotex is dropping the Light Nitrilon. Then again there may not be any issues at all with this kayak. I suppose a call to might clear some things. Certainly a lot going on between what is sold in the US and what is sold in Europe which can be confusing.

Author:  onsafari [ Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

I think The Boat People would probably be worth a call too. Their website is a bit out of date with regard to the Gumotex/Innova developments but they have a very solid reputation as being honest and pretty impartial. This is what they said about the introduction in 2017 of light nitrilon for the Twists and Swings (the fabric being upgraded was called lite-pack and was fairly universally disliked because it did not have the smooth rubber outer):

"Innova now makes all the Twists and Swings in a material with a layer of nitryl coating on the exterior, as opposed to the bare nylon fabric they had for the previous nine years. This coating is not as thick as what’s used on the Solar, Safari, and other heavy duty models, but it provides at least some abrasion resistance compared to older Twists & Swings. It also allows faster drying times, plus easier clean-up with less staining. While the new fabric adds a little weight to each Twist or Swing, among the better quality inflatable kayak brands these are still the lightest you can buy. Since the coating isn’t overly thick, we do recommend you refrain from paddling them up onto, or off of, rocky shores"

Author:  Jake [ Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

Unlike with traditional folding paddle craft, it would seem that most inflatables are designed with the recreational paddler in mind rather than the the small number of paddling enthusiasts looking for “serious” inflatable kayaks. Maybe this will change with the increasing use of drop-stitch technology such as Sea Eagle uses in their Razorlite 393 but for now my choice would be for one of Gumotex/Innova boats. As noted, there are attractive discounts with a few of the Innova boats but these are all made with “nitrilon light” which is, apparently, being discontinued by Gumotex. As much as the thought of a very light weight boat seems attractive, I am skeptical about the material simply because it’s being phased out. So, at this point, I think I’d have to make a choice between either the Safari 330 or the Twist 2/1 which are both made of the highly durable nitrilon though the Twist, it seems, is available only through Gumotex and not Innova in the U.S. Anyway, thanks for all the good feed back. It’s always good fun thinking about one’s next boat.

Author:  zzffnn [ Sat Mar 16, 2019 1:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

This Itiwit / Decathlon X500 drop stitch kayak weights at 35 lbs (about 12.5' long and 25" wide) and has a very unique v shaped hull (unlike all other DS flat bottomed kayaks I have seen): ... view-video ... kayak/amp/

It may be too heavy for Jake though.

I have not tried it, but a very technical kayaker friend of mine is saving up to buy one.

Author:  Jake [ Sun Mar 17, 2019 9:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Inflatable choices

I like the looks of the Itiwit but I’ve decided that for paddling in warmer waters an open boat makes more sense. A slathering of #30 sunblock on exposed skin is all that’s needed. I’d also like to use my IK in the light summer surf along the New Jersey beaches and an open boat seems to be just the thing for that sort of messing about. The wee little Innova Twist might be fun for playing in a gentle three foot surf as well as exploring serpentine mangrove tunnels in Gulf Coast bayous where paddling efficiency is less important than maneuverability and the Safari would certainly be a good choice for more boisterous conditions. But the most overriding concern to me, now in my late seventies, is weight. Thirty years ago I bought my first kayak. It was made of heavy plastic an weighed about 55 pounds and I thought nothing of tossing it over my shoulder and on and off the roof rack and even carrying it several hundred feet or more to a launch site. Those days are long past and weight has become an important consideration in any paddle craft that I might acquire in whatever time remains to me to be afloat with a paddle in my hands.

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