Hybrid (DS Floor) Inflatable Kayaks
At under £450 on amazon UK today* and actually in stock too, the bold new graphics on the 2022 Aqua Marina Steam 412 hybrid (DS-F) does seem a lot of IK for your money in the longer, solo/double category we’re into here at IK&P.
Fyi: a ‘hybrid’ is an IK with a stiff, flat drop-stitch floor (DS-F; ideally removable), but with conventional, lower pressure round side tubes (right). In my limited experience it’s a better solution than most FDS, all-dropstich IKs.
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What they say
The STEAM series is one of the best inflatable touring kayaks on the market. The combination of superior hull speed, outstanding durability and tracking capabilities make this kayak best in class. Both STEAM-312 and STEAM-412 mix Aqua Marina super-tough reinforced PVC material and rigid drop-stitched DWF floor. These ultra-stiff materials in the STEAM’s construction make a portable air-kayak so rigid that performs just as good as a traditional hard shell kayak. A perfect choice for long distance adventures and mild river running.
Length is – you guessed it – a spacious and potentially nippy 4.12 metres or 13.6′; width is a reasonable 90cm or 34″, plus a claimed 15.5kg (34.2 lbs) for the boat in the bag with a stated payload of 180 kilos.
Oddly, the stated pressures of 1.4 psi (0.01 bar) for the side tubes are barely more than a vinyl Intex or Sevy cheapie (or lower end Aqua M IKs). The 4.3psi (0.3 bar) in the 7cm DS floor (AM call it a ‘deck’) is also about as low as DS can be – a Grabner all-tube IK will run the same psi.
I wondered if they meant 0.14 bar / 2 psi? It seems not according to the official website and the Steam product manual (snapshot below). It makes you think the construction may not be up to it, or that they’ve stated hyper-conservative/warranty covering values in case users over-inflate. After all, the sidetubes have proper ‘raft’ or iSUP valves capable of ten times that figure. Oh well, PVC fabric is inherently stiff so you’d hope that ought to make a reasonably rigid boat.
It has to be said the so-called “… Inflatable V-shape keel design…” is not evident in any online imagery that I could find (left, last year’s model) or in the video below. The floor looks as flat as a iSUP board (which Aqua M also make) with two, mid-positioned skegs. Most IKs manage with one at the back, but you can remove them or use just one. A V-shaped keel (like the Optimal FDS) would eliminate the need for skegs, so it could all be just marketing babble.
Best of all, this is not another shell & bladder but a ‘tubeless’ IK, so with the removable floor, cleaning and quick drying ought to be as easy as it gets on an IK. Many IK-ers soon learn the value of this.
The foam footrest tubes have a couple of positions, with the seats positioned on velcro strips. And the closeable bailing ports (see inset above) mean you can take a bit of wave splash over sides without swamping the boat, as the video below demonstrates. But two heavier persons plus gear could also mean you end up sitting in (or hauling) water as the floor is only 7cm thick. Paddling would reveal all, but the ports are closeable.
All in all those ports, the length and tubeless build for four-fifty quid could be a great way of getting into IKs. It comes with a pump, carry sack and a spare dry bag. Add paddles and some water. At worst you open it up on delivery, pump it up in the sitting and realise you’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake. Amazon returns are dead easy.