Full Dropstitch Inflatable Kayak Buying Guide 2022

Revised November 2021
Sharing information, experience and opinions. There are no affiliate IK buying links here.

See also
Book
Other IKs
Full review: Sandbanks Style Optimal FDS
Full review: Shipwreck ArrowStream FDS
Guest review: Aqua Marina Tomahawk Air-K 375 FDS
Paddling with a Yakkair Full HP2 FDS
• Preview: Advanced Elements AirVolution FDS
• Preview: Decathlon Itiwit X500 FDS
Preview: Gumotex Thaya hybrid
Preview: Gumotex Rush hybrid
• Preview: Advanced Elements AirFusion hybrid
• Preview: Aquaglide Chelan 155 hybrid
• Buying direct from China (2017)

The three types of FDS IKs

As predicted here years ago, eventually a way would be found to make an inflatable kayak entirely from rigid dropstitch panels. Something a bit more sophisticated than an iSUP board with a strap-on seat.
Even before the worldwide IK boom of 2020 there was a lot of interest in FDS IKs, and this despite supply issues due to the pandemic which continue today. Potential buyers view them as superior to traditional round-tubed IKs, while gaining the performance benefits of a hardshell.

A stack of 3-panel FDS IKs

Certainly any FDS is miles better than a low-end, 2-psi Itiwit, Sevylor or Intex, nor do they all have the days-long drying issues of Shell & Bladder IKs (but see below). And right now you can buy a two-seater PVC FDS for under £800, including a pump and budget paddles. These boats are well put together, too: I’ve not read of burst or peeling seams, anomalous leaks or panel misalignment issues. The worst you hear of are lightly damaged, dirty or seemingly returned boats being sold as new to unhappy buyers, usually from online sellers at the very lowest price range.

Sea Eagle led the way in 2016 with the three-panel Razorlite and now there are a score or more of near identical full dropstitch (FDS) IKs, like the ArrowStream, above. Then in 2020 Advanced Elements’ released the AirVolution: a more stable two-panel clamshell design. A couple others have released similar IKs, not all of which are AE clones. I predict that among recreational day paddlers these two-panel clamshell FDS IKs will catch on and outsell the slab-sided, three-panel jobbies. Meanwhile, the basic one-panel design (see graphic above left) is just an iSUP with a hole to sit it. More below.

Some FDS inflatable kayak specs

WeightLengthWidthPayloadPressureIncluded**Price
Adv’ Elements
AirVolution 2
23.5kg
52lbs
4.5m 14.5′94cm
37 in
249kg
550lbs
10 psi
0.7 bar
Pump£1499
Allroundmarin
Force L
19.5
43
4.73
15.5′
86
33.8
350
771
13
0.9
Pump€990
Aqua Marina
Tomahawk AIRK
20.3
44.7
4.4
14.4′
76
30
210 46310
0.7
2 skegs
Pump
£899
AquaTec
Ottowa Pro
23
50.7
4.26
14′
83
32.7
270 59510
0.7
Pump
2 paddles
£1100
Tahe (formerly Bic)
Breeze HP2
15.5
34.2
4.1
13.4′
85
33.5
210
463
8
0.55
Pump£1225
Bluewave
Glider
18
39.7
4.73
15.5′
85
33.5
317
698
10
0.69
Pump
2 paddles
£750
DS Kajak
AirTrek Pro
20
44.1
4.4
14.4′
93
36.6
250
551
10
0.7
Pump
2 paddles
€1300
Itiwit
X500
18
39.7
3.8
14.7′
64
25
125
275
10
0.7
£699
Kxone
Slider 410
15.5
34.2
4.1
13.4′
85
33.5
210 4638
0.55
Pump
2 paddles
£1000
*Sandbanks Style Optimal20
44.1
4.4
14.4′
92
36.2
231
509
12
0.8
Pump
2 paddles
£769
Sea Eagle
Razorlite 473
17
38
4.73
15.5′
76
30
340
750
10
0.7
Pump
2 paddles
£1490
*Shipwreck
Arrowstream
19.7
43.4
4.31
14.1′
83
32.7
340 75010
0.7
Pump
2 paddles
£849
Story
Highline
22
48.5
4.7
15.4′
82
32.3
220 48510
0.7
Pump
2 paddles
£890
Z-Ray
Drift
24.8
54.7
4.26
14′
81
31.9
220
485
8
0.55
Pump
2 paddles
£850
Highest/lowest claimed values in red • *Verified & tested • Solo and some longer models also available • Claimed weights can be in-the-bag, on-the-water or bare boat so are not really comparable • Payload claims also unreliable • **At the very least all come with a bag/backpack (some with wheels) and a repair kit • You’ll need a high-pressure barrel pump.

What is Dropstitch?

Dropstitch in IKs actually started as easy-to-fit DS floors derived from iSUP boards with the kayak’s round sidetubes retained. These are still popular and are now called hybrids, but all the boats on this page are all Full DS.
For the full story on dropstitch (DS) click thisShort version: a dense mass of non-stretch ‘space yarn’ is magically stitched between two fabric sheets at thousands of stitches per square metre. The dimples you see on an inflated panel surface are the space yarn under tension inside, a bit like on a mattress.

Once formed into a flat, airtight board, on inflation via a proper raft-grade valve, a DS panel can handle much higher pressures than a round-tubed IK, especially its wide floor made of laboriously assembled parallel tubes. With DS we’re talking 10-12psi (0.8 bar), up to six times more than a low-end tubed Intex. Like an iSUP boards that you can stand on, an FDS is practically as stiff as a hardshell while still rolling up into a bag.

Neris assembly; not just a quick pump up

It’s this ability to make a stiff form from an inflatable chamber which has been the weak link with traditional all-tubed IKs, especially once lengths increase and when used solo (weight in the middle; below).
Some manufacturers like Advanced Elements (‘Backbone’), former Feathercraft’s Java, plus Russian Nortik and Ukrainian Neris combine metal floor frames and supports with PVC inflatable side tubes to help give shape. But packed bulk, possible damage or loss of metal parts and extended assembly times (above left) means that, in their own words: ‘[Neris] are not inflatable boats’, they’re more like folding kayaks with inflatable sponsons, even if they perform well once on the water. These kayaks are more suited to long tours where they’re left assembled for days and weeks at a time.
For ease of assembly, dropstitch solves the rigidity problem. Two or more chambers at 10psi eliminate longitudinal sagging while enabling sea kayak-like lengths of well over 4 metres (13′) which adds up to more room inside as well as a much better glide (less propulsion effort).

All-tube 3.9m, 4.5psi Grabner – also stiff as you like

This doesn’t mean all all-tube IKs are saggy bin bags. With any tubed IK running 4.5psi/0.3bar or more, the sag is negligible. Examples include my rock solid Grabner (left; all Grabners run 0.3bar), my Incept K40 and my modified Gumotex Seawave 1). I believe these boats perform as well if not better than most FDS IKs, as well as being less bulky and lighter too. While I can see no benefit in swapping my well set-up Seawave 2 for any FDS I’ve seen or tried, these have become expensive enthusiasts’ IKs that aren’t banged out in China. The benefits of today’s many rebranded FDS IKs are hardshell-like stiffness and glide at a Chinese-made price.

Initially FDS IKs have been made of three flat panels resembling the wooden canoe, right. On a tubed IK, round side tubes up to 30cm in diameter take up a lot of space inside, plys make the boat very wide – a lose-lose. DS panels are typically just 10cm/4″ thick while retaining all the benefits of tubed IKs: light weight and buoyancy.

A PVC Zelgear Spark hybrid alongside a tubed Nitrilon Gumotex Solar

The only downside with FDS seems to be bulk: there’s up to four kilometres of space yarn in a typical 4.5-metre FDS, though it’s probably the lashings of stiff PVC which makes them hard to roll up compactly, especially when cold. Result: an FDS can end up twice as bulky as a similar-sized tubeless rubber boat.

Floors on 3-panel IKs: Read This

Broadly speaking, 3-panel FDS IKs are assembled by gluing the three DS planks into a wrap-around envelope of PVC which holds the panels in a boat-like shape. Some floors are removable, a bit like a footbed slips into a shoe. This makes the hull skin’s inner floor accessible for easy cleaning, rinsing and drying before storage: an important part of IK care.
Not everyone may see drying as the deal breaker I make it out to be. Much depends on where you live in terms of climate and storage space.

Unless a glued-in floor is fully sealed along the sides, water and grit will collect in the side cavities. But for deflation reasons, this cavity cannot be sealed off.

Less good but almost universal with three-panels is a DS floor permanently glued to the floor skin but not fully sealed to the side panels. See the two images above: at the bow and stern where the tape stops, water and debris run down into the side cavities. A drain valve helps water to run out of the cavities when flushing before deflating. Some boats feature several capped drains along the sides, which is either odd or a ‘more-looks-better’ marketing gimmick. After all, a bath has one plug hole.
Don’t mistake these multiple drains as self-bailing ports, no matter what clueless vendors may claim or owners may think. Open the drains when afloat and the boat will part-fill with water. Until I realised this, I was baffled by these drains. So it seems were actual owners.

Such a boat is nearly as much of a pain to dry properly as the bladdered IKs I go on about. There will always be moisture in the long, inaccessible side cavities along the floor edge which you’ll struggle to dry properly. Proper rinsing and drying matter if you want your IK to last a long time, especially after you’ve been at sea when sand and other debris can get in the boat. Seawater causes mildew, staining, slime and odours. So does trapped organic matter, while in the long term, trapped grit might rub unseen against the soft PVC until it wears right through (this will probably take years).

Tubeless rubber IK: dead easy to dry

A theoretical way to eliminate these issues is by fully sealing or ‘wallpapering over’ the floor gaps: usually the bow and the stern as shown in green above. To drain and dry such fully sealed boats, you simply flip them over to shed the excess water, then deflate, spread out and wipe dry, just like the round-tube Grabner on the left.
A boat modified like this would have no crud-trapping, moisture-retaining cavities. The flaw with this idea would be the air trapped in this sealed-off cavity would make the boat impossible to pack compactly: like trying to roll up a partially deflated inner tube. It needs a breather hole: a simple plug would work. Pull out the plug when deflating, plug up once inflated to keep water out.
Fyi: this is all hypothetical but an Italian chap with a BIC told me he had just this problem: gravel and grit collecting in the cavities. One solution of his was to stuff the openings with a dense sponge. Water may still get in but bigger grit won’t. Good idea.
For the moment it seems most manufacturers are happy to settle on fitted floors with drains, just as some buyers are either oblivious to- or not bothered by this issue.

Protracted KXone cavity drying instructions using what seems to be a hidden floor drain valve (6, 7).

Actually their is a worse option: supposedly ‘self-bailing’ 3-panel FDS IKs which have little side cavities on the edge of the fitted floor and simple drain holes in the outer skin. There are no closable drain valves.
A tellingly unused and unbranded FDS IK (left) I saw on eBay was like this. I had to check with the seller as there were no photos of the floor. Within an hour it sold for £700, but once on the water the new owner will find their boat filling up from below. It may only be a couple of inches, but that water will slosh back and forth as you paddle along, adding several kilos of weight and upsetting stability. You could easily tape up the holes in the outer skin, but this is why what look like FDS bargains come unbranded, badly designed and without guarantees.

Two-panel FDS IKs

In 2020 Advanced Elements came up with the AirVolution (below left): two iSUP planks wrapped at the sides, the top one having a cockpit aperture. A shallow fold in this top panel helps water run off while making a tiny space under the decks.

Sandbanks Style’s Optimal (below left; full review) uses a similar clamshell design, except the floor also has a shallow V keel to aid tracking. AquaTec’s Ottawa Pro (above right and video above) is another two-panel FDS, and I now see DS Kajak in Germany appear to have dropped their three-panel FDS IKs (still sold in Asia) and now offer a two-panel AirTrek Pro (below right).

The iSUP-sandwich design makes these IKs wider at the waterline than just about all three-panel examples. But it also means they’re innately more stable, both on the water and when getting in and out – an issue heavier paddlers have has with slimmer three-panel FDS IKs. With little space under the decks you lose out on interior storage and maybe a bit of speed, but most kayakers are day trippers so the former doesn’t matter, while the rigidity of DS reduces the paddling effort compared to mid- or low-end, low psi IKs. You might even be able stand up in them and iSUP along. They’ll be dead easy to reboard from the water, that’s for sure.
As mentioned at the top of the page, while I doubt manufacturing and assembly costs are cheaper, I believe these two-panel IKs will eventually outsell most less sophisticated three-panel designs.

Single-panel iSUP IKs

GoPlus one-panel FDS – under 300 quid

The inexpensive Costway aka ‘GoPlus’ (left; 330cm x 81cm; 14kg) is a single FDS panel with a cockpit hole with a floor sheet glued underneath, just like a packraft. Quite clever, when you think about it. Into that you slip a separate DS floor panel. This sits you lower than just sitting on an iSUP board which means greater stability and something to brace the back and feet off. There’s an upturned bow too, but the GoPlus is otherwise a board. It will be dead easy to clean and dry.
As with all IKs with DS floors, you’ll be sitting on a hard panel and so the seatbase becomes important. A thin bit of foam won’t be comfortable for long; an inflatable cushion or less wobbly soft foam will improve matters and also set you higher for a better paddling posture. Raised seats can add instability, but at a yard wide at the water, that ought not be an issue with these two- or single panel FDS IKs.

Tracking (going straight)

Just about all of these FDS IKs come with an easily fitted slot-in skeg or tracking fin that’s often as tall as Flipper’s fin. Like a fixed keel or rudder, skegs help the boat go straight. Some IKs even have more than one, again under the assumption that more sure looks better. A tall skeg will drag in the shallows and the boat can’t easily be sat on flat ground without stressing the fitting. But any skeg is easily trimmed – or buy a spare and cut it down for shallow paddles. More about skegs here.
Some three-panel FDS boats also feature rigid moulded bow and stern pieces (below right) to help slice through the water. This is typically a weak point on broad-nosed tubed IKs (below left).

With the formed bow and stern pieces, box-like profiles and plank-flat- floors, a three-panel FDS IK can have zero rocker, meaning these boats track well but are hard to turn without a rudder. Many owners report that they glide as straight as an arrow. This was my experience too with a DS-floored Moki II and the FDS Shipwreck, but on the latter it was much improved by removing the skeg. Consider trimming an over-long rear skeg or not using additional frontal skegs.

Hull profiles

Three-panel FDS IKs are crude box shapes because, excepting the Decathlon X500, making anything other than flat DS boards is too complicated and expensive. The design and handling of these FDS IKs is limited by these constraints: wind-prone flat slab sides, flat floor, minimal rocker. On top of that a DS floor can make them as uncomfortable as a hardshell, but adding a foam seatbase, stability can take a knock.
This Tomahawk owner said his boat’s initial (or ‘primary’) stability was a bit shaky, but once on edge was quite stable and took a lot to tip right over. This was on flat water. In more kinetic conditions things can happen too fast for you to react. This is why I believe the two-panel clamshell design will be better for most paddlers. Above all you want to be stable in your kayak.

IK World ran a comparison between her old style DS-floored Sea Eagle FastTrack and the 393 solo Razorlite, as well as giving a fuller review of the 393. You may like to scroll down and read some of the readers’ comments about issues and returns they’re having with early RazorLites (the very first FDS IK). She mentioned the Razorlite is less stable, but to me the stability of the yard-wide FastTrack seems beyond the pale until I tried a similarly wide Sandbanks and didn’t really notice it. A bit similar would be nice.
I felt quite safe in my 69cm-wide K40 right up to the point when it was coming in over the sides. But the 83cm-wide FDS Shipwreck is actually just 60cm wide at the waterline where it counts, and I (quite heavy and tall) found using the 6cm-thick seat base made it feel very tippy. Removing the foam from the seatbase resumed normal service.

Seats

Air cushion: too wobbly

One thing I’ve found on the FDSs I’ve paddled is the hard floor makes a comfortable seat base much more important. On the two-panel Sandbanks, an air cushion didn’t work like it does on softer tube IKs and packrafts because it wobbled around under my weight, even when deflated to minimum.
A foam block won’t wobble but needs to be just the right density to support your weight. I found the removable 9cm-thick foam block on the 3-panel ArrowStream made it too tippy for me to even risk letting go of the jetty. Other 3-panel FDSs are wider at the waterline and so will be more stable, but expect to find the usual inch-thick foam seats uncomfortable after an hour.
And don’t forget a substantially raised seatbase higher your heels makes for a better paddling posture. More on seats here.

Footrests

Hardshell-style adjustable pegs

Not for the first time I saw my ideas adopted by manufacturers: a simple footrest tube with an adjustable strap which I came up with a years ago! It’s so much simpler and more versatile and effective than the mushy pillows still used by Gumotex. KXone, Gliders and Shipwreck all use a padded tube on a strap. Would you have padded pedals on a pushbike? The again, many FDS IKs come with nothing.
I see Sea Eagle now use adjustable footpegs on the sides of their latest three-panel Razorlite models. It would only work well on hard DS sides and is the same system you’ll find in a hardshell – probably the most effective and comfortable, if perhaps buly and break-prone.

In any type of kayak, a footrest helps you connect with the boat, execute efficient strokes and not slide down the seat as you do so. And as an IK doesn’t have the benefit of a hardshell deck to brace knees off, a solid footrest is all the more useful.

Spotted a mistake or have something to add? Your comments are welcome.

1 thought on “Full Dropstitch Inflatable Kayak Buying Guide 2022

  1. Chris S Post author

    A collection of comments from the original page dating from 2017.
    Feel free to add your own.

    Brendan Farrell
    July 28, 2021 at 6:48 am
    Hello
    Very good resource in relation to drop stitch kayaks. I’m surprised there is no mention of the Zray Drift anyway and where? Does anyone have options on this one. It seems to be similar to most of the other boats – with the exception that it does not have a moulded bow/stern. Based on the reviews I have read, this does not appear to have created issues with tracking.Pricewise it is a couple of hundred euro cheaper than the aqua marina tomahawk – and the standard package includes paddles – so appears to offer good value.Also the floor is fully removable. Based on what has been said there this may prove to be a good feature when it comes to removing grit/sand from inside the boat.

    Mark
    April 3, 2021 at 10:18 am
    Slight correction: “Even hybrid IKs with a fixed floor, like the Aquaglide Chelan…”
I can confirm from experience that the Chelan’s have removable drop-stitch floors, as discussed in the comments of the Chelan 155 preview.
    Hi Simon,
    Not all FDS are necessarily tippy. Some are very wide and claim to be useable as an iSUP board. The new table ought to clarify, but it depends on how vertical the sides are (ie: it’s the ‘waterline width’ that counts).
    Any FDS works fine on flatwater, but then so does a vinyl cheapie. I’ve never tried or seen, but I’m not convinced a slab-sided, flat-floored, box profile FDS would work well on lumpy seas.
    When things get rough, neither does any IK, but a lower-boat with rounded sides ought to be less wind-prone and as slim as possible will be more efficient, which will matter if conditions change.
    Apart from branding mark-ups, the FDS price variation is hard to fathom, but I do wonder if the table has helped reveal that pricier boats are quite a lot lighter (ie: better designed; not slapping layer upon layers of PVC).
    I’ve not looked too hard for Glider reviews, but it’s probably identical to the others in this price category, but with different colours and fittings.
    The 380X is nearly a metre wide (depending on which source you view). It’s worth holding your hands a metre apart to realise just how wide that is (for a kayak). In the UK SE don’t really represent good value. There are other DS-floored IKs I’ve previewed recently which I’s sooner choose.
    Looking forward to getting back on the rivers ;-)

    simonc123
    March 17, 2021 at 10:35 pm
    Hi there, firstly, thanks for providing such a comprehensive guide to the full DS inflatable kayak world. I’ve always throughly enjoyed kayaking, and having recently moved house, now have the opportunity (and the space!) to consider getting one myself. I am interested in the DS technology, however I intend to spend perhaps up to half of my time using the kayak over the course of the year sea-kayaking. Given this, would you suggest, I would be better avoiding the full drop-stitch variety, in favour of either a kayak with a DS floor, or a fully inflatable non-DS one? My understanding is that there’s a trade off here between stability and speed, and my concern with getting a full drop stitch kayak, is that this creates big stability problems when the kayak is taken out to sea.
    I really like the look of the ArrowStream too, it looks like great value for money. Have you also come across any reviews of the Bluewave Glider? I haven’t been able to find much out there about these.
    The alternative drop-stitch floor/’normal’ inflatable sides option I really like the look of is the Sea-Eagle 380X – I appreciate this is a bit more expensive, however thoughts on this as a comparable to the ArrowStream or Glider would be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks again for the valuable service to kayaking, and given I’m West London based, hope to see you out on the Thames over the course of 2021!

    petethecat91
    October 1, 2020 at 9:57 am
    Thanks for all the advice on the purchase, and the maintenance of the boat. I will certainly inform you on the quality and handling of the boat, whichever model I choose. And also, if I figure out some more practical way of cleaning/drying the boat, I will certainly share my knowledge here. I am usually skilled at these “life hack” activities, and will study the boat and all its possibilities thoroughly when I get it :)
    I have one final question on the topic in which you have a lot more experience. Is there a usual price oscillation from this moment to the next summer?
    Having in mind that there is a slim chance they will deliver my boat in time to do any serious paddling this fall (though you never know how the weather will be like, I have some nice thick neoprene that I used for sailing), I was wondering would it be better if I wait until the winter before I order, or does the price remain more or less the same throughout the year? For used boats I am sure this is the case (i.e. prices oscillate), however, I don’t know whether manufacturers/retail shops drop their prices during winter?

    Chris S
    Post author
    October 1, 2020 at 10:40 am
    We all look forward to reading impressions of your new boat ;-)
Regarding price: demand far outstripped supply this summer, though I still don’t understand why it’s taking everyone so long to catch up. Maybe the whole supply chain got disrupted. As a result, I don’t see prices going down (Gumotex are going up 15% in 2021, fore sure), nor will there be many big, end-of-season clearance sales as there is nothing to sell.
So, apart from tracking private / used sales on eBay etc, I would buy when you can.

    petethecat91
    September 28, 2020 at 5:09 pm
    Hello to all fellow water sports enthusiasts (I am not saying fellow kayakers, because I am still not experienced with kayaks, however, I practiced both rowing and sailing in the past, so I am not a complete noob when it comes to boats 
    Firstly, I must say that this is the most serious and comprehensive article on this subject I have found so far, and thank you for your knowledge you have shared here.
    I would love if you could advise me on two models of full DS IK I am considering whether to buy at this moment.
    First one is the Aqua Marina Tomahawk Air C, which I can get for around 880 EUR, and the second one is the BIC YakkAir full HP3, which I can get for around 1.200 – 1.300 EUR (both boats are new).
    My question basically is – is the HP3 so much better to justify the around 400 EUR price difference, or if you put it the other way – is the Tomahawk so much lower in quality to justify this difference? I haven’t seen any differences in specs which would indicate this, and the basic construction of both boats seems pretty similar to me, i.e. I don’t see any feature of ether boat as advantageous compared to the other one (except the obvious price issue).
    I am asking this question especially because you mentioned the Tomahawk in your article: „There are others sold on eBay, some offered direct from China where all FDS kayaks are made. Aquamarina Tomahawk is one“….
    Thank you for your help, this is the only way for me to make a decent judgement, having in mind that I will not be able to see ether model live, before I order it.

    Chris S
    Post author
    September 28, 2020 at 6:24 pm
    Glad the article was useful.
The 400 euro question may be partly explained by BIC being a long-established French brand with boats made in Vietnam, not China. I get the feeling the sides of the Tomahawk Air C may be higher and, according to the data, the Tomahawk is 24 kilos vs 19 kilos BIC. This may not be accurate but I read this extra 5kg with the Tomahawk adds up to a pretty bulky boat to transport and so may be one that uses cheaper, bulkier materials.
Not being able to see let alone try an expensive IK is always a problem. If possible, buy from a place that lets you return it for a full refund if you don’t like the look of it.

    petethecat91
    September 29, 2020 at 4:35 pm
    Chris,
    Thank you very much for your quick reply.
    Yes, I can see how BIC`s “tradition” and “brand name” can add up to price difference, however having in mind such a big price difference, I was frankly concerned that maybe Tomahawk is notorious for unreliability or something similar, that was the main reason for my question. This is specially the case because I also read the article you were referring to, about the guy who bought the boat directly from China, and was pretty satisfied with it. When I saw how cheap it was for him (below 500 EUR if I remember correctly), I thought to myself – why would I pay a ton of cash just for some brand name if there is no big difference in quality? I am not into that, and would be perfectly happy with a total no name boat, if the quality is good.
    The interesting thing is that I found the Tomahawk on the DS Kajaks web page, so I guess they are related in some way? Of course, I was searching for DS boats on the page, however, all the DS boats that are interesting to me are out of stock.
    As for the added weight, I am not so concerned about that, having in mind that I am 191cm tall, and weigh around 90kg (6ft3in//198lbs for all you imperial unit fans), and I am not planning on walking long distances with this boat on my back. If I am persuaded that Tomahawk`s quality and durability is comparable to BIC`s, I would really be indifferent to the weight difference.
    And for the end, one question that may be stupid, or may drive you to thinking (not sure if anyone tried this, or if it is doable). I see people complain about the DS floor which is not removable, nor completely sealed to prevent water/grit getting into space between the side panels and the floor. From the pictures I saw, they usually seal the space between side panels and floor partially, i.e. they leave an area at the bow and stern of the boat unsealed. As I don’t see any special purpose for this partially sealed panel connection for the boat integrity, why not try removing it altogether to make the boat easier to clean? (ether by cutting it, or in some more sophisticated way). I mean, there are boats with completely removable floors, which tells me that this point (where sides and the floor touch) is not a particularly “stress bearing” part of the boat, and if any more solid connection (if any is needed at all) is needed at this point, you can solve this by installing several good quality Velcro straps on parts of the side panels, and the flour, which would keep them together. In this way, I think you would get a boat that is much easier to clean and dry (even without completely removable floor).
    I don’t know if my idea makes any sense, I was thinking about the problem because both models (HP3 and Tomahawk) which are available to me have floors which are not removable.

    Chris S
    Post author
    September 29, 2020 at 5:03 pm
    I too would be happy to take a chance to try an unbranded and no-warranty FDS IK if the price was right. There is one on ebay UK right now trying to pretend it is a Sea Eagle Razorlite.
Not surprised to hear Aqua Marina and DS Kajak and Kxone and maybe more are all made or owned by one Chinese factory. You can read a Tomahawk review here.
https://inflatablekayaksandpackrafts.com/2020/09/28/review-aqua-marina-tomahawk-air-k-375-full-drop-stitch-kayak/
I think if Tomahawk had a bad reputation we would have heard about it pretty soon online.
I have only seen this name is the last year or so. The question with all these FDS IKs is how will the PVC last compared to a synthetic rubber IK. Maybe with occasional summertime use and good care it does not matter so much.
I am pretty sure any fixed FDS floor is glued to the outer 1000D PVC shell which usually has the drain. So to separate it would be quite a task. You would pass out from the solvent fumes before the job was finished ;-)
I think with an FDS, a removable floor (combined with the inflatable keel idea) is well worth it.
Maybe these ideas will percolate down in years to come.
But the issue is only really drying and cleaning. Do that well enough (especially before long-term storage) and a fixed floor FDS is not really such a big problem.


    Andrew Cassely
    
September 14, 2020 at 12:06 am
    I recently bought myself an Aqua Marina Tomahawk Air-K 375, after floating around on a cheap IK (Bestway Hydro force) over the summer. The choice was partly driven by availability – the Tomahawk was still on sale where others had sold out, perhaps because it was specifically listed as an intermediate to advanced kayak, while beginners are driving the shortage.
Overall I am pretty satisfied with the boat, though it’s not perfect. It comes in a fairly hefty package, but it is manageable for myself, an average fitness male – smaller people and/or those with less strength may struggle a bit. The bag fits well, and it technically a backpack – I wouldn’t want to go far with it, but it works sufficiently well to get it out of the flat, down the stairs, and into the car.
Some work is required for set-up – the pump is effective but needs some oomps towards the end when approaching 10PSI – I may invest in an electric at some point. In fact the hardest bit is fitting the twin skegs – these are very stiff, and it’s difficulty to apply pressure to a very thin area. I may need to take some sandpaper to get these to fit better, though I’ll try some silicone grease first. The Seat and footrest are effective, a little strap threading is needed for the latter nothing terrible. The seat straps keep their length once set up, but the footrest doesn’t. Total setup time is about 20 mins, though that may reduce as I get more familiar with the kayak.
On the water it is a step change from the basic inflatable, though you’d expect that based on the price!. It’s much faster, tracks amazingly well, and is a lot less tiring to paddle. The addition of an entry-level carbon fiber paddle provides a lot of range before fatigue sets in (though I still need to improve my stamina!). It turns relatively slowly to compensate, but I’ll take the better tracking any day. On the flipside it is a lot less stable (I’m 77kg). I’m constantly working to balance it, though I think more use will see that become less of a worry. Once or twice I’ve almost felt like I’ve gone over, and had a wobble. However I think I’m actually a little better off than it seemed – I deliberately flipped it to ensure I could re-enter and it took more leaning than when I though I was going over to get it to flip. It is probably not suitable for beginners whose balance is questionable though. Re-entry was a little tricky put perfectly doable.
Packing up is reasonably quick – note that I do it with minimal drying on site, then re-inflate it fully once home to give it a proper wipe-down and time to dry. The drainage issue mentioned in the article is definitely evident – it’s basically impossible to get every last drop of water out, though I’d say no more than a tablespoonful was left which is not terrible. The joins between the floor and the sides also tend to attract sand and grit – the wipe-down gets rid of most, but I suspect at least a little is starting to build up there, though I don’t know how much of an issue this is in the long run as they shoudn’t move past each other.
Despite the ‘Intermediate to advanced’ labelling, I think a beginner wanting to move on from an Intex or similar could do worse – as long as they have at least a modicum of balance and confidence.I don’t think it would be for everyone though, as there are definitely more stable kayaks out there for those who need it. Overal though I’m pretty pleased with with the Tomahawk, and hope the construction is good enough to provide many years of kayaking to come!




    Chris S
    Post author
    September 14, 2020 at 9:16 am
    Thanks for your detailed and thoughtful review, Andrew. If you can send or point to a couple of photos, I can make it a more visible post here from which many more will benefit. The AM Tomahawks have been one of the least expensive and available FDS’s this summer – yours still on amazon at £650.
I was just reading an owner’s review on a German forum this weekend with very similar conclusions. He bought it off an old couple who couldn’t handle the tippiness. It’s important to note widths, especially on these FDS boats. They can vary by over 20cm or 8 inches (20-25%) and your 375 Tomahawk is very narrow at a claimed 72cm/28″. Much depends on if the sides flare outwards too, meaning the actual floor is narrower still. I know well there is nothing worse than feeling insecure in a kayak!
He also mentioned transportation bulk (a recurring feature with FDS).
Any good SUP pump should easily manage 10psi – a decent electric is quite an expense I’m told and means you need to inflate near the car.
I noticed the skeg was also very stiff on the new Moki II we rented recently. I’m sure it will loosen up, or give it a shot of lube, like you say. You are quite light which I think can exacerbate tippiness as the boat bobs higher. What you describe sounds like poor primary (upright, stationary) but good secondary (leaning over) stability – you can hold it there with a brace paddle stroke: a characteristic of a proper hardshell sea kayak. A typical all-tube IK has such brilliant raft-like primary stability that you never get to discover secondary. That’s why beginners and me love them.
Try it with a couple of bags of water at each end (rocks worked for very light g/f in a tippy Safari one time). Or, fit thigh straps: much better control. (I bet your average hardshell sea kayak would be unusable if you could not brace knees under the deck.)
Also, I would be interested to know if it really needs theat frontal skeg to track well. Twin or even triple skeg become a thing on some DS IKs – a bit like razor bladers. I bet it would turn better with just the back skeg. At sea you may want both skegs as the sides look quite high to the wind.
Drying and drainage; well, extra effort/time needed but a lot better than a fabric shell bladder boat.
Stick your Bestway on eBay quick – you may get more than you paid for it!

    Andrew Cassely
    September 15, 2020 at 10:41 pm
    Thank you! I’ll take some pics next time out, and give some extra ballast a go!
I’m only paddling in the Broads, no plans for sea paddling at the moment.
    I was actually thinking the same thing with regards to the double skegs, so last time out I removed the front one. Turning was a little easier, but the tracking was noticably less effective (though still far better than the budget IK). In the end I decided I preferred it in, plus it’s reasonably heavy and right at the bottom of the boat and so provides a bit more stability. It would work fine without through – more a case of personal preference either way I think.
    It is noticeably tricky in the wind – because it’s relatively light I lose more performance in a headwind than a friend with a Point 65 sit on top. In crosswinds the high sides catch the air, and stability is noticeably lower in a gust…

    Chris S
    Post author
    September 18, 2020 at 11:28 am
    Looking forward to some pics.
With the front skeg, you might try chopping it down a bit to find a happy medium.
It may be a generic Chinese skeg so you can buy spares on eBay.
The flat sides of FDS IKs are another thing that puts me off, though some are = higher than others and it’s no worse than a hardshell canoe.
Width has a bearing, but your so-called hybrids – tube sides; DS floor – may be better in the open or out at sea (which I’m more into these days).

    Chris S
    Post author
    August 25, 2020 at 6:44 pm
    Kevin A adds:
    Hi – I enjoyed reading this article because it is actually quite difficult to find a detailed discussion about the still-new dropstitch construction method. Around ten years ago, I acquired a couple of Walker Bay Airis dropstitch inflatables which, at the time, were at the forefront of the then brand new idea of dropstitch construction. Both boats have been brilliant but one of them has become porous and is no longer reliable for more than a few hours and so, a couple of months ago, I started to look around the market.
    The first thing I discovered is that covid19 has created a world shortage of all sorts of recreational equipment and that prices have risen accordingly. Right now, a decent dropstitch boat, if you can find one, is stupidly expensive. I eventually found (and bought) a Bic Yakkair HP1 which, so far, I have used only once because I am waiting for delivery of a new paddle which will allow me to switch between kayak paddle mode, canoe paddle mode and SUP mode. I think that dropstitch construction has blurred the distinction between canoes, kayaks, sit-on-tops and boards.
    I think that dropstitch construction is, for most people’s purposes, capable of matching traditionally built hardshell boats in terms of performance but we need to be careful about what we are wishing for. My new Bic Yakkair HP1 looks brilliant when it is inflated and it seems to handle very nicely indeed on the water but, despite being much the same inflated size as my Walker Bay Airis boats, it is much heavier and much bulkier when deflated. Dropstitch construction is now offering boats of around 16 feet in length but, even when packed down, they are huge and very heavy. If the idea is to take one away on holiday with you, then you might be better with a hardshell on the roof rack instead of a 16 foot dropstitch taking up all the luggage space in the back of the car.
    A feature of dropstitch inflatables which I have never seen mentioned elsewhere is that, because the fabric has a tiny amount of ‘give’, they are a lot more comfortable to sit in than their hardshell equivalents

    Stuart Holmes
    August 17, 2018 at 12:31 pm
    Thanks for the excellent report, we have just bought one of the new (2019) versions of KXone Slider Flex 485 and have already had some fun trips around the Scottish coast. We did get quite a bit of water in on a particularly rainy and wavy day and are looking at getting a spray deck to prevent spray and waves getting in. How do they work for attaching along the sides of the boat and are they still susceptible to waves getting in the sides? Do you think they are worth their weight or are we better to just bail out when necessary?

    Chris S
    Post author
    August 17, 2018 at 12:59 pm
    Hi Stuart, congrats on your new boat. Is the 2019 any different, or just graphics? It looks like there are tabs along the sides. Possibly glue-on velcro? So it won’t be a full seal but better than nothing. A deck ought to keep you drier but I find [usually out alone] that if it’s choppy enough to be coming over the sides more than a little then it may be too windy to be out in an IK.
Also, there do not seem to be any supports visible to keep the deck convex so water rolls off. You definitely want that so you’re not to be distracted doing it yourself. Maybe knees will do? (see added picture of decks, above)
As expected, I did not get on with the deck on my Seawave. I like the ease of getting in, wear a drysuit if needed and come back if it’s too gnarly., but not all think like me. Much depends on the cost and effectiveness. A bilge pump will be a handy accessory, either way.

    Water Sports Planet
    June 25, 2017 at 8:11 pm
    Nice review. Very informative and comprehensive. Thanks

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.