Posted by: airkayaks | January 30, 2010

The AirFusion Kayak from Advanced Elements – further comments and tips!

As promised, I am adding some of my subsequent comments and tips on Advanced Elements new AE1040 AirFusion after further assembling/disassembling the kayak as well as some blow-by-blow observations from Lee Johnson.  (Follow this link to see our original review and Lee Johnson’s review.) A number of people have requested dimensional information on “packability” for air travel, so I will include those measurements here.

Further Observations/Tips:

I made comparisons on my paddling experience versus my husbands’. At 5’5″, my center of gravity is lower, and I found the kayak to be very stable. My husband at 6’2″ found the kayak to be tippier, paddling more like a hardshell.

Second time at assembly took me down to 20 minutes, with rereading the instructions. But, it is most important to take time to properly set up the kayak to get the best paddling experience.

  • Make sure the thwarts are even to the floor, and the sides are even with the thwarts.
  • Make sure the bottom pole is evenly centered (turn it over and look from the underside to check.
  • If you do not pump it up enough, or you push the thwarts back too far, you will experience wrinkling on the sides.
  • When disassembling, on poles 1, 2 and sleeve 3, push in the pin and twist sleeve 3 to the side – this will make it easy to pop the two poles apart, without struggling to keep the pin pushed in.
  • Poles 4 and 5 were nearly impossible for me to disconnect, until I realized if I pulled it in towards the center, it removed the pressure and they came apart easily.
  • Also, you might want to magic marker the numbers on the poles, as two of my numbers fell off.  Don’t “etch” the numbers in, as you will remove some of the anodic layer.

Sizes and Weights for “Packability”:

  • The AirFusion can be separated into components – the tubular frame, two thwarts/seat, kayak body and foam floor. As long as you know the basic cubic dimensions, it could be possible to have some folding variations.
  • Tubular frame: Disconnected, the longest shaft side ranges from 31.5 to 35 inches in length, and bundled together are about 4″ in diameter, weighing 5.95 lbs. When packing up, think  “diagonally” for the longest parts.
  • The thwart and two seats measure about 20 x 15 x 6 inches weighing 5.5 lbs, while the kayak and foam floor (folded over the top) measures approximately 34 x 15 x8 inches and roughly 25 lbs.  The entire package is 34 x 18 x 12 inches, at about 39 lbs with the carrying case.  The foam floor is about 34 x 18 x 0.5 inches thick, and can either be folded over the kayak, or could be rolled up and bungee-ed.

And yes, I will post some video shortly – one on the generic kayak and in the near future, one on kayak assembly. But, you won’t see eskimo rolls – I’ll leave that to someone who enjoys it.

Further Comments from Lee Johnson

Following are some ongoing observations made by Lee Johnson along with some good tips. Some of the photos he refers to are in his write-up.

Day 1:
This afternoon, UPS delivered the AirFusion (+ pump and gauge). We immediately opened it up to check that it arrived safely. Actually, I had the entire thing assembled and ready to go in 25 minutes, despite fighting a bit with a couple of poles (#4 and #5), which got a tiny bit of Vaseline on their joints (this is a trick I learned at the Feathercraft factory in Vancouver – their folding kayaks also use hollow aluminum poles for their internal structures. They tell me that without a bit of lubricant on the joints, the poles can fuse together, especially if they are used in salt water. They even showed me a table full of frames that were corroded and seized together). To be blunt, the AirFusion is a lot like a Feathercraft Kahuna, only about $4,500 less!! When I write my review, I will not mention a word about Feathercraft, of course, but point out how the AirFusion is like other Advanced Frame kayaks with BackBones. Once poles # 1 and #2 are secured with locking sleeve # 3, the rest is simple – just as, when putting an EXP or Advanced Frame together, the first thing one does is install the BB. The other signature design is the aluminum forms in the bow and stern. The AirFusion actually does evolve from the Advanced Frame line! Folding everything back up and putting it into the duffel bag was easy. It is quite lightweight. Now, how will it perform?

Day 3:
The person in the second photo is Arnie Mroz, who works at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and helps Freda with the kayaking sessions at the Salton Sea Headquarters State Park. Arnie has a 16.5′ Wilderness Systems kayak, of which he is most proud, but we had a race out on the Salton Sea, against some waves and wind, and I nudged ahead of him. When we returned, we exchanged kayaks. He took the AirFusion, and I took his Wilderness Systems. This time, he crept ahead of me. He simply cannot believe that the 13′ AirFusion is so fast, compared to his 16.5′ hard-shell. The AirFusion is also much more responsive, nimbler, and quicker to accelerate or turn – it is just a lot more fun – so responsive that I found his Wilderness Systems to be “clunky” by comparison.

Day 4:
These photos show me on freshwater and Arnie at the Salton Sea. He wanted me to ask you how to get those “wrinkles” out of the side of the AirFusion. He said a smoother side would result in an even faster kayak. I said, don’t you just want to stop and smell, if not the roses, the fish at the Salton Sea? As Bonnie remarked, the AirFusion is very easy to paddle – it moves without much effort from the paddler. A cruising speed is very relaxing in this craft, and it turns quickly to follow Green Herons as they dart past one’s field of vision. (see our note above on wrinkles)

Day 6:
Today, I was out on the Salton Sea in a storm: Arnie would not take his Wilderness Systems kayak out in the 2′ waves and 20-30 m.p.h. steady winds. Well, to be honest, it took a lot of paddling skill for me to keep from flipping when I was sideways in the troughs between waves and the next big ones hit. The AirFusion is definitely not as safe as my AE Expedition kayak with backbone in such challenging conditions. However, Bonnie and Arnie were impressed by my aplomb in dealing with problems I would not have wished on a less experienced paddler. The AirFusion breaks through the waves impressively. Spray was everywhere in the bow section – but never hit me in the cockpit. I kept rather dry in all that action. When it was really blowing, I kept the kayak facing into the waves, allowing the wind to blow me backwards as I paddled lightly to keep my direction firm. I kept reading the waves until I thought I could safely negotiate a turn without flipping. So, it worked; and Arnie said he learned something, tapping his head in approbation. By the way, Arnie conceded (despite his passionate love of his hard-shell) that the AirFusion is more responsive to whatever the paddler wants it to do: hence, my quip about it being a sportscar on the water.

Day 7
The “ripples” along the sides of the kayak were not so pronounced today, according to Bonnie, who paddled next to me in the harbor in her Dragonfly. I inflated the side chambers a bit more aggressively – that probably did the trick. I will also check the alignment of the side inflation chambers and their velcro squares. So far as the “rocker” lift on the bow section goes, it is still there, whether it is supposed to be or not. It actually helps, though, when one is attacking vigorous waves.

Followup answers to some of my questions to him:
1) The Vaseline works fine on the poles. It’s mainly a precaution to guard against corrosion from salty water. Feathercraft sells their own silicone-based lubricant. The AirFusion’s poles go together well IF one follows the manual’s instructions exactly. Tolerances are impressively tight, and one cannot rearrange the poles once inflation is started. I cannot even put poles 1 and 2 together if they are not in the sleeves of the thwarts. This is meant as a compliment to the precision of the design.

When Bonnie and I put our kayaks out in the morning to finish drying, we get a lot of questions and interest from passersby here at the Fountain of Youth. One younger couple who live on large lake with islands could not believe how reasonably priced the Lagoon and AirFusion are. Having owned kayaks and canoes, he guessed the AirFusion would list for about $2,000.00.

2) Bonnie is 5′ 5″ – I think she felt no tippiness whatsoever in the AirFusion. I found it to be a little tippy, even more so than Arnie’s Wilderness Systems 16.5′ – but it took only a minute or two to get used to it and to know that the kayak is basically very stable. The lubrication of the pole-joints will probably not be a problem, given the anodizing. But the Vaseline or silicone lubricant is still a good idea to apply every now and then, I think, just as routine maintenance, especially if one is using the kayak in salt water. How it handles in waves I have already indicated. The main thing, as I think about it, is that the fast response of the AirFusion to the paddler’s wishes probably saved my sorry gluteus maximus out in that storm on the Salton Sea the other day because I was able, when the waves finally permitted, to turn a 180 very quickly and not get stuck crosswise in the troughs between big waves, as I would have been in the relatively slow and unresponsive hard-shell Arnie had but would not take out in that weather. Probably smart of him.

We have found no difference in how the AirFusion rides on freshwater vs. saltwater. It is great on both.

And some followup tips from Greg in Australia (who is tracking the arrival of his new AirFusion daily) from a windsurfing background ….

Like the bloke who invented the WindPaddle, I too have a windsurfing background. The thing we hang on to while sailing is called a Boom. Most of them are adjustable (telescopic). They are made out of aluminum. Over time, if they are left in the same adjustment setting, they will fuse together. It’s a mix of salt and corrosion that does it.

When the anodized coating gets scratched by sand, and just plain old wear and tear, the corrosion process begins. I think that if someone was to leave the AirFusion set up and used it in salt water, salt would build up in the joins making it hard to disassemble. BUT, and it’s a big but, it would take a year or so for it to get to that stage and it would serve the person right for not looking after it properly. It’s designed to be pulled a part, washed, dried and packed away in its bag.

My tip: When assembling the poles, make sure there is no sand on or in them. Sand jams things up real fast. It might grind together, but when it comes time to pull it apart… well, I’ll just say that I have had some bad experiences with that. The trick is to find a bit of grass to set up on and pack up on.  Sand is bad for the joints.

If you use a lubricant, keep the poles away from sand.

For more specifications, see our AirFusion page.

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