Posted by: airkayaks | March 5, 2013

Product Review: AdvancedFrame Convertible DS Series Inflatable Kayak from Advanced Elements

This past year, we received the first shipment of our specially-packaged AirKayaks high-pressure  AdvancedFrame Convertible DS (Drop-Stitch) Series inflatable kayaks, AE1007DS.

Convertible DS set up for tandem paddling

While featuring the same high quality construction and materials, the DS Series has been bundled with upgraded accessories from Advanced Elements to enhance performance and comfort.

These upgrades include:

Time and weather constraints pushed back our initial review, but with some balmy winter days we recently had an opportunity to paddle the Advanced Elements AE1007DS AdvancedFrame Convertible DS inflatable kayak, which features three seating positions to allow solo or tandem paddling. As an added boon, we also recently received our first shipment of the new, enhanced Convertible single and double decks, which will also be featured in this review.

Here are details on the AdvancedFrame Convertible DS AE1007DS, a 15 foot inflatable kayak weighing in at roughly 52 lbs.

Setup/Inflatation for the Convertible DS Kayak

Setup is similar to the standard AdvancedFrame Convertible in many respects, so we will re-copy much of the instructions found in the writeup on the standard AE1007. The DS Series will have two sets of instructions – one can be found in the inner side pocket of the carrying case. This details the basic kayak instructions for inflation, deflation and folding. The second set of instructions is included in the dropstitch floor repair kit package, and details the floor inflation. TIP: Attach the floor instructions to the main manual.

Comes in a carrying case.

The kayak arrives in two boxes – one contains the kayak body, and the second contains the high-pressure floor. The kayak box weighs 50 lbs, measuring 37 x 22 x 11 inches. Inside, the rugged carrying case measures 37 x 19 x 9.5 inches, and houses the kayak body, high-back lumbar seats, thwart, repair kit, double action pump with gauge and instructions. Once the floor is installed, the kayak with case and parts weighs in at 52 lbs.

We began by re-reading the updated manual. This, too, has evolved over the years and gives excellent explanations on inflation, usage, refolding, etc. And here we come to AirKayak’s Tip #1: No matter how excited you are, take a good look at how the kayak is folded before you set the kayak up, so that you can get it back into the carrying case.

Unfold the kayak body

First step, unfold the kayak. (Please note: We will repeat some of the details previously mentioned in other writeups.) The AdvancedFrame series of kayaks feature an “inner rib” in the bow and stern, which is basically a u-shaped aluminum rib, about a foot long and one-half inch wide.

Inner rib frame

This comes “pre-assembled” meaning it arrives already inserted into two sleeves inside the kayak cover. Unless you remove the inner bladder, they remain in position. When the kayak is pumped up, the inner bladder with rib presses against the kayak cover – that, in conjunction with two bow and stern plastic sheets, give the kayak a sharp silhouette which aids in slicing through the water. (Please note: We removed the rib from the kayak for illustration purposes, it comes assembled.)

Military valve with spring plunger

The DS series kayak features 6 inflation chambers – two military valves (kayak main body) and 4 twist-loks (floor, thwart and two deck lifts) as well as two more for the seats. The military-style plunger valves are simple to use – twist one way to inflate (UP position) and the other to deflate (DOWN position).

Screw-on adaptor for AdvancedFrame Kayaks

The double action pump with gauge comes with several standard adaptors. One is a proprietary Advanced Elements screw-on adaptor – not to worry, if you lose it, a standard Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about 1/2 inch wide and also included) will friction fit into the opening.

If this is your first time out, lay out the dropstitch floor next to the kayak, with the military valve side up, and towards the rear. Position the floor inside the kayak body, centering it from side to side and front to back as much as possible, and flattening it out. In the future, the floor is left inside the kayak and folded up.

Pump the main chamber up until it reads 1.5 PSI

First, attach the gauge to the pump “inflate” side, and then attach the hose to the gauge. Use the screw-on adaptor to couple to the first main chamber. The adaptor features a “lip” that pushes open the spring plunger, allowing the pump gauge to read the back-pressure; if using the Boston valve adaptor, the gauge will only register as you are inflating.

Screw the adaptor onto the military valve.

Pump up the first chamber, located on the top-rear of the kayak, until it begins to fill out. Unlike many other brands, the AdvancedFrame series of kayaks features an inner and outer chamber, with a floating “interior wall.”

Pump up the main chamber

By pumping up the first chamber partly, you “center” the inner wall. Check the side tubes to make sure they are even within the cover, and check the floor to see if it is still centered.

Then pump up the second chamber, located inside the kayak behind the seat, until firm to touch (2 PSI). Screw on the black wing nut caps so the plungers aren’t accidentally twisted open later.

Inflate the floor

Now for the floor. Turn the spring plunger to the UP/inflate position. Inside the repair kit for the dropstitch floor is another adaptor with a short length of clear tubing. Take the Boston valve adaptor (conical nozzle about ½ inch in diameter), fit it inside the clear tube until secure, then attach the bayonet fitting into the floor’s military valve with a slight twist until it locks into place. Pump up the floor to 4-6PSI – it will be very rigid, but it doesn’t take long at all. Remove the floor adaptor from the Boston valve and screw on the wingnut cap. TIP: Put the adaptor in the mesh pocket behind the seat, so you don’t lose it.

If the kayak does not appear to be pumping up evenly, make sure that the bladder is centered in the cover, and the floor is centered in the kayak. Additionally, there are four velcro side strips that keep the kayak bladder in position inside the cover; sometimes the velcro strips have to be slightly repositioned if the cover is “wrinkling”.

Inflate the deck lifts

Move onto the two deck lifts inside the kayak “shoulders.” The deck lifts “sculpt” the body so that water has a tendency to run off – and not into – the kayak. Put the Boston valve nozzle OVER the twistlok valve on the first decklift. Pump this up until firm (1 PSI). Twist the valve shut, remove the adaptor and move on to second deck lift.

Install the plastic sleeves

Last steps, insert the two plastic sheets into the bow and stern sleeves.

Install the thwart

Also using the twistlok, pump up the thwart and place it behind the front seat, attaching to the velcro side strips. The thwart acts as a back rest support for the front paddler and can be a foot brace for the rear paddler.

Attach the seats

Then attach the seats by clipping the two straps into the appropriate side clips. If you will be paddling tandem, use the 1st and 3rd clip arrangement. Then pump up the twistlok on each lumbar seat (easiest just to use your mouth).

Convertible DS paddled as a solo.

If paddling solo, put one seat in the center position without the thwart. Less than 10 minutes and you’re done!

About Drop Stitch Floor Technology

The term “drop stitch” is a method of construction which allows for much higher inflation and pressures than a standard PVC floor.

PVC floor chamber vs. drop stitch floor

In a standard PVC floor (as shown above, left), long “I-Beams” run the length of the floor, connecting the floor ceiling to bottom. This allows the floor to maintain a fairly uniform thickness, but if one of the I-Beams pop (due to over-inflation) the floor will become more like a blob.

With drop stitch construction (shown above, right, on the Convertible drop stitch floor), thousands of tiny threads connect both the top and bottom layers, creating a stronger link that can withstand much higher pressures.

Rigidity of drop stitch floor versus standard Convertible PVC floor

Higher pressures make for a more rigid floor, which can enhance paddling performance. This is the technology used in inflatable SUP paddle boards. The image below is from an Airis Inflatable Sport Kayak showing the interior drop stitching.

Airis Inflatable Sport window showing the drop stitch threads

Convertible DS Features and Specifications

Convertible DS

The kayak consists of three layers. Inflatable PVC bladders are housed in a zippering fabric cover, allowing the bladders to be replaced if necessary. The covered bladders sit inside the kayak outer shell. The kayak upper is comprised of 600 denier polyester/PVC laminate in a diamond ripstop material.

Underside of Convertible DS

The hull is a rugged, puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin with electronically welded seams, integrated tracking fin and landing plate.

Rubber carrying handle

The AdvancedFrame Convertible AE1007DS is constructed with two carrying handles (bow and stern), but with a bit of balance, one person can carry the open kayak by hooking it over one’s shoulder.

Front bungee deck lacing

Bungee deck lacing in the bow – measuring 20 inches wide, tapering to 10 inches wide, and 16 inches deep – includes four d-rings and quick release clips, allowing one to add on various dry packs and gear – or to attach a nifty Rapidup downwind sail! Four more d-rings can be found on the rear deck; these are positioned at 17 inches wide, tapering to 10 inches and 13 inches deep.

Convertible DS with optional double deck.

The 86 x18 inch cockpit area features a hidden zipper running the perimeter – this is used to attach optional single or double decks. The optional decks act as further protection from the elements, and also have coaming tubes around the cockpit, allowing one to attach optional spray skirts.  (See more info on the new Convertible Single and Double Decks.) A front center zipper can open up an additional 21 inches for easier entry or for those interested in a more open feeling.

HIgh backed lumbar seats

The high-backed padded lumbar seat features adjustable side straps which quickly clip into position while rear stiffening rods create a comfortable option for those needing a bit extra back support than the standard seat offers. The seat back has an inflatable bladder with an Extra long 36 inch TwistLok hose, allowing you to change the support level from 1-5 inches while kayaking!

Mesh pocket on the back of the seats

Seat measurements are 14 x 21 x 0.5 inches for the base, while the back is 15 inches tall, by 21 wide and 1 inch thick; there are two pockets on the seat back which allow you to bring gear or supplies – one houses the repair kit.

We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is just slightly under 15 feet long and 33 to 34 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 7 to 8 inches in diameter, making a well about 7 inches deep. Interior dimensions are approximately 86 inches long by 18 inches wide.

Three seating positions.

The three seat attachment points are located at 19, 47 and 69 inches from the interior rear of the kayak. The thwart measures 17 x 8 x 10 inches – it is best to place it in the more horizontal position as more of the velcro will be utilized to keep it in position, but if needed, an extra 2 inches of legroom can be gained by positioning it “more vertical.” In tandem mode, when the front seat is placed against the thwart, approximately 53 inches of legroom is available, while the rear paddler has 43 inches from the seat back to the thwart (expanding to 45 inches by rotating the thwart).

Convertible DS set up for solo paddling

When solo paddling, there is approximately 57 inches from the seat back to the interior front end, and about 36 inches behind the seat. The thwart is not used in the solo position. This can be somewhat repositioned by adjusting the seat straps. Weight limitations suggest 500 lbs for two persons, or 550 lbs for two persons and gear.

One final comment – we are always asked if this can be broken down to fit in airline luggage, and the answer is yes. By separating the components, one can put the kayak hull in one suitcase, and the other parts in another.

Convertible DS Kayak On the Water

Having owned a standard AdvancedFrame as well as a Convertible for a few years, I was quite familiar with the kayaks and their capabilities – they’ve always been comfortable, stable, rugged, and paddle well. The DS Series kicks it up a few notches.

Stable enough to stand up in.

To begin with, the drop stitch floor is remarkably rigid, allowing one to sit up slightly higher. In fact, it is possible to standup in the kayak while on the water, though I wouldn’t make a practice of it. Paddling is smooth and in calm water, the kayak is very zippy and paddles beautifully.  In fact, in prior tests to compare the standard PVC floor to the dropstitch floor, we were running from (3.1 to 4.3 mph with the PVC, while we ran 3.6 to 4.7 mph with the dropstitch floor.)  There is also an intangible that I can’t quite put words to – one feels very confident in the kayak construction. Over long periods of time, the floor can be slightly tough on the rear, so extra padding might be helpful. While in the past I have used the backbone – which is also a great product – I find the simplicity of the dropstitch floor more to my style, and the added weight savings of 4-5 lbs more to my liking.

Initially I was not as impressed with the high-backed lumbar seats, as the inflatable portion cut down too low in my back. It finally dawned on me to open the zipper and move the inflatable bladder UP until I found the right spot. Bingo! The seat is extremely comfortable, offering much more comfort than the standard seat and higher back support. The long twistlok is very nifty, allowing you to adjust the seat inflation while paddling.

Convertible DS paddled as a tandem.

We first took the ConvertibleDS out as a tandem. The kayak is very comfortable, stable, rugged and paddles well. It was quite roomy for the two of us (5’4″ and 6’2″). With two paddlers (and no decks), you are limited to carrying gear on top of the kayak, but there is so much front legroom that one could stash a pack and use it as a foot brace.

Advanced Elements AE4003 Foot Peg

In fact, my only “complaint” (this is too strong a word) is the lack of a foot brace – particularly when out solo. I attempted to use the thwart as a foot brace sideways, but I was still too short to reach. By using the foot brace, thwart on end and a filled cargo bag, I did finally get some traction. Advanced Elements has recently introduced an adjustable foot peg system which I highly recommend when using this kayak.

Convertible DS paddled solo

Each of us took the kayak out solo. Once again, it is stable, paddles well. And with the new high pressure dropstitch floor – wow – what an enhancement. Fast and smooth, turns well.

Can be carried hooked over one's shoulder

Back on shore, I was slightly apprehensive about hauling such a large kayak around without help, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was manageable by hooking over one shoulder. For those who don’t want to attempt it, the Advanced Elements AE3010 dolly cart is a marvelous portable breakdown wheel-set that easily straps onto the kayak hull, allowing one to portage through all types of terrain.

Convertible DS with a friend!

Lastly, I took my buddy, Eddie, out for a spin. The kayak is incredibly stable and roomy – meaning Eddie can wander around looking for waterfowl without hampering my paddle.

Convertible DS Series Kayak – Bottom Line:

The AdvancedFrame AE1007 DS Series has taken a great kayak to an all-time high. First developed in 2004 as an elongated, enclosed version of the AirFrame, the design has evolved into the current day model. As with its sibling, the AdvancedFrame, the Convertible is an inflatable classic, offering performance, quality and price.

The Convertible DS Series kicks it into the next level with performance, comfort and simplicity. It looks great, paddles beautifully, it’s stable and it turns-on-a-dime. In our opinion, it’s the best value for a tandem on the market, and certainly one of the biggest sellers.

Rugged and easy to carry

It is able to handle lakes, Class I to II rapids, inlets, bays and coastal ocean. With years of experience using the AdvancedFrame series of kayaks, we’ve been out in all types of weather from calm water to swells. The kayaks have battled rocky beaches and shallow waters, thick tules, white caps and wind. They’ve been tossed into the back of a pickup – they’re rugged.

As a tandem, it is roomy, paddles smoothly and is quite zippy – both in tandem and solo mode.

Dolly cart assembled on a 15 ft Advanced Elements Convertible Kayak

Versatility is another aspect that makes the Convertible such a popular kayak. Numerous optional accessories – such as decks, spray skirts, kayak dolly or compact cart, rapidup sail – can enhance the paddling experience and performance. The newly redesigned single and double decks offer more storage options, great increasing the carrying capacity.

The carrying case easily fits in a small car.

This is a great choice for travel –  it’s perfect for RVs and easily fits in the trunk of a small car. When paddling solo, the kayak’s long length provides ample amount of storage space,  making it an excellent choice for a solo paddler interested in camping excursions as well as anglers wanting to set up a fishing kayak with lots of gear.

Convertible DS paddled solo with optional deck.

All in all, the AirKayaks AdvancedFrame Convertible DS Series  from Advanced Elements is a great multi-purpose kayak for families, people of all ages and paddling needs – a true Cadillac in the inflatable kayak world. Novices and first-time users will be on the water in no time, while experienced paddlers will find the portability and low-profile hull a great boon. This is also a great solo kayak for the “big and tall” – particularly with the nifty, newly redesigned solo deck.

Stay tuned for our upcoming YouTube video on the Convertible DS Series kayak!

The MSRP package value is $1114 and available only at AirKayaks.com for $899.

afcb 27

For more info or to purchase, see the Convertible DS Series product page at http://www.airkayaks.com. Looking for a smaller version more portable single option? Check out the 10.5 foot AdvancedFrame DS Series AE1012DS, also exclusively available at AirKayaks.


Responses

  1. Hi, is the backbone still required for DS?

    • I personally did not notice a difference using the two together solo. But, I do have a couple of customers who say it is great together in rough weather.
      THanks!
      Holly


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