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How to Choose a Solo Inflatable Kayak

Confused about which solo inflatable kayak to get?

Even just within the Advanced Elements range, there are quite a few solo kayaks on offer, and some people feel overwhelmed by choice.

I’ll try to keep things REALLY SIMPLE so you are clear about which kayak is going to be best for you!

AdvancedFrame Sport Elite Kayak

Our starting point will be the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite kayak.

It is a custom model that we got made for the Australian market.

It is an AdvancedFrame Sport with an inflatable lumbar cushion, inflatable foot brace and a high pressure drop-stitch floor.

I always start with this kayak in mind because it’s lightweight: only 13.3 kgs.

It’s very stable, great for dogs, kids, fishing and beginners.

It’s also quick and easy to set up and pack away which is a really important feature with inflatable kayaks.

It’s very comfortable, you’ve got really great back support and good foot support with that foot brace.

It’s extremely durable and reliable.

Durability isn’t a feature you need to consider when deciding between our kayaks because they’re all very durable and good quality but if you’re looking at other brands you definitely want to consider durability.

It’s great value as this is not the most expensive kayak I sell, in fact it’s one of the cheapest and because all of these other factors you will get lots of use out of it which is the other side of the value proposition: use something more and it’s better value.

And most importantly, it’s rigid.

See how it maintains the water line from bow to stern?

And you’ve got that lovely vertical bow and stern shape in the water.

It tracks straight and it goes fast.

If the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite is so awesome, why are we selling so many other solo inflatable kayaks?

Good question!

There are a bunch of questions that I would ask you if you called me for help, to determine whether another kayak might be more suitable. 

So we’re going to have a look at what those questions are, and where we might deviate from the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite Kayak.

Solo Kayaks based on your Height

solo inflatable kayaks by weight

The first thing is your height and weight.

Looking at height, you are limited to the StraitEdge Angler Pro or the AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite kayak if you’re really tall.

*Note: Even though the AirFusion EVO Kayak is very long and it is quite long inside, there’s no zipper at the front so people with very long legs find it difficult to get their legs inside as opposed to the AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite which has that handy zipper on the deck.

airfusion evo kayak
AirFusion Evo - no zipper on front deck
advancedframe expedition elite kayak ashley allchurch
AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite - zipper on front deck

Note that the  6’2” / 188cm height limit is only a guide, because what we are really looking at is leg length.

I have customers that are 6’1” that can’t fit in these kayaks and I have people that are 6’3” that can.

I strongly believe it is important to be comfortable when you are paddling, so you use your kayak more often and it is therefore better value. 

If something’s uncomfortable, you’re not going to use it very often and therefore it’s not good value. 

Solo Kayaks based on your Weight

solo kayaks based on weight

When it comes to your weight, this gets a little more complicated.

The AdvancedFrame Kayak and Lagoon1 Kayak don’t have any sort of rigidity enhancement in them as they are.

So although they have quite a high capacity (the AdvancedFrame Kayak can take136 kgs), they start to lose rigidity at around 85 kgs. 

NOTE – the AdvancedFrame Kayak can have it’s rigidity at the higher weight ranges GREATLY enhanced by purchasing the Drop-stitch floor.

The AdvancedFrame Sport Elite, StraitEdge & AirFusion EVO Kayaks are really good with rigidity but sometimes their capacity is a bit lower.

The AirFusion EVO Kayak has excellent rigidity thanks to an aluminium frame system, but it’s capacity is only 103kg. 

The AdvancedFrame Sport Elite Kayak has got a capacity of 113 kgs with excellent rigidity no matter what the weight.

The StraitEdge Inflatable Kayak has a 136 kgs capacity but no rigidity enhancement in it, it’s all fairly low pressure.

It has a lot of air in it, though, so it maintains its rigidity quite well, so I put it in the < 115 kg category. 

In the > 115 kg category we have the long kayaks, all with excellent rigidity, especially the AirVolution Kayak.

The AirVolution Kayak is full drop-stitch.


Drop-Stitch is a technology where the chamber is stitched together with thousands of tiny threads all the way through.

This means you can inflate it to very high pressure and it will maintain its shape.

A full drop-stitch kayak has unbelievable rigidity and honestly, this AirVolution is like nothing I’ve ever seen in terms of rigidity.

If you were a big, heavy person you would not make a dent in this kayak.

The downside to drop-stitch is it’s quite expensive, especially if it’s good quality.

What we tend to do with the other models is just use a drop-stitch floor rather than make the entire kayak drop-stitch.

We’ve got drop-stitch floors in the StraitEdge Angler Pro, the AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite, the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite and you can put one in the AdvancedFrame Kayak.

The AirFusion EVO uses drop-stitch side chambers and has an internal frame structure for rigidity.

It gets you that nice balance between having the benefit of a drop-stitch as a rigidity enhancer, without the expense of full dropstitch.

Solo Kayaks based on the Kayak's Weight

solo kayaks weight

When I ask for your height and weight, I’m also balancing that up with what I think you can carry.

The AdvancedFrame Sport Elite is one of our lightest kayaks, most people can carry this one but I do like to stock something a bit lighter.

I’ve got the 10 kgs Lagoon Kayak here because for some people that is the difference between being able to paddle independently or not.

AdvancedFrame Sport Elite Kayak Review Kat

And for me being able to  pickup and carry the kayak to the water with one hand, that’s really important.

I’m a small person – I could not go kayaking by myself when there was only heavy, hard-shell kayaks and roof racks.

Inflatable kayaks changed my life because of this and so I’m very cognisant of it and I like to be able to offer people something that they can manage on their own.

Solo Kayaks based on Water Type

solo kayaks water type

The next thing I’m going to ask you is what type of water you are going to be paddling on.

I’m listening specifically for open ocean.

There are two types of kayaks that are good for choppy and wavy conditions.

 – Sit-in Kayaks with inflatable coaming that you can put a spray skirt on to keep the water out.

 – Sit-on-top, self-bailing kayaks (self-bailing means when the water comes over into the kayak, it drains out).

In both cases, the idea is that you could be swamped by a wave and be okay.

The AirVolution Kayak and AdvancedFrame Spot Elite Kayak are in this kind of unique category which I’ve called sit-in oversized cockpit kayaks with no skirt.

You sit in the cockpit, but you can’t out a spray skirt on and they do not self-bail. 

So we wouldn’t be launching off to New Zealand in these, they don’t have that open water rating.

The open water rating is just a guideline – you can still do open water in the AirVolution or the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite kayak, but it’s important to understand their limitations.

Whitewater is a slightly different thing.

All of our kayaks are designed to go straight on flat water, not pivot on whitewater.

Having said that, they are all rated for up to class 2 rapids.

If that’s not enough, we’ve got the StraitEdge Kayak which is rated up to class 3.

It’s called a crossover kayak, as it does a bit of whitewater and is still good on flat water.

Solo Kayaks for Paddling with Dogs

The next thing I will ask you about is dogs. 

Dogs can go in any of our kayaks except the AirFusion EVO Kayak because it’s not stable enough. 

Stability is one of the most important features for dogs.

We have plenty of customers who buy the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite Kayak to paddle with their dogs.

It really just comes down to the size of dog and the size of you.

If you’re a really big person and you have a really big dog, you might want to look for a slightly bigger kayak than the Sport Elite. Fortunately, all our kayaks except for the AirFusion EVO are stable enough and can handle dogs.

Solo Kayaks for Paddling with a Child

Same with kids – stability and space are what you need.

All of our kayaks except the AirFusion EVO are stable enough. 

It’s going to come down to

  • how big is the kid
  • how big are you and
  • how big is the kayak?

It’s just size – you want to all fit in comfortably.

As you can see, the AirVolution is getting a little cramped. 

This is me and Mia in the AdvancedFrame Sport Elite but I’m a small person and she’s a small kid and blessedly as you can see, I can sit cross-legged quite comfortably in a kayak so it works well for us but it might not be enough room for you.

The StraitEdge Angler Pro has an amazing amount of space, look at that full straight legs and still a kid in the back.

Solo Kayaks for Fishing

straitedge angler pro kayak dog

Same again with fishing – stability is key!

All our kayaks are stable enough to fish except  for the AirFusion EVO.

With fishing, you want to consider rod holders.

If you’re going to do a lot of fishing and you like to use a rod holder, you want to look at the StraitEdge Kayak.

It’s got two rod holders in the front and it’s compatible with our accessory frame system. 

The StraitEdge Angler Pro Kayak is a much bigger kayak than the StraitEdge – if you like a lot of space for your gear it’s a great choice.

It comes with two accessory frame systems and they are compatible with 1” rail mounts.

Solo Kayaks Based on Length of Trip

solo kayaks capacity

The next question I’m going to ask, is what is the average length or the maximum length of your planned paddling trips?

One of the things I’m listening out for is overnight camping trips.

You need to consider the capacity of the kayak and the deck space for loading up with gear, if that’s something you want to do.

We have lots of customers who do overnight expeditions, it’s a thing. It’s heaps of fun and totally achievable in our kayaks.

You can see how the deck space reduces as we go down as the capacity reduces as well.

The AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite Kayak is amazing for multi-day kayak trips.

5th Element Expeditions did a five-day river trip in very remote Alaska and they had everything: food, cooking gear, tents, warm gear, bear canisters, the whole lot.

You can see how well it maintains its rigidity, even with all that gear.

The other factor that’s important for long trips is performance.

The longer you’re paddling, the more important it is that your kayak goes straight and goes fast and the best one is the AirFusion EVO Kayak.

This is the one I’ve been saying isn’t as stable – you can see it’s because it’s so narrow.

Generally speaking, the wider the kayak, the more stable it is.

This is not necessarily suitable for beginners because of that narrowness, but anyone with any kayaking experience will find it totally fine. 

If you are used to kayaking a sea kayak or a proper surf ski and you want to keep up with your friends who are out in their five-meter sea kayaks, get the AirFusion EVO.

It is amazing on the water!

The AirFusion EVO with the skeg is like no other inflatable kayak on the market, it is astonishing. 

You won’t find it unstable, it’s only unstable compared to the rest of our kayaks which are ludicrously stable. 

Solo Kayaks based on Set Up Time

solo kayaks setup time

The trade-off with the AirFusion EVO kayak is set-up time.

The rest of our kayaks are very simple to set up.

You unfold, you inflate, you clip in the seat.

For kayaks like the StraitEdge Angler Pro and AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite, you have to fiddle around with little things like accessory frames and deck risers and stuff but it’s still a very simple process.

The AirFusion EVO is a little more complex.

I say to people, “the idea of setting  a coffee table from IKEA sends you to a tail spin of anxiety, don’t get the AirFusion EVO.”

You need to be able to follow instructions the first few times to get it all set up but once you’ve nailed it it’s pretty good. 13 minutes is my record time, I would say it’s more like 20 minutes.

Advanced Elements reckon they can do it in 10 minutes, I don’t know how they’re doing that. I would allow at least 20 minutes to set it up, so you’re not rushing.

Well worth it though, if you want that amazing performance on the water.

advancedframe kayak review

Solo Kayaks Based on Pack Away

advancedframe convertible elite kayak reza testimonial

Predominantly, this is about drying the kayak.

There was a YouTube video done on inflatable kayak reviews where he talked about how it’s a bit of a pain for fabric kayaks to get them dry afterwards.

This is true and not true – it depends how wet you get it.

If I go out by myself in the Sport Elite, for example, I put a towel inside.

I sit carefully in it, so that when I swing my wet feet over, they go straight onto the towel.

This means the inside (the grey inner tube cover)  stays dry.

The deck will get drips on it when I am paddling, but the deck dries very quickly.

When I come back in, I wipe it down with a wet cloth because I’m usually in salt water.

I give it 10 minutes in the sun and we’re done, I can pack that kayak up and put it straight in its bag in the car, then back in the shed at home.

If I’m going out with my children then there’s no such thing as keeping water out of the kayak, it doesn’t matter how many towels we have!

The inner tube covers will get wet and in that case we do have to bring it home, take out the floor, towel out the inside and prop it open to let it dry.

If you know you’re going to get a lot of water in (kids, dogs, fishing) and you do not have the ability to let it dry because you do a lot of camping, for example, that’s when you may go away from something like the Sport Elite and look at one of our full PVC kayaks, such as the AirVolution kayaks.

The AirVolution seat is fabric but the entire rest of the kayak is not. You could get a towel, towel it off, roll it up and put it straight back in the bag.

No need to worry about fabric -that’s what it’s amazing for. 

The StraitEdge Angler Pro Kayak and StraitEdge Kayak are good for that as well, but they are a little trickier to towel out compared to the AirVolutions, and they’ve got some fabric bits here and there.

The AirVolution and AirVolution2 kayaks are the champions of the quick dry and pack away.

Still not sure which solo inflatable kayak is right for you?

That’s totally fine, it happens all the time!

Simply request a personalised kayak recommendation 

Our Range of Solo Inflatable Kayaks