Inflatable Kayak

I got to thinking about getting an inflatable kayak before the RV and truck. We can use it at the local lake for exercise and fun. I’m thinking the technology will not change much in the next three years so an inflatable kayak should be a safe purchase. Meaning, we can find one to keep later while on the road.

Click here for a link to my blog post on the one we bought.

I started in law enforcement as a civilian employee Water Safety Officer. Karen grew up sailing with her father on Michigan’s lakes. Southern Missouri and northern Arkansas are packed full of great canoeing spots which were always enjoyable. I sold our fishing boat a few months ago, although it sat forever without use. We are both lovers of the water and find having an option to boat around is a plus.

So many full-timers buy the Sea Eagle brand that I find no reason to look at other brands.

  • Wanting one that is usable for light fishing and paddling trips.
  • Also wanting to keep the weight down so we can carry it to the water and not add much to the space/weight on the fifth wheel.
  • Durability, ease of getting in, stability and how well it tracks when paddling are concerns.
  • Also, we are not sure if having our legs crunched up will work or not. I’ve been reading up on what seat to buy for back support.
  • I am also concerned about wind and if it will make the boat harder to paddle.
  • We don’t think big whitewater rivers are something we want to do. We would most likely stick with open flat water and easy rivers or streams. But having a drain valve or two would be nice.
  • We want to be able to haul at least a little camping gear for overnight stays.
  • Karen wants to haul a dog. She did that on one of those personal water crafts so I know she is serious.
  • We want a boat for two persons. I’ve canoed before and I know there can be a debate  with the person steering on a river but that can be worked around.
  • My usual “buy one and keep it forever” applies here considering the price ranges. So I know the price is going to be higher and there is a chance we might not enjoy it. I’d rather take a hit later and sell it off cheaper than having to upgrade later.
  • Believe we will buy new or nearly new as the boat warranty for Sea Eagle is three years.
  • Karen likes to sail.
  • Will  have to get new life vests that are shorter under the arm for paddling.
  • I checked the Missouri boat registration laws, just to be safe, and found boats propelled only by oars or paddle do not have to be registered. I also read up on the two most likely lakes we would use regarding fees. Ya, I’m like that!

Research Here First Inflatable Kayak Reviews:  More than just Sea Eagles. Good place to find comparisons and reviews for every model. The writer has a Sea Eagle.

Forum post in RV Dreams about Sea Eagles.

Articles by Big Sky Fishing.com: Not sure if this site is a cover for marketing Sea Eagles or not. It does have good information however.

Purchase HereInflatable Boats for Less.com: Keep reading where others refer people to them. You can get them on the phone and ask questions. Lots of information on their site. Claim to have been in business since 1998. I like Tim’s way of evaluating boats, here is a link to his top five.

Link to Class Definitions: Appears boat sturdiness are rated by what class water they can handle. When comparing boats the ones with more drains or larger tubes seems to also be a factor in rating them. As I read various boat reviews, maneuverability also came into play when using the boat in whitewater conditions.

Boat setup video: I had been wondering if they were easy to setup. Sea Eagle has a number of videos online.

Video by Linda and Howard of RV Dreams: They own the Sea Eagle 370 and two others.

The Decision

  • Three boats appear to match how we would use it. I’m reading up on all three to include the options such as for seats. All come with the possibility of adding a sail and other attachments such as a seat for fishing or a small motor mount. FastTrack 385, Explorer 380x, PaddleSki 435. Next is the process of elimination. Here is a link to a slick comparison chart with reviews. Here is a link to everything you want to know about a review of the FastTrack 385.
  • I called Tim at Inflatable Boats for Less (928-713-7597) and told him how we would be using the boat. He asked for our weights, height and agility.
    • He said the Explorer is better for people who have agility problems because the tubes are larger and you can press down on them when getting in. He is 73 and still prefers the FastTrack which is 20% faster than the Explorer, less weight and folds to a 20% smaller footprint.
    • He said the boat should last between 10 and 20 years depending on how you store it. Rodents could bite the seams which would trash the boat. Leaving it out in the sun all the time would reduce the life. I would think covering it with a single bottom bed sheet would work for that problem. The elastic corners work well for covers.
    • Tim said if you never paddled the FastTrack you would obviously not know the difference between it and the Explorer. He personally has four FastTracks and two Explorers an can tell the difference. The FastTrack is easier to paddle and about 20% faster with the same effort.
    • I told Tim I was familiar with canoeing and asked how stable the FastTrack is. He said it’s stable, using a canoe as a reference point.
    • Tim did not recommend the PaddleSki 435, saying the boat is for other purposes than what we are considering. He said the boats we should consider were the Explorer and FastTrack.
  • Karen wants a sailboat. I just don’t know how we could travel with one (she says put it on top of a 13′ fifth wheel.) As a compromise, we agreed there would be times we would be able to rent a small sailboat.
  • I’m 100% sure we want an inflatable for our future RV life. The boat will provide yet another option for entertainment and exercise. We could have used one a couple times during last years RV rental trip.
  • As I narrowed in on our boat selection, I wanted to know how the 385 FastTrack compared to the less expense 370 in size. Because space in an RV is limited and weight costs money is fuel to haul around. And most of the fulltime blogs I follow where someone has an inflatable boat, they go with the 330 or 370. The 385 weight is the same as the 370 at 34 pounds. The 385 has a smaller footprint (25″x18″x8″) compared to the 370 at (31″x19″x8″) when deflated. We are wanting a two person boat so the 330 single person was not on our list. The 330 comes in at 26 pounds and (24″x16″x7″). That’s a fairly large difference when compared to the two person FastTrack 385, but not if you had to have two of them.

The Purchases (Boat and Vest)

Boat

It was part of my decision to consider the cost and I had to justify $970 for an inflatable boat in my mind. I knew we could make due with the $300 model and most likely if we were already on the road, rather than still working, I would have spent only the $300. We can afford the more expensive boat and I believe the one we selected to be the best of the best at meeting our wants. I did not want to buy used so we would have the full three year warranty. I also found out the boat I selected was redesigned in 2014. Now, we just have to use the boat as much as we would use a $1,000 generator!

I checked the price of canoe rentals for the Buffalo River in Arkansas. Cost is $65 a day. The same money will get you a rental fishing boat at our local lake for two hours.  The price of the Sea Eagle 385 is equal to 15 days of canoe rental.

Sea Eagle FastTrack.jpg

As it turned out the Sea Eagle FastTrack 385 was on sale at Inflatable Boats for Less. We went with the lessor priced deluxe package which Inflatable Boats for Less recommends over the more expensive options. Their website included the deluxe seats are better and the upgraded paddle lengths are not worth it. Wow….

Vest

Man, these suckers got expensive over the years. Fortunately they have vests design for paddling sports. Both Karen and I can swim, although I’m not the strongest swimmer.

Vest, or personal flotation devises, come in Type 1 through 5 with 1 providing the most flotation. Type 3 appear to be the most common for kayaking in boats with shorter seat backs.  Ones with high backs are considered best so they don’t interfere with your seat in this case. But the seat we are getting are high back so that’s not an issue. Room under the arms for movement is a must have.

I’m sure any general purpose vest would work. I noticed Linda and Howard of RV Dreams were wearing the  inexpensive Stern general purpose vest in their video. I’m considering one with pockets for fishing but would not sacrifice comfort. We also don’t want to spend what it takes for “the best.” I started off looking at what local sporting goods stores offer so we could shop around and also get an idea of what a reasonable priced brand would be. The Sea Eagle Type III is $50 and is not high in the back which is a sign that a general purpose, compared to one high on the back, will work fine. I like their blue color to match the boat. As I watched videos I noticed how some are not wearing vests correctly. You want it to be snug (adjustable) so when you go in the water it does not push up and cover your face. In videos I can see some using vests that stick up even when seated.

I posted over on the RV Dreams Forum for some advise. “As far as PFD’s – don’t worry about whether it is a long or short vest – just pick one that you are comfortable with.  If it’s not comfortable, you won’t wear it and thus defeats the purpose of purchasing a PFD.”

Wonder if they have vests that would cause an alligator to spit you out because of the taste? I still can’t get over the photos people take with alligator’s in the water.

Life Vest

NRS Chinook Fishing PFD

I ended up buying the NRS Chinook Mesh Back Fishing PFD for myself, apparently just before the price went up! I had been worried the rear flotation on the vest would hit the top of the high back kayak chairs. That was not the case. This is a very comfortable vest.

Karen was going to be a little harder to please when it came to a vest. She only wanted to wear a ski vest (thin thing that goes around your waist) which is what she used when sailing on the Great Lakes with her father. We went to the local sporting goods store and discovered as it’s the end of the season the selections were terrible. And so were all the vest they did have for sale. She ended up liking the one I bought so we ordered her the next size smaller.

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