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Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Review

With excellent handling, a long lifespan, and great comfort, this kayak will go the distance
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
Photo: REI Co-op
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $540 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Handles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistant
Cons:  Heavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drain
Manufacturer:   Advanced Elements
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 16, 2021
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 13
  • Handling - 25% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 5
  • Portability - 20% 6
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

It's uncommon to see such a high-performing model offered for such a comparatively competitive price, but that's the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame. With an internal aluminum frame and waterproof fabric on the exterior, this inflatable boat glides seamlessly through the water. It's stable and fast, and we found it highly enjoyable to paddle even on long journeys. It's heavy for a single boat, but once on the water, we were always happy we'd hauled it out. If you're looking for an incredible performance from your inflatable kayak without spending thousands of dollars, this Advanced Elements model is a prime contender to make your dreams come true.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $540 List
Check Price at REI
$650 List$314.99 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
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$217.72 at Amazon
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Pros Handles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistantGood storage, stable, easy to dryComplete package, doesn't soak up water, spacious, can paddle solo alsoExtremely portable, maneuverable, stable, easy set upVery inexpensive, everything included, low and stable
Cons Heavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drainMismatched valves, catches wind, bag isn't greatSmall paddle blades, unimpressive attachments, materials less durableLow durability, poor tracking, weight doesn’t include pump or paddleNot durable, pump is inefficient, average portability
Bottom Line With excellent handling, a long lifespan, and great comfort, this kayak will go the distanceA stable boat with solid storage that's easy to paddle and easy to pack awayEverything you need to get out on the water with a friend or by yourself for a great priceGetting on the water miles from any roads has never been easier than with this extremely portable kayakWhat it lacks in finesse and durability it makes up for with a shockingly low price tag and decent handling
Rating Categories AdvancedFrame Aquaglide Navarro 110 Intex Excursion Pro K2 Advanced Elements P... Intex Challenger K2
Handling (25%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
5.0
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
4.0
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
5.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Portability (20%)
6.0
5.0
6.0
9.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
7.0
4.0
3.0
2.0
Specs AdvancedFrame Aquaglide Navarro 110 Intex Excursion Pro K2 Advanced Elements P... Intex Challenger K2
Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only) 33.25 lb 32.0 lb 34.6 lb 5.25 lb 27.5 lb
Capacity Single; 300 lbs Single; 250 lb Tandem; 400 lbs Single; 250 lbs Tandem; 400 lbs
Kayak Size (length x width) 10' 3" x 2' 9" 11' 5" x 2' 11" 12' 6" x 2' 8" 7' 6" x 2' 11" 11' 5" x 2' 11"
Packed Size (length x width x height) 33" x 16" x 15" 22" x 14" x 20" 26" x 19" x 19" 14" x 12" x 7" 28" x 18" x 12"
Included Accessories Repair kit Quick-release fin and repair kit Paddles, pump, repair kit, GoPro/phone mount, fishing rod holders, and pressure gauge Repair kit Repair patches, pump and paddles
Material/Construction Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester 600D hex ripstop polyester (fabric top) 3-ply PVC vinyl laminate with polyester core Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester 30-gauge PVC vinyl, I-beam floor
Features Adjustable backrest, bungees, pressure relief valve in floor, skeg Paddle keepers, foot brace, adjustable backrest, skeg, drainage hole, carry handles, bungee cord Adjustable backrest, drainage hole, foot braces, carry handles, fishing rod holders, phone/GoPro mount, skeg, tracking fin, converts to solo boat Rubber-molded handle, mesh carry bag doubles as onboard storage, accessory D-rings Bow & stern grablines, cargo net, skeg

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame is a single-person inflatable kayak with a 300-pound capacity. It weighs just over 33 pounds and is made of PVC-coated polyester with aluminum ribs reinforcing the bow and stern.

Performance Comparison


Despite being inflatable, we were thoroughly impressed with the...
Despite being inflatable, we were thoroughly impressed with the overall feel and performance of this aluminum frame kayak from Advanced Elements.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Handling


Unique among inflatable kayaks, the AdvancedFrame has an aluminum-stiffened keel, helping it to effectively cut through the water in ways other flat-bottomed boats just can't quite do. This is aided by the long, very pointed bow and multiple skegs underneath. It rides low and is a touch on the wider side at 2'9", making it stable and fast in the water, even in choppy conditions.


Even if you choose to jump out of this boat (as this well-balanced yak likely won't flip), it's not only easy to get back in, but the narrow opening for the cockpit keeps some of that unwanted water from entering along with you. We also appreciate that the outer fabric layer is waterproof, unlike some of the other fabric-covered kayaks in this review. This not only decreases overall drag but also makes the cleaning up and drying off process easier.

Even this 50lb dog jumping from the bow didn't make us fall out of...
Even this 50lb dog jumping from the bow didn't make us fall out of the boat!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

We have few complaints about how this 10'3" kayak handles on the water, but one thing we wish it had is a scupper hole to drain excess water while paddling. Advanced Elements bills this boat as having a lip for a spray skirt (which they sell), but we aren't confident that these little air-filled tubes surrounding the cockpit could be inflated full enough to hold something as taut as a spray skirt. Without the skirt, large waves or the inevitable pooling of water from the paddle handle will collect in the cockpit, with nowhere to go but around your seat. Additionally, without the right pump adapter, it is difficult to inflate the floor to the point that you can't feel the pulse of the waves beneath your bum. But with those minor complaints aside, we are sold on the impressive wave and wind-handling prowess of this sweet vessel.

With an aluminum keel skeleton, the AdvancedFrame cuts through the...
With an aluminum keel skeleton, the AdvancedFrame cuts through the water very effectively.
Photo: Jason Peters

Comfort


Another metric in which the AdvancedFrame excels. This boat has a thick cushioned seat that's fully adjustable to whatever paddle position you need. We also love how the narrow shape of the cockpit facilitates a more comfortable leg position for paddling. Though it lacks any foot braces, we found it a simple matter to use our knees and the lengthwise ridges along the boat's floor to brace ourselves and dig in deep when paddling upriver or against the wind.


The low profile of this boat facilitates the feeling of being close to the water that you find in traditional, hardshell kayaks. That, in turn, makes for a more comfortable paddling experience and easier paddling against the wind. A reasonably large cockpit also allows you to bring a dog or pack the bow with a small selection of gear.

We have some concerns and complaints about the listed weight capacity of the AdvancedFrame. Though AE claims it can hold 300 pounds of human and gear, when our 6'1", 220-pound tester hopped in to take the yak for a spin, even without any additional gear, he rode rather low in the water. He then took on extra weight as the lake threw waves over the low hull with relative ease. Despite this added challenge, he still preferred the comfort of this well-designed craft over the other single kayaks.

Paddle or relax in this top-notch inflatable kayak from Advanced...
Paddle or relax in this top-notch inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Set Up


Not our favorite feature of the AdvancedFrame kayak, this boat is a little arduous and time-consuming to set up. It comes with very long, detailed directions, including two full pages on "understanding your valves." Unfortunately, this only applies to one of the two types of valves on this boat. That said, the deflation process is a cinch with the twist-locking valves, and as long as you remember to remove the rigid plastic inserts from the bow and stern, rolling this kayak up and fitting it back into its oversized duffel is no problem.


Getting the AdvancedFrame set up and seaworthy is quite a process. It has no less than SEVEN air chambers to fill, and for five of them, lacking the appropriate pump adapter, we were forced to use the power of our lungs. Four of those little chambers are quite small, surrounding the top of the hull for the spray skirt and some extra height to slough waves, but our least favorite one to inflate was the floor. We never quite felt like we could get it as rigid as we wanted without using a pump, hence our complaint about feeling the waves quite easily underneath us as we paddled. The directions included with this boat encourage you to use a pump to fill all seven chambers (though one is not included), but even with four standard and kayak-specific pumps on hand, we didn't have the right adapter. Advanced Elements sells several styles of pumps with many included adapters, and we assume one of them is the right fit for these five small valves. While you're at it, the directions request that you inflate each chamber to a specific pressure, measured in PSI, yet no PSI gauge is included with the kayak. You can estimate, but underinflation can cause drag during paddling, and overinflation can damage your kayak and shorten its lifespan. Alternatively, Advanced Elements also sells pumps with built-in pressure gauges or PSI meters that can be added to another pump you may already have if you want to tack those onto your bill.

Removable plastic inserts on the bow and stern add rigidity and...
Removable plastic inserts on the bow and stern add rigidity and structure to the kayak while being incredibly easy to place.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Additionally, we had a hard time draining every last drop of water out of the kayak before collapsing it for storage. It lacks any sort of drainage hole and is cumbersome and time-consuming to take apart. We've been paddling this boat for years now, and we can tell immediately when it wasn't fully dried after the last time we used it by how funky it smells when we take it out again.

Difficult to dry but fun to paddle!
Difficult to dry but fun to paddle!
Photo: Jason Peters

Portability


As an inflatable kayak, this boat is already fairly portable in that you don't need a roof rack to drive it around or a large empty garage in which to store it. That said, the AdvancedFrame is heavier than average among solo boats we tested. Weighing a hefty 33.25 pounds, this kayak is even heavier than a few of the tandem models we reviewed. The extra weight comes from the aluminum frame and durable construction. Still, it doesn't include the paddle, pump, and life jacket that you'll need to get on the water, let alone anything you might want for your adventure.


Not only is the AdvancedFrame extraordinarily heavy, but it's also shockingly large for a single kayak, rivaling the packed size of the tandems we reviewed. Again, the aluminum frame we love so much on the water works against you when on land. If you instead inflate the AdvancedFrame at your car, the kayak does have two convenient bow and stern handles to carry it less awkwardly down to your launching point. That assumes you're paddling with a friend, though, as you can't grab the bow and stern handles simultaneously yourself, you shouldn't drag it across the ground for that distance, and it lacks solo-carry handles in the cockpit. The duffel bag it comes in is simple and functional but not overly comfortable for carrying 33+ pounds for long distances. No, as much as we love paddling this boat, we curse carrying it.

As much as we enjoyed paddling the AdvancedFrame, its weight and...
As much as we enjoyed paddling the AdvancedFrame, its weight and bulk weren't enjoyable to carry.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


The AdvancedFrame is comprised of a folding aluminum frame and PVC-coated polyester, all covered by a thick, waterproof fabric layer. This is an exceptionally sturdy yak. It also comes with detailed directions on how you can take it apart completely for cleaning or repair, important maintenance features for any complicated piece of gear you own. The AdvancedFrame also includes a repair kit with detailed directions on how to use it effectively. Though we didn't have to use it for this boat, we did need the repair kit with another AE boat, which then held up well to many months of additional use.


The exterior fabric layer of the AdvancedFrame not only feels much thicker and sturdier than the fabric of other similar kayaks, but it also boasts thickly reinforced seams and is waterproof rather than becoming waterlogged during use. Additionally, the bottom of the kayak is plastic-y and withstood all the abuse we dealt it, including being dragged over sand and rocks and paddling over submerged sticks and logs. Our favorite feature of the AdvancedFrame line of boats (we also tested the tandem version) is its air chamber strategy. While most inflatable vessels employ chambers on the right and left sides, the AdvancedFrame boats have an inner chamber and outer chamber, both surrounding the entire boat. This way, if you do somehow manage to get a hole in the hull, the inner chamber still provides 360 degrees of flotation to get you back to shore.

Inflatable kayaks don't have to be a bummer to paddle!
Inflatable kayaks don't have to be a bummer to paddle!
Photo: Kats Kitagawa

Honestly, the biggest gripe we have about the durability of this boat isn't even about the boat — it's regarding the storage bag. The materials feel cheap, thin, and not as strong as we expected, considering the intense nature of the yak itself. The boat, though? Other than a funky smell from undrained water collecting over time, we had no issues putting it through the wringer for multiple seasons and feel confident it will hold its own for many more years to come.

The AdvancedFrame not only has a sturdy aluminim internal frame but...
The AdvancedFrame not only has a sturdy aluminim internal frame but is also covered by rugged, waterproof fabric for easy paddling and a long life.
Photo: Kats Kitagawa

Value


Certainly not the cheapest of kayaks, the AdvancedFrame is also far from the most expensive. You can spend much more on either an inflatable or a hardshell kayak. For the performance, versatility, comfort, and quality construction, we think the AdvancedFrame is a very high-value item and well worth its cost.

An excellent kayak that's easy to store and stable to paddle.
An excellent kayak that's easy to store and stable to paddle.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


While you may be thinking that purchasing an inflatable kayak will automatically lower the on-water capabilities of your boat, that doesn't have to be true, and the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame proves that. With superb handling, surprising comfort, and high-caliber construction, this combination kayak merges the best of both worlds — the speed and tracking of a hard shell model with the portability of an inflatable exterior. Though this isn't the cheapest inflatable boat out there, we think it offers an excellent combination of performance that even an advanced kayaker can appreciate. If a top-notch inflatable kayak is what you're after, this is it.

We love paddling this boat, even after years of continual use.
We love paddling this boat, even after years of continual use.
Photo: Jason Peters

Maggie Brandenburg