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Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Review

Rather heavy but a great performance for a two-person model that can also be used solo
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem
Photo: REI Co-op
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $800 List | $699.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Handles and tracks well, very durable, helpful features, option for single or tandem paddling
Cons:  Heavy, no paddles or pump included, expensive
Manufacturer:   Advanced Elements
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 16, 2021
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 14
  • Handling - 25% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 6
  • Portability - 20% 4
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem is a high-performing and versatile vessel. This craft stands above the crowd for its ability to be paddled by two or completely solo. It brings a surprising level of comfort and durability to the table and handles well on the water. Our testers were very impressed with how effortlessly this yak cuts through the water. We were less in love with how heavy it is or how long it takes to dry out. With that being said, it has some great features, including paddle holders and pockets behind each seat. If you're willing to pony up the cash, this is the best two-person inflatable kayak we've paddled.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $699.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$539.00 at REI
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$314.19 at Amazon$278.99 at Amazon$244.63 at Amazon
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Pros Handles and tracks well, very durable, helpful features, option for single or tandem paddlingHandles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistantComplete package, doesn't soak up water, spacious, can paddle solo alsoEverything included, affordable, durable, easy backpack carry, everything becomes part of the kayakExtremely portable, maneuverable, stable, easy set up
Cons Heavy, no paddles or pump included, expensiveHeavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drainSmall paddle blades, unimpressive attachments, materials less durablePoor paddle, rides high, blunt bow, fabric retains water, difficult to drainLow durability, poor tracking, weight doesn’t include pump or paddle
Bottom Line Rather heavy but a great performance for a two-person model that can also be used soloWith excellent handling, a long lifespan, and great comfort, this kayak will go the distanceEverything you need to get out on the water with a friend or by yourself for a great priceFor a decent kayak at a fraction of the cost of the competition, we love this backpack yak from SevylorGetting on the water miles from any roads has never been easier than with this extremely portable kayak
Rating Categories Advanced Elements A... Advanced Elements A... Intex Excursion Pro K2 Sevylor Quikpak K5 Advanced Elements P...
Handling (25%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
Comfort (25%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
6.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Portability (20%)
4.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
8.0
4.0
6.0
3.0
Specs Advanced Elements A... Advanced Elements A... Intex Excursion Pro K2 Sevylor Quikpak K5 Advanced Elements P...
Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only) 55.2 lb 33.25 lb 34.6 lb 23.4 lb 5.25 lb
Capacity Tandem; 550 lbs Single; 300 lbs Tandem; 400 lbs Single; 250 lbs Single; 250 lbs
Kayak Size (length x width) 15' x 2' 8" 10' 3" x 2' 9" 12' 6" x 2' 8" 10' x 2'8" 7' 6" x 2' 11"
Packed Size (length x width x height) 35" x 21" x 12" 33" x 16" x 15" 26" x 19" x 19" 22" x 17" x 9" 14" x 12" x 7"
Included Accessories Repair kit Repair kit Paddles, pump, repair kit, GoPro/phone mount, fishing rod holders, and pressure gauge Pump and paddle Repair kit
Material/Construction Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC tarpaulin, 3 layers rip-stop material Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester 3-ply PVC vinyl laminate with polyester core Heavy duty polyetster bottom, 24-gauge laminated PVC Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester
Features Paddle keepers, seatback pockets, bungee straps, D-ring attachment points, converts to solo boat Adjustable backrest, bungees, pressure relief valve in floor, skeg Adjustable backrest, drainage hole, foot braces, carry handles, fishing rod holders, phone/GoPro mount, skeg, tracking fin, converts to solo boat Backpack carrying system turns into seat , storage area, bow and stern bungees, accessory D-rings, spray skirt, skeg Rubber-molded handle, mesh carry bag doubles as onboard storage, accessory D-rings

Our Analysis and Test Results

The AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem is a convertible tandem-to-solo kayak with a 550-pound capacity. It's made of PVC tarpaulin with an aluminum frame bow and stern and triple layers of ripstop material. It features paddle holders, pockets, bungees, carrying handles, and tie-down points.

Performance Comparison


We love adventures with friends and dogs in this big tandem from...
We love adventures with friends and dogs in this big tandem from Advanced Elements.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Handling


The AE Convertible Tandem handles exceptionally well for a vessel made of fabric and filled with air. Its 15-foot length has multiple 2-4 inch tracking fins and one small skeg that help it stay true to course as you enjoy the sights along your route. The 32-inch width gives it stability over turbid waters without impairing your ability to paddle. We continue to be impressed by the narrow cut of the bow, which hides an internal aluminum frame to better slice through the wind and waves. This level of maneuverability continues right into turning, which is easier than we expected, even with a lone kayaker at the helm. The boat also features a tarpaulin bottom with a plastic feel that glides through the water with minimal drag.


As with most tandem boats, paddling in rhythm with your partner is key to avoiding an all-out paddle war, though this watercraft has plenty of space to prevent clashing paddles. It lacks any official foot braces, though the rear paddler may be able to use the middle spacer if their seat is far enough forward. It does feel extra large when paddling solo, but our testers still did it on multiple occasions without any real problems. Our least favorite aspect of this boat is that it lacks a self-bailer or drain of any kind. It does a pretty good job of keeping any water from pooling around your bum, though, and only becomes an issue when you go to pack up.

A hidden aluminum rib in the bow helps this boat cut swiftly through...
A hidden aluminum rib in the bow helps this boat cut swiftly through the water.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Comfort


We like how comfortable this cushy tandem is. It has relatively high seatbacks that are great for lounging and enjoying your day on the lake. Compared to many other inflatable vessels, this one rides lower, keeping your center of gravity close to the water. This makes it more stable, easier to paddle, and reduces wind resistance. It's also a good width (2'8") that is wide enough to provide stability for even a novice paddler without being so wide it interferes drastically with your stroke. The AE Convertible Tandem has some helpful features that make your ride that much more pleasant, like mesh pockets on the seatbacks, bungees, tie-downs, and even handy paddle keeper loops for both passengers.


Depending on what life jacket you wear, you may have a challenging time with the height of this craft's seats. Their taller profiles are more conducive to a full-back PFD than some of the paddler-specific half-back versions out there that aren't quite tall enough to be out of the way. We also found there to be a small learning curve with the seats, as they anchor only to the sides and can slip forward and backward along the bottom of the boat. While this is great for finding the perfect paddle angle, it also takes a bit of getting used to before achieving the best angle. This boat is also quite heavy for a solo paddler, giving you a more intense workout with your adventure. Those minor complaints aside, we enjoy the comfy ride this model provides.

Nice and tall for relaxing and easy to install, the AE seats are...
Nice and tall for relaxing and easy to install, the AE seats are pretty comfortable.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

East of Set Up


Like most inflatable kayaks, this one has a learning process associated with getting it out of the car and paddle-ready. Advanced Elements includes an extremely thorough set of directions, and though you may be so excited to paddle that you don't want to sit down and read them all, you'll greatly benefit from doing so. There are many details that you may or may not need to know, but that knowledge will surely come in handy as your relationship with your kayak goes on. Once you're familiar with how this boat sets up, it's relatively easy to get it water ready in under 10 minutes.


With six chambers to inflate, this boat isn't messing around during setup. But when you consider that only three are for the boat's structural integrity and the others are optional (but helpful), it's on par with most other inflatable vessels. Advanced Elements doesn't send this watercraft with any of the accessories you'll need for a complete experience (like a pump, paddles, and life jackets), but they do have those items available for purchase on their website. Or you can sub in components from other toys you may already own — we used a pump from a SUP with dual chambers to make filling this monster even easier. It's important to note that you'll need TWO adapters to fill all the chambers in this giant craft: one threaded and one to fit over the small hoses. Just like all AE boats, this one has specific pressure requirements for different chambers but no gauge to tell you how close or far you are from that PSI. After a few practice runs, we felt confident we could achieve that pressure by feeling the boat during inflation, but without a gauge at first, it's easy to over or underfill.

It takes some work, but once we knew the drill, we were water ready...
It takes some work, but once we knew the drill, we were water ready in under 10 minutes.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Our least favorite part of this process is putting the boat away. You're directed to let it dry completely before doing so. Unfortunately, with no drainage hole and several layers packed together to make this boat so sturdy, this takes more hours than you're likely going to wait. To truly dry it out, you need to remove the boat's floor and let it sit for hours in the hot sun. In the real world, it gets packed up with some water and sand still in it to marinate before the next expedition.

No Time To Dry?
We get it. We often pack up in a hurry, too, without properly drying our boats - regardless of what the directions say. However, we've changed our stance on this strategy when it comes to the AE Tandem. After being packed up still damp, this boat sat in our garage in the high desert for 10 months. Upon opening it again, we discovered the floor of the boat was STILL wet - and had acquired an accompanying funky smell and colorful patches of mold. It seems completely undamaged, but now we take the time to dry it with a towel before packing it away.

During the folding process, we found it impossible not to crease the long narrow tracking fins along the bottom of the hull. This large boat also becomes increasingly difficult to fit back into the relatively small duffel it comes in. We frequently found ourselves sweating and swearing while sitting on the package, trying to zip it back closed.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Portability


Weighing in at 55.2 pounds, this is one of the heaviest kayaks we tested, even for a tandem. It's not surprising considering how large the boat is, and also not outrageous considering its durability. With a two-person (plus gear and a dog), 550-pound capacity, that weight isn't unreasonable. However, jammed into a giant duffel bag for transport, it is no small undertaking for one person. We enjoyed this kayak more when we parked close to the water.


This boat is much more manageable to portage once it's inflated if you have two people. Comfortable handles on the front and back ends make carrying it a simpler task with a friend, even though it tends to sag in the middle. Combined with the convenient paddle-holding straps on either side, we found ourselves more consistently inflating this beast at our cars and carrying it down to the beach water-ready. Carrying this kayak solo, though, is a bit much.

Weighing over 50 pounds, this isn't a boat you'll want to carry far.
Weighing over 50 pounds, this isn't a boat you'll want to carry far.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


This is yet another category where the AdvancedFrame Convertible shines brightly. The hull's bottom is PVC tarpaulin, a puncture-resistant, slick, plastic-feeling fabric that charges through submerged branches and over hidden rocks with relative ease. Unlike most kayaks with a left and right air chamber making up the boat's body, this one has inner and outer chambers that go around the entire watercraft. That way, if you do happen to pop it, the inner layer remains unpunctured, allowing you to paddle back to shore. Internal aluminum ribs provide even more durability and structure to this impressive watercraft. It also boasts a drop-stitch floor and three layers of ripstop material to keep you floating above the waves. The seams are strong and reinforced, and the durability of this boat is not something we had many worries about. Just in case, though, AE includes a repair kit (and copious instructions on how best to use it).


We aren't the biggest fans of how the interior tubes can easily become misaligned with the outer hull over time, but once you know what you're looking at, it's simple to straighten them out before you inflate the boat. We also feel weird about folding the tracking fins to fit everything back in its storage bag, though we could see no actual damage from doing so. The duffel itself isn't the most impressive of materials and zipper, but it also seems to do the trick without failing — though we wish it were a little larger.

The PVC tarpaulin bottom of the hull is puncture resistant and...
The PVC tarpaulin bottom of the hull is puncture resistant and pretty glide-tastic.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Value


This isn't the cheapest option available. If you're a kayaker who has a passion for the right performing boat and you love the versatility of single or tandem paddle options, we think this boat will quickly become your new favorite water toy. Hardshell, traditional kayaks are pretty huge, and this inflatable offers strong performance without taking up so much storage space. However, if you're looking for a tandem boat to float more than paddle, you might consider some of the lower-priced options, especially if you're shopping for kids.

Be aware that this kayak does not include any paddles, a pump, or PFDs with its purchase. Only a few models we tested come with more than the kayak.

For the option to paddle alone or with friends, we love this...
For the option to paddle alone or with friends, we love this convertible craft!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem is an impressive inflatable kayak. With some of the best handling and un-cramped comfort we could ask for, useful features, and top-notch durability, this boat is the best tandem kayak we tested. It'll cost you a pretty penny, but we think that for what it offers, it's worth it for the years of adventures it will bring you.

There are many adventures to be had in this big, beefy touring kayak!
There are many adventures to be had in this big, beefy touring kayak!
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg