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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
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Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Review (The AE Tandem feels stable, even with a tall 80-pound dog in tow.)
The AE Tandem feels stable, even with a tall 80-pound dog in tow.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
Price:  $980 List
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Manufacturer:   Advanced Elements
By Maggie Nichols ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 11, 2023
72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 15
  • Gliding and Tracking - 25% 8.5
  • Maneuverability - 20% 6.5
  • Stability - 20% 8.0
  • Ease of Transport and Set Up - 15% 4.0
  • Comfort - 10% 8.0
  • Construction Quality - 10% 8.0

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. See how it measures up versus competitors in our article on the best inflatable kayaks.
REASONS TO BUY
Handles and tracks well
Very durable
Helpful features
Option for single or tandem paddling
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
No paddles or pump included
Expensive
Editor's Note: This review was updated with information from our improved test plan and added comparisons to new models on October 11, 2023.

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Bottom Line A heavy but excellent kayak that tracks well and can be used solo or tandemThough not inflatable, this foldable kayak is an impressive performer and proven crowd-pleaserThis yak is among our favorites and it's built to last and perform at a high levelAn affordable and pleasant paddling experience with a friend or solo on calm watersTake this lightweight, packable kayak just about anywhere you can imagine for a unique experience
Rating Categories Advanced Elements A... Oru Beach LT Advanced Elements A... Sea Eagle 370 Pro Advanced Elements P...
Gliding and Tracking (25%)
8.5
9.0
9.0
5.5
2.0
Maneuverability (20%)
6.5
9.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
4.5
5.5
Ease of Transport and Set Up (15%)
4.0
9.0
4.5
6.0
9.5
Comfort (10%)
8.0
8.5
8.5
6.5
4.0
Construction Quality (10%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
5.5
4.0
Specs Advanced Elements A... Oru Beach LT Advanced Elements A... Sea Eagle 370 Pro Advanced Elements P...
Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only) 55.2 lbs 26.1 lbs 33.25 lbs 42.8 lbs 5.25 lbs
Capacity Tandem; 550 lb Single; 300 lb Single; 300 lb Tandem; 650 lb Single; 250 lb
Kayak Size (length x width) 15' x 2' 8" 12' 3" x 2' 6" 10' 3" x 2' 9" 12' 6" x 2' 10" 7' 6" x 2' 11"
Packed Size (length x width x height) 35" x 21" x 12" 32" x 28.5" x 11" 33" x 16" x 15" 36" x 20" x 8" 14" x 12" x 7"
Included Accessories Repair kit Repair pieces Repair kit Foot pump, repair kit, paddles Repair kit
Material/Construction Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC tarpaulin, 3 layers rip-stop material Double-layered polypropylene, 10-year UV treatment Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester 38 mil PVC Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester
Features Paddle keepers, seatback pockets, bungee straps, D-ring attachment points, converts to solo boat Adjustable foot brace and backrest, bulkheads, carry handles Adjustable backrest, bungees, pressure relief valve in floor, skeg Seatback pockets, bow & stern grablines, drainage hole, adjustable seats, two small tracking fins, converts to solo boat 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


advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Gliding and Tracking


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. We were impressed by the narrow cut of the bow, which hides an internal aluminum frame to slice through the wind and waves better.


The boat also features a tarpaulin bottom with a plastic feel that glides through the water with minimal drag. Particularly with two paddlers, we felt downright speedy paddling this tandem and didn't have to waste any effort correcting our strokes to stay on course.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Maneuverability


The internal aluminum keel adds a level of maneuverability that continues right into the turning of the Convertible Tandem, which is easier than we expected, even with a lone kayaker at the helm. However, this boat is quite heavy for a solo paddler, giving you a more intense workout with your adventure.


That plastic-coated underside and durable fabric exterior help the AE Tandem to slide over submerged obstacles with ease. This isn't one of those boats that we felt like we had to baby during our testing. We paddled over drowned shrubbery and landed on rocky shores without a worry.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Stability


The 32-inch width of the AE Convertible Tandem gives it stability over turbid waters without impairing your ability to paddle. It is wide enough to provide stability for even a novice paddler to feel secure. Compared to many other inflatable vessels, this one rides lower, keeping your center of gravity close to the water and adding to that stable feeling.


Getting in and out of this boat proved to be quite easy. Strongly inflatable sides provide secure points of contact for our testing team to get in from the shore, from docks, and even from a swim in the lake. The inflatable bottom can become underinflated on cool waters and transfer the motion of the waves through the boat, but it didn't make us feel unstable.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

East of Transport and 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. 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. It's important to note that you'll need TWO adapters to fill all the chambers in this giant craft. Just like most inflatable kayaks, this one has specific pressure requirements for different chambers — though it includes no gauge to monitor that.

You'll need two pump adapters for inflation.

Putting this behemoth away is a chore. You're directed to let it dry completely before doing so. But with no drainage hole and many layers of plastic for water to sit between, this takes hours. To truly dry it out, you need to remove the boat's floor and let it sit or dry it with a towel. In the real world, it more often gets packed up with some water and sand still trapped inside, which is likely to be still waiting for you the next time you take this boat out. During the folding process, we found it impossible to avoid creasing the long, narrow tracking fins along the bottom of the hull. This large boat was also difficult to fit back into the small duffel it comes with. We frequently found ourselves sweating and swearing while sitting on the package, trying to zip it back closed.

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.

Weighing in at 55.2 pounds, this is one of the heaviest kayaks we tested, even for a tandem. 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. It's much more manageable to portage once it's inflated — as long as 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 often inflating this beast at our cars and carrying it down to the beach water-ready. Carrying this kayak solo, though, is a bit much.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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!
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

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. 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. 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.


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. The seats 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. 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.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Construction Quality


The bottom of the AdvancedFrame Convertible hull 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.


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 feel no actual damage to our paddling experience from doing so. The duffel itself isn't the most impressive construction, but it also seems to do the trick without failing — though we wish it were larger.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Should You Buy the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem?


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.

advanced elements advancedframe convertible tandem - 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!
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

What Other Inflatable Kayaks Should You Consider?


If you don't need quite so much high-tech performance but still want to get out on the water in a tandem-turned-single boat, the Sea Eagle 370 Pro is another solid option for a fraction of the price. Rather head out in pairs rather than in a single boat? The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame is this same kayak for a solo paddler.

Maggie Nichols