Airhead Montana Review
Cons: Poor tracking, limited storage, unimpressive features
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|Pros||Very maneuverable, easy to set up, dries quickly||Handles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistant||All-inclusive package, adjustable seating, can paddle tandem or solo, comfortable seats||Everything included, affordable, durable, easy backpack carry, everything becomes part of the kayak||All-inclusive package, inexpensive, lightweight|
|Cons||Poor tracking, limited storage, unimpressive features||Heavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drain||Awkward bulky bag, foot pump is small, wobbly paddles||Poor paddle, rides high, blunt bow, fabric retains water, difficult to drain||Tracks poorly, tacos when fully inflated, deforms at full pressure, questionable durability|
|Bottom Line||A high-sitting maneuverable kayak made for dodging obstacles and turning on a dime||With excellent handling, a long lifespan, and great comfort, this kayak will go the distance||An inexpensive and more comfortable way to get out on the water with your friends or by yourself||For a decent kayak at a fraction of the cost of the competition, we love this backpack yak from Sevylor||This boat is fine if money is your bottom line, but it paddles poorly and has lackluster performance across the board|
|Rating Categories||Airhead Montana||Advanced Elements A...||Sea Eagle 370 Pro||Sevylor Quikpak K5||Intex Explorer K2|
|Ease of Set Up (20%)|
|Specs||Airhead Montana||Advanced Elements A...||Sea Eagle 370 Pro||Sevylor Quikpak K5||Intex Explorer K2|
|Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only)||32.0 lbs||33.25 lbs||42.8 lbs||23.4 lbs||26.2 lbs|
|Capacity||Single; 300 lbs||Single; 300 lbs||Tandem; 650 lbs||Single; 250 lbs||Tandem; 400 lbs|
|Kayak Size (length x width)||9' 2" x 2' 11"||10' 3" x 2' 9"||12' 6" x 2' 10"||10' x 2'8"||10' x 3'|
|Packed Size (length x width x height)||28" x 19" x 16"||33" x 16" x 15"||36" x 20" x 8"||22" x 17" x 9"||27" x 15" x 17"|
|Included Accessories||Repair kit||Repair kit||Foot pump, repair kit, paddles||Pump, paddle, spray skirt||Repair patches, pump, and paddles|
|Material/Construction||UV and water resistant 840D nylon||Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester||38 mil PVC||Heavy duty polyetster bottom, 24-gauge laminated PVC||Polypropylene|
|Features||Foot brace, adjustable backrest, drainage hole||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||Backpack carrying system turns into seat , storage area, bow and stern bungees, accessory D-rings, spray skirt, skeg||Removable skeg, bow & stern grab lines, adjustable backrest, manual drainage hole|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Airhead Montana is a single boat with a 300-pound capacity. It weighs 32 pounds and is made of UV and water-resistant 840D nylon. It features an adjustable backrest and foot brace, and a drainage hole.
Because the majority of the kayaks we tested are built for flatwater and calm days, that's where we did the bulk of our testing. When it comes to solo missions crossing big distances on still waters, the Montana is abysmal. It rides on top of the water with a wide base and no tracking fin, making it difficult to paddle in a straight line. It zig-zags with every stroke of the paddle and catches the wind like a small sail. However, in moving water, it's a dream to ride in. The 9'2" Montana is highly maneuverable, turning around submerged obstacles and into oncoming rapids and waves with ease. It lacks water-soaking fabric and channels the inevitably crashing surf away from your body toward a large channel surrounding the floor of the boat. Though not meant for serious rapids and intense rivers, the Montana is designed to be great in moderate white water and quick-moving streams.
Here again, the Montana isn't a pleasure cruise. If you're hunting for a boat to paddle languidly across the pond, this is not your ideal watercraft. Performing similar to a sit-on-top boat, sitting in the Montana makes you feel high out of the water. Its open design feels like less of a cockpit and more of a platform. It has short bungees across the front for attaching a small dry bag with key essentials, and that's about it. The foot brace is moderately adjustable, with three possible placements. The backrest is adjustable, and the rest of the boat is fairly simple and devoid of specific features.
Ease of Set Up
Three Boston valves adorn the right side, left side, and floor of the Montana. They're simple and relatively easy to use, even if their double leash system sometimes gets in the way, and when open for deflation, they may also admit sand into the hull of the kayak. A drainage hole on one end mostly keeps the boat from filling with water as you rip down the river but adds moderately to the teardown process. What we like most is that the entire boat is covered in water-resistant fabric, helping it to dry much faster in the sun than most others. You can also wipe it off with a towel for quicker clean-up.
Weighing 32 pounds, the Montana is on the lighter end of average weight for single boats. Cutting out the cumbersome storage bag, it folds up with a strap that goes around the whole thing. This should be simple, but in practice, we found it very difficult to consistently get this boat folded in just the right way to actually stay folded once the strap was secured and we were carrying it back to the car. When inflated, it has bow and stern carry handles attached to the end covers. Unfortunately, a poorly designed set of metal ring buckles holding these covers over the ends of the boat easily slide through each other when you try to pick it up, letting the cover pull right off the end of the craft.
Made entirely of 840D water-resistant, UV-resistant nylon, the Montana is reasonably durable. It doesn't have the same beefy thickness and feel as the many tarpaulin-bottomed boats we tested, but it's still pretty good. It also comes with a small repair patch, just in case. Of course, if you are heading down a moderately-swift set of rapids and happen to pop either side of this boat, it will be very difficult to paddle back to shore in just half a boat.
With an enticing price tag, the Montana has the potential to be a great value boat — for the right type of paddler. If you want a leisurely watercraft to casually paddle on a calm lake, this maneuverable, open-design boat with limited storage is not the best choice. But if you're hoping to hit some quick-moving rivers and want a boat that can handle a few lowgrade rapids, the Montana brings solid value to this arena.
The Airhead Montana is an open cockpit kayak that's better suited for higher octane adventures on rivers and over moderate rapids. It doesn't track well enough to be enjoyable for flatwater missions and lacks the storage capacity of an all-day adventure vessel. But if you're dying to hit the river, this highly maneuverable boat is a solid option for limited whitewater and swiftwater runs.
— Maggie Nichols
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