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Airhead Montana Review

A high-sitting maneuverable kayak made for dodging obstacles and turning on a dime
Airhead Montana
Photo: Airhead
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Price:  $450 List
Pros:  Very maneuverable, easy to set up, dries quickly
Cons:  Poor tracking, limited storage, unimpressive features
Manufacturer:   Airhead
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 16, 2021
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54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 13
  • Handling - 25% 5
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Ease of Set Up - 20% 7
  • Portability - 20% 5
  • Durability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Airhead Montana is a simple solo boat built for light missions in quick-moving waters. On flat water, its maneuverability becomes a liability as it tracks poorly and is a bit too wide for easy paddle correction. A completely open cockpit drains water away from you as you tackle rapids but leaves limited options for storage on calmer adventures. This boat is easy to set up, and when you're ready to go home, fast to dry in the sun or with a towel. It's not the best flatwater boat, but it is fun to play in on the river.

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Pros Very maneuverable, easy to set up, dries quicklyHandles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistantComplete package, doesn't soak up water, spacious, can paddle solo alsoExtremely portable, maneuverable, stable, easy set upVery inexpensive, everything included, low and stable
Cons Poor tracking, limited storage, unimpressive featuresHeavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drainSmall 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 A high-sitting maneuverable kayak made for dodging obstacles and turning on a dimeWith 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 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 Airhead Montana AdvancedFrame Intex Excursion Pro K2 Advanced Elements P... Intex Challenger K2
Handling (25%)
5.0
9.0
7.0
4.0
5.0
Comfort (25%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
4.0
Ease Of Set Up (20%)
7.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Portability (20%)
5.0
6.0
6.0
9.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
5.0
8.0
4.0
3.0
2.0
Specs Airhead Montana AdvancedFrame Intex Excursion Pro K2 Advanced Elements P... Intex Challenger K2
Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only) 32.0 lb 33.25 lb 34.6 lb 5.25 lb 27.5 lb
Capacity Single; 300 lb Single; 300 lbs Tandem; 400 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' 8" 7' 6" x 2' 11" 11' 5" x 2' 11"
Packed Size (length x width x height) 28" x 19" x 16" 33" x 16" x 15" 26" x 19" x 19" 14" x 12" x 7" 28" x 18" x 12"
Included Accessories Repair kit Repair kit Paddles, pump, repair kit, GoPro/phone mount, fishing rod holders, and pressure gauge Repair kit Repair patches, pump and paddles
Material/Construction UV and water resistant 840D nylon Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester 3-ply PVC vinyl laminate with polyester core Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester 30-gauge PVC vinyl, I-beam floor
Features Foot brace, adjustable backrest, drainage hole 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 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 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.

Performance Comparison


A wide boat that turns on a dime.
A wide boat that turns on a dime.
Photo: Jason Peters

Handling


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.

The Montana rides on top of the water and is very maneuverable.
The Montana rides on top of the water and is very maneuverable.
Photo: Jason Peters

Comfort


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.

A small foot brace adds a little to this simple kayak.
A small foot brace adds a little to this simple kayak.
Photo: Jason Peters

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.

The bow and stern covers easily come unlatched due to poor buckle...
The bow and stern covers easily come unlatched due to poor buckle design.
Photo: Jason Peters

Portability


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.

We don't love the strap that holds this packed kayak together and...
We don't love the strap that holds this packed kayak together and prefer to carry it already inflated.
Photo: Jason Peters

Durability


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.

Perhaps not the most elegant, this sit on top kayak is made from...
Perhaps not the most elegant, this sit on top kayak is made from water resistant fabric.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

This highly maneuverable kayak is better suited to dodging rapids...
This highly maneuverable kayak is better suited to dodging rapids than battling winds.
Photo: Jason Peters

Maggie Brandenburg