Aquaglide Columbia XP Tandem XL Review
Cons: Fabric retains water, collects sand/debris, ridiculously difficult to pack up, extremely heavy
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Aquaglide is a tandem craft made of 600D polyester with a Duratex hull. It fits 2+ people and features fishing rod holders and a self-bailing scupper hole.
As one of the longest kayaks we tested, we are quite pleased with how the Aquaglide handles on the water. This boat is 14'7" long and 3'2" wide, and rides with a low profile in the water making it one of the most stable boats in the cohort. With a pointed, piercing bow and a long skeg to boot, the Aquaglide tracks well through the water and in cooperation with your paddle buddy, it's rather maneuverable! There's plenty of room for two paddlers not to feel like you're paddle-fencing in the boat. And with the extra space - and little bonus seat pad! - you can even fit a small third person to ride along and sing songs, crack jokes, or be your tour guide.
The Aquaglide also features fully adjustable foot braces - a feature not found in most inflatable kayaks. This allows you to achieve proper kayak paddling form, dig in and firmly brace to give you the maximum support for strong strokes - crucial if you're paddling against the wind or need to be able to maximize the power of your strokes. Additionally, a handy scupper hole in the bow of the boat drains water while you paddle, helping you avoid sitting in a floating bathtub.
As with most fabric-covered inflatable kayaks, what you gain in the durability of the boat you typically sacrifice with a little bit of speed and a slight increase in drag caused by the fabric, despite a plasticized undercarriage. That said, we don't feel that this vessel is particularly challenging to paddle considering its size, so the drag effect is likely minimal. It's a bit of a bummer that the Columbia doesn't come with any paddles (or a pump), but that does allow you to bypass the potential headache of using included paddles that you find out halfway through your journey are ineffective or break. Pair the Aquaglide with paddles you already know you like - just remember that it will add to the overall weight and amount of things you'll be carrying down the beach or bank. Lack of paddles aside, we are pleased with how well the Aquaglide performs on the water.
One of the most comfortable inflatable kayaks we tested, the Aquaglide Columbia is a boat that we keep coming back to as a solid choice for longer adventures. Unlike the cramped feeling you can get from sitting in other kayaks, the Aquaglide has tons of room to spread out if you want or pack a whole bunch of stuff along with you if you'd rather go that route! And with the highest weight capacity of all the kayaks we tested, at 600 lbs, you can bring a LOT of gear with you! The seats are very comfortable and extremely adjustable - both in the angle you prefer to sit and exactly where you'd like to sit inside the boat.
Having the foot braces also adds to the overall comfort of your paddling experience. Even if you don't use them to dig into your stroke, they also provide a comfortable angle to keep your knees while you enjoy your time gliding over the water. There are tons of tie-downs, pockets, and convenient loops all around this boat to accommodate whatever adventure you're having that day. With so much flexibility and so many features, we felt that we could ride in high comfort on just about any adventure!
We honestly can't find much we don't like about the comfort of this kayak. Perhaps the only major concern we have is that the seats may become flattened over time as they get stuffed (and we mean stuffed) back into the storage bag that's not quite big enough to hold everything this kayak is. It certainly made the plastic fishing rod holders on the back of the seats a bit less round and more oval-shaped… But really, at the end of the day, we think this kayak is pretty plush and a delight to ride in.
Ease of Set Up
Clearly, you're going to need a lot of space to set up this gigantic boat. Not only does the boat itself take up a lot of space, but many accessories will eventually all fit into the boat, complicating the setup. The directions included with the boat are relatively straightforward (though the one we received came with directions from a slightly different model of Aquaglide kayak). Inflation is quite simple, with just three compartments to inflate. The seats don't require inflation and simply velcro and clip into place once you're fully inflated. Deflation is also a snap, or rather a twist, as the valves open completely to let the air out quickly and easily while you fold your kayak for storage.
After we tracked down a pump to use for the Aquaglide (since it comes with none), we had no problems getting it inflated. However, the directions ask you to fill the kayak to a specific pressure (measured in PSI) yet include no gauge to figure out what pressure the chambers are at during the process. It seems that you can mostly figure out how full to fill each chamber by pressing on them and gauging their firmness, but we feel that asking for a specific amount of pressure without having a way to measure that is a significant downfall. This was a common problem with several of the other inflatable kayaks.
The worst parts of setting up this kayak are taking it back apart. The fabric isn't waterproof and stays wet, needing hours to dry to avoid adding extra weight while you carry it back to your car, and extra stink as it sits in your garage for months. Not only did we have a hard time drying out the fabric hull, but we also found that it collects sand easily and at an alarming rate. Even completely dry, we had a tough time removing all the sand from this boat. This again adds weight and makes it even harder to fold up and fit back into the storage sack it came in. Speaking of which, the stuff sack for the Aquaglide is comically small for the number of things you're expected to fit in it. Sand also worked its way into the threads of the valves which we had to clean each time before putting it together to avoid air leakage. Setting up the Aquaglide is easy - taking it back down is the battle we despised fighting.
To no one's surprise, the Aquaglide Columbia is not very portable. Weighing over 43 lbs before adding a pump or paddles or anything else you may want to bring paddling, this kayak is not one you'd be happy carrying a mile to the beach from your parking spot. Once it's set up, there are convenient bow and stern handles that make carrying this beast much less awkward of a chore. If you have the space to set up next to your car and can throw everything you need for your excursion inside the kayak and strap the paddles on the gunnels, it becomes a much easier - or at least more comfortable - piece of gear to lug around.
If you don't have space to set up next to your car, schlepping this gargantuan craft to your launch point in its bag with an uncomfortable duffle-style carry is a chore. The drawstring doesn't easily stay shut (we tied it every time), the handles are relatively narrow for how heavy the package is, and there's no good way to swing the bag up onto your shoulder or back to avoid the hefty arm curls involved with any duffle carry. The bag is also massive. After many months of using this boat and perfecting the folding style to take up as little space as possible, the total kit was 34 in long, 21 in wide and 17 in thick. This certainly adds to the challenge of carrying it anywhere or fitting it in the back of a small vehicle or on an upper shelf in your garage. The ability to fit a tandem kayak in the back of your Ford Focus or behind your vacuum cleaner in the closet, though, certainly makes this boat easier to store than a traditional hardshell kayak.
Covered by 600D polyester fabric, the Aquaglide Columbia XP Tandem XL instantly gives off the impression of durability and longevity. It easily withstood having several enthusiastic 50+lb dogs hopping back and forth on it in the water and jumping off the edge and clambering back in. Even the plastic tie-ons and loops feel quite solid and we never questioned their ability to hold the myriad of gear and ropes we tied onto them. Aquaglide also includes a repair kit with several large patches and glue to fix your craft, should anything go wrong.
The least durable part of this boat is the storage sack it comes in, or so we thought. It feels cheaply made of thin material, and having to jam everything back into it with brute force doesn't make us feel like we are helping it have a long life. However, as we paddled and played in this boat throughout several months, the floor valve actually began to leak. The seal between the valve and the boat itself had ruptured, and a constant stream of air was easily heard until the floor deflated in just a few minutes and not fun or easy to paddle at all. But as a 'manufacturing error,' Aquaglide was happy to replace the boat under warranty so we could get back to paddling this otherwise wonderful kayak.
While this "tandem" kayak certainly isn't cheap, we think it brings a pretty good and convincing suite of traits to entice families, dog owners, and touring enthusiasts alike. If you're looking to buy a boat you enjoy paddling around, don't have to hear the kids complain about (well, not as much at least), and want to keep around for a few years, the Columbia XP is a really solid choice and worth what you pay.
The Aquaglide Columbia XP Tandem XL is a giant kayak that can be adapted to suit a wide variety of needs, activities, and paddling styles. It's stable, comfortable, and handles well in the water, putting it right up there with hardshell kayaks but with the bonus of being able to roll it up and stuff it in a closet when you're not using it. Knowing that you're going to be lugging around a big, heavy watercraft and just committing to the discomfort that entails, we think you'll be pleased with how this vessel enhances your kayaking experiences for years to come.
— Maggie Brandenburg
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