Intex Challenger K2 Review
Cons: Not durable, pump is inefficient, average portability
Manufacturer: Intex Corp
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Intex Challenger K2
|Price||$191.15 at Amazon||$540 List|
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|$314.98 at Amazon||Check Price at REI|
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|$249.99 at Amazon|
|Pros||Very inexpensive, everything included, low and stable||Handles well, high durability, fast, stable, fabric is water resistant||Complete package, doesn't soak up water, spacious, can paddle solo also||Extremely portable, maneuverable, stable, easy set up||Inexpensive, easy to set up/break down, everything included|
|Cons||Not durable, pump is inefficient, average portability||Heavy, floor difficult to inflate, hard to drain||Small paddle blades, unimpressive attachments, materials less durable||Low durability, poor tracking, weight doesn’t include pump or paddle||Narrow, sits high in water, unstable, seats unsupportive|
|Bottom Line||What it lacks in finesse and durability it makes up for with a shockingly low price tag and decent handling||With excellent handling, a long lifespan, and great comfort, this kayak will go the distance||Everything you need to get out on the water with a friend or by yourself for a great price||Getting on the water miles from any roads has never been easier than with this extremely portable kayak||A mixture of decent durability and reasonably low cost, this kayak will get you and a friend on the water with relative ease|
|Rating Categories||Intex Challenger K2||AdvancedFrame||Intex Excursion Pro K2||Advanced Elements P...||Sea Eagle 330|
|Ease Of Set Up (20%)|
|Specs||Intex Challenger K2||AdvancedFrame||Intex Excursion Pro K2||Advanced Elements P...||Sea Eagle 330|
|Measured Weight (boat and storage bag only)||27.5 lb||33.25 lb||34.6 lb||5.25 lb||28.9 lb|
|Capacity||Tandem; 400 lbs||Single; 300 lbs||Tandem; 400 lbs||Single; 250 lbs||Tandem; 500 lbs|
|Kayak Size (length x width)||11' 5" x 2' 11"||10' 3" x 2' 9"||12' 6" x 2' 8"||7' 6" x 2' 11"||10' 10" x 2' 10"|
|Packed Size (length x width x height)||28" x 18" x 12"||33" x 16" x 15"||26" x 19" x 19"||14" x 12" x 7"||41" x 21" x 14"|
|Included Accessories||Repair patches, pump and paddles||Repair kit||Paddles, pump, repair kit, GoPro/phone mount, fishing rod holders, and pressure gauge||Repair kit||Repair kit, pump and paddles|
|Material/Construction||30-gauge PVC vinyl, I-beam floor||Aluminum ribs in bow & stern, PVC-coated polyester||3-ply PVC vinyl laminate with polyester core||Polyurethane-coated ripstop polyester||33 mil Polykrylar (K80 PVC), I-beam floor|
|Features||Bow & stern grablines, cargo net, skeg||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||Inflatable spray skirts, bow & stern grab lines, skegs, scupper hole|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Intex Challenger K2 is a two-person inflatable tandem with a 400-pound capacity. It weighs 27.5 pounds and is made of 30 gauge PVC vinyl. It comes with paddles, a pump, and a repair kit.
For how much this kayak resembles an oversized pool floatie, we are rather pleased with how well it handles on the water. It rides low, making it more stable to paddle and easier to get in and out of — especially if you're hauling yourself back in after taking a refreshing dunk in the middle of the lake. This also helps it to not catch the wind so much, giving you a bit of an easier task than you'd have paddling into the wind in a taller vessel. It has a long skeg which helps it track better as well. Being an 11'5" long boat, we found there to be an adequate amount of space to fit two people and paddle comfortably in unison.
That being said, taller paddlers are a tighter fit than, say, the Girl Scout troop that spent a hilarious evening touring the lake and jumping in and out of boats. We also discovered that forgetting to attach the skeg to the Challenger makes it significantly less stable — one duo actually flipped the kayak multiple times. And while we appreciate that the paddles are included, we found that they are rather flimsy and not of much help pushing off of objects like the shore or an encroaching branch. Additionally, the Challenger has no scupper hole, so any water that comes into your craft is going to continue along with you until you get to a point where you can get out and flip the whole thing upside down. Overall, however, we found this boat to handle decently well for an inflatable kayak.
Though this kayak isn't our first choice for an eight-hour paddle upriver, it's pretty comfortable for short excursions. Riding low in the water with short sides makes it a snap to get in and out of. Because the sides aren't as thick as some of the competition and don't encroach so far into the sitting space, the Challenger feels like a wider boat than it is. The seats are inflatable and attach via velcro and buckles, allowing you to find a more comfortable position specific to your needs. The included paddles are also quite lightweight, which is always a bonus. They have slightly squishy grips, which makes them a bit more comfortable — and different than most other paddles on the market. And to top it off, there's some handy mesh covering on the bow of the boat to store some extra items you may want to bring — just don't plan on them staying dry!
While we appreciate that the seats attach securely, we felt that the backs were a tad short. This may not be an issue if you're leaning forward to paddle and make good headway, but if you'd rather recline and kick your feet up, these seats make that more challenging. We also found that as the K2 slowly started to deteriorate (more info below), the ever-bulging sides continued to grow and become a bit of a paddling hindrance. But barring these few gripes, we were pretty comfortable spending an hour or two paddling around in this budget boat.
Ease of Set Up
As far as inflatable kayaks go, the Challenger is pretty easy to set up. It only has two compartments (the floor and the hull/sides) and the seats that require inflating. It also comes with a handy measuring gauge to help you tell when the kayak is properly inflated. When you're done with your water adventure, it's very easy to dry the Challenger with a towel — no having to wait in the sun for hours while fabric dries out; this boat is made of a single layer of waterproof fabric. The whole kayak easily fits back into its oversized stuff sack as well, including all its components like the paddles and pump.
As much as we appreciate having a complete setup from the get-go with the Challenger, we quickly discovered how much of a pain the included pump is. It's very small (read: not efficient) and nowhere near ergonomic. This pump was one of our least favorite things about this model, though finding a different pump to fit the valves is easy if you don't mind the added expense. The directions for inflating/deflating the Challenger are laughable at best, but it's truly an easy kayak to figure out even without written instructions. And while we appreciate the ease of the included fullness gauge, it is very small and completely transparent, making it easy to quickly lose in the sand.
Like most tandem kayaks, you're unlikely ever to want to carry the Challenger farther than you have to. Yet, despite its size, this kayak retains a reasonable amount of portability. The duffel it comes in has plenty of space not only for its contents (boat, paddles, and pump) but with a bit of forethought, a life vest or two as well. The Challenger folds up into a pretty easy shape to store at the back of a closet for the winter. The paddles are also light, and weighing in at 33 pounds 3 ounces total, this is one of the lightest tandem boats we tested. If you're carrying just the boat itself (without paddles or pump), you're only responsible for just over 27 pounds of watercraft. Additionally, if you decide to inflate the boat at your car and walk it down to the water fully set up, it comes with ropes along the bow and stern to quickly pick it up and go.
However, one of our least favorite ways to carry something heavy and awkwardly shaped is by carrying it entirely on one side of the body. With the duffel carry of the Challenger, that's exactly what you'll end up doing. Despite being one of the lightest tandem models we tested, lugging over 30 pounds of anything in a duffel bag with no shoulder strap and thin handles is not overly fun. And to top it off, the Challenger has a pretty low capacity — just 400 pounds allotted for two people and whatever else you plan to bring with you on your adventure (food, water, gear, etc.). But if you're sending the kids out to play for an afternoon, the weight capacity may be just fine. And if you can get them to carry it, even better!
The durability of the Challenger K2 is the least impressive thing about it. It survived having a very small, mellow dog riding on the bow, but we're not confident it would have done so well with a more excitable canine. Probably the least inspiring part of this kayak is how, on our first inflation of the hull, a large bulge appeared along one side in the middle, despite our testers carefully using the included gauge to get the proper amount of air. This bulge not only continued to grow through successive uses but also spread to the other side of the kayak, making the entire craft wider.
Constructed of only a 30 gauge PVC vinyl, this tandem feels like a short step from your average pool floaties. It does come with repair patches, though these patches are small and self-adhesive (like a sticker) rather than having a separate, stronger glue to hold them on. However, as much as we used this boat, we never actually had to patch it.
Another aspect of this boat that worried us is that there are only two compartments that hold air. This is awesome when you're setting up and taking down the boat, as it saves time and effort. But if your hull pops while you are out on the water, you'll only have the floor (and seats) left to keep you afloat. Those aren't our favorite odds, and we recommend bringing (and wearing) one life jacket for each passenger on any boat, especially this one. At the end of the day, the shockingly low durability of the Challenger K2 is what keeps it from being a good combo of performance and price. But if you're just looking for something for a weekend or a season, this still might be in your wheelhouse — just don't expect anything miraculous from it.
The Challenger K2 comes at a low cost for a complete package, making it an appealing purchase. However, you may find yourself needing to purchase a new one each summer or cutting the season short after a close encounter with a sharp boulder or enthusiastic dog. But compared to renting a kayak every time you drive up to the lake, the Challenger might be a better solution.
Are you a serious kayaker but want to downsize your craft to something you can stuff in a trunk or closet by breaking into the world of inflatable kayaks? The Intex Challenger K2 is not the boat for you. Have you only been kayaking that one time on vacation and always wanted to be able to do it more but didn't want to spend the big bucks on a serious kayak? The Challenger may be just your speed. A decently lake-worthy boat, it's an inexpensive total package that provides just the right amount of access and fun for the not-so-serious kayaker. It is easy to roll up and throw in the van when you take the kids up to the lake and small enough to stuff on a shelf in the garage when you're not using it. It's not the boat to last you a lifetime, but it might be the right boat to help you make some good summer memories.
— Maggie Brandenburg