Advanced Elements is an inflatable kayak manufacturer from California and advertises with an evolution of inflatable kayaks, which is supposed to offer excellent driving characteristics through the use of patented technologies. We had the opportunity to review the AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite for an entire season.
The AdvancedFrame is the most popular inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements. The kayak is available as a 1-person and 2-persons kayak. The 1-person from Advanced Elements is a closed kayak and the 2-persons version is an open kayak. Nevertheless, the 2-person kayak can optionally be converted into a closed kayak with a deck, hence the name Convertible. The designation Elite indicates that the kayak is equipped with a drop-stitch floor. Boats without Elite come with a simple 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI) floor. Nevertheless, the simple version can also be upgraded with a backbone or a drop-stitch floor.
460 cm | 15’1”
82 cm | 2’7”
136 kg | 300 lbs
95 x 55 x 30 cm |
3’1” x 1’8” x 1′
600d nylon (deck), tarpaulin
polyester fabric (floor),
23.5 kg | 51.8 lbs
0.14 bar | 2 PSI (side chambers),
0.41 bar | 5.9 PSI (floor)
Which model has been reviewed?
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite from 2019
How did we organize the review?
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame was provided to us by OutEquip, the European distributor of Advanced Elements. Our review is independent of the manufacturer or distributor and reflects our own opinion of the boat.
How intensively has the product been tested?
2 bars = min. 1 day/ 2 half-day tours
3 bars = min. 4 tours
4 bars = min. 8 tours
5 bars = min. 12 tours (very intense)
Where have we tested the product?
Set-up and first impressions
The inflatable comes with a robust and large carrying bag, which can even be carried as a backpack. It is very practical for the storage and the short transport of the boat. The shoulder straps are attached to the bag with metal carabiners. No matter how we adjusted the backpack, the karabiners pressed painfully into the shoulder. So the backpack function is almost useless. This is a pity, as the kayak is quite heavy.
The bottom of the boat consists of a tarpaulin polyester fabric, which according to the manufacturer is composed of 3 layers. High-priced Sevylor boats also use this material for the bottom of their inflatable kayaks. At first sight the material makes a very high quality and robust impression. Our long-term test will show how tear and abrasion resistant the material really is.
The AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite features two inflatable seats and a footrest for the rear paddler. The included seats look a bit bulky and heavy, which contributes to the high overall weight of the boat. Both seats have a high seat cushion. This keeps the seat of your pants dry even when there is splash water in the boat. In addition, the backrests are inflatable and have a pocket on the back for the valve tube and another for small items. The seats make an overall high-quality impression.
After putting the boat apart you can see its length. In principle, this speaks for good driving characteristics. In addition, a removable drop-stitch floor is already in the boat, which is supplied as standard in the Elite version. A removable inner floor is very practical in any case. If the Drop-Stitch floor should break down, it can easily be replaced.
The inflation of the air chambers is done quite quickly with a double action air pump. The side chambers must be pumped up to 0.14 bar (2 PSI). Here the air is supplied via two separate valves, because the side walls of the boat consist of a separate inner and outer chamber. This construction gives the boat a high level of safety. On the one hand, the PVC floor and the nylon cover protect the air chambers. On the other hand, in case of damage, only the outer side chamber gets damaged. This ensures safe paddling to the next shore.
The side chambers are in nylon covers, which can be opened with zippers. If an air chamber is defective, it can be replaced. Finally, the Drop-Stitch floor is inflated to a maximum of 0.41 bar (5.9 PSI). Please make sure that the Drop-Stitch floor is centered in the bottom of the boat. At the beginning the complete assembly takes a little longer. As soon as you are trained, it will be faster and the inflatable kayak will take between 10 and 15 minutes to set up.
What is Drop-Stitch and BackBone?
With the Drop-Stitch technology, the upper and lower inner walls of the air chamber are additionally woven with nylon threads. This is the only way to achieve a significantly higher air pressure than with air chambers without the tangled nylon threads. The air chamber thus achieves very good dimensional stability and rigidity. The Drop-Stitch technology is very common for SUP boards (Stand Paddling Boards) and is used more and more for inflatable kayaks. Learn more about this type of inflatable boats, in our buyer’s guide for Drop-Stitch kayaks.
The BackBone is a multi-part rod that is placed under the air floor inside the kayak during assembly. Due to the weight of the kayaker, the BackBone is pressed against the outer wall of the boat and thus forms a V-shaped kayak hull, which is unusual for inflatable kayaks. This increases the directional stability and the speed. As a retrofit option, the BlackBone is much cheaper than the Drop-Stitch technology.
After inflation, the kayak has reached its full shape. The bottom lies very well in the kayak and is extremely firm due to the drop stitch technology. On each side chamber there are three click fasteners in which the seats can be attached. The boat can be paddled as a 2- or 1-person kayak. For the 1-person configuration, take the click fasteners in the middle.
In addition, there are flexible plastic plates for the stern and bow end. These are inserted into the pockets provided and thus form the ends of the kayak even better. We think it’s a great idea, because the kayak looks even stronger and higher quality by simple means.
Although the AdvancedFrame Convertible is an open kayak, it is equipped with very generous spray covers at the bow and stern. This is practical in two ways: On the one hand, the spray covers protect against splashing water when there are waves. On the other hand, luggage can be attached to the canopy without disturbing paddling. A luggage net is already attached to the top of the bow, for example to attach a daypack comfortably and safely. On the top of the stern there is only a device in the form of four D-rings. This allows luggage to be fastened with a luggage net or cords. It would have been better if it had already been integrated.
So that the cockpit is not sagging and stretched, there are small air tubes at the front and rear on both sides to inflate. This is again a small detail, which makes the kayak higher quality.
The zipper in the front spray deck is very practical for cleaning the boat and positioning the Drop-Stitch or BackBone correctly. But a zipper in the spray deck, which is supposed to keep water out? We tested it. Advanced Elements was aware of this and covered the zipper with grey strips. This works very well in the front area. Most of the water doesn’t flow in. In the long run, it drops a little. It becomes more problematic at the end, where the zipper is located. Here the water runs through and you get wet when paddling. If you expect waves when paddling, you should cover the zipper with removable adhesive tape (e.g. the Scotch Supreme fabric tape, compared to conventional fabric tapes, it leaves no traces of adhesive). The nylon fabric of the top, on the other hand, does not let water through.
The seats can easily be placed in the kayak and sit firmly so that they do not slip any further. The backrest can be individually adjusted with the straps. If you want to paddle the kayak alone, place a seat in the middle of the kayak and use the middle buckles on the side walls to fix the backrest. We like this concept of a variable sitting position very much.
The inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements has many other useful features. It has carrying handles at the bow and stern, which is self-evident, but some inflatables do not have. There are even holders for the double paddles. These are especially useful when carrying the boat around, or when you want to relax on the lake in a kayak and the paddles are not needed. The boat can also be converted into a closed kayak with a cockpit. Therefore, the kayak is equipped with a zipper all around in order to mount the optionally available cockpit. Attaching the cockpit was very easy.
Advanced Elements has attached great importance to good driving characteristics. This can be seen in the different characteristics of the boat. The keel of the bow and stern are well formed for an inflatable kayak. These reinforcements are achieved by aluminium rails inside the boat. Thus the water is cut and not “pushed in front of itself”. Not only the keels are well formed, but also the bottom of the boat. On the photo you can clearly see the smooth and flat bottom, which is formed by the inlaid Drop-Stitch floor.
In addition, the inflatable kayak has three integrated direction fins on the bottom. A very flat and elongated fin at the front and rear of the kayak and a large directional fin at the bow. All three directional fins are very flat, so grounding by the fins is unlikely and straight-line stability is improved at the same time.
Review of the AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite on the water
We could already test the boat under different conditions (e.g. on rivers in cities, big lakes with moderate wind and mountain lakes), where the boat had to endure some demands. Our experiences refer to the AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite, with drop-stitch floor.
When we first paddled the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame on the water, we were immediately impressed by the performance. For a inflatable kayak it is very easy to paddle and we always had the feeling of moving pretty quickly. Compared to many other inflatable, the Advanced Elements forms a bow wave much later and is therefore faster and easier to paddle.
Since the Dropstitch floor can be inflated up to 0.41 bar (5.9 PSI), it does not deform when paddling. This makes paddling in the Advanced Elements kayak even more efficient. The solid floor prevents possible deformation due to the weight of the paddlers. This results in a flat and smooth underside of the kayak in the water, with significantly less water resistance. You had the feeling of sitting in a high quality solid hull kayak.
Even in windy conditions, the inflatable kayak had made a good impression, which is not a matter of course for an inflatable kayak. Because in principle inflatable kayaks are more likely to float on the water than in the water compared to solid hull and folding kayaks. The side chambers give the wind a lot of surface to attack and make paddling more difficult. We had also noticed the effect of the wind on the Advanced Elements and were slightly drifted off course depending on the wind direction. Nevertheless we were satisfied with the performance. In spite of moderate wind and rough sea we made good progress and had a speed of up to 6 km/h (3.7 mph).
Compared to many other kayaks, the Advanced Elements is stable in the water. It is not quite as stable as the Gumotex Swing 2 (which in our opinion is one of the most stable inflatable kayaks), but still absolutely sufficient. On our paddle tour through Berlin the partly heavy waves of passing ships could not bring the Advanced Elements AdvancesFrame into an unstable position. We always felt safe in the boat.
The kayak offers paddlers enough legroom. So it is also suitable for tall people. However, we think it is a pity that there is no footrest for the front paddler. That’s why the front paddler has to move its seat forward so that the feet can be pushed against the inner of the bow.
The seats give a good support when paddling. The backrests are strong enough and do not bend. The seat cushion also retains its position in the boat. During longer trips, however, it can be a bit uncomfortable for the buttocks, as the seat is firmly padded and the Drop-Stitch floor is also very firm. However, we do not consider this to be a disadvantage as a paddle boat is not a sofa. If you like it more comfortable, you can use a soft seat cushion. Alternatively, the AdvancedFrame Convertible with Back-Bone instead of Drop-Stitch would be recommended in this case. There is the standard floor with 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI), which is softer and therefore gives more softness when sitting.
We also find it practical that it is very easy to adjust the backrest when paddling. We have often used this on longer trips to avoid having to sit in the same position all the time.
As a single kayak the AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite also has a good trim, so the hull is evenly distributed in the water. The driving characteristics had convinced us here as well. As a 1er the boat can be steered well and paddled quickly. In the 2-seat configuration, the front paddler is well protected against splashing water by the very generous spray deck at the bow. This advantage disappears with the 1-seat configuration, as you slide backwards considerably. Here a 1er cockpit would be recommended on longer tours. Apart from that we also find it a pity that there is no footrest, but this doesn’t bother when paddling comfortably.
We really liked the additional deck for solo paddlers. There is a cross brace at the front of the seat hatch so that the deck does not hang down in the paddler’s foot area. The hatch closure is a good idea, and in our view the better solution to the zippers in the deck. Through the roll closure no water gets inside the boat.
The luggage net also convinced us. The click closures make it easy to accommodate even large luggage. In the case we had clothes and other items of three people stowed in the carrying bag of the boat.
Dismantling the kayak
The dismantling and folding of the boat was easy. However, the kayak did not fit so loosely and easily into the supplied carrying bag. Here it helps to fold the boat without seats, footrest and drop-stitch floor and to lay into the bag. Afterwards it is much easier to store the remaining parts in the carrying bag.
However, at home the kayak has to be disassembled and inflated slightly so that the nylon covers dry properly. Especially the nylon covers of the side chambers dry badly. It is advisable to reposition or turn the tubes after some time, so that everything is dry at the end.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The good driving characteristics are definitely the greatest strength of the Advanced Elements, which it offers as a inflatable kayak. Paddling is really fun with the boat. The two biggest weaknesses of the Advanced Element are its high weight and bulky pack size. Also the long drying time through the nylon cover is a bit annoying compared to Innova and Aquaglide boats. These boats of the manufacturers can be simply wiped dry with a cloth.
+ very good driving characteristics + spacious interior + good workmanship + plenty of well thought-out details and features + good directional stability + modular design and exchangeable side chambers and floor + boat can be extended with accessories (complete cockpit, BackBone, Drop-Stitch floor) + can also be paddled as a 1-person kayak + Increased air pressure compared to other nylon-covered inflatable kayaks
– susceptible to dirt and long drying time due to nylon cover – high weight and large pack size for an inflatable – less manoeuvrable due to length – no third seat can be integrated for a child (but can sit on the floor and thus be safer) – little space at the rear for luggage – no foot brace for the front paddler – uncomfortable and tightly dimensioned transport bag
Conclusion on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite
For an inflatable kayak, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite has got solid hull drivinig characteristics. With its pack size and weight it belongs to the bulky and heavy inflatable kayaks. As the boat is originally designed for the American market, where the next lake will be reached by car instead of public transport, it is easy to understand why the manufacturer placed less emphasis on weight reduction. On the other hand, the boat scores in driving characteristics, comfort and equipment. With the AdvancedFrame Convertible, it is obvious that the manufacturer did not want to copy another inflatable kayak and bring it onto the market, but wanted to set itself apart from the conventional inflatable kayaks. From our point of view, the manufacturer has succeeded. The integrated aluminium rails in the bow and stern of the boat in combination with a dropstitch bottom or a backbone result in an inflatable kayak which is so unique on the market. It is really fun to paddle because it is very easy and fast. We also noticed that Advanced Elements didn’t cut corners here when it came to workmanship and equipment. The kayak is solid and has a lot of equipment.
Due to its weight, we recommend a permanent canoe cart for the Advanced Elements. If you take your car or camper and paddle accessible rivers and lakes, this aspect is of little importance to you. For those of us who mainly use public transport and like to carry a boat on our backs for more than half an hour, the inflatable kayak is less suitable. For our tests we had transported the boat in a backpack, but only the boat without any other equipment. We usually transport our Innova Swing 2 with all the equipment in a backpack and it is even lighter than the Advanced Elements. The material had made a robust impression on the tours and had to put up with a lot. Small traces of use (like small long scratches) are visible, but not further critical from our point of view. Nevertheless, we recommend paddling the boat with care and drying it properly after the tour. Then you have a great infatalbe kayak, which will give you a lot of paddling fun for many years.
We have also reviewed the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame 1-person inftlable kayak. This is a great alternative if you are looking for a lighter and more compact kayak and if you would paddle mostly alone.
Accessory for the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite Kayak
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible can be equipped with a 1-person or 2-person cockpit and thus be converted into a closed kayak. We had tested it and found the installation of the cockpit very easy. Personally we found the interior a bit too narrow. Nevertheless it is a good option to protect yourself from splash water and cold in spring or autumn.
I have the AF Convertible and I just ordered the DS floor so essentially an Elite. Reading about the much lighter Gumotex Rush 2 made me thinking about switching. Would you say it’s worth it?
if weight is important to you then the Gumotex Rush 2 might be the right boat for you. However, the Advanced Elements kayak performs better on the water than the Gumotex Rush, especially regarding speed.
Well done excellent review. I am looking to get the non Elite i.e. without drop stitch floor (as the Elite is not available off the shelf here in NZ). This as my first Kayak for myself and my son or wife to use and our use will initial be flat coast water that we drive to. Can you comment on the difference in use with and without the drop stitch floor, both as a tandem and single.
we have paddled this kayak so far only with the drop stitch floor. That’s why we can’t provide you this kind of comparison.
Nice review, just wondering if you had any thoughts on this vs sea eagle 420X?
we haven’t paddled the Sea Eagle 420X yet but I think that the performance on the water in terms of speed and straight-line stability is better from the Advanced Elements kayak because it’s longer, less wide and a well-formed hull. The big advantages of the Sea Eagle is that it’s easier to dry and that it can be paddled by 3 persons.
Thank you for the thorough and detailed review! I’ve been researching inflatable kayaks for a while, and this was more helpful than the several videos I watched about the AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite. I’m upgrading from an Intex Explorer K2, so anything will be an improvement 🙂