The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame is a closed 1-person inflatable kayak. The Californian manufacturer Advanced Elements was founded in 2007, but already produces a variety of inflatable kayaks. The AdvancedFrame is the manufacturer’s classic and is very popular and widespread among inflatable kayaks in the US. We had the opportunity to review the kayak for one season and would like to share our impressions with you.
Make sure to check out also our review on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFramce Convertible Elite kayak. This is a 2-person tandem kayak, but it can be also paddled by one person. Thanks to its length, it has a really good performance on the water.
318 cm | 10’4”
81 cm | 2’7”
136 kg | 300 lbs
76 x 43 x 25 cm |
2’5” x 1’4” x 8”
600d nylon (deck), tarpaulin
polyester fabric (floor),
16.3 kg | 36 lbs
0.14 bar | 2 PSI (side chambers),
0.07 bar | 1 PSI (floor)
Which model has been reviewed?
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame with backbone (optional accessory) 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?
Table of Contents
First impressions and assembly
The inflatable kayak comes with a robust carrying bag, which is not equipped with a backpack strap. This is a shame because the 16.3 kg (36 lbs) boat is not a lightweight. If you also want to transport the boat by public transport, bicycle or on foot, we recommend purchasing a spacious transport backpack. If you want to store your boat or transport it by car in the trunk, the transport bag is perfect. The Advanced Elements is quite heavy for a single inflatable kayak. Other manufacturers can do this better. In the meanwhile Advanced Elements has introduced also another model, the AdvancedFrame Ultralite, which is much lighter.
We have reviewed the AdvancedFrame with the backbone, which is optionally available as an accessory. Independent of the backbone, the bow and the stern of the kayak are stiffened with aluminium rails, which are supposed to promise improved driving characteristics.
What does BackBone mean?
The backbone is a four-part pole that is placed between the outer skin and the floor chamber before inflation. The weight of the paddler presses the pole against the bottom of the kayak, forming the usual V-shape for solid hull kayaks, but unusual for inflatable kayaks. The hull of the boat is thus better shaped. The V-shape of the hull improves directional stability and increases speed.
The kayak has seven air chambers. That sounds a lot at first, but it’s not. For the side tubes there are two chambers, one inner and one outer. This construction gives the tube kayak even more safety, as the inner chamber is protected from the outside. If the outer chamber is damaged, you can still get to the shore safely. The third chamber is the floor, which is very quickly inflated due to the low air pressure. Then there are two air chambers or air tubes for the spray deck and the coaming rim.
The backbone is placed in the boat before inflating the floor chamber. To do this, the four-part rod is half assembled. The two poles are then put together in the boat. Placing the backbone and plugging it in is very easy and does not require a lot of effort. The air chamber of the floor is then placed on top and inflated to 0.1 bar. When inflating, it is necessary to check whether the backbone is in the middle. Even if the backbone is not completely centered, the boat still runs well in the water and deviates only very little from the track. You inflate the bottom chamber until air escapes from the pressure relief valve. Then the correct operating pressure is reached.
Compared to the Advanced Elements Convertible, the seat does not have a high seat cushion. This is also not necessary as the soft floor of the kayak offers sufficient seating comfort. The only disadvantage of the flat seat is that when you are in the water, you immediately sit in the wet.
The backrest is attached to the side walls by two straps with a click fastener. You can adjust the position of the backrest individually before and during the ride on the water. The seat is well made and can be placed variably in the boat. The backrest of the seat is nicely high dimensioned. Large people should attach the seat to the far back of the boat (see picture below). Air tubes are integrated underneath the spray deck so that the spray cover itself with the coaming do not hang down. Thus the spray deck gets a good form and an optional spray skirt can be stretched over it.
The boat is equipped with two directional fins, a very flat elongated fin at the bow and a short larger fin at the stern. Directional fins are essential on inflatable kayaks for good directional stability. Many inflatable kayak manufacturers offer attachable fins so that they can be removed in whitewater or very shallow water. We ride our Gumotex Swing 2 in very shallow water and whitewater without a fin. This is not possible with Advanced Elements, as they are permanently mounted. On the other hand, the fins are relatively shallow so that the risk of grounding is significantly reduced even in shallow waters. In addition, it is not completely rigid and would yield to the side if touched lightly.
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame is a closed kayak, which can be closed almost watertight with a spray skirt. The emphasis is on “almost”, because the zipper in the hood is not waterproof. For small amounts of water, the grey fabric strips act as a barrier, partially covering the zipper. So the water does not flow to the zipper, but well from the hood again. For larger quantities of water (e.g. if you catch a large wave unfavourably and it sloshes over the bow, water drips into the interior afterwards). On the other hand, the zipper allows easy access to the interior, be it to place the backbone or to wipe the interior of the boat dry. We find the luggage net on the front hood very successful. This makes it possible to stow a drybag or daypack safely and easily. There is not much storage space behind the seat under the hood, there is only room for a water bottle and a lunch box.
In the back there is no luggage net on the hood, but only 4 D-rings as a fixture for fastening luggage. The carrying handles are very similar to Gumotex inlatable kayaks and are very comfortable for transporting the kayak on land.
We think the modular construction of the boat is very good. On the one hand it can be easily repaired in case of damage, because the floor and side chambers are exchangeable. On the other hand, it can be extended or adapted to different paddling conditions. If you paddle large and slowly flowing rivers and lakes, you can equip the boat with the backbone. If you paddle wilder rivers with possible ground contact, you only use the soft floor chamber and the boat cushions unpleasant touches with rocks and stones better.
In addition, the inflatable kayak has a paddle holder on the hood. When carrying the boat over your shoulder you can take the paddle in your hand. But if you want to rest longer on the water, the paddle holder is quite practical. After building up the inflatable kayak, you immediately notice how well the bow and stern are stiffened. AdvancedFrame owes the great pointed shape to the inner aluminium rails and inserted plastic plates.
Review of the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame on the water
The inflatable kayak can be easily carried to water on its own and used by taking it over your shoulder. Getting started is also easy and safe. If it is too tight for you, you can open the deck cover via the zipper and close it again after entering.
If you now sit in a kayak and start paddling, you will notice two things. First, the kayak lies stable on the water. Capsizing would be difficult. Therefore the kayak is also very suitable for beginners. The kayak has also behaved very stable on the water during waves (due to passing ships). On the other hand, we immediately liked the straight line. The kayak has good directional stability for an inflatable single kayak, compared to other inflatables of similar quality (e.g. Gumotex Swing 1 or Gumotex Twist). This allows paddling without constant correction of the direction.
The inflatable reaches a speed of over 5 km/h (3 mph) when paddling comfortably, and well over 6 km/h (3.7) when paddling quickly. These are good values for a single inflatable kayak. Nevertheless, it is noticeably slower than the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite, the 2 person version of this boat. In comparison to the 1-person version, the 2-person kayak has due to its long hull an even better directional stability and is 1-2 km/h (0.6 – 1.2 mph) faster. The manoeuvrability of the boat is good, but we have also paddled more manoeuvrable 1-person kayaks.
What’s the benefit of the BackBone?
We had tried out the boat without backbone on another paddle tour. We had expected bigger differences. Without the backbone, the inflatable kayak has a slightly poorer directional stability and is between 0.5 and 1 km/h slower (0.3 – 0.6 mph). The price of just over $90 is not justified for such a pole. Those who paddle only occasionally can do without a backbone for the time being, as the boat can also be paddled satisfactorily without this rod.
The kayak offers plenty of space and legroom (both when paddling with and without shoes) so that even tall people can paddle it. The comfort is also good. At the beginning we found the soft floor chamber to be rather inferior, as it gives way when getting in. Without the backbone, we would have wished for a much harder air floor chamber (e.g. 0.2 bar / 3 PSI). When using the backbone, however, it makes sense that the floor gives way and thus pushes the rod downwards. This is the reason why the V-shape of the hull is the first thing that happens. Unfortunately the seat is not fixed to the bottom of the kayak. A Velcro solution to fix the seat to the ground would have been nice. Nevertheless, the backrest of the seat provides enough support when paddling and has a good height. Although the floor chamber is very soft, the backbone did not pinch in any way during paddling.
After several paddle tours on small and large lakes and on rivers with stone contact, the AdvancedFrame convinced us. The outer skin of the bottom is robust and thick enough to withstand unpleasant groundings. Nevertheless, we were able to detect two small, long scratches in the boat skin that we do not see as critical. None of the scratches indicates that it will lead to a hole. That speaks for a thick boat skin, which makes the boat heavier but also more robust. It’s also positive that the material hasn’t rubbed off at any point. Although we landed with the inflatable kayak on pebble beaches, the boat didn’t mind.
We didn’t try the AdvancedFrame in white water. Here we would recommend not to use the backbone. In case of strong groundings the rod does not give way and the material is fully loaded with friction. Without the backbone, the air floor cushions the “impact” much better.
Dismantling the kayak
The dismantling of the inflatable kayak is very easy and fast. After paddling you open the valves and most of the air escapes by itself. The rest of the air escapes when you roll it up or can be pumped out with the air pump. The big disadvantage is the nylon material of the top and the side tube jacket. The water can be wiped off with a cloth, but the textile remains moist pretty long and has to be put out to dry at home to prevent mold.
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame
The AdvancedElements AdvancedFrame with BackBone shines above all with its driving characteristics. For an inflatable 1-person kayak the speed and the straight line are really good. The biggest weakness is the long drying of the nylon covers of the side chambers and the spray deck. Also the boat is not a lightweight.
+ modular design and therefore easy to repair + very good speed for a 1-person inflatable kayak + very good directional stability for a 1-person inflatable kayak + generous interior, also suitable for tall people + good workmanship and robust boat skin + comfortable to sit and paddle + large and easily accessible luggage net on the bow + stable
-water-permeable zippers – water-permeable zippers – long drying time due to the nylon material – high weight for a 1 person kayak – large pack size for a 1-person inflatable kayak – backbone must be purchased additionally – no foot brace
Conclusion on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame is a closed inflatable kayak for beginners and demanding kayakers. We always had a lot of fun paddling the AdvancedFrame. Compared to cheap inflatables, it is superior to other kayaks in terms of riding characteristics, workmanship and equipment. Therefore, we find the price justified. If you want to kayak several times during the season, the AdvancedFrame kayak is a good choice. Especially the firm and pointed shape of the bow and stern of the kayak has made Advanced Elements really good and is unparalleled on the market. This allows the boat to cut the water better and comes very close to the driving characteristics of a solid hull kayak. If you don’t want to paddle alone, you can also buy the kayak as a 2-person version. The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible was tested as an Elite version on our website.
In our point of view, the AdvancedFrame is pretty heavy, compared to other single inflatable kayaks. If the weight is important because the kayak is to be transported in a backpack, we recommend the Ultralite version of the kayak. The Ultralite version is available for an extra charge of around $100. In this case the backbone cannot be used. Also the drying time should be considered before the purchase. After the paddle tour, the boat has to be partially inflate at home to dry. For those who don’t mind the high weight and the long drying time, the AdvancedFrame from Advanced Elements is a great inflatable kayak that is robust and fun to paddle.
If performance, speed and much luggage space matter to you, then please check out the 2 person kayak from Advanced Elements, which can be converted as a 1-person kayak as well.
Accessories for the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
Paddle, air pump and life jacket are not included. These essential accessories must be purchased separately and there are numerous accessories available for the AdvancedFrame itself. If you want to improve the performance of your boat, you can get the backbone. If you paddle in cool seasons, you can optionally purchase a spray skirt that protects you from cold and splashing water.
- Life jacket: Itiwit BA 50N+ * (good life jacket for beginners, very good price-performance ratio, more details in our test report).
- Dry Bag: Itiwit dry bag 10L* (ideal for protecting items from splashing water and short immersion in water, good workmanship, with carrying strap, available in different colors and sizes)
- Transport backpack: only a bag is included, which is intended for storage and short transport of the kayak to the water. If you want to transport the kayak longer distances and more comfortably to the water, we recommend the Itiwit transport backpack*, which is comfortable to carry and has enough space for the kayak and accessories.