The AdvancedFramce Ultralite of the American brand Advanced Elements is a very light and compact 1-person kayak. The manufacturer is known for its inflatable kayaks with particularly good driving characteristics. How well the Ultralite kayak performs on the water and whether it convinced us as a kayak, we tell you in the following review.
318 cm | 10’4”
81 cm | 2’7”
102 kg | 225 lbs
79 x 45 x 15 cm |
2’6” x 1’5” x 5”
ripstop fabric (deck)
polyurethane Tarpaulin (floor)
7.2 kg | 15.9 lbs
0.12 bar | 1.7 PSI
Which model has been reviewed?
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite from 2020
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?
First impressions and assembly
In the past, we had already tested the classical AdvancedFrame kayak from Advanced Elements and have often been on tours with it. It has convinced us of its driving characteristics and the quality of workmanship very much. However, the high weight and the large pack size for a 1-person kayak was a pain point for us. This was probably the case for many other paddlers who do not only transport the kayak in the trunk of the car. It is precisely for this target group that the manufacturer offers its AdvancedFrame kayak in a lighter version, which weighs more than half less. In order to be able to compare both boats with each other, we also had the classic AdvancedFrame with us during the review and could thus compare it directly on the water.
The first difference is already noticeable in the bag. The Ultralite version not only has carrying handles, but also shoulder straps, so that the bag can be carried on the back. The AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite 2-person kayak also comes with such a bag, which we have used very often. At first glance, it seems practical that you can remove the shoulder straps via carabiners, but that’s exactly where the weak point lies. The carabiners lie exactly on the shoulders and when carried for a long time, this is disturbing or even painful./
Nevertheless, we also know that many other manufacturers do not even include a bag with a backpack system, but only a small carrying bag. Therefore, a bag designed for the boat is a big plus if it is already included. The bag itself contains the boat, the seat, the inflatable foot brace, the foam floor and two small aluminum elements to stretch the front deck. There is also room for paddles and an air pump for inflatables in the bag, but these must be purchased separately.
In order to achieve a weight saving of almost 10 kg for the boat, the manufacturer must have worked on the materials. For example, the deck is made of a 300D ripstop fabric instead of a 600D ripstop fabric.
When unpacking, we also notice that the boat skin is clearly thinner than compared to the classical AdvancedFrame kayak. However, the boat skin is definitely much more robust than that of inexpensive entry-level inflatable kayaks (e.g. Intex or Sevylor).
A second big weight saving comes from the floor foam. Typically, most Advanced Elements boats have an additional air or drop-stitch chamber for the floor. However, the Ultralite uses a floor foam that strongly resembles a yoga mat. This is rolled out and inserted into the kayak floor. To do this, you lift the side chambers a bit and push them down. By inflating the side chambers, the floor foam finds its hold and can no longer slip. We found the insertion of the floor foam very simple and well designed.
To get the boat into shape, the two separate side chambers are inflated. In the classical AdvancedFrame kayaks, there are not two side tubes, but an inner and outer tube. The air tubes are additionally protected by a nylon cover. The side tubes can be removed from the boat for drying or cleaning and in case of repair.
After the two side tubes are inflated, most of the assembly is already done. Then the front deck is stretched by two aluminum elements. The rail is inserted crosswise and the rod is inserted lengthwise under the deck. The stretched deck gives you more legroom, and when you attach luggage to the bow, the luggage doesn’t press the deck down.
Last but not least, the seat is attached to the boat. This can be positioned variably in the boat. Those who are smaller can position the seat further forward and thus have more space behind the seat for additional luggage. Taller paddlers like us, on the other hand, will position the seat as far back as possible to have enough room for the legs. The seat cushion is pressed firmly on the floor under the side tubes. Thus, the seat then lies really firmly in the boat and can not slip while paddling. Finally, the back of the seat is attached to the side tubes by two click fasteners. This makes it very easy to vary the position of the backrest. On the back of the backrest is a small pocket in which smaller items such as sunscreen and co. find space.
We also really like the bungee lacing on the stern and bow. This makes it very easy to attach luggage and equipment to the boat and everything is quickly at hand. The manufacturer did not include a zipper on the front deck. This would allow quick access to the inside of the boat for cleaning and drying. However, when paddling the other AdvancedFrames with bow zipper, we found that they are water-permeable. Thus, in stronger waves often came a little water into the boat interior. With the Ultralite, this can no longer happen.
The included footrest is inflated by mouth and can be pushed under the deck into the bow. Of course, it is not obligatory to use it, but we are curious how it can be paddled with this foot brace on the water.
After the boat is fully assembled, let’s take a look at the bottom. For an inflatable kayak, the bow and stern are very nicely shaped. By using the aluminum ribs in the bow and stern, the ends of the kayak are very pointed. This promises good driving characteristics, as the water can thus be cut. A non-removable fin at the stern and a keel strip at the bow should further improve the tracking stability of the boat. The fin is very flat, so that the probability of grounding remains minimal.
Review of the Advanced Elements Ultralite on the water
Since the boat is very light, it can be carried to the water without much effort and very comfortably. Just as convenient and easy to get into the boat thanks to the wide opening in the deck. Tall people have no difficulty getting their legs under the deck and thus the entry is not a shaky affair for paddling beginners. The front luggage net is also ideal for fastening shoes or a dry bag right at the start.
The use of a floor chamber is very common in inflatable kayaks, but it has been replaced by a floor mat in the Ultralite to reduce weight. In our opinion, this is also very well done, because the boat still seems stable and the floor foam also insulates well from the cold. Although we sat barefoot in the boat and the water was very cold that day, we had no cold feet. On the other hand, the very flexible floor makes you feel every little wave or grounding. This may take a little getting used to at the beginning, but we quickly got used to it.
In terms of paddling, the AdvancedFrame Ultralite is a lot of fun right from the start. It has the usual good driving characteristics that we are used to from other boats of the manufacturer. It keeps its track well and we move forward quite quickly. During leisurely paddling, we measured a speed of 4.7 km/h (7.6 mph). If you paddle faster, you can reach a speed of up to 6 km/h (9.7 mph). Above this speed, however, a bow wave forms and paddling becomes more inefficient. The maneuverability of the kayak is fine. Course changes are effortless. But a 180° turn requires considerably more paddle strokes.
With the classical Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame with backbone, we reached a speed of 5.5 km/h (8.9 mph) on the same day during leisurely paddling. When paddling fast, we were able to measure up to 7.5 km/h (12.1 mph). We felt it clearly that the Ultralite is slower, but the Ultralite doesn’t feel like a slow boat. If you’re paddling alone and the one km/h more or less doesn’t matter to you, you’ll be happy with the speed. However, if you are paddling with someone else who has a longer kayak, you will have a hard time keeping up.
Compared to the classic AdvancedFrame, the AdvancedFrame Ultralite cannot be upgraded with a BackBone or drop-stitch floor.
Thanks to the closed construction of the kayak, you are well protected from splashing water. However, if a little water gets into the boat, the raised seat cushion pays off. Many kayaks (like the classical AdvancedFrame) use only a thin seat cushion for the seat and thus you sit faster in the wet. The seat is very comfortable even after long paddling and gives very good support. Likewise, we have come to appreciate the foot brace. With the right positioning of the seat and foot brace, you sit very well in the boat.
We see the AdvancedFrame Ultralite primarily for use on lakes and calm rivers with sufficient water levels. The boat is aimed at day-trip paddlers who want to get on the water quickly and easily for a leisurely tour. For ambitious sport paddlers who want to cover a lot of distance or go on multi-day tours, the Advanced Element AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite is recommended, which is longer and therefore faster and offers more space for luggage.
Regarding the whitewater suitability of the boat, the manufacturer specifies whitewater class 2. We haven’t tried that ourselves yet, and wouldn’t. The boat’s skin seems too fragile for that, and in addition, the fin and the front keel strip cannot be removed. If you get stuck with it, the boat skin could get broken.
Dismantling the kayak
Dismantling the boat is very simple and fast. Simply let out the air and pump out the rest. Then it is folded again and fits in the bag without any problems. In most cases, however, you will not get around to unpack the boat again at home and let it dry. Especially the nylon covers can not be wiped completely dry and need time to dry in the air. You should never store the boat in a wet or moist condition for a long period of time, as this can lead to mold growth.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Ultralite’s greatest strength is its light weight combined with an integrated deck. In addition, it is easy to paddle on the water. In favor of the weight, the boat skin is significantly thinner and only coated on one side, in contrast to the classical AdvancedFrame. On a river trip with rapids, we had the first unsightly scratches in the boat skin. Therefore, the kayak should only be used for tours with sufficient water depth. Another weakness of the boat that cannot be ignored is the long drying time due to the nylon cover. Especially on long tours (a lot of getting in and out of the boat during breaks and portages) and river tours with small rapids, water gets into the boat and the cover gets soaked with water. Good that you can remove the nylon cover with tube, so that everything can dry reasonably.
+ very light + very stable against tilting + very useful bungee lacing on bow and stern + comfortable seat and practical foot brace + good workmanship + air chambers are replaceable + good tracking stability + reliable splash protection when paddling in calm waters due to the integrated deck
– long drying time due to the nylon material -uncomfortable transport bag – boat skin is sensitive to ground contact (thin and one-sided coated boat skin) – no splash skirt can be attached to the seat hatch – large seat hatch lets in a lot of water during rapids and waves – not suitable for heavy persons
Conclusion on the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Ultralite
With the Ultralite, Advanced Elements addresses a target group that wants to transport and paddle their boat to the nearest lake or river without a car and without heavy carrying. And the manufacturer has succeeded in this, as long as there is sufficient water depth. We don’t consider the Ultralite kayak suitable for whitewater and shallow rivers with a lot of grounding. If you keep this in mind, you can have a lot of fun on the water with the kayak and will appreciate the good driving characteristics considering the low weight. For small or even extensive day trips, the Advanced Elements Ultralite is a very good choice.