The Aqua Marina Steam 412 is an inflatable kayak with drop-stitch floor. This is the new edition of the Aqua Marina Steam 412 from 2022. Compared to its previous model, not only the color scheme has changed, but also the width, capacity, spray covers and much more. The manufacturer even speaks of improved running characteristics.
For a 2-person drop-stitch kayak in the upper entry-level segment, it has a decent length of over 4m, has a footrest for both paddlers and two large fins. These are all aspects that should speak for good running characteristics. In addition to that, space and seating comfort are also crucial. In this review, we are interested in whether the inflatable kayak is more than just a beginner’s boat, i.e. whether you can also paddle longer tours with it in the summer and if it’s also an option for beginners with higher demands.
412 cm | 13’5”
90 cm | 3′
180 kg | 396,8 lbs
88 x 59 x 30 cm |
2’9” x 1’9” x 1′
Polyester & PVC (sides),
Drop-Stitch & PVC (floor)
15.5 kg | 34.2 lbs
0.1 bar | 1.45 PSI (sides),
0.3 bar | 4.35 PSI (floor)
Which model has been reviewed?
Aqua Marina Steam 412 from 2022
How did we organize the review?
The Aqua Marina Tomahawk was provided to us on a rental basis by Arts-Outdoors, a store and online shop for outdoor gear. Our review is independent of the manufacturer or store 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?
Assembly and first impressions
The Aqua Marina Steam 412 makes a pretty compact impression when packed. On the other hand, the foam seats are quite bulky. The package includes a compact air pump with an integrated pressure gauge, a 10-liter dry bag, two large directional fins, repair materials, a water guard for the bow, a valve wrench and a solid transport backpack.
In total, the kayak with accessories weighs 15.5 kg (34.2 lbs) and can be easily transported in the included transport backpack. The backpack has padded shoulder straps, a simple chest and hip belt, and a large mesh pocket on the side for paddles or other accessories. The very simple waist strap is unnecessary in our view, as it is only a narrow strap and the click closure is pretty uncomfortable. Even without using the waist or chest strap, the kayak is very comfortable to carry in the included backpack. The side mesh pocket is nicely sized to fit two double paddles without squeezing.
If you pack the kayak well, you can easily fit the air pump and optionally two life jackets in the backpack. The backpack could be a little more robust overall from the material. After the second paddling tour, there was already a small hole in the fabric, which will be unavoidable in the long run. The previous model only came in a simple carrying bag, so that the perfectly fitting transport backpack alone is a really good upgrade.
To assemble the kayak, we first start by inserting the Drop-Stitch floor into the boat. The Drop-Stitch floor is quite narrow and has two cut-outs on both sides. The cut-outs are a good guide to whether the drop-stitch floor is positioned correctly in the boat. The cut-outs are there to expose the drain openings. However, on sea and calm river trips, the drain holes remain closed.
What is Drop-Stitch?
With drop stitch technology, the upper and lower inner walls of the air chamber are additionally interwoven with textile threads. This makes it possible to achieve a significantly higher air pressure than with air chambers without the interwoven threads. The air chamber thus achieves very high form stability and rigidity. The drop stitch technology is very common in SUP boards (stand paddling boards) and is used more and more in inflatable kayaks. Learn more about it in our article about drop-stitch kayaks.
We noticed that the drop stitch is not glued cleanly in some places. Small unsightly spots where the glue is not clean are often found on boats produced in China and are not functionally critical. Nevertheless, these spots on our test model are clearly more than what we know. Even if it should not have any functional effects, this is a pity for a new product.
Now the side chambers can be inflated. The valves are spring valves. When inflating, the pin must stick out. Then the valve adapter of the air pump can be screwed on. The air chamber is quickly inflated, as it requires only 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI) and has a smaller diameter compared to other inflatable boats.
After the two side chambers are inflated, the drop stitch air chamber follows. This is also quickly inflated. The drop stitch is inflated to 0.3 bar (4.35 PSI), which is not much for a drop stitch air chamber.
Although a little air escapes from the pump during inflation and the double stroke pump is quite small, inflation was very quick and easy.
Admittedly, the air pressure of the air chambers for an inflatable kayak with an insertable drop-stitch floor is lower than average. The cheaper Itiwit x100+ even holds 0.2 bar (2.9 PSI) in the side chambers and 0.35 bar (5.1 PSI) in the drop-stitch floor. The lower air pressure in the Aqua Marina Steam, especially the air pressure in the side chambers, makes a noticeable difference on the dimensional stability and stiffness of the kayak. Compared to the drop-stitch floor, the rest of the hull with its side chambers has a very good finish.
For additional protection against waves that would otherwise come splashing into the boat from the front, the front spraydeck can be stretched with a plastic part as a kind of wave/water guard. If then a wave comes on the bow, the water does not run into the interior but sideways off.
Then the seats are inserted into the boat. To do this, the seats are fixed to the floor using Velcro. The backrest is attached to D-rings on the side chambers with four carabiners. The D-rings make a high-quality impression and are double reinforced on the side chamber. The advantage of the carabiners is that you don’t have to adjust the straps again on the next trip.
The upper straps of the backrest are attached to the side chambers in front of the seat and the lower straps are attached to the side chambers behind the seat. This way, the backrest cannot fold forward or backward. The upper straps can also be used to readjust the individual position of the backrest.
The footrests are already mounted in the interior. We try it out and we (1.89 m / 6’22” and 1.76 m / 5’77”) immediately notice that for us the distance between seat and footrest is clearly too small on both seats. Both footrests have two positions, and the footrests are already attached to the outer tabs. So we could only move the footrests closer to us, which doesn’t help.
So we place both seats much further back in the boat to create more space, because there is still enough room behind the second seat. However, the problem now is that the upper straps of the backrests are not long enough. We checked the manual again to make sure we installed the seats correctly. Also, the straps of both seats have the same length, so they have not been switched either. If we attached the lower straps of the backrest (which are actually a bit longer) in the front, the backrest would barely provide any support.
That is pretty annoying. A few more attachment loops on the floor for the footrest and longer straps on the backrest would have solved the problem. Presumably, the kayak was designed for markets where people are much smaller. So, without further ado, we decide not to use the footrests and remove them.
At the back of each seat there is a small pocket and two mesh pockets in the form of a drink holder, which is very practical for a leisurely tour in the summer.
After that, we mount the two fins on the bottom of the kayak, which should provide a better straight running characteristics. Do not mount the fins on the boat until you are done with the seats and footrests.
In the photo you can see how narrow the drop-stitch floor is. You can also see that the kayak has a high rocker. In addition, both the bow and stern have plastic caps to better protect the kayak in case of collisions.
Furthermore, the Aqua Marina Steam 412 has a total of 4 carrying handles, one each at the bow and stern as well as centrally on the side chambers. This allows you to carry the kayak both alone and with another to the water. If you want to store some luggage (e.g. the included 10 liter dry bag), you can use the luggage net at the stern.
Furthermore, the Aqua Marina Steam 412 has a total of 4 carrying handles, one each at the bow and stern and centrally on the side tubes. This allows one to carry the kayak both alone and in pairs to the water.
Rewiev on the water of the Aqua Marina Steam
The entry is easy and turns out to be pleasant and safe due to the firm drop-stitch floor, even if it is “only” 0.3 bar (4.35 PSI). However, the two fins ensure that the boat must be placed in parallel with the shore. With the bow to the shore it works less well, because otherwise you would get stuck with the front fin. When landing on the shore, you should also keep in mind not to paddle the kayak directly onto the shore, otherwise you will touch the ground. Rather, position the kayak in parallel just before landing and then get out. Alternatively, you could leave out the front fin. However, we are interested in the paddling characteristics with the two fins.
Our first tour with the Aqua Marina Steam takes place on a cloudy and slightly rainy day on a lake. After a short time we are positively surprised by the driving characteristics. Although the kayak has a high rocker, it runs well for a kayak in this price range. We have the feeling that we are making good progress on the lake. Speeds between 5.7 (3.5 mph) and 6.2 km/h (3.85 mph) are no problem with a normal paddle stroke.
We also like the straight running characteristics quite a lot. The kayak runs much better straight than expected. When both stop paddling, it doesn’t drift right away. It takes a while and drifts only slowly. This is where the two large fins make a difference. Despite good straight running, the maneuverability on the lake is also good. The kayak can be maneuvered easily and quickly. In terms of handling characteristics, it offers more than the Itiwit x100+ 2-seater.
The paddler in the back does not miss the footrest when paddling, as he can rest well on the backrest of the front seat without disturbing the other paddler. Nevertheless, there could be more legroom. Tall people (I sat in the back at 1.89 m and had the seat positioned as far back as possible) have to angle their legs too much. Unless the front person is shorter, so the front seat can be positioned further forward.
For the front paddler, a footrest would definitely be a nice feature on a longer trip, especially since you expect to be able to use a footrest when you buy the kayak. This only works if you’re shorter. If both paddlers are perhaps only 1.60 m (5’25”), it could probably work. Of course, in the end, it depends primarily on seat length, not height. If the use of a footrest is important to you, sit at home to test it before you go out on the water. However, for small leisurely paddling trips (with 2-3 h of paddling), you can safely do without a footrest, especially since the footrest is also just a kind of bar.
Although we had only small waves on the lake, the one or other wave came in the front side of the boat. What is noticeable is that the side walls are quite low. Probably, this is a possible reason why the one or other small wave came into the interior faster. Fortunately, the water in the boat gathers under the drop-stitch floor and in the cut-outs where the drain openings are located. So you don’t have water standing directly in the boat. In addition, the seat cushions are thick enough that you wouldn’t be sitting with your bottom right in the wet. Also, the seats stay in place and do not slip away. Overall, the seats offer a good seating comfort, especially the backrest gives a good support when paddling.
On a river tour, we were convinced by the kayak’s tipping stability. Although it is not as stable as the Itiwit x100+, it still offers a sufficiently high tipping stability, so that even beginners feel comfortable in the Aqua Marina Steam.
We were particularly struck by the kayak’s low stiffness. If you lean on the side tubes to sit properly in the seat, the air chambers give way quite a bit on the one hand, and on the other hand you push the boat apart a bit. This is only known from cheaper boats, but not from drop-stitch kayaks. The kayak also sagged during the transfers due to the low air pressure. There are other reasons for this: First, the air pressure decreases in cold water and second, there was some water in the boat because some splash water got into the boat. With a Gumotex boat with similar dimensions (e.g. Gumotex Solar or Gumotex Swing 2, both with 0.2 bar / 2.9 PSI in the side chambers and in the bottom chamber) we never had the problem that during a transfer the boat sags to the bottom.
It is a pity that the narrow insertable drop-stitch floor is not attached to the actual boat hull (e.g. via two straps as on the Itiwit x100+). So we noticed that in the event of a capsize or too much water in the boat, the drop-stitch floor can be pushed up and come loose.
On river trips with low water levels, where unsightly groundings are to be expected more often, it is better not to attach the fins. Otherwise there is a risk that your kayak will often touch down or even get stuck. This happened on a river tour with the Aqua Marina Steam. The consequence is that you have to get out. One fin even broke off on the Aqua Marina Steam. This shows that the fin is made of a plastic that is too inelastic.
Meanwhile, many 2-person inflatable kayaks can be reconfigured so that you can paddle the kayak very well alone. Aqua Marina does not offer this option. Rightly so! Because there are no separate attachment points for the footrest and seat for the 1-person configuration. Nevertheless, it was possible to attach the backrest so that it provides sufficient support while paddling. We definitely miss a footrest here then. Also, the kayak has more rocker, the waterline is shorter and the running characteristics decrease noticeably. The kayak is not designed for this, but you can still take it for a leisurely short paddle tour. However, we personally wouldn’t want to paddle with it for more than half an hour or at most an hour in this configuration (unless you let yourself drift down a river with just a few paddle strokes).
The Aqua Marina Steam has, among other things, the rocker and the many drain plugs to be able to use it better in white water. The kayak is even advertised for use up to whitewater level 3, to possibly suggest a higher value!? The kayak has in any case a sufficiently high tilt stability (but less than compared to the Itiwit x100+), but personally we would not paddle with the kayak in white water level 3. For white water level 3 it needs thigh straps and reasonable foot support, where not the heels but the balls of the feet can be put on. A self-bailer function through the numerous drain openings is in our view not yet an argument to be able to use the kayak safely in WW3. In addition, the narrow drop-stitch floor is only inserted in the boat and is not attached anywhere. In the event of a capsize, it could come loose. Last but not least, it should not be forgotten that whitewater has a very low water temperature most of the time. The side chambers would become even softer due to the low water temperature, so reinflation is necessary.
Dismantling the Aqua Marina Steam 412
The kayak is as easy and quick to dismantle as it is to assemble. The boat is easy to wipe dry and put back together. It went without problems everything back into the transport backpack.
Water, which stands in the interior of the boat, can be very easily emptied via the drain plug in the stern or bow. If the seats are wet, they must be dried in the air.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Aqua Marina Steam
We liked the simple and quick assembly as well as the running characteristics best. The running characteristics are not comparable with an Itiwit x500, nortik scubi 1 XL or Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite, but they are better than expected for this price range.
We were disappointed by the positioning of the seats and footrests. In addition, we would have expected a higher stiffness for a kayak in this price range, because the side chambers allow only 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI).
+ good running characteristics (good speed, nice straight running in this price range, good maneuverability) + sure-footed when entering due to the insertable drop-stitch floor + compact air pump with integrated pressure gauge included + very quick and easy assembly/disassembly + good seats + numerous carrying handles and luggage net with cord for lashing luggage + good transport backpack included + bow and stern additionally protected
Low stiffness (among other things because of side chamber only up to 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI) and narrow drop-stitch floor) – seats can only be positioned in the boat to a limited extent (thus little legroom for large paddlers) – despite splash guard panel, little splash water protection due to low side walls – footrests can only be used by small people – drop-stitch floor partially glued uncleanly – seats must dry separately and cannot simply be wiped dry – not very useful as a 1-person kayak – directional fins break easily with intensive ground contact – unsuitable as a whitewater kayak (up to whitewater level 3 as specified) from our point of view (no reasonable support via footrests and thigh straps, insertable drop-stitch floor is not fixed to the hull, . ..) – Locking caps of the drain plugs can quickly open during transfers
Conclusion on the Aqua Marina Steam Drop-Stitch kayak
With the rocker and the drain plugs, as well as the longer design and the two large fins, Aqua Marina wanted to bring a real all-rounder to the market with the Steam 412, which can be used both for white water and for lakes and calm rivers. The driving characteristics of the kayak convinced us for this price range in calm waters. In white water, we would use the kayak only up to white water level 1, despite the steering option. Unfortunately, it is not an all-rounder in terms of seat configuration (i.e. reconfigurable as a 1-seater kayak), as the separate attachment points for seat and footrest in the boat are missing.
What also disappointed us is the positioning of the seats and footrests in the 2-person configuration, which is what the kayak is actually intended for. The footrests can’t be positioned far enough forward, and the backrest straps are too short to place the seats far enough back. So the use of the footrest is reserved for shorter people. This is actually a pity, because there would be enough room for two tall adults in the inflatable kayak. If you only want to go on short, leisurely tours, the lack of a footrest won’t bother you. On the other hand, those who plan extended day trips should not neglect this aspect.
Also, we would have expected a kayak with an insertable drop-stitch floor to have a higher overall steadiness. The side chambers are quite soft at 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI). Even a kayak (e.g. Itiwit Touring) with 0.1 bar (1.45 PSI) and a polyester shell makes a more stable impression overall. The hull is overall cleanly glued. However, we could determine a few unclean glued joints at some points of the drop-stitch bottom.