The Norwegian outdoor manufacturer Bergans, which owns the Ally brand, promotes the Ally 16.5 DR as the world’s best-selling folding canoe. Anyone who has ever been paddling in Norway will certainly have seen an Ally boat on the water. There the Ally canoes are very popular. We had the chance to paddle an Ally canoe at a boat fair and can say in advance that we had a lot of fun paddling the canoe.
2 500 cm | 16’4” 90 cm | 3′ 380 kg | 838 lbs 110 x 42,5 x 50 cm | 3’6” x 1’4” x 1’6” fiberglass reinforced PVC (boat skin) aluminium (frame)
Weight: Produced in:
20 kg | 44.1 lbs Norway
Which model has been reviewed?
Ally 16.5 DR from 2020
How did we organize the review?
The review was created in the context of an outdoor fair.
How intensively has the product been tested?
high 1 bar = 1-3 km paddled (first impressions) 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
Since we have reviewed the boat in the context of a boat show, we could not assemble and disassemble it ourselves. Therefore, we can not provide our own experience here. The information about the assembly is based on research and the exchange with the manufacturer. According to the manufacturer, it takes about 25 minutes to set up. At the beginning, however, you will have to plan considerably more time. Especially with new Ally boats, the aluminum tubes do not yet go into each other so easily and that is why a rubber mallet is also included.
The Ally 16.5 consists of a total of 4 parts: Boat skin, foam floor, plug frame frame and seats. The boat skin is made of glass fiber reinforced PVC coated material. This is said to be particularly resistant and UV-resistant. Nevertheless, the boat skin can be damaged by razor-sharp stones or very sharp branches. In general, however, the material can withstand a relatively high level of stress. In the case of minor to medium damage, it can be repaired even with the included repair kit.
The foam floor, which is placed between the plug-in frame and the boat skin, provides the necessary buoyancy. The aluminum poles are simply plugged together using a rubber cord inside, just like tent poles. The cross braces are attached to the longitudinal poles via plastic click fasteners.
At the click fasteners then also come the seats. These are not only adjustable in height and inclination, but can also be flexibly placed inside the boat. They are not only hooked into the interior of the boat, but are firmly locked to the frame, which in any case provides more seating stability.
The boat is ideally paddled by 2 people, which makes it easiest to paddle and still leaves plenty of room for luggage. Experienced paddlers can also paddle canoes solo without any problems. For this, you simply mount one seat less in the boat. In the scope of delivery are only 2 seats, but by buying another seat it can also be paddled by 3 adults. For families, the canoe is also suitable, because it can accommodate 2 adults and 2 children without any problems. Even in this combination, enough luggage can still be taken along. It is amazing how much can be stowed in the bow and stern alone.
The keel line of the boat is only slightly curved, which allows the manufacturer to promise good straight running characteristics. It should always be taken into account that the boat with the best straight line cannot be the most maneuverable boat. Nevertheless, thanks to the collapsing bow and stern, the boat has a pretty good maneuverability.
Included with the boat is a backpack for transporting and storing the boat. The padded shoulder straps and chest strap definitely make it easier to carry. Nevertheless, the boat weighs 20 kg and at least paddles and life jackets must be added as equipment. This is a weight that should not be underestimated, as we also found out when we put it on for a test run. Short tours on foot should not be a problem. Longer walks with the backpack, however, would undoubtedly be quite energy-sapping and sweaty.
Review of the Ally 16.5 canoe on the water
Right from the start, we immediately noticed the low weight of the assembled boat, which is very comfortable to carry and also easy to put in the water from landing stages. Due to the frame of aluminum tubes in the interior, you can quickly ask yourself whether you have to be particularly careful when entering the boat, for example, not to step on the connectors. However, this concern is unjustified, because you can step anywhere in the boat without any problems.
We paddled the boat in good conditions, sunny and little wind, which is actually how you imagine the perfect day for a paddling trip.
We really enjoyed paddling the Ally 16.5 DR on the lake. You are immediately amazed at how good the handling characteristics of a folding boat can be. Thanks to the only slightly curved keel line, we also had no problem getting the boat in a good straight line. The big advantage over inflatable canoes, besides the better handling characteristics, is undoubtedly the better executability of the paddling technique. With classical inflatable canoes, you have the wide side tubes where you can’t use the paddle as close to the boat and accordingly have to adjust your paddling technique a bit.
After a few powerful paddle strokes, we were not only positively surprised at how quickly the boat picks up speed. Although the Ally Tour 16.5 is not the fastest model according to the manufacturer, we had the impression that we could travel faster with the boat than with a rigid hull canoe.
Even in small or larger waves, you are on the safe side with a folding canoe. Due to the flexibility of the hull, the boat literally winds over the waves without really losing shape. Especially in white water you would not have the classic impacts in the stern and bow. As a result, less water gets into the inside of the boat than in any solid hull variants, and it stays dry longer even in stronger swells. Another advantage that arises here is that strong movements in the boat are not immediately transferred completely to the end and the boat remains quite stable. This is especially advantageous if you have your dog or children to sit in front.
The Ally Tour 16.5 with a length of 5 m will never be as maneuverable as a 2 m whitewater kayak. When we paddled the Ally, we already noticed that the canoe takes a little time to react. Still, it is relatively maneuverable for a canoe. Since the maneuverability is largely determined by the keel jump, the folding boat can be influenced by the seating position and loading. In whitewater, you should therefore load the middle of the boat in order to have a stronger keel jump. When paddling on lakes, you should distribute the luggage evenly in the stern and bow in order to have a straight keel line and thus benefit from optimal straight running.
Since the maneuverability is largely determined by the keel jump, the folding boat can be influenced by the seating position and loading. In whitewater, you should therefore load the middle of the boat in order to have a stronger keel jump. When touring on lakes, you should distribute the luggage evenly in the stern and bow in order to have a straight keel line and thus benefit from optimal straight running.
Especially in stronger winds, the boat would offer a large attack surface and limit maneuverability and speed. It makes sense here to purchase spray covers that also protect you in the rain. Because just with a large Canadian you will probably undertake tours lasting several days, where you can not completely assess the weather beforehand.
The makers of Lappland-Tour.de are also on the road with an Ally Tour 16.5 and give in an article interesting tips to improve the durability. It is also positive that spare parts can be reordered from the manufacturer.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The great strength of the Ally Tour 16.5 are its driving characteristics and its flexible use. If you are willing to invest more for a high-quality folding boat and have patience for the assembly, especially in the beginning, you will not find many other disadvantages of the boat.
very good driving characteristics + suitable for both lakes and white water + stable construction + variable seating positions + plenty of space inside + also suitable for tours lasting several weeks + backpack already included in delivery
– high purchase price – time-consuming assembly – new Ally boats are tough to assemble – sharp tube ends – boat with little load is quite susceptible to wind
Conclusion on the Ally 16.5 Canoe
Ally canoe is exactly the right choice for those who have neither car for transportation nor enough space at home to buy a rigid hull boat, but still want to enjoy the canoeing hobby. Thanks to the folding technology, Ally canoes have very good stiffness and come very close to the driving characteristics of a rigid hull boat.
The boat is ideal for longer trips with a lot of luggage on lakes as well as on calm to wild rivers. Classical use cases of such a canoe are for example for tours in remote areas. For the small afternoon tour, however, certainly the more time-consuming assembly and disassembly is a disadvantage to consider. Here, potentially interested buyers should also inform themselves about the inflatable alternative of other manufacturers. These do not have quite as good driving characteristics as folding canoes, but they are much faster and easier to assemble.
In any case, the boat convinced us of its behavior on the water and we are sure that we would like to paddle it again in the future.
The itiwit canoe x500 is a full drop stitch canoe from Decathlon. The x500 is a canoe with two benches and a large seat cushion in the center, i.e. for two adults and two children. So far, there are only a few reviews on the web about such drop-stitch canoes. We had the opportunity to test this drop-stitch canoe extensively and would like to share our experiences with you in this review.
2 + 2 510 cm | 16’7” 100 cm | 3’3″ 250 kg | 551.2 lbs 100 x 45 x 38 cm | 3’3” x 1’5” x 1’2″ Drop-Stitch with PVC coating
Weight: Pressure: Produced in:
32 kg | 70.5 lbs 0.7 bar | 10 PSI China
Which model has been reviewed?
Itiwit x500 canoe from 2022
How did we organize the review?
The Itiwit x500 was provided to us by Decathlon, a French manufacturer and distributor of sports equipment and clothing. Itiwit is a brand for the paddle sport of Decathlon. Our review is independent of the manufacturer or shop and reflects our own opinion of the boat.
How intensively has the product been tested?
high 1 bar = 1-3 km paddled (first impressions) 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
Included with the Itiwit canoe is a trolley, more precisely, this is a transport bag with wheels. This rolling function is also necessary, because the canoe with 32kg weight on the back would hardly be transportable. The bag makes a solid impression and has several well-padded carrying handles, so that the bag can also be loaded by two.
The canoe itself is compressed with a packing strap and folded several times. To assemble, the canoe is unfolded and the three separate air chambers are inflated one after the other to 10 PSI or 0.7 bar. The air chambers are inflated via spring valves that are easy to operate. They are similar to the valves of other high-quality inflatable canoes (e.g. Gumotex Palava, Gumotex Scout, Grabner Adventure).
For the assembly we used the Itiwit high pressure pump. There is also a successor to the pump that we recommend for this canoe, as this pump has a deflate function (more on this in the Dismantling section). Both of these air pumps are double action pumps. The first 5 PSI is pumped up with double stroke, meaning that air is pushed into the air chamber both when the piston is pushed down and when it is pulled up. Above 0.5 PSI, the double-stroke function is deactivated, so that air is only pumped into the chamber when pushing down. This is because the higher the pressure, the more difficult it is to raise the piston of the pump if air is still being pushed into the chamber at the same time. With the double stroke pump, the canoe was pumped up very quickly without much effort. Here, the thin drop-stitch air chambers are advantageous, as they require more pressure but less volume of air.
You can see two dents on one side chamber and another dent on the other side chamber. This is completely normal, because the valves are located there. To install the valves in manufacturing process, the threads of the drop stitch material must be cut at these points.
What is Drop-Stitch?
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 lower hull is additionally reinforced with PVC in the middle and rubber-like keel strips in the bow and stern areas to protect them from grounding in low water and when landing on the shore in the most stressed areas. In addition, under the keel strips at the bow and stern, there is an incorporated plastic strip inside the boat, which stiffens the area more and creates a sleeker bow and stern. It serves both as a tracking profile and to minimize water resistance when paddling.
The drop stitch material is made of polyester on the inside, which forms the threads for the drop stitch. The polyester is coated with PVC on the outside. How strong the PVC is, we can not say and could not find any information about it at Decathlon. Overall, the hull and interior is cleanly processed and glued.
The canoe has small spray covers at the bow and stern, but without any luggage net. Instead, there is plenty of room for luggage in the interior with many fastening options on the bottom. In the photo below, you can see again how thin the side walls are and how much the interior of the Itiwit x500 canoe resembles that of a rigid hull canoe.
There are also small mesh pockets for small items incorporated into the spray covers. In the front and in the back there is a plain carrying handle for transporting the assembled canoe.
After inflation, the only thing missing are the two bench seats and, as needed, the seat cushion for the children, which is firmly glued to the interior of the boat. The two bench seats are hooked into the front and back of the boat. Once you understand the principle, the bench seats are easy to hook in.
Compared to other inflatable canoes (e.g. Gumotex Palava, Gumotex Scout or Grabner Adventure) the positions of the bench seats are fixed. The bench seats are marked accordingly with “Rear Seat” and “Front Seat”, because they have a different width. The rear seat board (own weight of 1.55 kg / 3.4 lbs) has an average width of 52 cm / 1’7″ and the front seat board (own weight of 1.05 kg / 2.3 lbs) of 68 cm. Both have a depth of 25 cm / 8″. In addition, the seat boards have a foam insert in the middle as a kind of padding for the seat. The neatly finished bench seats are made of acacia wood and give the canoe an overall high-quality impression.
In addition, there are grooved treads in the interior in the area of the seat boards, as a kind of anti-slip function and additional protection of the drop-stitch material (for example, if you have kicked a sharp stone in the sole of your shoe).
Those paddling with children can inflate the drop-stitch air chamber in the center of the interior. It serves as a low bench seat for small children. The seat cushion is firmly glued to the floor chamber and thus cannot be removed. For children, this seating position seems ideal, as they sit lower and thus safer in the boat. Unfortunately, there is no third suspension in the middle for an additional seat bench (as in the Gumotex Palava, Scout, Grabner Adventure). So this canoe is a family canoe with small children or a canoe for camping trips of several days. However, there are drop-stitch canoes with three bench seats on the market (e.g. Verano CanCan, Extasea), but we haven’t paddled them ourselves yet.
Overall, the Itiwit Canoe x500 makes a very quality impression. It is very spacious, quick and easy to assemble and cleanly finished. We are curious to see how the canoe performs on and off the water.
Transportation of the canoe
On the way to the station and to the shore, the transport bag proved to be practical but not comfortable. The weight of the boat is too high for a transport bag with rolling function. After not even 5 minutes you have enough to push or pull the canoe and you get “long arms”. It works much better if a proper transport cart (e.g. Eckla Beach Rolley) is used in addition. With such a transport trolley, the transport also succeeds very well over a longer period of time.
The included transport bag with roll function is in our view especially suitable for users who want to roll the canoe only a few meters between home and car or from the parking to the lake or river nearby. Practical as with any Itiwit boat backpack is the holder for the air pump and the side pocket for the paddles on the outside of the bag.
The instructions state that the assembled canoe should only be transported without luggage. We immediately felt when we wanted to carry the loaded canoe just a few meters to put it in the water. It immediately bends and the sidewalls lean outward. You only lift the bow and stern, so to speak, and the actual hull of the boat stays on the ground. So, to avoid damaging the boat, it was a case of unloading again, positioning it in shallow water and reloading. This is where the limitations of drop-stitch become apparent. A hard shell canoe could be lifted easily with enough muscle power. So you have to load the boat on the dock or in shallow water on the shore. Because in the loaded state you get the Itiwit canoe x500 as good as hardly moved.
The following has proven to be useful when transferring canoes on river trips at weirs and larger bottom ramps. Unload the canoe and put it on a canoe trolley. In the middle of the canoe, under which is directly the canoe cart, we then put the luggage back into the boat. So we didn’t have to transport the canoe from A to B first and then laboriously catch up with the luggage. Here we can already say, a canoe trolley makes double sense for the canoe, for the transport in the dismantled condition and for tranferring on river tours. Even unloaded a canoe cart is a real benefit because the Itiwit x500 canoe is pretty heavy and unwieldy.
Review of the Itiwit x500 canoe on the water
The experiences described are based on paddling with two people, including on a 3-day tour with camping gear in light whitewater, on a alpin lake and calm river sections. Paddling with one or two children, for which the canoe is advertised among other things, is not covered by this test.
Paddling performance and stability
We paddled with the Extrasea and the Itiwit canoe paddle. Both can be adjusted in length, and are thus optimally adaptable to one’s own needs (body size and boat).
From the running characteristics it resembles that of a hard shell canoe. The Itiwit canoe has a good straight running. However, depending on how both paddlers are used to paddle together, it may be necessary for the rear paddler to correct the course somewhat (for example, by using the paddle at the end of the stroke as a rudder).
In terms of speed, the Itiwit canoe cannot compete with a folding or hard shell canoe. If you paddle leisurely, you come to about 4.5 kmh / 2.8 mph. The maximum speed is 7.5 – 8 kmh / 4.7 – 5 mph, and both paddlers have to paddle vigorously and with a high frequency. You can feel the resistance of the water clearly at the bow. Paddling alone is possible, e.g. with J-stroke. On calm waters, however, progress is slow.
The rear bench seat is positioned sufficiently far back so that the rear paddler can easily correct the course or maneuver past obstacles early on rivers. If you have a good command of the bow stroke and the steering stroke, you will be able to maneuver the canoe safely even on fast-flowing rivers. When turning, however, you immediately notice the length and inertia of the canoe. It takes some more strokes of the paddle to turn it 180 degrees. However, this is common with large canoes.
At the beginning, the Itiwit x500 canoe feels slightly tippy, but lies securely on the water. The tipping stability is lower than the Itiwit x100+ but significantly higher than the Itiwit x500 kayak. On a 3-day canoe trip including light whitewater portion we had no situation where we almost capsized.
Although the seat boards have a fixed position (like a hard shell canoe), the positions of the seat boards are well chosen. Each paddler has enough space and legroom. The seat height is also well chosen from our point of view.
Unfortunately, the seat boards are only hooked in and not secured against loss. So in the event of a capsize, a board can get lost, which would be annoying. When paddling, however, we did not have the problem that a seat board had come loose from the suspension. We sat on the seat boards (76 kg / 167.5 lbs and 85 kg / 187.4 lbs) safely and stably, even though they are only hooked onto straps. Paddling in a kneeling position is also well possible. Also, the attachment of the suspension loops on the boat wall are attached high quality.
The upholstery of the seat boards, on the other hand, has only a very small effect on comfort. For example, the padding of the seat boards of the Gumotex Palava or Scout is much better. On longer trips of several hours, we recommend using a small seat cushion with the Itiwit canoe. We have used a flat inflatable seat cushion for this purpose, which significantly increases the seating comfort and thus allows comfortable sitting throughout the day.
Luggage load and attachment
The disadvantage of previous inflatable canoes was the limited load space due to the voluminous side air chambers, which significantly reduce the interior space. This disadvantage is eliminated by the use of Drop-Stitch, because thin side walls are possible with this material.
A small disadvantage of Drop-Stitch compared to classic air chambers is the lower air buoyancy, so that for this canoe there is a maximum payload of 250 kg / 551 lbs. Classic inflatable canoes manage a payload of up to 450 kg / 992 lbs.
The outer appearance of the Itiwit canoe is almost identical to that of a hard shell canoe. Due to the thin side walls, you have as much space in the Itiwit canoe as in a conventional hard shell or folding canoe. It is no problem to stow a folded boat trolley or a large backpack in the interior. In addition, there are numerous attachment loops in the interior for securing luggage. For larger luggage we use 3m long tension straps with clamp lock and rubber cover, with which bulky luggage can be secured to the floor very well. For small luggage (e.g. for the attachment of Itiwit luggage canisters) the canoe already comes with two tension straps.
There are also stowage options on and under the spraydeck at the bow and stern to store small utensils (e.g. bars, sunscreen, small towel, etc.) that should be quickly at hand on the water. However, valuables should not be stowed there, as the pockets are not completely closable. It is a pity that there is not a single D-ring in the bow and stern to securely fasten a small dry bag.
Dismantling the Itiwit x500 canoe
Even if the boat skin can be wiped dry, the carrying handles and the luggage loops in the interior are soaked after a long tour with a lot of getting in and out (e.g. during transfers or breaks) and must be allowed to air dry. If you have taken your canoe through rapids, you may also have wetness in the interior. This is because at the top of the boat, where the carrying handles are located, it is not completely sealed. On the other hand, if you’re doing quiet river or lake recreational tours and don’t put the canoe in the water from steep bank, you won’t have to expect water ingress around the carry handles.
In addition, the carrying handles and the light interior are quite susceptible to dirt. The drop stitch material is very easy to clean of dirt. Dirty discolorations remain on the carrying handles and the grooved treads in the interior (we have not yet tried a clean scrubbing with soap).
For dismantling, the canoe must be folded exactly as described in the manual and the remaining air must be pressed out of the air chambers or, ideally, pumped out with the correct air pump (e.g. Itiwit high-pressure pump with deflation function), because otherwise the canoe will not fit the transport bag. Markings on the boat skin “Fold here” help to fold the boat in the right place. It is best to fold it in pairs. Alone, it takes even more patience and practice to get it back into the bag.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Itiwit x500 canoe
Classic inflatable canoes have the disadvantage of less space. Folding canoes require a much longer assembly. hard shell canoes require sufficient space at home for storage and cannot be transported by public transport. These disadvantages no longer exist with the Itiwit canoe, which is its greatest strength. It can be transported without much effort, quickly assembled and offers a spacious interior.
The running characteristics are good, but do not come close to those of a hard shell or folding canoe. The canoe is still well transportable with the included transport bag with roll function, but still heavy at 32 kg for a portable boat. For longer transport distances and transfers on river tours, we recommend the use of a canoe trolley. It is also a pity that no third bench seat can be mounted optionally. Thus, using the canoe with three adults is out of the question.
+ very fast and easy assembly + good workmanship + very spacious interior + bench seat for children included + many fastening loops in the interior for securing luggage + good running characteristics for an inflatable canoe + small luggage compartments at the bow and stern + bag with roll function included + high-quality benches + good price-performance ratio + bottom of the hull as well as bow and stern additionally reinforced
– foam padding of the seat boards have only a small effect on the seating comfort – seat boards are only hooked in and are therefore not secured against loss – dirt-prone interior – uncomfortable transport despite rolling bag – packing requires an air pump with deflate function and some practice – not designed as a 3-person canoe although the canoe would be large enough (because no possibility to attach a 3rd bench and limit the load to 250 kg)
Conclusion on the Itiwit x500 canoe
Decathlon has succeeded with the Itiwit canoe x500 a nice canoe for family trips and multi-day canoe trips with camping. It offers a lot of space inside. Just load everything in without having to play Tetris. Large luggage can be fixed well in the interior without disturbing the paddlers. So nothing stands in the way of a family trip or camping trip lasting several days.
It is a real pity that the canoe cannot be equipped with an optional third bench seat in the middle. If necessary, the construction of the canoe does not even allow a bench seat for another person to be hooked into the widest, most unstable part of the canoe. The bench would have to be almost a meter wide. In addition, with three adults and luggage, the load limit of 250 kg would quickly be reached.
However, anyone paddling with children will be all the more pleased with the low bench seat in the form of another air chamber that is permanently integrated into the boat. The children sit much more securely in the boat than on a suspended bench seat. For families who like to travel with a canoe, the Itiwit canoe x500 is thus a good choice. Thanks to the quick assembly, you are on the water very quickly. When not in use, the canoe takes up hardly any space for storage at home.
If you don’t need the middle seat, you can leave it uninflated and stow luggage there unimpeded. For one-day tours for two, however, we would personally use a classic inflatable canoe, which are more compact and sometimes cheaper and, depending on the model, even more robust.
Manufacturers of inflatable canoes have improved materials and construction a lot in the past years. That’s why inflatable canoes are considered as fully adequate canoes nowadays. This article explains you in more detail what an inflatable canoe actually is, the differences to full-solid and folding canoes and the preferred uses of an inflatable canoe. No matter if hobby or enthusiastic paddler, we show the best available inflatable canoes for every need.
Table of Contents
What is an inflatable canoe?
A canoe is boat which is driven by one or more seated or kneeing paddlers facing the direction of travel and using a single-bladed paddle. Originally, canoes were used by north American Indians as a means of transport and is known as a recreational boat all over the world today.
Inflatable canoes consist of several air chambers that are inflated with a high output air pump to obtain the right form and stiffness. Even though inflatables never reach the same stiffness as solid-hull canoes, inflatables offer other advantages due its small pack size and weight. Canoes are usually paddled by two people. The person in the front is a sort of motor and the person in the back supports with paddling and is responsible for steering the canoe. Solo canoeing is possible as well but requires more practice. Inflatable canoes consist of tear-resistant tissue material which are coated with a rubber material.
Inflatable canoes are equipped with two or more seat benches where the paddlers either sits or use it to knee on the floor of the boat. Canoes are spacious and perfect for longer trips with a lot of gear. Today canoes are especially for camping- or family excursions, expeditions or white-water adventures. Canoes mainly attract paddlers who like to paddle in company and to explore the nature on longer trips. But canoes are also well suited for adrenalin junkies willing to paddle whitewater up to level 4.
Manufacturers of inflatable canoes
The number of manufacturers of inflatable canoes is quite small and this market is much smaller than the one for inflatable kayaks. And there are also geographical differences. Some brands are only known in Europe as well as in the UK and other brands only in the US.
In Europe long-standing manufacturers are the Czech company Gumotex (called Innova in the US) and the Austrian company Grabner, which offer various models from white water to touring canoes. Both manufacture the boats in their respective home countries and not in Asia, which we find very good. Gumotex inflatable canoes have, in our view, a very good price-performance ratio and convince with their robust boat skin. Grabner boats have at least twice the purchase price but they have a very robust boat skin and an incomparably high quality of workmanship. All Grabner boats have a 7-year warranty on the boat skin. In comparison, Gumotex boats have a warranty of 2 years.
In the US we can name AIRE and Sea Eagle as known brands for inflatable canoes. AIRE has a strong focus on inflatable whitewater boats. When producing boats for the whitewater purpose, there can’t be any compromise regarding quality and material. They make their boats in the US. Sea Eagle has a strong focus on inflatable kayaks from entry-level to high-quality. They sell a drop-stitch canoe, which is perfect for paddling tours on lakes or rivers. Thanks to the drop-stitch chambers, the canoe has pretty good driving performance on the water.
And finally, there is the brand Itiwit, which belongs to the French sporting goods retailer Decathlon. Decathlon is expanding a lot in the past year and you can find stores and their online shop nearly for every country. The Itiwit x500 Canoe is a new inflatable drop-stitch canoe from them.
Compared to inflatable kayaks, there are no inflatable canoes in the low-price segment on the market. There are inexpensive entry-level inflatable boats, such as the Intex Explorer K2 or the Sevylor Adventure, which at first glance give the impression of a canoe, but are not canoes. These are sometimes supplied with a single blade paddle. However, these inflatable boats do not have a canoe-typical design and benches, nor do they offer much space or a high payload, which is typical for a canoe.
For those who are not yet confident with the sport of paddling, such beginner inflatable boats can be a recommendation. Inflatable canoes in the true sense start only from a higher price range of over $1000. These have a high load capacity and consist of a robust material. The boats presented here are particularly suitable for longer tours on flowing water or for trips on lakes in calm conditions.
Uses of inflatable canoes
Among the air canoes, there are various areas of application for which this type of boat is particularly well suited. Basically, the areas of use for inflatable canoes can be divided as follows.
Inflatable canoes for whitewater
Inflatable canoes are great for white-water paddling. Due to its wide hull and thick inner tubes, canoes are very stable. Compared to hard shell canoes, the material of inflatables is more elastic and can easier pass over obstacles. For whitewater, only high-quality inflatable canoes should be used. These are characterized by a tough material. In whitewater a firm hold in the boat is required. That’s why most of these canoes feature thigh straps, best with safety clasp. The use of the thigh straps should be always practiced before using them, to make sure you can quickly get off the canoe in case of flipping over. Inflatable canoes with a raised rectangular bow and stern are made for difficult whitewater (up to whitewater class IV) and inflatable canoes with a pointed bow and stern are better for longer trips on rivers and lakes. They reach a higher speed due to its pointed hull.
Inflatable canoes for camping trips and expeditions
Inflatable canoes offer a quite spacious inner room for your gear on camping trips and expeditions. Paddlers sit on seat benches and there is no cockpit covering the boat. For these reasons, you have more space for your equipment, compared to kayaks. That’s the reason why a canoe is better suited for multiday trips. Since an inflatable canoe is easy to transport, you can also take your own canoe on holiday. You can explore different regions. The focus of a canoe is not the speed but to explore the nature and make longer trips on waters. It’s for sure that paddling in a canoe is a more relaxing paddling. Getting in and off the boat is quite easy, the same with packing your gear into the boat.
Inflatable canoes for family trips
Inflatable canoes are very stable and therefore perfect for family trips. You must be very clumsy go capsize your inflatable canoe. As well, inflatable canoes have high side tubes which keep kids safe in the boat. Kids can even sit on the floor of the boat and are even more safer against dropping into water. Nevertheless at least one parent should sit behind the kids to keep an eye on them. Finally, families have much more gear with them on a trip. That’s another reason why a canoe is best suited for families. In comparison to kayaks, canoes are available in sizes up to three and more persons.
Air pressure and the use of drop-stitch material
The air pressure of an inflatable canoe is an important criterion for the stiffness and form stability of the boat. Personally, we find an air pressure of 0.2 bar (2.9 PSI) perfectly adequate. A higher air pressure also comes with a higher purchase price of the boat, because the hoses must be processed even higher quality.
Recently you can find a few canoe models with bottom and sidewalls made of drop-stitch material. Among the inflatable kayaks there are already numerous drop-stitch models. The Drop-Stitch technology makes it possible to produce high-pressure air chambers, so that the air chambers (depending on the manufacturer) can be inflated to an operating pressure of well over 0.3 bar (4.3 PSI). In drop-stitch technology, the upper and lower inner walls of the air chamber are interwoven with textile threads. This gives the canoe very good stiffness. However, wind susceptibility still remains with drop-stitch canoes.
Driving characteristics compared to folding and rigid hull canoes
Compared with rigid-hull and folding canoes, inflatable canoes tend to float on the water because of the air buoyancy. With their voluminous side walls, they offer a lot of surface area for wind to attack and are difficult to paddle in windy conditions, especially on lakes. Here, folding and rigid hull canoes have a clear advantage, especially since these boats have a better formed stern and bow, and thus glide better through the water. Therefore, you should be aware that an inflatable canoe is slower and paddling in windy conditions can be very tedious. However, inflatable canoes are still good for leisurely tours on a nice day on the lake.
The situation is different for flowing water, for which air canoes are best suited in our view. Small to medium rivers are protected from the wind by their bank slopes and they offer a pleasant support for progress due to their current. Due to the air buoyancy you can pass very shallow river passages with the boat, where a folding or rigid hull boat would touch the ground. Whitewater rivers are also very suitable for inflatable canoes, as the air tubes ride over the obstacles in the water. A fixed-hull canoe would capsize faster, and a folding canoe can quickly damage the boat’s skin.
Comfort and space of inflatable canoe
Among inflatable boats, an inflatable canoe offers plenty of space for paddlers. Inflatable canoes come in 2-, 3-, 4- or even10-person versions. Like in a rigid hull canoe, you can paddle an inflatable canoe both sitting and kneeling. If you paddle kneeling, it is much more comfortable than in a rigid hull canoe. The air bottom gives slightly and is gentler on the knees. Also, in low water temperatures, the air bottom insulates well from the cold water.
Due to the air buoyancy, inflatable canoes have a very high load limit. Some models can be loaded with up to 450 kg / 992 lbs (e.g. Grabner Adventure or Gumotex Scout), and do not have to hide behind a hard shell canoe. However, due to the air tubes, the interior of an air canoe offers less space for luggage than fixed hull or folding canoes. If you want to go on one to two week trips, you need to stow the luggage well and prioritize what comes with you when packing.
Drop-stitch canoes offer more interior space compared to classic air canoes because the side walls are less bulky.
Pros and cons of inflatable canoes
Everyone who buys an inflatable canoe will be impressed how extremely practical it is. An inflatable can be stored in the apartment or in the basement with no need of a huge storage areas. In case of transporting the canoe to the lake or river, you can just load it in the trunk or take it with you on public transport. Before deciding for the right canoe, you will probably wonder if a hard shell or folding canoe is not the better choice. A hard shell canoe is only the better choice if you have a car and enough storage space at home or in your backyard. In this case, a hard shell canoe is the better choice. It’s more durable and resistant. But don’t forget that you need a roof rack for your car or a trailer to transport your boat. The same with holidays abroad. You can just take an inflatable much easier on your flight to your next holiday destination and explore new areas. Folding canoes have better performances on water regarding speed. But folding boats are much more sensible to groundings. A folding boat also require more assembling and dismantling time as well as maintenance. One disadvantage of inflatables compared to folding and full-solid boat is the sensitivity to head and side winds due its lower draught and voluminous air chambers.
+ easy to get in and out + high loading capacity + easy to load luggage + easy to transport and space-saving storage + very comfortable to paddle kneeing
– high purchase price – relatively slow – sensitive to wind and waves – majority of models are pretty heavy for an inflatable
Inflatable canoes are available at higher prices only. But inflatable canoes fit 2 or 3 persons and are characterized by high quality and ruggedness. You don’t have to look for rental stations and can make your expeditions in all waters, independently of season and opening hours of the rental stations. Additionally, an inflatable canoe can be taken on holiday without any extra effort and costs. Everyone who is not sure about buying either an inflatable canoe or kayak, should read the article Canoe, Kayak or Canadier – Where is the difference?. And if you are not sure about the size of the boat you should buy, we definitively recommend you to read our article 1, 2 or 3 person canoe – What is the right boat size? which provides you some helpful tips.
Hi, I'm Christian and love to discover the nature from the water at any time and in an easy way. For this there is nothing better than portable boats, which are now indispensable for me!
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