Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inflatable kayak = fun overglorified floatie

I'll never forget my half-joking/half-serious reaction when my brother told me that he bought an inflatable kayak:

"So, did it come with an inflatable paddle?"

The concept of an inflatable kayak seemed weird to me. After all, in all my trips to the Boundary Waters, nobody ever broached the idea of inflatable canoe. Would you be able to steer an inflatable kayak? How would it hold up against the normal nicks and bumps with rocks and tree branches that are bound to happen? Can a normal-sized adult even fit into it?

Needless to say, I was skeptical that the floatie/kayak was functional. My brother kept telling me stories of how he kayaked down stretches of the Mississippi with it and brought it up the Boundary Waters, but stories only go so far in reassuring someone that something works. Infomercials might tell me that a juicer/blender/can opener "works," but I'm still not buying it.

So for the last two summers, my brother borrowed me his kayak to try it out for myself. It came with a carrying case (about the size of a large luggage bag, see second photo) an air pump and a legitimate kayak paddle (he told me he found the paddle, I didn't ask questions).

So far, I've tried it out on the Minnesota River and at Hiniker Pond in the Mankato Area. Contrary to my skepticism, it is definitely functional and gives you all the fun and exercise a normal kayak would. It's fairly easy to turn and navigate, inflates/deflates in less than 10 minutes and compresses down small enough where I can store it in my apartment and haul it in the back of my car. It's also considerably more durable than I thought it'd be (the boat landing at Land of Memories didn't even scuff the bottom of it). On top of that, the price is right (in my case, free).

That's not to say the inflatable kayak isn't without drawbacks. For one thing, it doesn't hold up well against strong currents (navigating up the Minnesota River was next to impossible). Also, like most floaties, it is more affected by wind than one would like. Because of the weight/balance difference from a regular kayak, it also doesn't roll over smoothly (meaning you would have to eject yourself from it like a canoe if it happened to tip). Aside from that, it's tedious to dry out.

However, considering the price difference and practicality of it (I'm not even sure where I'd fit an actual kayak in my living room. On top of my entertainment center perhaps?), the inflatable kayak works for me. And on a hot mid-July day, I could think of a lot worse ways to cool off than cruising around Hiniker in an overglorified floatie.

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