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I've taken my Dragonfly 1 on several different types of water. My first (and possibly most important) recommendation is, this boat has poor performance on flat, open water. I've taken it on lakes and slow rivers, and the poor tracking and the drag makes the experience laborious and unrewarding. My father owns an Advanced Frame, and we've been on a few trips around together. Every time we hit flat water, his track makes mine look like I'm drunk, and I have to paddle twice as fast as him to keep up.
That being said, I still love this boat. I got it to do small to medium-sized white water in, and in a river with a good current where paddling yourself isn't as critical, this little boat really shines. It's maneuverability is fantastic for an inflatable, and it's capable of some bigger hydraulics than I think a lot of other reviewers are giving it credit for. Just a few days ago I took it down Cache Canyon. I had a leaking valve (I've owned this boat for several years and it's mostly been in storage, I suspect a bad o-ring) and it was starting to lose air, yet despite this I made it through Mother (class 3 at the time due to a high water level, commonly a class 4) without any problems at all. Some friends behind me in a nice rented 2-person raft from an outfitter up the river spilled all over the place and came home with a pile of bruises, but my little Dragonfly came through it unharmed.
River performance aside, I've also been very satisfied with the materials. When I bought the boat it came with a baby-sized dry bag that was little more than a joke, the first time it flipped and dragged over the rocks it went from "dry bag" to "bag", and as previously noted the storage capacity is VERY limited. I'm 6'1" and about 220, and there's barely room for my feet inside -- I can rest a water bottle on my legs if I need to, but the only other option worth mentioning is the minimal deck webbing. It also came with a chair back that was pretty much throw-away material, but I've been doing fine without it.
So the freebies are of basically unsatisfying quality, but the boat itself has proven to be more than durable enough. I've been dragged numerous times over some pretty jagged rocks, the kind of thing that probably would have left me lacerated and in need of medical help if I weren't in my boat, and it doesn't even have any major scratches.
The skeg is sporting the "free willy" fashion--it's permanently bent, but I haven't noticed it affecting me much.
Overall, this kayak is something I'd recommend for light whitewater use for someone who is either on a tight budget, or lacks the space for a hard-shell. I'm looking forward to upgrading to a hard-shell myself, but in the meantime I continue to be satisfied with what I have.
I also took it to a small quiet lake on a camping trip this past weekend. I was able to get it up to 4 MPH with a lot of hard work, and was able to cruise at 3.5 MPH for a few minutes at a time.
I'm still having a hard time determining if it's at the correct pressure. I can tell when it's too low because it almost lets water in when I press against the sides to slide my butt back. One time I pumped it enough that I felt cramped because the bladder was taking up so much of the cabin. I hope I can find the correct pressure without blowing a hole in it first.
I kept looking at pictures of the Dragonfly and was afraid it was going to be too small and, well, 'funny looking'. It finally arrived in the mail and I found my fears were unjustified. The boat is very attractive, both in color and style. I wasn't sure how I would like the bottom fabric, but their 'PVC tarpaulin' appears to be strong and slick enough to withstand an occasional rock scrape. The 'landing plate' is really just a thin rubbery strip down the front center, but it looks like it will serve its purpose. The skeg was bent (as I was warned in other reviews) and never really straightened out, even after two hours on the water.
I'm 6'0", 110# and fit in it perfectly. My feet touch the end of the interior space if I slouch, but not if I'm sitting in 'paddling position'. I found that it worked best when I bent my knees up into the coaming to stretch out the deck, keeping water from pooling there. The deck has just enough room for a water bottle, sponge, provided dry bag and a pair of Crocs (laced through the sponge's cord). It has enough room between my legs, underneath the deck, to put a small bag containing a hat, GPS, and a waterproofed camera.
The valves are a little confusing. The twist-loc ones are easy, but the big valve doesn't seem to work quite right when using a car-powered blower. The big valve has three positions, according to the instructions:
* Left to inflate (keeps air in but allows more air through when pumping
* Center to lock (no air in or out) * Right to deflate (wide open for either direction of airflow)
I tried to pump it with the car pump to no avail. I finally put it in the deflate position and pumped it mostly with the car pump, then centered it to close. I moved it to the left position and was able to pump it the rest of the way with a hand pump. I assume the problem is with the operator, not the boat, but I tried three separate times and was unable to inflate it using just the car pump. I could easily use the car pump for the floor, just topped it off with the hand pump. Deflating worked as expected, and it was easy to suck out all of the air with the car pump's intake.
The construction isn't as nice as the AF, but this is almost 1/2 the price and 1/2 the weight, so I'll forgive that. The floor is welded to the main tube. Both are bare PVC with no fabric covering, so there is not an extra layer of protection from punctures. In addition, there is only one main inflation tube, unlike the top-and-bottom ones in the AF, so there's more of a risk of catastrophic failure if it does puncture. I'll keep a life jacket under my seat, just-in-case. Otherwise, the valves, fabrics and other materials appear to be very high quality.
FIRST TIME OUT
I took it to the nearest lake as soon as I could. It was a county fishing lake that only allowed human- and electric-powered boats. I pumped it up and carried my stuff to the boat ramp. I arranged everything on the boat and pushed it into the water. I threw my shoes on the deck, waded in and sat in the boat with my wet feet dangling in the air for a few seconds, then tucked myself in. The first few strokes make a lot of noise and make the boat twirl, but it soon straightened out and was very easy to track. I stopped paddling and it coasted better than I expected. I followed the coastline and hit a shallow area. The landing plate and my butt went over just fine, but the skeg dragged the bottom (it was a long flat rock) and pinned me down for a bit. I had a hard time backing myself out of the shallows because I couldn't find a good way to get the pressure off the skeg, but I was eventually freed and stayed away from shallows as best I could.
After a while I decided to paddle straight for a few minutes at a reasonable speed to get some exercise. It was very easy to control, but my paddling technique caused the deck to get soaked. As I stated earlier, I found that bending my knees helped somewhat, but there still isn't enough slope to keep everything drained. After my sprint, I untucked my legs, sprawled them over the deck, slouched and leaned back enough to relax a minute--very comfy! However, when I tried to tuck myself back in I almost filled the boat with lake water. I have to be careful putting pressure on the sides of the opening with my hands while trying to adjust myself in the boat--it's too easy to bend the boat with my hands and lower that part to the water level. The paddle holding velcro straps on the side are a nice feature.
The deck, while soaked above, was dry below. The top fabric appears to be waterproof. Except for the occasional drip from the paddle, the interior remained dry the entire trip, so everything seems to be watertight.
I was on the other side of the long skinny lake when I decided I needed to get back. I paddled as hard as I could for a few minutes and noticed that my knuckles were scraping on the fabric. I took care to prevent that after I noticed it, but I now have a scab on my left ring finger because of it. My hands are also sore from the paddle, so I might consider some paddling gloves for the next time out. I now understand why some inflatables have knuckle guards!
I finished navigating the lake after a couple of hours and headed back to the ramp. I paddled quickly to perch the 'landing plate' on the concrete, then stepped out of the boat and carried it back to the car. It deflated quickly, and dried easily with my sponge, except for the top fabric. I sucked out the rest of the air and easily fit it into the bag along with my collapsible paddle, life jacket and hand pump. I could cram a few more things in there if I had to.
I laid it out at home and let the top cover dry, which took about an hour in the sun. It spreads out perfectly flat so it was easy to dry.
I am very happy with this boat. It fits my needs exactly, and is a great price compared to its bigger brother. I'm taking it to Mexico in a couple of weeks to paddle around the protected beach at our resort to see how it handles small waves.
Considered: Pakboat Puffin, Folboat, Advanced Design Dragonfly, numerous other 1 person inflatables with terrible tracking.
Purchased: West Marine version of Advanced Design's Dragonfly with air pump and carrybag. Upgrade paddle. Chose because I could try out Advanced Design product and return it if not acceptable at West Marine and REI and couldn't do so with Folboat and Pakboat.
Pros: 1. Price (~$200), 2. Compact storage and weight (40lb), 3. Comfort 4. Stability 5. Setup/breakdown speed and ease, 6. Durability.
Cons: 1. Room for 1 avg male human and 1 water bottle and small map only! 2.Tracking is possible but not easy. Rear skeg helps. Requires paddling technique attention 3. Tracking issue affects speed and energy/distance. Requires determination to stay with others in hardshell kayaks or their patience. 4. Relatively flat bow makes paddling in choppy, windy conditions challanging.
Bottom Line: Does what I want it to do for a very low price. I keep it in my car trunk for spontaneous, water adventures.
Consider: Newer design of Advanced Elements has a better shaped bow but costs more. If you have access to a Pakboat try it out and consider price.
Note: If there were a perfect boat I wouldn't own three.
My wife and I do a lot of camping. We tow an old, small fiberglass travel trailer around the eastern US with a mid-sized pick-up and recently decided that getting out on the water at many of the places we frequent would be fun. A hard-sided canoe or kayak simply was not appropriate with the bikes in the bed and the sunroof on the cab. We're not kids anymore and have not kayaked previously so high-performance was clearly not a requirement. An inflatable seemed a logical choice. Much on-line research narrowed the list of choices considerably and the ultimate choice was more or less made for us by a dealer.
We now are the happy owners of TWO Dragonfly I's and not the tandem Innova Sunny that I had really intended to buy.
If you intend to use this craft to surf the breakers at Waimea Bay you're certifiable. If you think you're going ANYWHER in a hurry you're delusional. If what you want out of an easily portable and sublimely comfortable boat that will float you to the places that a hard-sided kayak will not and at a price that you don't have to sacrifice your kids' inheritance for.... the Dragonfly I is for you.
Does it track poorly? Yeah, I guess... but then mine only wobbles a lot when I try to exert myself and go fast. I have no experience with a "real" kayak, only powerboats and canoes. Will the Dragonfly get me where I want to go with out extraordinary effort? It has so far. If you know Miami, consider paddling from Virginia Key Beach around through Norris Cut to Jimbo's. My wife and I just did that last Sunday. We're both well past 50. Our much larger and somewhat younger sons (both college-aged) each fit in the Dragonfly and had a good time flitting about last weekend as well.
Is it stable? I flipped it intentionally and was able to get back in without looking TOO silly. Is it for large people. No. We're both less than 160 pounds (her - considerably less). Can you carry a lot of gear? Not hardly. Put the beer in a cooler and tow it. Is it fast? Dream on. Fast is for NASCAR. Does EVERYBODY ask you about it? Only everyone who sees it. Is it easy to carry, to unpack and inflate and to launch? Bet your lungs.
And if you're ever on US41 in Nokomis just south of Sarasota on Florida's left coast, stop in at A Silent Sports Outfitter and say hello to some of the nicest folks who ever honestly sold you a happy product. Mary talked me out of the higher priced (but more substantial) inflatable and into what has come to fit our needs like wings fit a dragonfly.
To compare the Dragonfly to its bigger sibling, the AdvancedFrame, is grossly unfair. These are two very different kayaks fulfilling very different needs. The AdvancedFrame/AirFrame is great for longer trips and rougher water. It is a joy to paddle - smooth, sleek, tracks well, beautifully designed and constructed - and thus weighs and costs more. The Dragonfly is lightweight, easy-to-use, durable, fun and an excellent value.
So why did I choose the Dragonfly over the AdvancedFrame? Simplicity - Exactly what I wanted. Letís face it, we all have different needs. Does the front wag a little? Yes, but itís a fact of physics that lightweight and shorter kayaks will exhibit some wagging. I donít find this to be a problem at all - I feel it tracks well, particularly compared to other small and lightweight inflatables.
While there were two complaints about the weight of the paddle, the Dragonfly normally is sold separately, not as a kit with paddle and pump. Unfortunately, there are very few breakdown paddles available that will actually fit into a carrying case. Stearns has a comparably-priced paddle which weighs even more, while the two other lighter-weight paddles are 50-100% higher in price.
If what you want is high performance then yes, spend some more money and go with the AdvancedFrame. But for those wanting an easy-to-use, lightweight, durable, fun means of accessing the water at a great price, I highly recommend the Dragonfly.
It tracks horribly. Just like a real dragonfly, it zips side to side. Despite the side to side movement with every stroke, I kept moving straight ahead. What else can you expect in tracking from an 8' inflatable? It is very nimble, almost like a whitewater kayak. The paddle is very heavy. The pump is fine, but it would have been nice to have one more air chamber in the Dragonfly. The carry bag is nice and I can see checking it as luggage when I fly, and easily stowing it in the trunk of my rental car. The seat cushion kept my rear nice and dry.
This is a severely limited product, but exactly what I wanted. If you want the convenience to be ready to get on the water anywhere, anytime, then check out the Dragonfly. Don't expect more than a fun, convenient inflatable that can get you short distances on flat water. Anything more and you need to drop some more cash and get a more serious craft.
AE's designs I've been a fan of from the start-the airframe provides far better tracking, handling, durability, and most everything except for weight compared to other inflatable kayaks. All that I have seen have been well made besides the commendable design and price, and I considered about as good a deal for a general purpose inflatable as you can get.
But, alas, not so with the dragonfly. Yes, it provides an immense number of features for the same price as the airframe, but in truth, it is a rip off. Advanced elements abandons the squared off ends that gave the airframe it's exceptional tracking for it's length. They abandon the tough construction and the dual chambered floatation. Instead they opt for a cheesy compass, a minimal bit of deck rigging, a pump that would cost less than 20 bucks, and paddle that is worth less than two.
That is my biggest gripe-sure, the tracking is atrocious, but that I can deal with. What I can't deal with is a paddle that weighs about as much as an iron rod, and is about as efficient in the water, too. The thing isn't symmetrical, so it'll twist your wrists, the incredibly heavy shaft goes all the way to halfway down the blade, so you get the maximum damage to the already impossibly high swing weight (essentially, that means you're swinging a whole bunch of weight around at the end of the paddle, and that swinging is the effort of paddling, not the pure weight of the paddle). Oh, and the whole thing shakes and jiggles because it doesn't fit together well.
Bottom line: If anybody wanted to buy that boat, I would not let them walk away without getting a better paddle. If they're getting another paddle, they can get a vastly better boat from the same company for the same price.
It's a no brainer. Donít buy this boat. Sure, performance isn't as important in a rec boat, but you are needlessly making yourself work so much harder than you ought to, it just makes it less fun. And that's what we're after, right?
Itís compact, lightweight, easy to pump up and - at a mere 19 lbs in the bag and 16 lbs alone - I can haul it around with one arm! Often I leave it pumped up in my storage room on the lake, and it only needs topping off every three weeks.
Because it is smaller than many kayaks - just under 8.5 feet long with a load capacity of 250 lbs - it zips along and fits like a glove. My particular Dragonfly is an earlier model - slightly slimmer on the inside which might be tight for some people - but the newer models have been designed with a roomier interior. The really neat feature is the foam/plastic sheet insert, which slips into the bow and stern (itís held in place when the bladder is pumped up), creating the feel of a hard-shelled nose. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it tracked and handled MUCH better than my previous toy. Itís easy for me to get in and out of, and steady, steady, steady. I even paddled out into the lake, jumped out of the kayak and was able to hoist myself back inside without flipping.
The Dragonfly has a 3/4 rugged fabric outer and hefty bottom, so I would not be concerned about taking it out around rocks. There are four pump-up chambers - the floor, main chamber, and two coam areas around the cockpit. This alone was worth trading in my other kayak, as the inflatable coam "splash deflectors" keep most of the water from running into the seating area. Iíve taken it through waves and minimal water gets inside as the kayak sits fairly high in the water and the rest runs off. It does come with a seat and is comfortable to ride in.
And let me not forget the rugged carrying case - unlike some, you can easily fit and fold the kayak into the duffle without having an engineering degree or a proclivity for origami, and still have room to slip in a knockdown paddle and foot pump!
But the grand finale is the price - you can find the Dragonfly1 for about $225 online - which is a true bargain for the amount of enjoyment youíll get out of it! Iím looking forward to taking it on my next camping trip! For sheer fun, I donít think you can find a better blend of quality, affordability and performance.
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