As a novice kayaker I decided to buy an inflatable, partly because of Paul Theroux' writings but also because I like the idea of taking it on a plane, not just on top of my vehicle.
After hearing about them from REI, we called Advanced Elements in Concord, CA, and they recommended several dealers in the area (San Jose, CA) and we found the two person model at Sharper Image. REI had the single seat one, and Sonoma Outfitters advertises all of them. the Sharper Image kit included the bag, boat, seats, pump and paddles for $399 plus tax, with a 60 day money-back guarantee. If you have pumps and paddles, you might buy it for less elsewhere. Depending on what state you are in, mail order plus shipping might save you tax and result in even greater savings.
We left for our National Park trip a couple of days after that on July 1,2002, and paddled in Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Great Basin, and Yosemite parks plus the Snake River and some national forests. I found the setup time to be quite rapid, even with a first attempt. The pump supplied works well, except the small nozzle for the bottom of the craft was kind of constricted and there was a lot of back pressure. We trimmed the nozzle to open it up, and that helped, but we decided to carry another hand pump that was more efficient. It was hard to hold the nozzle in place and pump in one hand, so two people usually were needed. For the main chamber, the nozzle was much wider and could be used with just one person. the foot pump was just fine. Setup and deflation never took more than ten minutes for each operation. One hard shell kayak user began loading her boat on her SUV and was still struggling with it as we launched. She said she thought we'd be pumping away long after she had departed. So that operation is surprisingly rapid.
The maximum weight is 350 lbs, and my wife and I probably exceed that by ten pounds. Not much freeboard on this, and it creases in the middle just a bit, but it's no problem is calm water (where we usually were). We are experimenting with more inflation, but there are warnings about over inflation. The oars assemble easily but some of the button locks are not flush and a few times the pieces would slip, but generally it was not a problem. We have not tried to re-align the small holes for a better fit.
Entry and exit were pretty easy. Of course we have only been in summer waters (10,000 mountain lakes to sea level ponds and the Pacific Ocean) so getting wet has not been an issue. You can get skirts to stay dry, but we have not bought them.
The unit seems quite maneuverable; there is a plastic skeg bonded to the bottom of the outer layer, and that helps. Of course, we have not used a hard shell kayak much at all so we don't have a good way to compare. My wife went along with the purchase but now likes it enough that we are thinking of getting a single seat model and use this one to carry stuff in the aft section. This section is too small for me, unless I cross my legs, but the front is quite roomy, and is the best place for a single user to sit.
The seats provided are quite basic, but the back support really helps. In fact, we used the seats on the grass when picnicking. There are small zippered storage area and some elastic cord where you can stuff a water bottle, bag, or other small gear. We carried non-waterproof digital camcorders on a few trips (none of them long), and they stayed dry.
We have not hit any branches or sharp rocks so we have not had to use the patch kit supplied with it.
You should think about your own needs and talk with others who have tried inflatables, but I highly recommend this unit.