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I did a lot of research for a lightweight, portable, functional kayak and feel the DF2 delivers a lot of bang for the buck. My only suggestion would be to have the seat backs be a bit more firm or have some type of lumbar support.
Excellent product for weekend sports enthusiasts such as us.
Improvements in the valves in 2006 models are very welcome. Wish some other manufacturers would take heart and wherever possible get rid of the "pool toy valve" in inflatables.Included foot pump is great to take with you stuffed into a bag in the front of the boat if solo. But to inflate/deflate the boat a high volume hand pump sure is nice to have!
Only a few little quirks are why I don't give this little inflatable boat a 10:
- no convenient way to drain the boat short of a pump or sponges. Integrating a drain plug or just a way to release the cover in some spots to turn and drain the boat(like the "shoelace stitching" on the Sevylors for instance) would be nice.
- nice to have a built in way to adjust position of rear paddler for solo trips short of forcing legs under the cover. We took another boat seat and put it behind the Dragonfly's to move the person forward. Straps on the seat allow one to move long way forward.
- manual could be a bit more inclusive of hints/tips. It's pretty sparse.
Seems that AE included many refinements on the Advanced Frame line, however there still is a place for a lighter boat such as the Dragonfly, either the solo version or the tandem version.
Inflation is quick and simple, even with the cheap foot pump supplied. Deflation is a different story; the 2005 model has "pool toy" valves that require constant pinching to deflate, making it really tough to use a pump to aid in deflation if you're solo. On the plus side, I didn't find it as tough as some other posters to dry out the kayak and once deflated it folds and packs easily into the supplied carry bag.
I don't have much to compare the on-the-water performance with but the boat paddled and tracked pretty well for me with my 45lb. son in the front seat for ballast. Even using the heavy supplied paddles effort was minimal, and I paddled in some VERY shallow water in a local tidal river.
Overall I'd say that this is a great value for the beginner, especially if storage and carry space is at a premium. Even at the retail price of around $350 this isn't a bad boat.
By the way, if anyone knows any tricks for deflating boat chambers with those damnable pool toy valves, I could sure use them!
At first we had two fairly large guys (90kg / 200lbs) in it. We had plenty of freeboard and it didnít noticeably sag. Speed was acceptable and it tracked well. The front cockpit was a little tight but it wasnít uncomfortable. I could stretch my long legs out.
Next I paddled it solo from the rear cockpit and it was more like a whitewater boat, easy to turn etc. Tracking was not great but this instantly improved when my 3 yr. old daughter who weighs about 14kg / 29lbs got in the front seat.
I think that with camping gear in the front cockpit, this would make quite an acceptable overnight boat for a solo paddler. You also have the ability to sit the kids in the front for some beach or lake fun. This and the fact you can throw it in the back of the car or backpack it to a lake for exploring or fishing makes it a versatile little boat.
Iíd have one!ÖBuy the Tandem.
The boat is stable and does move rather well through the water. My wife and I are both 5í8Ē tall. She is in the front position and I am in the stern. Neither of us feels cramped. The boat maximum hauling weight is 350 pounds which is not a problem for short day excursions. I do wear gloves because of the abrasiveness of the shell, and the angle my paddle stroke, I do wear the skin off my thumb knuckle. (Duct tape on my knuckle works too.)
Overall it is a convenient and enjoyable way to explore the flat water area around Bend, Oregon.
The permanently attached skeg on the rear of the kayak seems to help the boat track well, but does significantly increase the draft needed to keep from dragging bottom, something we had some problems with in the shallow marshes we sometimes paddle in. The kayak folds right up and actually fits in the roomy bag provided with room to spare for the good quality 4-piece rec paddles and bellows pump which came with the package we purchased. Overall we are satisfied with our purchase, but I still prefer to use my hardshell when taking it on a trip is possible. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive inflatable kayak for short trips on flatwater, this could be the ticket.
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.
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