We now have sight of the NEW 2021 Aquaglide Chelan kayaks. There are some specification upgrades including additional storage pockets, standard fit mounting plates on the floor (for optional additional equipment such as fishing rod holders), and a rather nice new storage/carrying bag. There is also a new seat option that’s potentially transformational if you have a bad back or are of limited mobility (more on this below). The most immediately obvious difference however is the hulls are quite different in colour, like the picture below:
The other pictures on this page (of the dark blue 2020 and previous Chelans) are retained until we have action shots of the new ones.
#####As the new 2021 Chelans look completely different we’re having a BARGAIN SALE on all our older demo/display fleet… when they’re gone they’re gone! See the bottom of this page. #####
Inflatable Kayaks are some of the most portable watercraft in existence, hence their immense popularity. It’s a competitive and sometimes confusing market with huge variations in price, quality, and performance on the water. If it’s not obvious… one that costs £100 or less (sometimes including paddles and pump) is just not the same thing as one that costs £1000 or more.
For a long time we were reluctant to add inflatable kayaks to our range because – whilst they are definitely easy to transport and store – most of the ones we’d tried don’t perform very well. But when we took a close look at the Aquaglide Chelans we soon realised they stand out from the crowd. This is a company that puts a lot of time and effort into research and development. Their kayaks are highly innovative, and their attention to detail in manufacturing and materials quality is outstanding.
So what’s all the fuss about? Let’s take a look at the key features –
High-pressure drop-stitch floor, for unmatched stiffness, strength and stability. One really important feature of the Chelan kayaks – that’s unfortunately not immediately obvious on dry land, in the shop or even at the slipway – is their use of high pressure inflatable floors, made from a special dropstitch fabric. This type of floor material can be inflated up to 12psi (Aquaglide say 6psi is sufficient but the material is stronger than that), rather than the 2psi (or less) that you get with cheaper models. As you might imagine, that makes them far more rigid; you simply don’t get the “saggy bottom” we see so often in other inflatable kayaks. They stay the shape the designer intended, all day long.
Single-skin Duratex (reinforced PVC) side tubes and outer floor. Another not-immediately-obvious Chelan feature is its single-skin (from multiple fused layers) construction. Really cheap inflatable kayaks are made from single layer PVC, like a lilo. Most mid-range (say £300-£700) inflatable kayaks are “double-skinned” ie with separate bladders inside nylon outer skins, which is an OK and relatively cheap way to make a kayak (think lilo bladder inside boat-shape bag)… in fact they feel really tough. The top category of inflatable kayaks including Chelans have ultra-tough “single skin” construction, which is actually a multi-layer fabric where the layers are all fused together as one (with a high strength mesh as one of the inside layers). This is harder and more expensive to make but allows greater refinement of tube shape, and (just like the dropstitch floor) higher pressure inflation. BUT the really big advantage of single-skin construction comes AFTER you’ve used the kayak: it’s much easier to dry out. Double skin kayaks take ages to dry out properly – by that we mean a few days – so really you have to find somewhere to hang them up (not always easy). In contrast, single skin kayaks take a few minutes to dry; often you can get them dry at the water’s edge, before you put them away. If you leave a double skin kayak damp for more than a few days it will go mouldy and smell, and is then almost impossible to clean. A single skin kayak is quicker to dry, inherently less prone to mould, and easier to clean off if it does get mouldy. The Chelan kayaks’ single skin construction also means they are lighter, size-for-size, than double skin boats (particularly after the double skin has been afloat and absorbed some water!), and less “draggy” in the water.
Streamlined Hull. High pressure floors and single skin construction are not the only notable features of Aquaglide Chelan kayaks, but the others are more obvious. You may have noticed that they have much more defined (or “pointy”) ends than most inflatable kayaks; that helps by reducing the tendency to get blown or knocked off course by wind and waves. They are much longer than most comparable capacity kayaks (1 person, 2 person etc), so they’ll go further, or faster, or both for the same effort. A 10 or even 12 foot inflatable kayak described as a double will be hopelessly cramped (again looks OK, but try sitting in it) and slow. Chelans also have an excellent, easy-to-use skeg system, which again helps you keep going straight.
PRO-formance seat, with comfortable ergonomic backrest and pneumatically-adjustable base cushion. The final key feature – your back and backside will notice if you sit in them for more than a few minutes! – are the really comfortable, supportive and ergonomic seats. The inflatable seat cushion also means you can adjust your seated height and centre of gravity: more inflated (higher) for greatest comfort; less inflated (lower) for greater stability. It is not at all unusual amongst our customers for the seat to have been a significant factor in their purchase, making comments such as “the best kayak seat we’ve ever sat in!”
SEAT UPDATE DEC 2020: Not content with already including what is arguably the best seat in the business with their Chelan kayaks, Aquaglide are now offering a height-adjustable padded mesh-on-frame seat as an option. The trade-off is they take up a bit more room in the backpack, but they are incredibly supportive for your back. And on the tallest setting as shown you sit an extra 4 to 5″ higher, which a lot of people find more comfortable, and also easier to get in and out of. Raising your centre of gravity by definition must have an effect on stability – but (yes we’ve tried it) it’s not enough to be worrying because the Chelans are so inherently stable to start with. We believe pretty much everyone would like these mesh-on-frame seats, but if you have a bad back or are of limited mobility they may enable you to continue (or even take up) kayaking. These mesh-on-frame seats are an option for 2021 Chelans (which have special floor loops to attach them to), but come with lots of straps etc so can probably be retro-fitted to earlier Chelans with a little ingenuity.
The Aquaglide Chelan kayaks are right at the top of the inflatable kayak tree, and undeniably cost a bit more than most inflatable kayaks. Yes, even 10 times or more the price some of them, but we wouldn’t really class the £100 ones in the same category (they should be called kayak-shape lilos). However we genuinely believe the Chelans’ superior features mean they represent good, in fact excellent value. They compare quite favourably with hard-shell sit-on-tops, yet you can still roll them up in a bag and put them in a cupboard. Chelans are easily-driven and when you stop paddling will continue gliding… in most other inflatable kayaks when you stop paddling they simply stop dead.
At risk of over-emphasising this point… quite a high percentage of our Chelan customers have previously had the mid-range double skin type inflatable kayaks (eg Sevylor), and comment that their new Aquaglide Chelan is so much easier to paddle and keep straight. Not to mention the whole league easier to dry out and put away after use.
Please note that during 2020 Aquaglide Chelans were sold out in the UK for about half the year… hence the deposit order option at top of page! If you want one of the new 2021 models you can place a deposit to reserve yours now, with balance due when you want it sent to you (please specify model and date you’d like it in note at end of order process). All types of boating (and definitely kayaking) have been permitted during “lockdown 2” and we believe – as exercise and getting outside is so beneficial to physical and mental health – this is likely to continue if there are any restrictions in 2021 (no guarantees, we’re not the government!).
WHAT IS INCLUDED – “KAYAK ONLY” PRICES
All Chelan kayaks include excellent seat(s), footrest(s), skeg, a generously-sized backpack, and a repair kit. Please Note that Paddle(s) & Pump are not included in the basic kayak price, as customers often already have their own. – 2021 Chelan 120 Kayak Only RRP £939 Sorry no stock until January 2021
– 2021 Chelan 140 Kayak Only RRP £1049 SOLD OUT back in stock Jan 2021
– 2021 Chelan 155 Kayak Only RRP £1149 SOLD OUT back in stock Jan 2021
UK Mainland Delivery for Kayaks only £24.
WHAT IS INCLUDED – PACKAGE DEAL PRICES
Our Package Deals are very good value, including one or two (depending on model) four-part asymmetric blade paddles – which fit in the backpack – and a stirrup pump suitable for inflating the high pressure floor. These are good quality accessories not “free throw-ins” – 2021 Chelan One/120 Kayak Package RRP £1029 Sorry no stock until Jan 2021 – 2021 Chelan Two/140 Kayak Package RRP £1149 SOLD OUT back in stock Jan 2021
– 2021 Chelan Tandem/155 Kayak Package RRP £1249 SOLD OUT back in stock Jan 2021
UK Delivery on Aquaglide kayak packages £35
You can also buy the paddles/pumps as separate items:
– 4 Piece Asymmetric-blade Paddle at £40 ea
– High Pressure stirrup pump £25 ea
WHICH SIZE DO I WANT?
The 12ft 3.6m “120” is supplied with a single seat and is generously-sized for even quite large single padders (up to 300-lb/136kg).
The 14ft 4.3m “140” is supplied with two seats and has enough room for most couples, but not much else. It can also be set up as a really nice spacious single, and as such will be faster than a 120 (as long as you don’t use the extra room to put lots more stuff in it!)
The 15.5ft 4.7m “155” has generous room for two and comes with a third “saddle seat” for the middle… not many adults would be happy on the third seat for extended periods but kids love it. A lot of customers never use the third seat but buy the 155 as a “really spacious double” with room for dog, picnic basket, beer cooler etc. It can be set up as a single but as a single and being so long it can be a bit of a handful if you’re a newcomer (the 140 is better as a single than the 155).
In 2019 Aquaglide made very slight upgrades to the Chelan range – most people wouldn’t be able to identify them even if they looked hard! – and changed the names. The One became the 120, the Two became the 140, and the Tandem became the 155. You may still find the old names used elsewhere so for the time being we refer to both.
And don’t forget that for 2021 all Chelan models are in this new colour scheme:
This is not just a “lazy option”, although that is of course one possible outcome! As with an electric or electrically-assisted bike, adding an electric motor to your kayak potentially increases the range and ambition of your paddling trips… and may also mean you can get home without calling for help if you become injured or tired. Some customers like to motor in the difficult direction (against wind and/or tide), then paddle back, which sounds very civilised. We recommend the Epropulsion Lagoon which is a very easy fit to the Chelan, as (with fittings supplied) it goes directly in place of the skeg. And because the Chelan is so stiff (thanks again to that high pressure bottom) it positively shoots along even at quite low power settings. The compact lithium battery fits neatly under the aft deck and you can wear the wireless remote control on your wrist or paddle… all you have to do now is steer! More here: Epropulsion Lagoon
Note on Performance & Safety: We often speak to potential customers who say they’re “not that bothered about Performance”. And yes, some days we just want to potter about on the water too. But “better performance” can also mean “better safety”; perhaps a better word here is Efficiency. In a Chelan, for the same effort, you will go further or faster (or both), than you would with an inferior inflatable kayak. Equally, to achieve the same speed or distance, you will need to expend less effort. If, for example, you’ve had a lovely day out on the water, but are getting towards tired – and then the wind or tide goes against you – this can make a big difference. You might still be able to get home unaided, when in a lesser kayak you would have needed help. The Chelan’s immensely tough construction, high pressure side tubes, and high pressure floor mean that it will continue to perform in “rougher-than-you-intended” conditions too. We must point out however that spending more on your boat doesn’t substitute for experience, knowledge and training – don’t exceed your comfort zone or ability, always wear a buoyancy aid, always tell someone else where you’re going and how long you expect to be.
As we describe/show above the new 2021 Chelan kayaks look quite different, because they’ve changed the colour scheme. As we want to show the latest model at exhibitions etc, we will replace our current demo/display fleet with new ones at the beginning of next year. When we say “Ex Display” we mean pretty much as new, hasn’t been in the water (might have been rained on at an outdoor show), some even still have some of their packaging on them. Ex Demo means it has been in the water, but none of them will have been heavily used. All are complete and have been pressure-tested for at least 24 hours before we offer them for sale.
2015 Chelan One. Lightly used, very good condition. RRP When New £839 Offer Price £500 2018 Chelan 120. Like new, display only. RRP When New £939 Offer Price £700 2016 Chelan Two. Has been used, fully functional and complete but needs a good clean! RRP When New £899 Offer Price £500 SOLD 2016 Chelan Two. Like new, display only. RRP When New £899 Offer Price £600 SOLD 2016 Chelan Two. Like new, display only. RRP When New £899 Offer Price £600 SOLD
2018 Chelan 140. Like new, display only. RRP When New £999 Offer Price £800
MORE ON CHOOSING AN INFLATABLE KAYAK
Please Note: we are not offering independent advice here, we are offering our opinion and that opinion is biased against products we don’t like! We would definitely sell more inflatable kayaks if we sold “cheap” ones, but we don’t because we don’t want to put people off kayaking or more specifically inflatable kayaks…
Type 1 Kayaks
You can buy something on Amazon or in Lidl that’s described as an “inflatable kayak package for two people” for £80 or so, sometimes even less. (Sometimes also a lot more, beware of this.) That’s for boat, paddles, and pump. We don’t think they’re very good, but we have to acknowledge they do float and do get people out on the water. It’s either astonishing or frightening (or a bit of both) that so much “stuff” can be purchased for so little money. Let’s do some quick numbers here. That price includes VAT so take that off (it goes to HMRC not the kayak retailer or manufacturer) and we’re left with £66. If it was on Amazon or ebay they took 10-15%. Then the kayak retailer needs to make some profit, the factory needs to make some profit, and there is quite likely an importer/distributor in there also wanting to make a profit. That might leave half (£33) at most for materials and labour. Not forgetting it also has to be put in a box, transported from factory to port, shipped several thousand miles across the world’s oceans, and then transported from destination port to the retailer. We are guessing a bit now but let’s allow £2 each for the paddles and pump (down to £27), £1 for the box, and £5 for all that transport… we’re left with £21 to make a kayak including seats, valves, skeg (if it has one) etc. So in fact it’s not even an £80 kayak, it’s a £20-at-factory-door kayak. How is that even possible?!
Well this cheapest category of kayak we’ll call Type 1. They are made of fairly thin single layer PVC, of the same type and maybe or maybe not a bit thicker than is used to make a lilo or swimming pool toy. The tubes can be inflated to 1 or 2psi max and they are plastered with warnings about not over-inflating them or leaving them in the sun inflated (because that will cause them to over-inflate). They will sag in the middle when you sit in them, so they’ll not be fast or easy to paddle. And in this category what’s called a two-person kayak is usually about 10ft long, which is actually 2ft shorter than the Aquaglide Chelan one-person kayak (where exactly are your legs meant to go?!) Obviously it’s a bit cheaper if you make it a bit shorter, they have to make this thing for £20 remember.
All this said, they do float and can be fun for mucking about off a beach on a sunny day, which may be exactly what you want. And if that’s the case, fantastic. But if you want to paddle for more than a few minutes, ie go somewhere in your kayak, there are definitely better – but more expensive – options. AND PLEASE BE WARNED This type of kayak may be sold as low as £80 but is also subject to extreme price swings in time of shortage or high demand/peak season. At the time of writing the one pictured is $100 USD (about £80) on Amazon USA (presumably it’s in plentiful supply there) and… £349 on Amazon UK (the UK pretty much sold out of all kayaks in Coronavirus year). Same thing, same £20 at factory door kayak. Don’t pay £350 for it.
Type 2 Kayaks
The next step up in inflatable kayak world – lets’ say the £300 to £700 area – is where they use the same grade of material as Type 1 kayaks to make an airtight bladder, which is enclosed inside a “tough nylon skin”. It’s easy enough to identify this type because the outside feels like fairly coarse fabric (it is!) rather than PVC, and there are long zips front and back to get the bladders in and out (for manufacture and repair purposes). They are definitely tougher and more puncture resistant than Type 1 kayaks but they still can’t take much pressure (they sag in the middle, but less than Type 1) and water gets between the layers which makes them heavier over time. Worst of all though they are a pain in the posterior to dry out after use. Nigh-on impossible to get completely dry in fact, so also over time they tend to go mouldy and/or rot from the inside – but you may well have thrown them away before that due to the smell. Apart from that and if you can solve the drying issue they’re not actually too bad, although again beware the too-short-to-actually-fit-(with legroom)-the-number-of-people they state issue.
Type 3 Kayaks
Here confusingly we go back to a single skin construction. But Type 3 single skin is completely different to Type 1 single skin. Arguably Type 3 kayaks are actually multi-skinned, but all the skins/layers are fused together in the material manufacturing stage, so water doesn’t get between the layers (like in Type 2 kayaks), not at all. There are often more than 3 layers but at the very minimum there is an inner airtight layer, a middle reinforcing mesh layer, and an outer waterproof layer, all bonded together to make a very strong fabric. The mesh middle layer is there to make the fabric almost impossible to rip, so this type of kayak can take much higher pressures (which makes the resulting hull stiffer) and is much less sensitive to variation in pressures (so won’t distort or go pop in the sun). This is the sort of fabric they use to make RIBs and other high-end inflatable boats… Type 3 Kayaks are made from the same materials as a RIB, just kayak-shaped.
Some – not all, but all the ones we sell – Type 3 Kayaks also utilise the latest dropstitch fabric technology. This uses the Type 3 fabric with the addition of stitches on the inside between the top and bottom, such that when you inflate it a flat panel is created (rather than a tube). These flat panels are incredibly stiff – especially when you consider they’re made out of fabric and air! – and are the key to making an inflatable kayak stay the shape the designer designed it, even when there is weight in the middle. People who are new to this sometimes think these high pressure drop-stitch panels are solid inserts. Well they are nearly solid when inflated, but when deflated they roll up just like the side tubes.
It is worth pointing out that many of the costs – like the box and the shipping – are the same for a Type 3 kayak as a Type 1 kayak. On a Type 1 kayak the box is quite a significant percentage of what you’re paying for. On a Type 3 kayak there is a lot more money to play with so besides the vastly superior hull materials everything else – longer more streamlined shapes, nice seats, a bag that you can actually get the kayak back into – tends to be better as well.
A Type 3 Kayak with a dropstitch floor is a really nice piece of kit that will be nearly as good to paddle as a hardshell – quite likely more stable too – whilst also able to roll up in a bag for transport and storage.
So it’s quite simple, I should buy a Type 3… what if I don’t have Enough Money for a Type 3?
There is possibly an argument for buying a Type 1 kayak and finding out if you use it while you save up for a Type 3 kayak – but we’d suggest if you do this you keep saving long enough so that you can skip the interim Type 2 kayak stage. The trouble with this strategy is compared with the Type 3 you probably want, a Type 1 kayak is going to be slow and cramped and you’re going to have to be quite careful about pressure and punctures. And if you use the pump and paddles included in the £80 purchase price, they’re not going to be very good. A Type 3 when you get one will be just a different thing altogether. But if you do follow this path and enjoy your Type 1 kayak even despite its disadvantages… you’re going to love your Type 3 when you get it!
Please note this part of the page is still being written (27-11-2020)