Helios II (double)
Ahhh, my Helios II. The workhorse of the Club. I've paddled her for almost 3 years now in warm and cold waters, I've taken her on planes (in the overhead), backpacks (this double kayak only weighs 33 lbs) - she's great. There you go, review = done.
Alright, just kidding, let's hear why she's so great...and I'll even try to uncover a few cons if possible (more cons for me with the Helios I - see below).
In my Safari inflatable kayak review I talked about how I discovered Innova kayaks, basically through the crew at R.E.I., I did my research online and decided that an Innova Helios II would be perfect for me - covered storage, non self-bailing (a.k.a. no little holes in the bottom to let water out), can be paddled as a single or double, and still packs up small and light for travel.
Well, many trips later she is still my go-to inflatable. Paddling by myself, she tracks well without a skeg or rudder (this is also nice for paddling in shallow water). When I add a kayak sail or paddle it as a double it's really nice to use the optional/additional foot operated rudder. I highly recommend using the rudder when paddling with two - it's a little tricky to get used to the straps on your feet, but after a little practice it's like riding a bike. The rudder steering is also helpful when you are sneaking up on wildlife (to photograph) and you don't want to put your paddle in the water and ruin the shot. For kayak sailing it allows you to use your hands rigging the sail just right while you steer with your feet.
Another reason I like using the double is that it has enough room to store all of your gear. Pump, bag, camera stuff, food and water, extra clothes, dry bags, etc. I prefer to keep this stuff with me during a trip - some folks might leave it back in the car at the launch site - but I'd rather keep it aboard just in case I need stop kayaking for whatever reason and take to the land.
The Helios is durable. Scratch, scratch, and more scratch to the bottom over the years hasn't resulted in any holes what-so-ever - which is most people's fear when paddling an inflatable. The weight limit is around 400 lbs - perfect for two and some gear.
One of my favorite parts about paddling inflatables is that they are super comfy to sit in. The Helios II has inflated back rests that make sitting for long trips really pleasant. Some other reviews I had read online said that you get wet when paddling the Helios due to the fact that you're sitting on the floor. Over lots of trips, my share of big waves, and paddling I've never had a problem with this. I stay as dry as can be. It must be something with my paddling technique because lots of my friends that use the kayak report a wet seat...hmmm.
Helios I (single)
I was fortunate enough to borrow a brand new Helios I kayak to complete this review of the Helios line. I longed for a Helios I, mainly because I often paddle alone (in a double kayak), isn't that extra space slowing me down?
In the end I am happy with my Helios II for a couple of reasons. The Helios I being a shorter boat makes tracking a little more challenging. I took her out on a pretty still day at slack tide and had to add quite a few paddles to correct the direction I was trying to go. This could be remedied with the addition of the additional rudder I mentioned earlier, however, this brings up issue number 2.
I'm not a huge dude...OK, I have slightly larger feet than I should for my height...My size 12 (US/mens) feet were a little cramped in the Helios I. This isn't a big deal if you have smaller feet but for me, adding the Helios rudder with the foot pedals would make the situation even trickier. As you can see in the picture, I took off my shoes for a little more space and comfort. Which got me thinking, if you were in warm water all of the time in bare feet this might not be an issue at all...but the slight tracking issues would still remain without a rudder.
Luckily Innova sells a skeg addition that you could add under the boat - I highly recommend this addition. Everything else about the Helios I is Innova-esque: well made, tough, packs really small and light, & easy and quick to assemble. The covered under deck storage is similar to the Helios II but it actually seems like there is even more storage in the single.
So, overall, way more pros than cons...great boats. Even with Innova's new designs and all of the other brands out there the Helios I and II are still relevant. These boats have proved themselves on paddling trips and exhibitions around the world and continue to be some of Innova's top sellers.
The Innova Helios I (single) and Helios II (double), reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club on June 6th, 2012. Click the links below to head on over to the Innova site to read more and check out these new kayaks.
Here at the club we've been using Innova inflatable kayaks for years. We've paddled them in all types of water and traveled with them to various locales in the U.S. and abroad. It's safe to say that we love them. We love that they pack up small and light (compared to other boats on the market), are durable (especially useful when 'the scoot' is applied, you know, when you sit down and the water is too shallow so you scoot your way to deeper water...avoid if possible), they set up quick (5 minutes when you get the hang of it), and they get you to where you are going fast (you'll want to race hard-shells).
In comes two new inflatable kayaks from Innova - the Swing Single and the Swing Double. Do they live up to what we have come to love about Innova kayaks? Are they better? Find out in our ETC review!
She looks good.
She's green (we'll explain)
She handles nicely
I originally wasn't sold on the black hull but after paddling her around Seattle's Ship Canal and Lake Whatcom, and receiving a few complements while I put her together in about 5 minutes, I decided she had a James Bond quality that suited her. I'm serious about the 5 minute set-up, I timed it.
Rather than having three chambers and an inflatable seat and footrest to pump up like other Innova boats, the Swing sticks with just the three main "tubeless" chambers. The valves work like the clicker on a ballpoint pen - press one way to inflate, the other to deflate. What Innova has added to widen the kayak (like the inflatable seat and footrest does in other models) are two aluminum bars that fit just in front and behind the seat. Zippers open up the fore and aft parts of the boat for storage.
The Swing is green - completely free of PVC and made in the Czech Republic. It's light - it weighs just 22 pounds and packs small. It handles well due to design, the plastic fin on the bottom, and the rigid shape helped by the new cross bars and a higher pressure (3 psi). The Swing is a great addition to the Innova family. It has a lot going for it with few faults depending on how you use the boat (we explain below).
She's green too
She handles nicely...too
She's light...just 26 lbs
No need for foot pedals & a rudder to steer
The three pictures above highlight three important parts of the Swing Double (and the Swing Single except it only has two bars). Seasoned Innova paddlers will like the slightly different "bayonet" valves (push in, push out - no twisting) and the urethane-coated decks that shed water in a jiffy. Having a quick-to-add fin on the bottom (pictured below) is nice and relieves you of adding a pedal-rudder system to help with steering.
I mentioned before a possible fault - not really a fault - just something to know about these new models. The added bars help make this kayak what it is - faster assembly and disassembly and a stiffer boat with great handling. The sacrifice is the size after packing the boat up. Leaving the bars in while rolling the deflated kayak make the whole thing way bigger than some of Innova's other models I'm used to (like the Helios II). Taking the bars out after paddling adds a little time to setup and take-down. If you pride yourself on packing your Innova kayak in an airline carry-on you may have some difficulty with the bars depending on bag size and carry-on size restrictions of your airline.
The reason the bars aren't really a fault, or why you may not even notice, are that a packed up Swing Single or Double with the bars in is still waaay smaller and lighter than competitor boats or hard-shells, the time to take the bars out and put them in only add a few minutes to your launch, and the truth is that your oar (even a 4-part) won't fit in a carry-on airline bag anyway. You'll have to check another bag so the cross bars will just go in it along with your PFDs, pump etc. I once tried to take the two pole parts of my oar as my "personal item" on a US flight...they didn't like it so much.
So what we've got here is what I can't say enough - the Swing Single and Double are great additions to the Innova family. The valves are better, the handling is better, the air release valve is a nice touch (avoids overpressure), a place for an optional spray skirt is a plus, the colors are smooth, PVC free is a good thing, and the quality is what we've come to expect from a great inflatable kayak company.
The Innova Swing Single and Swing Double, reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club on January 20th, 2012. Click the links below to head on over to the Innova site to read more and check out these new kayaks!
Innova Swing Single
Innova Swing Double
~Paul, John ETC
Back when I was younger I hatched a plan for my best friend and I to fly down to the Virgin Islands (with our parents permission - yeah right). When we arrived we'd rent some kayaks and paddle island to island for a week.
Well, as it turned out (big surprise), we didn't have the resources to make it happen. The main setback? Well, beyond actually getting permission from our parents and coughing up enough money for the plane ticket, there was the cost of renting two kayaks for a week in the Caribbean.
Fast forward to my adult life, living in the Pacific Northwest and surrounded by water. I wanted to get out there. I went to R.E.I. (local outdoor co-op and seller of all things camping and outdoor gear related) and inquired about an inflatable kayak - something I could paddle around here and possibly pack in luggage and take to the Caribbean one day.
The R.E.I. kayak person told me how great the Innova brand kayaks are. He said they are super tough - made of a crazy strong Zodiac-like material, lightweight and packable, and that they dried quickly and wouldn't get moldy in storage during our damp winter months. He also mentioned they are used by Canadian search and rescue on the west coast of Vancouver Island...enough said. I purchased my first Safari new from the company and my second used on Craigslist.
The Safari has three main air chambers (bottom, port, and starboard) and three smaller ones (seat, seat-back, and foot-rest). These can be inflated by a common boat store foot pump using an adapter valve that comes with the kayak. Complete set-up takes from 5-7 minutes (depending on which fin you have...I'll explain in a minute).
It should be noted that the Safari is self-bailing, a.k.a., water that gets in will go out the self-bailing holes (see below) and more importantly, paddlers that weigh about 200 pounds or more will be sitting in a little water (water that won't warm up because you are below the waterline). This can be prevented by loosing a little weight...or...adding something under your seat to raise you up a little, thus, not getting wet. The actual weight capacity for the Safari is 220 pounds.
These holes do come in handy (that's why they put them there) when the water is rough and spilling into the boat, kayak surfing or whitewater for example, or when it is raining - preventing you from having to occasionally pump water out. Just know that if you paddle often in cold water and are in the, how do we say, higher weight class like me, you'll have to make some adjustments. Also know that sitting in even 'warm' water for long periods of time can still be dangerous. If the water is less than body temperature it can mess you up.
The fin. The Safari comes with a fin for under the boat to help with tracking (tracking is how the boat moves when you paddle). Our two Safaris are a little older and have an aluminum fin that attaches with bolts and wing-nuts. Newer Safaris have a plastic one that easily slides in. When paddling in calmer water, using this little fin is a must. I'm always surprised at how much it makes a difference, especially when paddling where there's a current. Assembly is easy: for the aluminum - just remember to deflate the middle chamber a little before you put it on, the plastic one slides right on.
One of the best things about the Safari is that it packs up small. It only weighs 25 pounds, which fits nicely into the included Innova dry bag (picture below, left) or sometimes we just pack them in your average hiking/camping pack for longer hikes.
No cons come to mind with this boat, just know what you're buying - it does have self-bailing holes that let water out when paddling (or in if you push the weight limit of the boat) and although it has cargo space in the front and back, it's not covered cargo space (use a dry bag). It tracks as expected for an inflatable - make sure you use the fin.
The Innova Safari is a lightweight, tough, and versatile single inflatable kayak. It is quick to set-up with a little practice (5 minutes) and fits into a carry-on bag when traveling (it packs down to just 10X17X20 inches). It's 10 ft long, 20 inches wide, and only weighs 24 lbs. It's qualified to float class 3 rivers and has been paddled in waters all over the world. ~Paul ETC
Innova Safari inflatable kayak
Reviewed by Everyone's Travel Club January 3rd, 2012
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