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.
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