Intex Explorer K2 Kayak: a good starter vessel
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
I purchased my canary-yellow 2 seater Intex Explorer K2 inflatable kayak in 2016 when Xani's dad, Xani and I first decided to start kayaking but knew very little about it. Our son was less than six months old, but it didn't occur to us to wonder whether this was too young to put a baby in a boat (it isn't). We felt, with the right gear and precautions, it would be reasonably safe (it is, and probably significantly more so than strapping him in a car).
I had a limited budget and, for better or worse, we turned to Amazon hoping the reviews of other buyers would help me choose. In the same position again (which I currently am, as the Explorer K2 just recently gave up the ghost - but more on that later) I would go for one of the used sites and buy a better quality boat pre-loved rather than going for new-and-cheap, as I did the first time. The reviews on the Intex Explorer K2 are good: 370 with a 4.5 star average and at the time under £100, although it is selling for £122 at the current time of writing.
The dimensions of the inflated kayak are 312cm (L) x 91cm (W) x 51cm (H) and the bundle I bought included a pump and oars. The pump is pretty good; the oars despite being serviceable in every other way, lost a small chip from the end during the first couple of uses. As this has only happened on one oar however, it could well have been a freak occurrence based on us hitting it off something hard.
The boat has 2 seats but there is a good amount of room between them and at either end of the boat, and we managed all our trips with 2 adults, a baby, a dog and a dry bag full of stuff on board. We initially used it only on the lochs as we felt sea-kayaking to be too risky with a tot. This turns out to be not necessarily true (see my sea-kayaking post under the Kids and Kayaks section), however the many gorgeous lochs in Scotland provided enough scope for exploration for a good many trips. Most of the local loch around the Trossachs are now part of a permit system that is increasingly booked up well in advance however, so on our most recent trips we have started to take a motor boat over to the islands on Loch Lomond where you can still camp sans permit. It would be too far to paddle ourselves across there, or at least tricky with all our camping gear, so we totally appreciate a good tow, as does the dog!
The subject of my dog leads to one of the reasons the kayak has given up the ghost: during the first season we experienced a couple of punctures that were easily mended using a specialist kit, but we have subsequently wondered if the stress of his claws put extra pressure on the vinyl construction. He does tend to scrabble about a bit more than I'd like to see happen on vinyl, especially with no canvas covering as some of the more expensive kayaks have. My advice to myself for future kayaks is no dogs on inflatables, and I'll be seeking to get a rigid kayak specifically for this reason. A couple more punctures sprung during the second season but it was only this year - season 3 - that the puncture finally occurred along a seam and has proved unmendable. We have wondered whether we have been over-inflating it as well, especially as it apparently expands even further in the heat. If you purchase an inflatable my advice is to get some kind of pressure gauge.
As I said, I am in the market for a new kayak: a 3 seater rigid which I will hopefully buy used. But even so, this will set me back considerably more than the £90-odd I paid for this inflatable, and even the used inflatables on Gumtree and Ebay are coming in at more than this, as they are generally much better quality and able to withstand being sold as "used" boats. But for what I paid, we got 2 and half seasons out of this one, and I'm pretty sure we hastened its demise by the addition of my dog and Xan's dad's over-enthusiastic pumping. So with this in mind you could probably get far better use out of this reasonably priced starter boat, as the good reviews on Amazon will attest to. However if you have more money to spend, I really do advise going for one of the inflatables with a canvas covering, if not a rigid kayak, as these are infinitely more durable than the basic vinyl on the Intex Explorer K2.