I bought this boat for a camping trip. I liked the idea of a boat that didn’t require that I load it on top of a vehicle. I also like that it had a large payload, with adjustable seat locations, so it could be adjusted for trim, or even have a second passenger.
With an inflatable, people worry about the construction and durability. The materials used by AE are rugged and durable. The hull is made of a heavy duty, smooth plasticy-rubber-y feeling material. The smoothness probably contributes to how easily the boat goes through the water. It’s not as fast as a hardshell, but it’s not horribly slow. I try not to take chances with it, but I have landed on gritty sand beaches, cobble, rock and cement, and I’ve accidentally plowed into a few underwater snags. I can’t see where there has been any abrasion. The tubes and floor are covered with a durable, pleasant to the touch nylon that is a light color, so doesn’t absorb much heat. There are carry handles on both ends and at the center on each side, bungie cords on the end covers, and in the middle there are a number of well-spaced anchor points for clipping in the seats. These all give you something to work with for getting the boat to and from the water, and clipping things in. The seats have a mesh pocket on the back, which may not make things easy to reach, but at least you know where the things are. There are also some velcro attachment points that I think are to hold paddles or maybe a fishing pole. The valves allow for fairly quick inflation, and quick deflation. A big nylon bag, about the size of a suitcase, comes with it. There might be a better shape and size for storing the boat, and it’s awkward to haul that way, at least for me, but that’s what it comes with. It’s a bit of a fight to get the boat and the seats back into the bag, but you can do it with effort. Uninflated, the boat is rather pliable, and if you wanted to put it in a large duffle with wheels, you probably could.
From the trunk of the car to the water, it takes about 10-12 minutes. I’ve used both a large air pump, and a foot bellows pump. AE warns that using the wrong kind of pump can result in you overinflating the boat, and then popping a chamber. I’ve used low-pressure pumps, and never used a gage, just used feel, but I recently bought a gage. Whether you use a gage or not, you need to temper the boat in the water. If it’s a hot day, but the water’s cold, you need to make sure you float the boat in the water for a little bit, then check to see if the boat needs a little more pressure due to the cold water reducing the air pressure. Similarly, when I go out in the early morning, but paddle for a few hours and the sun comes up and warms things, I’m frequently checking the air pressure by feel, and splashing some cool water on the tubes. I never launch without having a pump with me, and have landed to adjust the air pressure sometimes.
The Voyage is a good choice for camping, as the weight is a bit over thirty pounds. While it’s as awkward as any boat to portage, it’s not very heavy compared to a 16 foot Royalex canoe, let alone a 17 foot aluminum boat. There’s no yoke, but it’s soft, and there are handles in the middle of the boat, so you have something to grab. If you drop it, it bounces. Really. It bounces. The seats can be moved a bit, front to back, and are anchored by heavy-duty velcro. There are places to put two seats, as well as velcro for a single seat. For hauling camping gear, I paddled alone, and it worked best to only use one seat, and have it anchored to the front edge of the rear seat velcro. The load capacity is 400 pounds, so you have the ability to haul a lot of goodies.
Handling is generally good. As an inflatable, it’s not as fast as a hardshell. If you want speed, you probably want a different boat. I’ve never tried edging it, nor have I used a draw stroke with it. Forward, reverse and sweeps strokes have gotten me where I needed to go fast enough. This boat isn’t meant for waves, rapids or quick response. I have boats that provide those attributes, but I still keep an inflatable AE kayak in the trunk for quick deployment when I see a beautiful spot on a beautiful day. If you can be happy bobbing along in your boat, this kayak lets you take advantage of opportunities like that.
Inflatable boats are super comfortable, and this boat is no exception. The seat provides back support, and other than that, you are surrounded by air. I do use a Klymet Cush to sit a little higher—I always have some water that gets in the boat during entry, and the extra inch or two from the Cush keeps me out of it, as well as gives me a little more wiggle room. The pull straps and attachment anchors give you the ability to adjust the back angle of the seat, and the velcro attachment points let you move the seats forward or back for better trim. The tubes do stick up a bit more than a hardshell boat, and you may bump your fingers as you paddle. The tubes are soft, but there are seams that are in a location that I seem to rub against repeatedly. Paddling gloves protect my knuckles. This boat is wide, so a 230 or 240 cm paddle helps. I haven’t needed it, but I sometimes use a foot of pool noodle under my thighs for support. There are no footbraces.
There are a couple of concerns I have when using this boat. There are three chambers, with no redundancy. There is a large single left chamber, a large single right chamber, and a floor chamber. If the left or right chambers spring a leak or pop, the boat will float on the remaining side. I believe the floor wouldn’t hold up the occupant or the other half of the boat. The remaining large tube should float, but the rider would be wet or swimming. You could potentially climb on the remaining tube, like a log, and swim it to shore or at least be mostly out of the water, as long as you stay upright. I consider this, and stay fairly close to shore. I also have concern that there is no bungie or cord that runs the length of the boat, as on a sea kayak. If I go over, a fairly taut cord would give me something to hold. A loose or dangling cord could be an entrapment issue, but if the boat goes over or a person falls off on a windy lake, other than the handles and a scant amount of bungie cord, there’s nothing to grab onto before the boat blows away. My plan is to stay in the boat, which isn’t much of a plan.
I have the pump, and it works well for inflating the boat. I dislike the fact that it is bulky. I really dislike the fact that it is bulky. It works, and works quickly. I believe I have the same paddle, and it feels good in the hands and has a good catch. Having four parts, I’ve been pleased that the paddle connections are solid. It has been easy to put together and take apart.
Overall, this is a nice boat for mostly calm conditions. It is easy and quick to get from car to water, and once it gets in the water, you get a pleasant boating experience. I didn’t try it with two people, but it seems like it would be tight, lengthwise. I’d buy it again. For the cost, I've easily had that much fun.