Coleman K1 Inflatable Kayak

Updated: 30 Mar 2009

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Coleman K1 Inflatable Kayak

With our annual 2 weeks at delightful Nelson bay coming up and no boat small enough to take I decided to get a small inflatable. What I ended up with is a Coleman 1-person kayak. Anyone that knows kayaks and the Coleman will realise that it is a a kayak in name only, and really an inflatable mattress with style, but it seems well made and is fun to use, as long as you don't expect too much.

Why the Coleman?

For a cheap 1-person kayak the choices here in Australia were the Coleman, the Sevylor Bali and No-Name stuff off E-Bay. I wanted a known brand for at least some peace of mind and a sit-on-top for easy re-boarding - the Bali is narrower and higher & I doubt you could re-board it while afloat. (The sleek Sevylor SVX100 kayak would probably be a lot better, but at about $1000 much more than I wanted to spend for now.)

Inflating it

I bought the Coleman QuickPump and recommend it over a manual pump. If you have to inflate and deflate often it is so much quicker with this 12volt air-blower plugged into the car's cigarette lighter socket. The blower can be used to quickly deflate the kayak too. Also good for air mattresses.

Setup for inflation

The kayak has 5 inflation valves, all large and so easy to use with the QuickPump. Pull each valve cap to open, insert the nozzle and inflate. Once inflated just push in the pump to seal the valve and push back in the cap. Repeat for the other 4 valves. The valves are numbered 1 to 5 so you can't get the sequence wrong - 1 & 2 are the footrests, 3 is the inner chamber, 4 the outer chamber and 5 is the very comfortable seat. The QuickPump cannot over-inflate the kayak, so there is no worry with parting a seam from over pressure.

Setup for Deflation

I thought I was getting the rechargeable battery version but obviously did not read the details well on the web-site I bought it from. Still, the plug-in one works well - you just have to inflate on the ground next to your car. I might make up a 12volt extension cord.

How does it perform?

Here it is beached. I'm of medium height so you can see it just fits me at full leg-stretch. It is extremely comfortable. Looking at the pictures gives me the idea that I might have been as comfortable with my feet on the 2nd row of footrests, and with my knees up a little. Have to try it next time.

Here's a closeup paddling

Paddling out from the beach

And paddling back in...

It has 2 small fins, one under the bow and one under the stern. I can't say what it would be like for tracking without them, but it tracks quite well with them. At first I concentrated too much on going straight, and yawed from side to side a lot. However, after a while I discovered that if you just paddle gently and look where you're going it yaws much less. I guess all seasoned kayakers know about this. Perhaps it is a bit like riding a bike - you wobble when you are learning and still concentrating on balance, but once you forget about balance and just ride it is easy.

Here you can see the rear fin


You shouldn't expect to go fast or far on a glorified mattress, but I should think a brisk walking pace is realistic (and probably close to hull speed anyway). If you want to get somewhere in a hurry you need something with more length and better hydrodynamics. As you can see from the shot the underside is quite convoluted, with round and transverse bulges, which must add a fair bit of turbulence. I don't know how the Sevylors do it, but chambers that only run fore and aft would probably give less drag and more speed

Capsize and Re-boarding

Well how did it go? I had intended to do a fall-off and re-boarding test, but a playful mermaid did it for me. Sorry, no pictures (she couldn't hold a camera and tip me over at the same time!) On the first attempt she failed to tip me off (the kayak is 900mm wide after all). Feeling complacent I did not take her second attempt seriously, and of course went over with a great splash, much to the delight of another swimmer the mermaid had been talking to.

Since I was thoroughly wet anyway I flipped the kayak upside down. With my feet well clear of the sandy bottom (to simulate being in deep water) I was easily able to pull myself over the upturned kayak, grip its far side and flip it upright. It was just as easy to pull myself aboard and paddle with my hands to retrieve the floating paddle. Being a sit-on-top there was really no bailing of any consequence - just a bit more water in the recesses of the seat and footrests. Overall, very safe and easy, and I am now 60 and of only average fitness.

Supplied paddle

The multi-piece paddle is very good. Light and quick to assemble, and it floats! (all the aluminium tubes are individually sealed). It is very light and probably would not tolerate severe use, but there is really no point in using it like a crowbar - you won't go any faster.


Mine cost about $210 Aus. including delivery.

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