Advanced Elements AE1012-R Review

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Kayak Overview

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame 1012-RAdvanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak is yet another smash hit from Advanced Elements.It was first introduced in 2002 as the “AirFrame Kayak” but has since then undergone several major design changes, slowly evolving into one of the best solo inflatables out there. It’s almost identical to the Advanced Frame Expedition  when it comes to features and specs, the biggest difference being the size. The Ae1012-R is smaller than the Expedition and is a better fit for smaller and lighter people. Just like all the other kayaks from Advanced Elements with the AdvancedFrame technology, this is a mix between a foldable and inflatable kayak, you cannot get any closer to a hard shell than this.

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The AE1012-R is 10.5 feet long and just as tough as all the other ones in the AdvancedFrame series, made from durable double coated PVC with electronically welded seams. Going through rough water, scraping against rocks and other potentially dangerous objects might scratch the surface the AE1012, but will not puncture it. If you take a closer look on the outer fabric you’ll see a faint diamond pattern, this is to stop eventual tears from spreading.

The removable rigid ribs in the bow and stern are made from high quality aluminum, which allows the kayak to carve through the water with ease. Thanks to the aluminum ribs, the stern acts just like a skeg and will increase tracking performance significantly. When you inflate the air chambers of the kayak, these aluminum ribs are pressed against the outer part of the hull, forming the high performance bow and stern. For even better performance, it’s possible to install a backbone that will give the kayak bottom a v-shape.

Even though this is a smaller version, there’s space for on-board storage, without sacrificing legroom, making longer day trips a much more enjoyable experience.  There’s a mesh pocket behind the seat and bungee laces at the front to carry small items like water bottles or other gear. You can fit medium sized gear behind the seat. It has a carrying capacity of 300 pounds.

It’s comfortable, paddles and tracks well. You can take it into lakes, calmer oceans and in rivers with class 2 rapids.  Its wide body makes it  very stable making it a good choice for beginners looking for a recreational inflatable kayak.


  • AdvancedFrame technology, a built in aluminum frame makes the kayak stiff and improves tracking
  • Comes with a hefty carry bag, pump adapter (no pump is included), instructions and a maintenance kit
  • Heavy duty PVC fabric that’s puncture and abrasion resistant
  • Can be paddled in calm lakes to class 2 rapids


  • Dimensions: 126 inches (10.5 ft) in length, 34 inches (2.8 ft) in width
  • Weight: 36 pounds
  • Carrying capacity:  300 pounds
  • Material: Double coated PVC covered with Tarpaulin

Our Review

AdvancedFrame AE1012-R
  • 10/10
    Portability - 10/10
  • 7/10
    Storage - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Toughness - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Comfort - 7.5/10
  • 9.5/10
    Tracking - 9.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Versatility - 7.5/10


We like to call the 1012-R the twin of the Expedition kayak, this is because the only thing that really sets them apart is their size. The 1012-R is smaller and lighter, but just as tough as any other AdvancedFrame kayak. Because of the reduced size, it’s a better fit for smaller people. The reduced size also brings down the versatility a little bit, at least on paper. It’s classified for class 2 rapids but we’re confident that a skilled kayaker could take this down a class 3 without any problems. Storage space on board is OK and will work for a day trip.

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The AE1012-R is a shortened version of the tandem kayak called AE 1007-R.  While they look pretty much identical, it behaves a lot more like the Expedition kayak. If you’re on the heavier side and have been thinking about getting this kayak, we recommend reading our review carefully.

If you’re heavy, consider using the Backbone from Advanced Elements

Since this is a one man kayak, the carrying capacity is almost twice as low as the 1007-R (300 lbs vs 550 lbs), something to think about if you’re a heavier person. When I tried it I found that the kayak would sag a little in the middle because of my weight (I weight around 210 pounds). This was easily fixed by installing the Advanced elements backbone (not included in your purchase). If you’re light weight the backbone is not really needed, as my wife found out. We still recommend getting it though, since it stiffens up the whole kayak and makes it handle more like a hard shell. The backbone helps with tracking, speed but most of all paddling efficiency, as you go further with each stroke and have to spend a lot less energy trying to go straight.

Gear space is nothing too impressive

The gear space on the kayak is OK, it’s not too small but you won’t be taking anything larger than a medium sized backpack with you. The mesh pocket behind the seats are pretty small but will fit a repair kit.  If you need to bring a lot of gear with you, it’s better to get yourself something like a KayakKaddy or upgrading to the tandem version, the AE1007-R

It’s wide and super stable

Taking a look at the kayak it’s easy to see it is much wider than your average hard shell. The extra width makes it super stable, combined with the low center of gravity it’s almost impossible to tip over. We tried our hardest to tip the AE1012 over but it just wasn’t possible. While the advantage of a wide hull is added stability, the downside is the sacrifice of speed. If you’re experienced in kayaking like us, you will be able to keep up with other hardshellers, but it will take a lot of effort from your side. The wide hull makes paddling a little awkward with shorter paddles, both me and my wife kept scraping our knuckles against the hull when paddling. We found that around the 220 cm mark is a the sweet spot.

Made for lighter and shorter people

The AE1012 is similar to the Expedition model, but it’s much smaller. If you’re tall or weigh more than the average Joe, we recommend taking a look at the Expedition, mostly due to it’s size and increased carrying capacity. Now we’re generalizing pretty much, but the generally speaking the AE1012 will be a better choice for women while the expedition will be a better choice for men.

Inflation/deflation and set up time is quick

Using a dual action hand pump it will not take more than 10 minutes to inflate the whole kayak, expect more time (around 15 minutes or so) if you’re new to kayaking. The whole assembly process is simple and straightforward, it took us 15 minutes to roll it out, inflate and install all the accessories. Deflating and disassembling it is a slightly faster processes, takes about 10 minutes from fully inflated to deflated and packed into the carrying bag.

Carrying bag is slightly too small

We think that the carrying bag could be slightly larger, as packing the kayak after you’ve used it is pretty hard, takes a lot of fiddling to get it back again. There’s also no carrying straps on the bags, carrying this over longer distances is not recommended. We don’t find this to be an issue however, we always manage to find parking spots close by to our kayaking spots.

Classified for class 2 rapids, but could potentially go into class 3

Unlike the the 1007-R this kayak is only certified up to class 2 rapids. We’re not really sure why as it’s basically the same vessel, just a little smaller. With that said, you could probably take this down a class 3 river (we only tried it in a class 2 river) without any issues, but it’s better to not push the limits of the craft if you don’t have to.


  • Tracks very good, comparable to hard shell kayaks
  • Quick set up, doesn’t take more than 10 minutes when you’ve gotten the hang of it
  • Takes up very little space when folded
  • Low center of gravity and wide base makes it super stable


  • Carrying bag is small and putting the kayak back in again is difficult
  • Only classified up to class 2 rapids
  • Pump and paddles are not included which will bump up the cost (unless you already own those)


The Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable kayak is what we call a “wannabe hard shell”, in a good way. Just like the other AdvancedFrame kayaks it handles almost as good as a hard shell. From our testing this model is just like the AE1007-R with the exception of the length.  It’s just as tough, tracks as straight and is almost as versatile (it doesn’t go up to class 3 rapids, only class 2). If you’re on the larger side and been looking at this kayak, we recommend taking a look at the Expedition or the tandem (which can be converted into a solo kayak) AE1007-R.

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