Maggie and I recently discovered a great inflatable kayak that we think is ideal for people vacationing in RVs. They are fun to paddle, and when you’re done, just deflate them and pack them away in their carry bag! And best of all, we bought two for less than $200. It’s the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak. Just in time for my birthday, Maggie bought us these kayaks. We could have got a two-person kayak, because Intex also makes an affordable two-person version. And we know it works well, because we watched this young couple using their Challenger K2 Kayak for the first time. They (and their beagle) got into it with no problem at all and paddled off as if they had been kayaking for years.
However, we decided to get solo kayaks for the same reason we don’t ride a tandem bicycle – to save our marriage. We have very different styles, and are both a bit bossy, and we just did not think a very small boat with two contrary captains was exactly a recipe for success. Plus, it also means that if one of us wants to go kayaking and the other does not, it won’t be a problem. I am looking forward to doing a ton of kayaking at the Bahia Concepcion on the Sea of Cortez when we visit Baja California next year. It’s a giant, tranquil lagoon that is ideal for kayaking.
Why we Chose the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
First, because they’re cheap. We have never tried kayaking before, and didn’t want to spend a lot of money and then find we didn’t like it for some reason. We thought these were an excellent deal, especially as they ship with a high-efficiency pump and a handy carry bag.
Second, because they are light and transportable. Because these kayaks are inflatable, you can simply deflate them and pack them into the carry bag. The kayak plus paddle weigh in at 23 pounds, so they were not going to add too much to our load. Since we have been in an RV, we constantly evaluate things from the point of view of “are these useful enough to justify their weight when we are towing?” We have found that the kayaks in their carry bags fit neatly into the storage space under our bed. And because they are soft, they provide some protection for our computers, which we always pack under the bed when we are traveling.
Third, because I read a lot of great reviews about them, and watched a lot of YouTube videos too. I saw people about the same weight as us using them and having fun. These kayaks are rated for up to 220 pounds. I am close to that, and the kayak supports my weight just fine. Also, because in one of the videos I watched, the guy said that he had once got a puncture in one of the two main chambers, and was able to remain afloat to get back to the shore. That was a biggie for me, because I can be a little anxious. Although I can swim really well, and we have lifejackets, there are some lakes in Canada that are so cold, you would die of cold pretty quickly if you capsized and were immersed in the water. The guy who made it to shore looked about the same weight as me, so that completely reassured me. Also, he said he had fixed the puncture and so far, it had held just fine for 5 months. If am going to have a blow-up kayak, I want to know that punctures can be efficiently fixed. Because as I know from bicycles, punctures are as inevitable as death and taxes.
How to Assemble an Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
The kayaks ship folded up in boxes. The box includes a carry bag; the kayak itself, which has two air chambers; two seat cushions (seat and back rest); a foot rest cushion; and a paddle which you clip together.
I was skeptical about the “included free pump,” because in my experience, included free things are often not very great quality. However, I was kind of blown away by the pump (the pun is now done, so you can read on with confidence). The pump is so efficient that we had to be careful not to overinflate the kayaks.
Steps to Assemble an Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
This video shows how easy it is to assemble an Intex Challenger K1 Kayak. It took us about 8 minutes per kayak.
As you can see, the assembly is very simple:
- Inflate air chamber 1 (indicated by a large no. 1 next to the valve). Air chamber 1 is the lower chamber. You have to lift the upper chamber out of the way to find the valve. You undo the top valve, leaving the lower valve tightly closed. this one is only opened when you want to deflate the kayak. This double valve system prevents air escaping.
- Use the included clear plastic ruler to check that you have inflated correctly. The 10 cm indicator on the chamber must match the ruler.
- Inflate air chamber 2 (indicated by a large no. 2 next to the valve). Air chamber 2 is the upper chamber.
- Use the included clear plastic ruler to check that you have inflated correctly.
- Inflate the two seat cushions to your preference.
- Line up the bottom of the seat with the Velcro attachment in the kayak and then strap the seat in securely.
- Inflate the foot rest.
- Push the foot rest into the front of the kayak.
- Assemble the paddle by clicking the pieces into place.
Finally, there is a slide-in fin that you attach once you have the kayak in the water. This fin is essential for stability, so don’t lose it!
Personally, I found the foot cushion unnecessary. After all, the bottom of the kayak is itself an inflated cushion! I thought that all the foot cushion did was take up space that my feet needed, so I don’t use it. However, Maggie seems to like hers.
Apart from that, you need to click the paddle together. The click-on bits make it impossible to assemble the paddle incorrectly.
How our Intex Challenger K1 Kayaks Performed
I have to admit, I was a little anxious about this. I have not been in a canoe since about 15 years ago, and that was just once. And I have never been in a kayak. I was mainly worried about how I was going to get in and out without capsizing. I watched a few videos on YouTube, and decided that I was going to straddle it in shallow water, and then kind of fall in gracelessly, butt first.
However, when we actually put the kayaks in the water, I realized that they are pretty wide. In order to straddle it, my legs would have to be about two feet longer than they actually are. Now, if it was possible to increase the length of my legs, I most certainly would have done so a long time ago! So, how to get in?
Fortunately, on the first day, a very helpful young woman noticed we were nervous, and held the kayaks steady for us while we simply stepped in over the side. That was enough to show us that these kayaks are remarkably stable, so the next morning, we were much more confident. We found we were able to step in over the sides on our own, using our oars for a little bit of balance. It is also possible to do this without using the oar for balance. For me the trick is simply not to over-think it. Put one leg in. Lower your center of gravity. Quickly get the other leg in, while at the same time shifting your butt in. Sit down, carefully center yourself. Done! The worst that has happened is a little splashing. Not a problem, but don’t take your iPhone along for the ride! We do this maneuver in about two feet of water – enough to cushion the fall if we do happen to capsize.
I remember the day I took a lesson in windsurfing. In two hours, I estimate I fell about 200 times. I didn’t learn to windsurf, but I did learn how to fall into shallow water without major injury. Without grace either, but all I care about is not hurting myself.
Getting out was also a worry, but we found that in shallow water it is possible to lift your legs one by one over the same side, and then boost upwards. It is actually really easy to get into and out of these kayaks, as Maggie demonstrates in this video (actually she was not demonstrating, she was trying to quietly go kayaking, and I was being that obnoxious husband who videos everything). Anyway, the end product is a video that does happen to demonstrate how easy this process is.
So that’s Maggie getting in and out. And just to make the point again, here is our good friend Zee, getting in a kayak for the first time ever in her life. Watch how easily she did it!
But how about the middle bit, the actual kayaking? Well, that’s the best part. These kayaks are remarkably buoyant and stable. Paddling them along is just kind of intuitive, and they are fast, responsive and nimble. Of course, I am comparing them to nothing at all, as I have never kayaked. However, all I know is we feel completely confident in them, and have no fear at all of capsizing or sinking. Also, we find it fun to paddle them all over the lake. And I feel really athletic when I put on a turn of speed and skim across the lake. I am probably not going all that fast at all, but it feels fast and fun.
I am working on a video of us kayaking in Buntzen Lake, and I will insert it in this post as soon as it is done.
We also decided we should take our dogs kayaking with us, so that we can plan day-long expeditions without having to worry about them being alone in the RV without us (always a worry in hot weather, just in case the air conditioning stops working). Here is our timid Yorkie-Poo, Billy, having his first kayaking experience!
Every time we use our kayaks, we get a little more skilled at paddling, and we plan an even more ambitious trip for the next time. I am starting to think about getting a fishing rod, especially as Buntzen Lake is stocked with trout. (It used to be called Trout Lake.) Of course, I haven’t fished in 30 years, so the trout are probably pretty safe.
How we Got our Intex Challenger K1 Kayaks
Because we are staying near the beautiful Buntzen Lake, we wanted to get them as soon as possible. However, we found there is not a single brick-and-mortar place where you can buy these kayaks in the Vancouver area. Even if you want to get them from Walmart, you have to order them online and have them delivered to your home. If you are living in an RV, that is a bit of a problem.
So, Maggie ordered two Intex Challenger K1 Kayaks from Amazon, and picked them up at a post office near us. The kayaks are shipped in a box, folded up.
We have recently made the happy discovery that you can have Amazon goods delivered to a pick-up spot near you. This was a relief, because now that we are on the road permanently, we don’t have an address for Amazon to deliver all the bits and pieces we order from them. We had thought we could have them delivered to whatever RV park we happened to be in, but the very first park we were in (the Burnaby Cariboo RV park, reviewed here), has a “policy” of not accepting deliveries for their customers. Despite having an office that is open and staffed till 10.00 p.m. every day. To access that Amazon option, just select “Ship to an Amazon Pickup Point” when choosing your delivery location. This will give you an option to ship to an Amazon locker, which (somewhat amusingly) have human names, such as “Ryan.” It’s a bit tricky, because it gives you a few options, and then sometimes when you click on that option, it says that option is not possible. Causing me to wonder why it showed up as an option in the first place. However, I discovered that if you keep persevering and clicking, you can usually find somewhere reasonable to have the item delivered. There are actually more options that show up in the first menu. When you pick it up, it is pretty impressively efficient.
Repair Kit for the Intex Challenger K1 Kayaks
The kayaks ship with a small repair kit. However, it is close to useless. Basically it is just self-stick plastic sheet, which do not actually work. If you do need to repair a puncture in your kayak, get a decent repair kit that uses rubber cement. Probably best to visit a hardware store to shop for something of high quality. I could not find any decent kits online.
Bottom Line on the Intex Challenger K1 Kayaks
If you are looking for a budget kayak, it is hard to go wrong with the Intex Challenger K1 kayak. If you live in an RV, it’s particularly ideal, because of the fact that you can fold it up and store it in a bag when not in use. For those who are pressed for space and wanting to keep their RV as light as possible, it’s ideal. Even though they were so cheap, these kayaks meet all our needs, so although we are planning to do a lot more kayaking, we are not planning to upgrade to anything more expensive. Of course, we are not planning to go white-water kayaking, or anything intense like that. While they feel pretty robust, I would definitely not want to take these kayaks bouncing over jagged rocks! But if you are looking for a budget kayak for family fun on the lake, these kayaks are pretty much perfect.
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