L: 12'10″; 28 lbs., 500-lb. capacity; Packable size: 22 x 22 x 12 inches.
($1,099 with paddle; SeaEagle.com)
Sea Eagle has shattered the inflatable kayak mold with the sleek and light new RazorLite 393RL. Let's start with the revolutionary part. The RazorLite is the first inflatable kayak to use drop-stitch construction in all chambers. That allows the boat to be inflated to 10 psi--more than double the pressure most IK's run. Add a relatively svelte 28" width and rigid plastic bow and stern caps that give the boat a hydrodynamic double-concave entry profile, and you get the fastest, most-responsive inflatable touring boat we've tested. At 28 pounds, it's also among the lightest.
The RazorLite feels more like a hardshell recreational touring kayak, and its performance is comparable to that class of boat in most respects.
This isn't your daddy's IK, with pontoon hulls and unshakable primary stability. With its flat bottom and relatively high thin side compartments, the RazorLite has an almost canoe-like profile, with ample storage for anything from camping gear to dogs (Sea Eagle will soon release a two-person drop-stitch inflatable canoe with similar construction).
On the water, it feels more like a hardshell recreational touring kayak, and its performance is comparable to that class of boat in most respects. Our decidedly unscientific speed testing (an editor in the RazorLite and a photographer in a 14-foot touring boat, both racing the setting sun) put the RazorLite in the same league as hardshell kayaks of similar length. Tracking is arrow-straight, thanks to a removable skeg just aft of the seat.
The RazorLite is a fun boat to paddle. The narrower profile allows a higher-angle paddling stroke, and you can even put the boat on edge to release the skeg and turn more quickly. The outfitting, however, is designed more for comfort and quick setup than performance. The clip-in seat is comfortable for easy cruising, though the high back inhibits more aggressive paddling. The footrest is a length of webbing inside a piece of plastic tubing. It clips quickly into a pair of D-rings in the hull.
Setup is a dream. One advantage of the drop-stitch construction, in addition to improved rigidity, is that the RazorLite uses thinner chambers that require less air to inflate. The included high-volume pump, complete with in-line pressure gauge, makes short work of the inflation chore. Five minutes after first opening the box, we were on the water having fun. Takedown is just as easy, though the RazorLite has the annoying habit of trapping water and sand in the seams between chambers. The boat and all its accessories--pump, seat, footrest and four-piece paddle--fit easily inside the included rucksack, ready for your next adventure at the town beach or the other side of the world.