WITH SO MANY options available, choosing a kayak can prove to be a minefield, so it is best to start by asking yourself a few questions. What is your budget? What do you want to use it for? Is storage going to be an issue?
If you are looking for a kayak simply to enjoy with the family, then we can recommend Sevylor as a trusted brand. As the market leader in inflatables, we opted to check out the Madison. Constructed with a reinforced Sevy-Strong Tarpaulin, it comes in a carry bag, the bonus being that it is easily transportable, and can be stored away without taking up much room. Inflation is via secure valves. Once inflated, the side handles, which are there for portage to the water, double up as paddle holders. Once in the water, the effective drainage system comes into play. The comfort gained from the HighRest seats is impressive, thanks to a tall back support. Somewhat disconcerting at first was the higher seat position of other kayaks, making one feel slightly unstable, but that soon passed. With any kayak, stability is going to be key, and the Madison comes up trumps, its broad shape and large surface area offering excellent stability.
What we particularly like is the configuration. Versatility is the key here, as the Madison converts easily between a one-seater and a two-seater, depending on your needs. As a one-seater, for example, there is room for lightweight camping equipment or the family dog.
You can rest assured that inflation is a simple procedure. Just make sure you attach the supplied fin and the floor before you begin inflating the walls. If you do it the other way round, accessing the valve which inflates the bottom of the kayak is impossible.
For an inflatable boat, the Madison is certainly sophisticated and highly durable. Remember, though, that this is not a performance boat. For messing about on a lake or a medium length paddle upriver, when the removable fin comes into its own when tracking, it is perfect.
My paddling experience comes from running fast water in a 9ft Pyranha kayak, to solo multi-day trips in an expedition canoe. I can honestly say that from a family perspective, the Madison is worth its weight in fun.
So the recap, what’s to like: Inflation of the Sevylor Madison is simple, as it takes around five minutes to be up and running; it packs into its own bag and storage is simple, without taking up much room in the garage or shed; it is comfortable even after an extended paddle; it is versatile; it is easy to manoeuvre; durability is excellent; the children love it; it looks nice; and, at around £400, it doesn’t cost the earth.
What’s not to like: Nothing really. No, it’s not an expedition kayak, but it doesn’t set out to be. And neither is it a glorified dinghy which will have you going round in circles. You might want to think about investing in different paddles rather than the ones that come supplied, if you prefer something more sturdy to hand. Make sure you get all the air out on deflation, or rolling the Madison up and then trying to fit it back into its bag can be slightly problematic, something that I can relate to when occasionally packing up a tent.