Retrospec’s inflatable kayak is ideal for chill lake days

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I’m a big kayaking guy. Anytime I go on a day trip or vacation in the summer, I want to kayak. It’s the perfect activity, in my honest opinion. Who doesn’t want to leisurely paddle down a river or lake in the sun with their best friends and their dog, all while drinking a tasty bev? (I don’t condone sipping a beer or a cider while kayaking, but I don’t not condone it.)

I’ve been known to pay hundreds of dollars for a daily kayak rental, mostly because I never thought I’d be able to fit a kayak of my own in a small apartment. Inflatable kayaks, like the new Retrospec Coaster(opens in a new tab), are a whole different game though.

Weighing in at 31 pounds and fitting in a canvas bag the size of a suitcase, the single Retrospec Coaster(opens in a new tab) is ideal for paddlers who live in small spaces. The compact size makes it easy to store in the closet, and it can be transported in the trunk or backseat of a car — no roof rack required. This kayak also comes in a tandem size which is larger and heavier at 38 pounds, but for this review, we only tested the single-person version.

Having the absolute time of my life.
Credit: Jae Thomas / Mashable

Assembling and disassembling the Retrospec Coaster

As someone who once had to assemble a bookshelf four times before I got it right, I can confirm that the Coaster(opens in a new tab) is actually easy to assemble and disassemble, even for dummies (me) who have bare minimum reading comprehension for directions.

Deflated kayak with three valves

The three air chambers are easy to fill with the included hand pump.
Credit: Jae Thomas / Mashable

The instructions are simple and clear, and easy to follow. There are only about three steps involved with setting this kayak up. There are three different chambers that hold air, and each one needs to be inflated partially first, then all the way. The kayak comes with a hand-pump which sounds like it would be a pain, but is actually quite easy and quick to use, while the seat and footrest are attached with velcro and the plastic fin is popped onto the bottom after inflating. Once you know what you’re doing, you can get this kayak set up in five minutes.

At 31 pounds, this kayak can easily be carried to the waterside by one person while it’s disassembled, even if you’re not that strong. When I was by myself though, I had to assemble the kayak really close to the water. It’s too big for one person to carry a longer distance when fully inflated.

Breaking down the kayak is as easy as setting it up — all you need to do is unscrew the valves to release the air. The upper canvas-like material does take a while to dry though, so don’t expect to be able to put the kayak away for storage the day you use it. It definitely needs to be left out for multiple hours up to a day to completely dry out before storing it.

The only issue I had with the Retrospec Coaster during testing was during disassembly the last time I used it. One of the deflate valves became nearly impossible to unscrew, and I had to have my partner unscrew it for me (and even he had a hard time). Note that you shouldn’t crank the valves as tight as they can go during assembly, as they can be hard to remove. This is where I wish that the Coaster had a valve that can inflate and deflate from the same hole (like a Halkey Roberts valve) for easier disassembly.

I loved this kayak much more before having this valve issue — it’s a big concern for me as I drive a very small car and rely on my kayak to deflate and pack down to transport it. I’m glad that my partner was eventually able to get the valve unscrewed, but if I were by myself and this happened, I’m not sure what I would have done.

Retrospec Coaster performance

The Coaster is by no means a speedy kayak. It’s easy to maneuver and turn around if needed, but it’s not the lightest option — especially when loaded with a bag full of lunch and snacks and a 45-pound dog. It does, however, coast through the water much easier than many of the rental kayaks I’ve used.

Gear storage in the back of a kayak

I used the back of the Coaster as a gear stash.
Credit: Jae Thomas / Mashable

But what the Coaster lacks in aerodynamic function, it makes up for in comfort. The seat is comfortably padded and supported (and can be adjusted in multiple different ways), the extra space for storing gear is much appreciated, and the footrest helps you use your legs a bit while paddling. The included paddle isn’t the best I’ve ever used, but it gets the job done.

Black and white dog in a kayak on a river

She is the captain now.
Credit: Jae Thomas / Mashable

I found the Retrospec Coaster to be the best kayak I’ve ever used with my dog, Miso. Because the bottom is inflated, it’s much more comfortable for dogs to lie down in it for a full day on the water than a hard-side kayak — and who doesn’t want to have their pup with them while they paddle? It’s also roomy enough to have a large dog in the front and all your gear in the back, so you never have to sacrifice one for the other. I think you could even fit two dogs in here, as long as the weight limit of 330 pounds isn’t exceeded. The three-chamber design acted like a bolster bed for Miso, and she enjoyed resting her snoot on the side, or burrowing into the front for a nap.

Black and white dog in a kayak looking at the water

She thought the view was pretty, but I thought she was prettier.
Credit: Jae Thomas / Mashable

Is the Retrospec Coaster kayak worth the money?

This kayak will be worth it for a few different kinds of people:

  1. People who frequently pay for kayak rentals. Considering how expensive daily kayak rentals can be, the Retrospec Coaster will pay for itself in a few uses if you’re a frequent kayaker.

  2. People who have a space to dry out this kayak post-use. It takes up to a day for the canvas upper material to completely dry before you can put the Coaster away. If you don’t have an outdoor space to let it dry after every use, you’ll probably appreciate a hard-side kayak better since they can be dried faster.

  3. Folks who are casual paddlers. This is by no means a speedy kayak. It gets heavy when loaded with gear and a dog, so this is a good option for chill, recreational paddling.

  4. People who are paddling with a lot of gear, or with a kid or a dog (or both). There’s tons of room in the front and back of this kayak for extra gear, a cooler, or a tagalong passenger — similar to a pack raft. The gear loops on the front and back make it easy to strap down essentials, too. It’s also an extremely comfortable kayak for dogs.

The Retrospec Coaster sits on the lower end of the mid-tier price range in comparison to other inflatable kayaks on the market. Very cheap (and less durable) inflatable kayaks range from $100 to $200, mid-tier kayaks range from $450 to $800, and higher-end kayaks tend to run $1,000 and up.

If you’re looking for fast shipping, you can also order this kayak (and it’s larger tandem counterpart) on Amazon. Get it in time to enjoy the last of the warm weather before sweater season hits.

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