I will fully admit I’m biased. Perhaps even biased to an extreme. Why? I own an expedition level inflatable kayak, a Sea Eagle Explorer 380x. And it is the primary inflatable boat I use.
Simple. It does everything, and does everything well enough to get the job done easily and safely.
I can fish in my inflatable kayak, both on lakes and in rivers. I can run rapids up to Class IV, although I’ll confess I need to improve my paddling skills to do this more safely. I can setup or pack away my kayak in less than fifteen minutes, making it quick and simple to take the boat out for day trips. Using a detachable skeg, the kayak is simple to paddle across lakes and slack water sometimes found on rivers. And its light enough for one person to easily carry when the boat is out of the water.
Oh, and did I mention how portable it is? It rolls down into a nice, tidy package, which I can then toss into a corner of a pickup truck bed, a tiny trunk of my friend’s compact car, or in the rooftop cargo carrier of my Subaru Outback.
But above all, my inflatable kayak works superbly for overnight trips. With a weight capacity of 750 pounds, the kayak carries my gear, and myself, day after day with room to spare for paddler comfort. And the kayak’s design and length afford plenty of options for lashing gear to the boat and to allow a solo paddler to “stretch out.”
And I almost forgot to mention. I’ve owned my Sea Eagle 380x since 2003. I’ve floated thousands of miles through all sorts of weather conditions. The boat’s banged against trees and sharp limbs, hit hundreds of rocks and been dragged along rocky shores more times than I care to admit. It’s been dropped, fully loaded with 100 pounds of gear, from the top of a pickup truck and gone splat on the ground. I’ve also done no special maintenance to the boat beyond cleaning out the mud and dead bugs and making sure the boat is clean before putting it away for winter storage.
Despite all the use and often rough treatment the kayak endures, do you want to know how many leaks the boat has had? Zero. Yes, that’s correct. As I write this article in 2018, my fifteen-year-old Sea Eagle 380x kayak has had a grand total of zero leaks. I’ve yet to put a single patch on the boat. Or spend time chasing down a leak.
Granted, I don’t do anything stupid. I don’t toss the kayak over waterfalls. I don’t drag it across cement blocks with rusty rebar sticking out of it. I don’t use the boat for target practice.
In other words, the kayak is tough. So tough, in fact, that you can drive a 4×4 jeep across newer editions of the Sea Eagle 380x without hurting it (although the tire marks might be difficult to clean off).
So why do I bring this up? If you want to buy an inflatable kayak for overnight float trips, durability and versatility are vital. On long float trips, especially through remote terrain, it’s all but guaranteed you’ll experience diverse weather, water and environmental conditions during the trip.
As such, anyone planning to take multi-night float trips needs a boat that can handle everything that’s thrown at it. The boat needs to be simple to paddle through areas of flat water (and in some case, periods where the water seemingly runs backwards). The boat needs the ability to tackle rapids and not be prone to capsizing if you hit a wave or hole wrong. The boat must be able to withstand freezing temperatures one day while baking under the sun the next. The boat needs to be tough enough to withstand the rigors of being dragged, fully loaded, out of the water onto shore well above the river level. And the boat needs to be simple to carry and pack away if “plans change.”
Above all, the paddler needs 100% confidence that the boat will still float by trip’s end.
After 15 years of using my Sea Eagle 380x inflatable kayak, I have 100% confidence that my boat will still float by trip’s end, whether that trip be a day float on a sedate river like the Flathead River or a multi-night float through the remote Missouri Breaks region of Montana.
The hallmark of an expedition level inflatable kayak is durability and versatility.
An expedition level inflatable kayak is durable enough to withstand whatever obstacles it encounters, maintains the versatility required to handle changing water conditions of a remote river or lake and is immune to the often sadistic whims of Mother Nature.
And for me, the Sea Eagle Explorer Series kayaks are true expedition level kayaks in every sense of the word.
Are the Explorer series kayaks from Sea Eagle the best fly fishing platform ever created? No…although they now have a specialized fishing version available for those who desire it – the 350x. But my Sea Eagle 380x is still a very good fishing platform, even if it lacks some of the bells and whistles found on a more dedicated fly fishing boat.
Are these Explorer series kayaks the best boats for long paddles across flat water, such as lakes? No, other specialized lake paddling kayaks – particularly the FastTrack Series kayaks by Sea Eagle – perform better for lake paddling due to their sleeker design. Yet my kayak works just fine to paddle across lakes, particularly when I install the detachable skeg (which limits yaw). While it isn’t the best inflatable kayak for lake paddling, it is still easy to paddle for long periods across flat water and is more than sufficient for my own personal needs.
Are these Explorer series kayaks the best boats for intense whitewater? And by intense, I mean the Class V rapids found in the Grand Canyon or the hard core Class IV+ rapids found along Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River? No, for pure whitewater use, there’s definitely better inflatable kayaks available, specialty whitewater inflatable kayaks such as these kayaks from NRS. Yet my Sea Eagle 380x can, and has, safely run Class IV rapids. And the boat laughs at rapids of Class III or lower, which is by far the most common rapids paddlers encounter.
So do you see what I’m getting at here? For particular specialty uses, the expedition level Sea Eagle Explorer Series kayaks are very good for these uses but are not the best inflatable kayaks available.
Instead, what the Sea Eagle Explorer series kayaks bring to the table is extreme versatility. While they can’t handle Class V rapids like a specialized inflatable whitewater kayak can, the Sea Eagle 380x can carry you and your gear in comfort for hundreds of miles where-as a whitewater kayak can’t.
The Sea Eagle 380x can’t travel as fast across flat waters as a specialized kayak designed for lake paddling. But what the Sea Eagle 380x offers is the ability to paddle across the lake loaded with gear, albeit more slowly, and then start a journey down a river full of rapids, waves, rocks and other hazards found along the way. And then keep going for days or weeks at a time.
And, of course, the Sea Eagle 380x leaves all these specialty kayaks in the dust when it comes to long journeys through remote regions. No other inflatable kayak (or hardshell kayak, for that matter) compares to the ability of the Explorer series to haul you and your gear safely through remote terrain on multi-night (or multi-week) trips. And then once the trip is done to toss the boat in the back of a trunk and be on your way.
Is an Expedition Level Inflatable Kayak Right For You?
So is the Sea Eagle 380x, or any other expedition level kayak, right for you? It all depends on what you need a kayak for.
If all you plan to do is to paddle around a lake, never venturing onto a river with rapids, taking overnight floats or paddling across a windy bay, then a kayak that specializes in flat water paddling, such as a Sea Eagle FastTrack, likely is a better choice. Or if you need more capacity than the FastTrack provides, such as for paddling across lakes in the Boundary Waters, then an Inflatable Canoe might be the perfect choice.
If you want a boat for day trips down sedate rivers during summer weather or for paddling around small lakes/ponds and never plan to take lengthy multi-night voyages or haul lots of gear, then the Sea Eagle 380x is probably overkill for you needs. Instead, a less expensive recreational kayak, such as the Sea Eagle 330 or 370, might meet your needs just fine and save your pocketbook at the same time.
And if you want an inflatable kayak to run Class IV and Class V rapids, day after day, then a specialized whitewater inflatable kayak such as these kayaks from NRS or Aire just might be the best choice.
But if you want an inflatable kayak that brings the ability to do a wide range of activities, and do them well, and to take you and piles of gear out on long voyages into remote areas, then an expedition level inflatable kayak is what you want.
And a Sea Eagle Explorer Series inflatable kayak is a perfect choice.
Other Articles on Big Sky Fishing About the Sea Eagle Explorer Series Kayaks
A Review of My Own Sea Eagle 380x Inflatable Kayak – A review of my 2003 kayak which is still going strong. I’ll also compare it to the newer version of the 380x, which is much more attractive, lighter and has some killer features I wished my own kayak had.
Why You Want a Paddle Leash – A paddle leash is essential for anyone, but especially solo paddlers, who take remote trips or run whitewater.
Adding Rope to Your Kayak – Why stringing rope down both sides of the kayak makes organization, and life, so much simpler.
Sea Eagle Explorer Series Kayaks Compared – You’ve decided to get an expedition level Sea Eagle Explorer kayak. Great! Now, which one best meets your needs?
Dry Bags and Inflatable Kayaks – What I’ve learned about packing my Sea Eagle 380x.
Recreational Inflatable Kayaks v. Expedition Level Inflatable Kayaks – A detailed comparison
How to Camp With Your Inflatable Kayak – What to bring, and what not to.
How to Setup and Inflate Your Sea Eagle 380x Kayak – I’ll show you how I setup my 2003 model kayak, and also show how (courtesy of a Sea Eagle video) to setup the newer model. The process is basically the same and just as easy.
Essential Repair Kit Items for a Sea Eagle Explorer Kayak for Multi-night Trips – The Sea Eagle 380x comes “out of the box” with a good repair kit for day trips and simple overnights. But for long, remote voyages through remote terrain – you want more. Here’s what I take and why.
Sea Eagle 380x Going Over Waterfall
Earlier I mentioned that I don’t do “anything stupid,” such as throwing my boat over a waterfall. Well, you can take the boat over a pretty nasty waterfall if you know what you’re doing and are a bit brave. Fun video to watch.