The Innova Helios II Inflatable Kayak: Affordable, Rugged, and Dependable
The rugged and award-winning Innova Helios II inflatable kayak has been paddled all over the world, from tropical rivers in Papua New Guinea to the cold waters of Alaska. Not content with being just a best-seller, the Helios II has been upgraded to be even more compact and lighter.
A Look at the Kayak
At $999, the tandem Innova Helios II inflatable kayak comes with a waterproof drybag/backpack, carry handles on the bow and stern, netting on each deck for easy gear storage, and a rounded keel. You can purchase an optional foot-operated rudder for sea touring.
Specifications on the Innova Helios II:
- Dimensions: 12'6" x 30"
- Capacity: 2 adults (396 lbs)
- Weight: 33 lbs
- River rating: Class I
- Material: Nitrylon™; 1200-denier polyester
- Packed dimensions: 20"x14"x8"
- 2-year warranty
Note: Paddle not included.
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Innova decided to remove some of the Nitrylon rubber material from the inside of the kayak and replace it with Lite-Pack fabric, which cut down the weight of the kayak. It allows the Helios II to be folded up to a more compact size for traveling, and the fabric feels much nicer next to bare skin. They have also added more back support to the front cockpit, put handles on the bow and stern, and given the deck a flatter profile.
How the Helios II Compares to Other Kayaks
The Helios II is rated by Innova as being better suited for sea touring than the Sunny, and it maneuvers well while surfing. The inflatable has a low profile which means it handles well in the wind without being tossed around; in fact, a Helios kayak averaged over 3 knots on a 40-mile course in the 1997 San Juan Challenge.
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It is possible for the Helios II to be taken down moderate whitewater though it isn’t recommended since it isn’t self-bailing. This kayak will swamp if you dunk it in high flow water or Class III whitewater, but it won’t sink thanks to its three buoyant air chambers.
Most reviewers seem to agree that the main drawback of the Innova Helios II inflatable kayak is that the design does not convert well to a one-person kayak. If you think you will paddle alone most of the time, consider getting the solo Helios I instead, or the Sunny. It also doesn’t hold as much gear as the open-deck Sunny.
The award-winning Helios II is the inflatable kayak of choice for the Canadian Ranger Kayak Patrol on Vancouver Island, which gives you an idea of how well it performs in cold water and against wind gusts and swells. Among other bragging rights: its original model, the Innova Helios 380EX, was cited as a top inflatable kayak model in both Sea Kayaker and Backpacker magazines in 2005.
What We Say
The low profile Innova Helios II inflatable kayak is swift on flat water, and the rounded keel helps the Helios II to track straighter. If you plan to load it down with gear, you may want to get the optional rudder to improve handling, but your skills as a paddler will be the most important factor. Overall, we prefer the Sunny over the semi-decked Helios, but that’s a personal choice. The Helios II is an outstanding inflatable kayak, and one that will last for 15 years with proper care.
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