Buyers Guide: SEA EAGLE FASTTRACK vs. SEA EAGLE EXPLORER KAYAK

Steve Brauns and his constant companion, Meeker, ply the waterways of Colorado in their Sea Eagle FastTrack Kayak.

Steve Brauns and his constant companion, Meeker, ply the waterways of Colorado in their Sea Eagle FastTrack Kayak.

With nearly a dozen different boat models, Sea Eagle has an inflatable boat for every kind of boater. But how to choose? We spoke recently with Steve Brauns of Glen Haven, Colorado about how he decided on his Sea Eagle FastTrack 385.

“I hadn’t really done any boating prior to getting this Sea Eagle FastTrack kayak. I got it specifically for a trip down the Flathead River in Glacier National Park in Montana. I’ll do more flat water lake kayaking than anything but I wanted something versatile so I could do some Class II and III rivers.

Practical considerations

I didn’t want a hard-sided kayak because I’m driving from Colorado to Glacier National Park and I didn’t want to leave a kayak sitting out on top of the car unattended. So it had to be a boat I could put in my car. An inflatable seemed like the way to go.

Steve's dog, Meeker, takes eagerly to boating. A testament to toughness, the Sea Eagle Explorer's high-pressure fabric is like "crocodile hide" - dog toenails don't phase it.

Steve’s dog, Meeker, takes eagerly to boating. A testament to toughness, the Sea Eagle FastTrack’s high-pressure fabric is like “crocodile hide” – dog toenails don’t phase it.

I needed something I can carry and get on the water without any help. The FastTrack works well for that. It’s quite manageable for one person. For example, I can pull it out of my car, lay it out, pump it up, hold it in the middle, and carry it to the dock by myself. I could easily carry it longer distances if I had to. It’s very simple and manageable and inflates quickly. It’s easy. You don’t have to drag it, you don’t need another person to help carry it – that would make it easier but it’s not needed. You don’t have to trailer it or put it on a car rack.

On the water, the first time my girlfriend and I took it out on a lake, it was windy. I was impressed by how well it kept going, even into a headwind. I’ve read reviews of other kayaks and some have tracking issues.

What are your requirements?

I’ve got two dogs. The one in the picture is Meeker, a border collie mix. He’s one of those dogs who wants to go with you and I take him everywhere. He’d never been in a boat before. I pointed at it and said, ‘Jump in,’ and he did. Boating is probably more for me than for him. I take him backpacking everywhere. He just wants to go.

I got into snorkeling and get to the Caribbean almost every year so I wanted a boat I could fit in a suitcase and weigh under 50 lbs. to avoid extra luggage fees. An hour and a half south of Cancun is where the good snorkeling starts. We rent a casita and go snorkeling. There aren’t a lot of people. We hang out, paddle to the reef, and use the kayak as a platform for snorkeling. Snorkling’s just about my favorite thing to do.

I like to backpack up into the high country above the tree line. I could see carrying my FastTrack a mile to access a remote lake. When we go to Glacier there are two big, remote lakes on the west side —  Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake. We’ll definitely take the boat up there.

Boating’s a different adventure perspective

Steve enjoys boating adventure high in the mountains with his Sea Eagle FastTrack Kayak

Steve enjoys boating adventure high in the mountains with his Sea Eagle FastTrack Kayak. Mountain lakes…whitewater rivers…ocean kayaking…the FastTrack’s ready for just about anything.

I spend a lot of time outdoors. I do a lot of hiking; I live in the mountains. I always want to hike and backpack near the water because it’s scenic. Going boating gives me a different perspective from being on shore – I go out and get an outdoor perspective from the middle of the lake or get to areas I can’t get to hiking. It takes exploring one step higher.

FastTrack or Explorer?

There are a lot of inflatables out there and I looked at all of them. I did a lot of searching for reviews and came up with three or four top brands. I looked at each of them. The Sea Eagle seemed to meet a whole host of my requirements like weight, tracking, and I liked the depth of the information on the website. More than other brands, customer service had a strong presence.

Why the FastTrack? I looked at both the Sea Eagle Explorer and the FastTrack. Both seemed to be of higher quality than Sea Eagle’s Sport Kayaks. That put me into either the FastTrack or the Explorer. From an aesthetic perspective, I like the Explorer kayak better than the FastTrack. But from what I read, the FastTrack seems to be more versatile in both flat water and river running. I bought to fit my needs.

Skeg & Keel create straight tracking

The FastTrack’s skeg and the drop stitch keel have a lot to do with the straight tracking. The keel is under the bow of the boat. It’s narrow, about 4 or 5” wide, maybe 3” long. It’s an inflatable chamber made of a beefy material. When you inflate it, it’s hard, really firm. It probably helps tracking as much as the skeg . It gives the boat something to dig in with.

I bought the 385 FT Deluxe Package. I went back and forth between the Pro Package and the Deluxe. The Pro’s seats looked like they gave more support but I just didn’t want to spend the extra money. I’m perfectly happy with the seats I got but may trade up eventually.

Touch test for skeptics

The last time I went kayaking, a couple stopped while I was inflating my FastTrack. They were quite impressed that it happened so fast. People don’t expect you to pull something like that out of your trunk and be up and running in 10 minutes.

People always ask about it and it’s easy to tell them, ‘Just go to SeaEagle.com.’ It’s written right there on the boat. I run into inflatable boat skeptics, too. I invite them to come over and touch it to see how solid it is, even the floor. You’d feel comfortable even standing up in it. I tell everyone and everyone how cool my FastTrack is.”

Own a Sea Eagle? How did YOU decide which model to buy? Email us – our blog readers want to know!

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5 Responses to Buyers Guide: SEA EAGLE FASTTRACK vs. SEA EAGLE EXPLORER KAYAK

  1. Michael Pritchard says:

    Steve, We have the larger version fast track which we used on a recent 10 day trip through the canyon lands on the Green River. The boat worked great except for tracking without the skeg (sandbars) so we turned it around and let the keel do the work of the skeg.
    The reason I’m writng is that we are heading to the Yucatan for snorkling and considering bringing our sea eagle. We have some concerns about the coral tearing the boat. Any thoughts?Michael

    • steve brauns says:

      Hey Michael – sorry for the late response….before I give that response, just wanted to make sure you are still tuned in……I apparently have been tuned out for awhile….

      • Michael Pritchard says:

        Steve,
        We’re back from 3 weeks on Cozumel, Talum and Mahajual where we used the boat quite a bit to access the reefs, It did work great. We even had up to 4 people in the boat and were able to get in and out just fine.
        Using the boat backwards for tracking w/o the skeg did seem to work fine. Of course we were on a river and not a lake.
        Have a good time in The Yucatan. You’ll enjoy the warmth of the water I’m sure.
        Michael

  2. steve brauns says:

    On second thought, I will go ahead and reply…..I actually just made reservations for the Yucatan, as well. The Sea Eagles are pretty tough but I would definitely try to avoid the coral – as you know, it’s pretty sharp. The place we are going has kayaks, but I want to use the Sea Eagle a bit to practice the ingress/egress – in warm water!! I would just be careful and try to avoid the sharp stuff – that’s my plan.

    Funny you should mention the lack of tracking on the Green River – we took ours up to the Flathead this past summer and experienced the same thing – never thought about turning it around – that’s pretty smart!! We sort of had a crash course in steering out of necessity – we are way better now. I wonder if the Sea Eagle folks might consider producing a shorter skeg that would still allow for the better tracking but not long enough to drag the bottom when the water level is low – I also thought about buying an extra regular skeg and cutting it to be a bit shorter…..just thinking out loud…..

    So how did the kayak perform backwards?

    • steve brauns says:

      thanks Michael…sorry I didn’t get back to you before your trip….but glad you had a great time and took the kayak – 3 weeks sounds fabulous!! Been down to Xcalak (just south of Mahahual), and the snorkeling was fantastic – I’m maybe just a little bit jealous about the 3 week part (we’re going to Soliman bay in April, just north of Tulum, but just for 1 week).

      Glad you are enjoying your kayak to the fullest – that’s what it’s all about!!!

      Steve

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