One word sums up the popularity of inflatable kayaks: convenience. Inflatable kayaks pack into a bag and fit into a closet. Add air, and the blowup boat is a tough and practical watercraft. By that definition, the most convenient inflatable kayak would be the best inflatable kayak. At 10 feet long, 37.5 pounds, and 38 by 18 by 11 inches packed in its carry case, BOTE’s new Zeppelin Aero 10 is just about the easiest inflatable kayak to own.
BOTE’s Zeppelin Aero 10 is a Pocket Kayak with Big Potential
BOTE Zeppelin Aero 10 Specs
Weight: 38 lbs
Capacity: 300 lbs
Key Fishy Features
The BOTE Zeppelin Aero 10 removes most of the obstacles to owning a fishing kayak. The smallest, lightest and most versatile kayak on the water, the Zeppelin leaves no excuse for being stuck on dry land.
But the Zeppelin isn’t a pool toy. Sturdy construction, smart features and an efficient design turn the little inflatable into a miniature fishing kayak.
The BOTE Zeppelin Aero 10 is only 10 feet long with a stable 38-inch beam. To help the inflatable kayak dodge the wind, the Zeppelin 10 only sits 10 inches off the water.
The small size translates to one of the lightest inflatable kayaks at only 37.5 pounds without the seat. Still, the tiny titan can carry 300 pounds.
These specs add up to a little boat with big ambitions. And BOTE builds their inflatables tough enough to go anywhere. Starting with premium vinyl skin that is wear and puncture resistant, BOTE’s Aero construction increases stiffness without increasing weight.
To keep the boat stiff, the Aero 10 uses a drop stitch deck inflated to 15 to 20 pounds of pressure. To increase stability the side chambers are only inflated to three PSI.
On the bottom of the boat, a rigid keel and three skegs improve straight-line tracking. The nose and tail are also reinforced to prevent damage and give the inflatable boat a rigid structure.
On the topside, the Zeppelin features bungees, tie-downs, D-rings and accessory bases to customize the boat for fishing, diving or just paddling to the sandbar.
My favorite feature is the self-draining hull. Just like a river raft, water exits the Zeppelin through openings in the floor just above the waterline. The inherent buoyancy quickly forces water out of the cockpit keeping me and my gear dry.
The best thing about the Zeppelin is the name BOTE on the bow. BOTE started as a premium standup paddleboard designer with a focus on fishing. Their inflatable line of kayaks and paddleboards continues the commitment to quality and angler-friendly design.
Conceived, developed and tested in the wild waters of Western Florida, BOTE boards and inflatables are legit fishing paddlecraft. Their construction quality is unmatched and the available accessories make fishing easier. BOTE boards and inflatables are smart and they work. The Zeppelin concentrates BOTE’s reputation in a convenient inflatable kayak anyone can own.
Zeppelin Aero 10 Rigging
One of the biggest challenges in turning an inflatable kayak into a fishing kayak is adding accessories. BOTE makes rigging easy with a long list of compatible accessories.
The Zeppelin 10 is available in a fishing package that includes a water bottle, paddle, rod rack and bucket cooler.
The rod rack is an aluminum tube frame with four rod holders. The frame is sized to fit a five-gallon bucket or Kula cooler. The Kula not only provides all-day ice retention, but it also offers excellent waterproof storage for gear and tackle. The rack fits behind the seat into two mounting bases in the Zeppelin’s deck.
To save weight and provide more storage space, I used a 13- by 13-inch YakGear Angler Crate with five rod holders. The crate fits snugly into the space behind the seat and I used the D-rings to secure the crate to the boat.
To round out the rigging, I would add a Scotty adhesive base and R5 rod holder to hold a rod in easy reach. The Zeppelin has bungees on the deck to secure a drybag and a convenient magnetic pad in front of the seat to hold a metal water bottle.
BOTE went with a unique approach to seating. Other inflatable kayaks use a soft seat or a frame seat; BOTE created an inflatable seat to maintain comfort without adding weight or bulk. Blow up the seat and it provides sufficient support for paddling and a comfortable position for sitting all day. Deflated, the seat folds up and fits in the carry case. The inflatable seat offers the comfortable, elevated position of a frame seat without taking up space in the carry case.
BOTE Travel Bag
The best part of an inflatable kayak is paddling and fishing. The worst part is deflating, packing and inflating the boat. I have inflated, deflated, packed and unpacked dozens of blowup kayaks. The process always involves sweat, elevated heart rate and heavy breathing. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by swearing and occasionally kicking and screaming.
I did not experience this malady with the BOTE Zeppelin 10. First of all, the 10-foot boat is small enough to inflate with the included two-chamber hand pump. The drop stitch floor holds 12 to 15 pounds per square inch of air while the side chambers only require two to three pounds. The Zeppelin is one of the few kayaks I certify as capable of inflating and deflating between trips.
The true test of patience comes when packing the kayak into the BOTE Travel Case. The folks at BOTE realize not everyone can fold an inflatable kayak into a tight wad and stuff it into a small case. The BOTE Travel Case is generous enough to fit the kayak, seat and paddle. At 46 pounds and 38 by 18 by 11 inches, the case is a little unwieldy to throw over a shoulder and huck like a rucksack, but the package is portable and manageable to carry over rough ground.
The key to inflatable kayaks is convenience. After that, storage and transport are as important as performance and versatility. The Zeppelin 10 backs up the functional kayak with an inflatable that is easy to own.
On the Water Performance
The diminutive Zeppelin 10 is designed to fill spaces other kayaks can’t fit. While a 10-foot inflatable kayak won’t replace a full-feature, rotomolded fishing kayak in speed or distance, it does beat other boats in convenience and transportation.
To test the Zeppelin 10’s performance, I filled a backpack with tackle and lunch, grabbed a paddle, my two favorite rods and a life vest.
I know a little spot that is too far away from the truck to drag my full-size fishing kayak. This place is too shallow for motorboats and out of reach of the kayak launch.
The off-the-radar honey hole is perfect for a small inflatable. With my tackle bag over one shoulder, rods in hand and carrying the inflated Zeppelin under my arm, I can hike the rough trail to the launch.
When the going got tough and I had to drop the boat down an embankment, the 37.5-pound Zeppelin bounced like a ball without leaving a mark. In many ways, the inflatable is more durable than a hard-plastic kayak.
Once I’m on the water, the little kayak acts bigger than its footprint. The drop stitch floor is rock-solid and the outer pontoons provide stability to stand and fish.
Sitting on the inflatable seat is like lounging on a firm cushion. The support is adequate, with a low seat back that doesn’t interfere with my life vest. The seat is about a foot off the deck, making it easier to stand up and get in and out of the kayak.
The seat bottom is angled back to lift my knees and reduce stress on my lower back. EVA foam on the surface provides extra padding and grip so I don’t slide when I put power to the paddle.
To install the seat in the kayak, web straps with S-clips connect to web loops on the deck. The system is quick and surprisingly secure. Cinching down the straps firmly held the seat in place.
To tell the truth, I didn’t use the seat very often. My favorite way to catch redfish is looking for the little buggers as they swim through shallow water. Standing in the kayak gives me a better view into the water. And, when I see a redfish swimming just below the surface, standing in the kayak makes it easier to pitch a jig.
For me, the draw of the Zeppelin 10 is that it’s a compact, light kayak that I can still use to stand and fish. The elevated seat makes it easier to stand up, and the 38-inch-wide beam keeps the boat planted on the water. To further improve stability, the low-pressure side chambers act as pontoons making it almost impossible to flip the little boat.
With any 10-foot boat, especially an inflatable, tracking is going to suffer. Less boat in the water allows each paddle stroke to push the bow to the side. Waves and wind will also affect the boat’s straight-line performance.
The Zeppelin’s hull is designed to optimize tracking for a 10-foot inflatable kayak. The bow and stern are pointed and slightly flared to allow the boat to pass through the water more efficiently. A hard-plastic keel in the bow and three skegs in the stern aid in keeping the boat going straight.
I could control the Zeppelin not only while sitting, but the design also allowed me to maneuver the kayak when I was standup fishing. This is a key component in using the Zeppelin as a fishing kayak. The advantages of a light, small and tough boat in tight structure, rivers or hiking to the launch were not countered by disadvantages in performance and handling. While the Zeppelin won’t replace a full-feature, hard-body kayak in paddling performance, the Zeppelin 10 is the most fishing-friendly, pocket-sized inflatable kayak.
Where to Buy
Zeppelin Aero 10
Pros and cons
- Light and compact
- Comfortable seat
- Accessories for fishing
- Needs a rod holder base near the seat
- Paddle holder requires two hands
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No storage space, no car, no money, no excuses, this affordable inflatable fits in anyone’s life. | Feature photo: Patrick Hayes