Innova Helios I Review

paddling the Innova Helios EX kayak

Best Uses: Sea kayaking, flat water, traveling, camping

Brand: Innova

Number of Paddlers: 1

Stats: Length 10’ 2”, Width 28”, Weight 29 lbs, Load Capacity 220 lbs

Included Features: Drybag/backpack, deck netting and gear bungees, adjustable footrest, carry handles, optional foot-controlled rudder

Kayak Material: Low stretch polyester and heavy duty rubber coated 1,200 denier Nitrylon exterior, Lite-pack interior to reduce weight and packed size.

Pros: Lightweight, easy to lift, comfortable, lots of storage space, very easy to turn and maneuver, good tracking (extra good with optional rudder), compact, easy entry and exit, dries quickly

Cons: Although very comfortable you have to sit on the floor of the kayak and you will definitely get a wet bum. There is an inflatable backrest that offers decent support but adding a seat will help with keeping dry, takes a little longer to inflate because decking is inflatable as well

Available At: – Innova Helios I

More In-Depth Info

The Innova Helios I has a long reputation for being an excellent inflatable kayak. It is ideal for flat water paddling such as lakes, slow rivers (only up to class I) as well as for sea kayaking.

What I like most about the Helios is:

  • the quality is excellent
  • it is extremely easy for one person to carry and handle
  • it packs away into a large backpack and can be taken anywhere
  • it has a surprisingly large amount of storage space within the kayak as well as bungee cords on the deck for extra gear.  The netting on the front deck is particularly nice as it is easily accessible for your water bottle and a small drybag.

Simple Yet Effective

The best thing about this inflatable kayak however is its simplicity. It’s an interesting design where even the decking is inflatable.   That means that everything deflates and creates a small package when rolled up and stored away.

There is nothing to fiddle with or attach on the Helios except for the footrest and the fin.

I actually found that it took me longer to inflate this kayak than my  Sea Eagle Razorlite, which is what I paddle most often.  However it is a simple setup process that anyone can do.

I wouldn’t say the Helios is super fast but it still moves nicely and is super responsive.  It takes little effort to get moving and turns really easily.

The fin helps with tracking but if you want perfect tracking go for the optional foot rudder.

Optional Rudder for Sea Kayaking

There is an optional rudder that can be purchased with this model that really helps for ocean paddling. It is highly recommended for the tandem version of the Helios but the solo model does not necessarily need it as the tracking is decent and it is so easy to turn already.

However if you plan to do a lot of sea kayaking you may want to consider purchasing the rudder as it will help with maneuvering through ocean swells.

Note: The rudder is really designed to fit the tandem Helios and therefore if you decide to purchase it for the solo Helios you will need to specifically request longer rudder cords that can fit over the hull of the Helios I.

I have the rudder for my solo Helios.  I have it attached to help with the tracking but I don’t bother with the foot pedals as I don’t find them necessary for this model.  With the tandem Helios they would be very useful however.

Innova Helios Rudder


There is no real seat in this inflatable kayak.  There is however an inflatable backrest that is fairly comfortable.

No seat means you sit on the floor of the kayak, which although comfortable pretty much guarantees you will end up with a wet bum.

A lot of people have been happy to paddle the Helios with just the backrest and don’t find the lack of real seating an issue at all.  I personally decided to add my own seat.

I have a high back seat that I use in my Razorlite kayak and it happens to fit snugly in the Helios.

With this seat I stay dry (or at least dyer – some water splashing off your paddles is inevitable) and I also have a little better back support.

You could add any seat you wanted.  There isn’t any D-rings to secure the seat but I found that it fit so snugly that it doesn’t move around anyway and you can rest it right up against the backrest.

I do attach my seat clips to the back decking just in case I tip so I don’t possibly lose it.  Another option is just to add a couple folded up towels to sit on or some type of seat cushion.

You might find you have no need to add a seat yourself however and without one it is a more portable package for traveling.


One of the unique things about the Innova Helios is that it is made from Nitrylon material which is far more environmentally friendly than PVC – which is what most inflatable kayaks are made with.

Innova is one of the very few inflatable kayak manufacturers using Nitrylon material. Besides being environmentally friendly, it also dries super quick and is very easy to keep clean.

There used to be two material options for this kayak but Innova now has only the Helios I EX which has full rubber coated Nitrylon fabric construction throughout.

With this type of material you do not have to worry about scotchguarding as it is already protected.  That being said I still apply my 303 Protectant spray for added protection from UV rays about once a year.

More Pictures

Innova Helios inflatable kayak

Innova Helios at Alta Lake in Whistler

paddling the Innova Helios at Whistler

Innova Helios deck

Final Thoughts

The Innova Helios has been very popular in Europe and on the West Coast for years.  It is easy to paddle, highly portable and fairly versatile.

It has more of a closed in deck which offers some good protection from the elements and also provides protected storage space up front.

It is very lightweight and by far one of the more convenient models to take traveling.  It’s a solid kayak, well made and comfortable to paddle.

Keep in mind that the load capacity is only 220 lbs. so it may not be the best choice for a larger person. There is also a two person model that can hold much more weight – please see our Innova Helios II Review for more info.

Where To Buy

Click on the links below to see the current prices and best deal at each retailer. – Innova Helios I Inflatable Kayak

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  1. I am looking for a light weight inflatable that is stable enough for photography and can handle wind and good sized wakes on local lakes.. . Would the helios 1 work for me? Thanks, Allison.

    • Yes you bet. The Helios I is a great kayak, fairly stable and well made. There are other more stable IK’s out there but the Helios is a nice combination of stability and performance. I don’t think you’d have any problem doing photography from this kayak and no problem in wake.

  2. Hi Allison,
    I want to thank you for your website and being such an encyclopedia (does that word still exist, ha!ha!) of great information on IK’s. My wife and I are still in the process of deciding on one. Your website has been so helpful!! I love being on the water, but not in it (non-swimmer). We are definitely looking for an IK that is easy to wipe down and dry, as we don’t have or want the option of reinflating it upon returning home to let it dry and re-pack it. That said, I think that we are more limited in choice and have narrowed it down to the Airis Sport and Helios I EX. What would be your thoughts on the two? Being 220lbs and pushing the Helios limit would I be ok and would I find it stable enough? My wife is considerably under that weight limit so I don’t think she would have a problem with either one. And as far as your suggestion on adding a seat cushion on the Helios, would that seat cushion tend to slide on you and add to the frustration of the paddling experience. I am also considering quality and leaning towards the Helios in that category (although I did read that you haven’t had any issues like others on the Airis brand). Any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you again for your input and for being so helpful to others beginning their journey in the sport of IKs.

    • Hi Dan, so glad you are finding the site helpful! Both the Airis Sport and the Innova Helios are great choices. I find the Sport a lot of fun for day trips, it is easy to paddle, easy to transport, and easy to carry. Both kayaks are easy to dry off. I haven’t had any issues with my Airis kayaks (except the backpack is showing some major wear and tear) but I have heard of others who have. I like the Innova company in general and I normally only hear good things about their kayaks. The Helios is extremely portable and would definitely suit your needs. I don’t think you’d have any issue with the weight limit and stability. I find they can typically hold a lot more than they say. I’d try it as is without adding a seat first and see what you think, you might have no problem with it. I added a small/thin cushion and it didn’t seem to move at all. Hope that helps!

      • Hi Allison,
        Just purchased the Airis Sport this morning via your website link through Thanks for the 5% off link! I didn’t see your response to my questions until this evening. Hope I made the right decision! Looking forward to getting it and trying it out before the cold season sets in up here in Maine. Read a couple of reviews about the Helios feeling a little tipsy, thus the decision to go with the Airis Sport. Really liked everything else about the Helios though. I’m still thinking about getting it though next spring. Being a non-swimmer, do you think the tipsiness would make me uncomfortable or is it stable enough that I would get used to it? I noticed that you called it “fairly stable”. Thanks again for all your help.

        • Hi Dan, My boyfriend and I both really like the Sport, I think you’ll enjoy it. It is a bit more of a sit-on-top feel but very stable and so easy to paddle. Plus it is ultra portable. I suppose the Helios is a little less stable than the Sport but not by much. I don’t think you’d have any issues with it. I find inflatable kayaks in general to be nearly impossible to tip. The nice thing about the Sport however is that it has a very rigid floor so you can actually even stand in it if you dare to try 🙂

  3. Hi Allison,
    Thanks for the reassurance on the Helios. After my wife and I try the Airis Sport, then will decide whether to buy a second Sport or go with a Helios…oh boy…I hope this doesn’t cause a fight :>)
    As for the Airis Sport floor, i think I’ll stay seated in it thank you!

  4. Hi Allison,
    I had just one more question on the Helios. Do you find the seat back very “squeaky” as you’re paddling. I saw a video of someone putting the flap down into position to create the seat back and it sounded extremely squeaky as they were putting it into place. It’s a type of noise that I think would drive me crazy if it’s there while I’m paddling. Thanks again for all your help.

  5. Debbie Morris says:

    Hi Allison,

    I just ordered a Helio I EX 2012 model, but it is new and still in packaging. I will be receiving it next week. Do I need to put any UV protection on this type inflatable? I was thinking it would be fine as is, because of the high quality, but saw someone mention it on another site. I didn’t order any type of spray to coat it, and really don’t want to hassle with it if it is not even necessary. What is your advice on this, being the guru of inflatables? Will it be fine to take it out without coating it first? If so, will I need it in the future?


    • Hi Debbie, You can definitely use a 303 protectant on the Innova Helios material. It is not critical right off the bat but it will help protect the material in the long run. I only apply mine once a year but you can use it more often if you are in salt water and in hot sun often.

  6. Debbie Morris says:

    Can you post a video showing how to inflate, deflate, and roll up the Helio I and put into the storage bag? I would greatly appreciate it. I can’t find anything good online and the instructions that come with the kayak are Greek to me.

    • Hey Debbie, I will do a video at some point. Basically just use the foot pump, inflate the floor first then the two sides. Then inflate the decking. It doesn’t take too long 🙂

  7. Debbie Morris says:


    The Innova site recommends the Bravo 1 foot pump, but do you know if other foot pumps I could find on Amazon will be just as good? I don’t want to have to buy a gauge to worry about over inflation, and just want a pump that will only go to 3 psi, which is the recommended inflation for the kayak.
    I appreciate any input.

    • I have only used the Bravo foot pump with the Helios but I imagine any hand pump would do. With the foot pump you don’t have to worry about over inflating. As soon as it becomes too hard to pump you know it is done. The foot pump works well but they don’t tend to be all that strong – I have broken a few of them over the years just from pumping too hard.

  8. Debbie Morris says:

    I couldn’t find the Bravo 1 pump on Amazon, and am not sure if the other Bravo pumps are different. I know they are twice as much as the other pumps on there. I did find a Bravo 1 on some other site, but it was over $45 with shipping, which seems really high. I just tried inflating it with an Advanced Elements double action pump with gauge and that didn’t work right, so I am sending it back. The pressure gauge jumps around and is hard to accurately determine what pressure you are at. I don’t want to over inflate it, but it seemed to hit 3psi and the kayak is obviously not inflated like it should be. Also, I have no idea how you are supposed to attach a pump to the valve stems that inflate the decks. I had to try and hold an attachment from the Advanced Elements pump against it with one hand and try and work the pump with one hand. It was ridiculous. It seems there would be a proper attachment to hook to those inflation stems. Does one of the Bravo 1 attachments secure to them? Is that why the Bravo 1 pump is recommended for it? Also, I have tried to no avail to fold that kayak up and get it back into the bag. If I can’t do that, then it is pretty much useless to travel with as I had planned. I am so frustrated nobody can post a video to show it done properly.

  9. Debbie Morris says:

    Hi Allison,

    I finally figured out how to fold the kayak, and am debating even returning the double action pump because it inflates so quickly. I finally figured out how to read the gauge if I went really slowly. I am guessing the Bravo 1 pump probably takes 2 or 3 times as long to inflate the kayak, but maybe you would know that. But, I still haven’t figured out what kind of attachment you need to inflate the valve stems properly. I received an attachment for the Boston valves that came with it, but not one for the other type stems. I am wondering if they forgot to pack it with the kayak and need to contact them.

    • The Bravo foot pump does take a little longer than the hand pumps to inflate but it works well for this kayak. With the foot pump I don’t use a gauge, I just pump until it gets too hard to pump anymore, at which point the kayak is always rigid and well inflated. Only problem with the foot pumps is that they are easy to break, I have gone through a few of them over the years. The bravo foot pump comes with an attachment for the deck valves but they aren’t a perfect fit. However the decking inflates extremely fast.

  10. Hi Alison,
    I am looking to buy an inflatable kayak to use on the Yukon river between Whitehorse and Dawson City.
    Although I have been canoeing and kayaking for many years and have two kayaks and two canoes in Kelowna and a canvas on wood frame kayak on Baffin Island where I work, I am planning to bus from Kelowna rather than drive to save $$!
    Bearing in mind that pulling in to shore won’t be on sandy beaches most of the time my concern is the likelihood of puncturing the kayak. From what I understand rapids are not an issue on this section.
    Are these craft suitable for a relatively rough trip of this sort, and if so what inflatable would you suggest I look for?
    Thanks for any advice you may have!

    • Hi Chris sounds like a very cool trip! An IK is definitely durable enough for a trip like this. I have never had any issues pulling my kayaks up to shore on gravel, rocks or even pavement. However just be conscious of not dragging too far if the ground is particularly sharp. As long as you use common sense in this area you’ll be fine… pull up to shore, get out and then carry it.

      So if rapids are not a concern you have a few options. The Sea Eagle FastTrack comes to mind first. It’s a tough boat, not super fast but glides nicely. It is stable and solid and can hold quite a bit of gear. Plus it comes with a great 3-year warranty and it only weighs 31 lbs. The seats are adjustable so you can paddle it solo quite well.

      The Innova Helios II is definitely another good choice. The tandem version will be able to hold more gear. It paddles well and packs up small.

      Depending on how much gear you have the Airis Tandem is ideal for traveling. It packs up small and only weighs 26 lbs. The seats are adjustable so you can remove one and secure the other one in the center. It’s more of a day trip kayak so not totally sure if this one will suit your needs.

      Any of the Aire Kayaks will work. They are super tough, stable and easy to paddle. Most of them are well suited for calm water as well as rapids.

      If you won’t be paddling with much gear you could look at the solo versions which will be lighter in weight and smaller in size. Hope that helps!

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