Advice - Old woman wants to paddle - which inflatable or foldable?

You’ve got me reassessing my whole plan - which I think is a good thing!

What about a skin-on-frame kayak? I have never had the chance to paddle one, but the huge weight advantage has made me want to try to find a used one.

I know exactly what you are dealing with in wrestling a Looksha 17. I bought a used one for my brother several years ago. He lives 560 miles away so I had that Looksha for about a month before driving it up to him. I loaned it twice to friends while I had it, so between those outings plus going and buying it and then taking it to NY I had to solo load it and haul it in and out of my walk-out basement and up the stairs from my yard and rack it a half dozen times. That is one heavy beast of a boat and I’m only 5’ 5” and 150 pounds so it was a real challenge (I just have a plain Thule cross bar rack, no assisting gadgets, so it was strictly grunting and groaning.). I had a couple of similar heavy loaner boats myself (like a Dagger Magellan) and had gotten rid of them the year before mainly because I increasingly hated wrangling them either alone or having to pester others to assist me. A recent diagnosis of osteoporosis was further motivation not to put indue stress on my carcass.

I know most of my friends my age have chosen to go the cart and Hullavator route for heavy boats. That’s very costly — I can understand it for those whose preferred kayaking ventures call for a high end composite sea kayak where heavy weight goes with the territory. But unless you are into coastal touring or need a large sit on top for fishing, there are so many lighter weight options now that I think ditching heavy boats is a very freeing option for those of us slipping into crepitude. And even with those mechanical assist gadgets there are still transition points where you have to commit all your strength to moving the boat.

An illustrative example of the freedom of lightness from a few days ago: I had left the Quest on the car overnight parked on the street. I went out in the morning to bring it down to the yard to hose off and store. As I was sliding it off the roof rack my next door neighbor called out as he came down his walk asking if I needed help. I cheerfully thanked him but politely declined, explaining that the boat only weighed 28 pounds (as I hoisted it into carrying position). I kept talking to him as I crossed the street and then paused on the sidewalk where we had an extended conversation while I balanced the kayak on my right shoulder, just as I might have stopped to chat while carrying a bag of groceries. I honestly forgot I was even carrying it until he said “don’t you need to put that down?”. Even though my one remaining plastic boat is only 46 pounds I don’t and can’t dawdle when I am carrying it. But holding the Quest doesn’t bother me at all. The rubber and fabric wrapped cockpit coaming rests comfortably on my shoulder.

Another option you might explore is Stellar’s line of ultra light touring kayaks. We are fortunate to have a stocking dealer here in SW Pennsylvania so I have been able to look at (and lift) and even test paddle a few models and they are lovely boats. Their S15LV is a full on touring kayak only 36 pounds in the Advantage lay-up. It will run you $2800 — but I paid more than that for my first touring kayak (a 37 pound Feathercraft folder) 18 years ago, used it a lot for 11 years and then sold it for $1800. So when you break it down, that kayak only cost me about $100 a year. And honestly, I doubt I would have used it as often as I did or been able to take it so many places had it not been so effortless to load and store.

I knew someone who bought a Sterling kayak (think it was an Ice Kap) in the lightest layup they had. It weighed 32 lbs, if I remember correctly. You might consider checking out their line of kayaks. Pricey, about $5000 several years ago.

And treat lightweights carefully—hers got damaged twice, once from someone dropping an end while two people carried it (wonder who the chump was), and another time when it either hit or got hit by another kayak.

I won’t put my surfski on any hard surface, which means it must be carried between the trailer and the water every launch and takeout.

For my glass sea kayak, I would cart it and put it on old foams when at the launch. Everything could be stowed in the kayak.

We have no soft surfaces at our reservoirs’ shorelines, unless you count silty muck.

I disagree. We had the Sojourn 146. It’s not a bad boat but it’s more of a starter boat than one would think and it feels like it would be a step backward for the OP. And a shorter thermo boat? I wouldn’t do that again either. I had a Santee 126 Sport that we called “The Barge”–wide, slow, you don’t want to get caught in chop or wave, sometimes scary Barge. It was always a tough slog to keep up with @NotThePainter in his Sojourn. In the barge I could do 4 miles or so before I was wiped out. In his Sojourn I doubled that distance from one day to the next.

For what the OP will spend finding a different boat, coupled with giving up features they like, I feel that the money would be better spent acquiring a rack system and wheels that make it a breeze to move the boat around.


A Tahoe can easily pull a trailer and kayaks. Cost of kayak trailer and good portage cart would be under $2000.

These two posts cut to the heart of my thinking. If you love the boat, change everything else before buying a different, less suitable boat.


Oh, I feel your parking garage pain! We did use a lifted jeep w/a rack and we were…limited.

We have a Subaru Ascent. It is not in any stretch of the imagination a small or short car. We take the Thule antlers off when not using it. The bar remains. No problems. It’s not a lot higher than the factory racks.

I’m nearing 80 and I like to paddle places not amenable to trailers I have a truck with a rack system that makes the height near 7 feet and loading a packcanoe( mine is the Placid Boatworks Rapidfire . For years it won the 90 miler in the kayak class with a very in shape paddler-not me). The 23 lbs is easy to load from the back if the truck without any accessories other than a stepstool. Never needed any fancy attachments
Think about what you need. A rollable boat for use in the ocean would point to kayak. A liftable boat for use on lakes? Would you like to paddle everydday? Thats where weight counts?
Woukd a trailer be practical or affordable?
Whats the budget? Would you want the same speed you can get now?

IMO the paddle counts as much as the boat
I have an old AT paddle wcich is carbon fiber
The weight is great The grip is a bit too big diameter for me but forces me into a looser grip which is good
I had a blast in Northern Maine. Probably 200 miles dirt road driving to paddle six different remote lakes with no structures
The journey is the goal. The accouterments msy differ

1 Like

I also have a kayak trailer – almost never used it even when I had heavy boats . Just adds another complication and hassle to the process of getting to the water. Hauling it into position, getting the stupid hitch to engage, hooking up the safety chains, then you still have to haul the boats onto the trailer and fuss with securing them. Then hope you can find a place to park near the takeout and deal with backing it into position. Not all of us have a big suburban yard, garage and/or driveway to keep boats safely stashed on the trailer when not in use.

The beauty of an ultra-light boat is that you just grab it and go.

There is NO reason she can’t get a boat that paddles as well or better than a Looksha 17 but weighs half to a third of its ponderous 68 pounds. The Looksha is a decent boat but not anything unique.

Another ultralight choice (that could easily meet or exceed the Looksha performance) would be a custom skin on frame (or, as others have mentioned, a wood strip or stitch and glue kit). The Looksha is basically a beefed up Greenland design and most SOF’s have that profile and there are numerous versions in wood boats too. My 18’ Greenland SOF (pic below) is only 31 pounds.


A reality check is needed here. The OP is a 72-year-old woman with a 17’ kayak that weighs 58 lbs. The Looksha IV is never going to be “a breeze to move around” for her. It’s a behemoth for her. She needs to go in the opposite direction—shorter and lighter—not try to wrestle with a kayak that’s obviously not right for her.

Designer John Winters once wrote me an email about kayak selection. He said he saw too many people in kayaks that were unnecessarily long and advised me, “Get the shortest kayak that does what you want it to do safely.” I ignored that advice and got a 15.5’ kayak that weighed about 50 lbs. After struggling with it for several years I downsized to the Hurricane Sojourn 135 and couldn’t be happier. I lost a tiny amount of speed, which matters less and less as you age (ease of paddling does matter, though). The shorter kayak does everything I need it to do, including luxurious camping trips due to the large hatch volume.

A “starter boat,” you say? I think of it as a “finishing” boat. I’m going to finish my paddling life with a light, short kayak that’s a pleasure to store, load on the car, and paddle. “A step backward”? Maybe so. I’ve taken a step backward in weight with all my outdoor gear, seeking a simpler, more pleasurable experience.

You do say that the Sojourn is twice as fast as the Santee. I agree. Hence my recommendation for the Sojourn. If speed is your thing, the Delta 14 is a delight to paddle.

Everyone gets to a point at some age where they need to downsize their activities and their gear. That age will be different for each person. It’s best to do it early on so you can get out on the water more often and enjoy it more, instead of dreading the thought of wrestling with the length and weight of the kayak, which will spend most of its time in your garage.


@WaterBird clearly you have me confused with someone who’s younger w/out orthopedic limitations. I’m 62 years old w/a history of orthopedic surgeries & limitations. We missed the first half of this summer’s paddling because of a chronic spine/hip issue. I don’t need a lecture on getting old. BTDT.

I’m not going to get into an argument with you. I will say that there’s a world of difference between stepping back in weight & stepping back on features. We both found that it’s fabulous at tracking, and it’s not great in the wind either. That would be stepping back in features IMO. I wouldn’t buy the Sojourn again.

1 Like

The entire point of Valley Kayaks producing a 14 foot 10 inch lightweight kayak , was for light easy loading and minimizing the hassles that relate and ease the paddling experience.
I haven’t paddled these , but if I was looking for a combination of ease of loading in a serviceable design. I would be looking for a Valley Gemini and I would probably test the Gemini ST . the early one without the day hatch would be slightly lighter.

I bought a lighter kayak last year myself, after spending the last 17 years lugging a 3 piece Nordkapp {with expedition lay-up} I now have a Nordkapp LV and it is a significantly lighter kayak and a pleasure to load/unload and paddle.

I would sell the Looksha and go lighter, and possibly shorter. {I’m 68 and paddle Lake Superior exclusively} Carbon / Kevlar would be nice.

Not mentioned is the reality there’s lots one can do to avoid losing muscle mass as one ages and even improve upper body strength, which is especially important for women.

Just do a search and you’ll find plenty of scientific studies on the topic, as well as weight training and diet suggestions.

I turned 70 this Summer and am still very fit (though I have slid somewhat since I am loathe to go to my recently reopened gym due to concerns about viral transmission). I regularly move heavy stuff and load and haul tools and ladders to work on my rental property. I know how to use my balance and strength with heavy loads. I move appliances myself (i have a good dolly). I have also done everything right my whole life to try to keep my bones strong, EXCEPT take hormones (we have a familial tendency to estrogen receptor breast cancer.). I was physically active since childhood as a dancer, athlete, backpacker, paddler and construction worker and have gone to the gym several times a week since being moved to office work from field work in my late 30’s. Never smoked or was a heavy drinker and ate a good diet. Never bore children. But I still have serious enough osteoporosis to have had to start on medication last year. There is only so much you can do to maintain your strength as you age. Therefor it is not only easier but extremely prudent to seek to replace heavy toys with lighter ones. The ONLY drawback is cost, but what is your comfort and health worth? A broken bone is a much more fraught event at our age and wrestling a bulky kayak that is nearly half your body weight is not just exhausting, it is risky when your bones are getting brittle. It can also discourage you from getting out on the water as often as you might. There are plenty of superlight kayaks, including long ones, that are high performance. We’ve mentioned a bunch of them. As to the frequent insistence that one should invest in fancy loading mechanisms, that just means more expense that does not address the central issue of a too heavy boat that you still have to lift at some point — that option also ties you to a specific vehicle. Light boats equal freedom, at least for me. There is no “right” answer here, but I hope it’s proving helpful to the OP to hear firsthand from those of us in her age and gender cohort about options that have worked best for us.


Phyllis, what area do you live in? If you are near me or one of the areas to which I regularly travel I would be happy to meet you and offer you a chance to try out a folding or skin on frame kayak or two. I know it is nearly impossible to find them to test paddle.

Hi Phyllis, I’m a 70 year old male, 150lbs with an iffy shoulder but otherwise in good shape. My 60lb sea kayak is a real struggle to car top now so I recently bought a Delta 12S, it’s a lovely little sea kayak, 12’ long, 24" wide and it only weighs 38lbs. If you prefer to stay with the kind of kayak you’re familiar with it might work for you.

My ,80 something friend Ruth would would disagree and leave you in her wake in her 17ft kayak she puts on the roof rack of her Subaru faster than I load mine. Making judgements based upon age and/ or sex is faulty and encourages slackness. Better to make individual evaluations.


This guy from Headwaters Kayaks shop, does great videos comparing classes of kayak models. This one is specifically about 2 models under 40 pounds that cost less than $1000. He is very knowledgable about performance:

I agree with all of your comments, and also with your earlier recommendation to look into Stellar kayaks, if the OP can afford one. E.g., the Stellar 14, which weighs 36 lbs in the Advantage layup, for $2700. Perhaps because of the price I’ve not been able to find many reviews of this kayak, especially testing it in rough water, but I’ve had my eye on the for a while. The cockpit may be small for some paddlers.

P.S. Another reality check, speaking as someone who was formerly well above average in strength and an avid weight lifter (I just mean gym rat, not competitive): it’s astonishing what happens to the body when you have just one injury to a joint or muscle, especially late in life. The entire body is impacted, and even with joint replacement your ability to recover your previous level of fitness can be severely compromised. Hence: take it easy, get a lighter kayak and a light paddle, and protect your joints and muscles.