Any Advice on Folding Kayaks

With all the discussions on transporting boats on long trips, safety of boats at motels, and the new ads on this site advertising folding boats, I was wondering. Does it make sense to think about adding a folding kayak to the armada (can 3 boats be an armada?). I have never paddled a folder and doubt that I could demo one locally. So I will ask. How do these paddle compared to similar hard shell boats? How durable are their hide and frame? How much difference is there between brands? How big a hassle are they to assemble and disassemble? They would not be my main ride but say I wanted to spend a couple of weeks on the coast would they substitute? How do they handle bigger water? Is salt water a problem with corroding struts?

I am 6’3" 190 lbs, my main ride is a Eddyline Fathom (16’6”), and I paddle it on lakes (large and small) and the ocean in Maine. Here are a few boats that have similar specifications. Does anyone own one and care to comment? Advice?

Thanks - David

Folbot – Cooper

16’6” x 24”

30 lbs

275 lbs capacity


Feathercraft K1 Expedition

16’6” x 25”

51 lbs

385 lbs capacity


TRAK T-1600

16’ x 22.5”

48 lbs

292 lbs capacity


Pakboat XT-17

17’ x 24”

44 lbs

330 lbs capacity


I frequently serve as flotation in a Khatsalano that has been in pretty rough seas and scuffed up over coral reefs for thepast 10 years. Folders take a bit more effort to maintain, and seem to have a bit more surface tension on the water so take a bit more effort. Takes about 45 min to put together and thats with lots of practice. Have fun

I have a Trak, so can only comment on that:

How do these paddle compared to similar hard shell boats? Paddles very similarly to a hard-chined boat. Similar speed and such. Some slight rescue considerations, as the boats are basically skin on frames (no bulkheads).

How durable are their hide and frame? No issues with mine. Seems pretty durable. I bought an ex-demo off the local rep, so it saw a lot of use before me. Hasn’t needed any patches yet.

How big a hassle are they to assemble and disassemble? Takes about 15 minutes for me, and I don’t claim to be an expert. Have done it maybe a dozen times or so. Disassemble is similarly fast, though I never seem to be able to get it all back into the bag properly. Preferable to dry it all out before packing away, which means leaving it out to dry - time and space you need to allow for.

folder lover here

– Last Updated: Jun-06-12 1:19 PM EST –

I've paddled folders for 10 years, having owned a Feathercraft K-1 and Kahuna and now owning a Feathercraft Wisper and a Pakboat XT-15.

Both the latter boats that I now own would be most similar to your Eddyline, though in the larger versions due to your height (i.e, the FC Khatsalano or the newer Heron, which is probably overkill). And, as you list, the XT-17. I would not recommend the K-1 for what you have in mind. It excels as an expeditionary boat for hauling a lot of gear in extreme conditions, but it is heavy and slower than the Khats. It might be OK for you though -- at 5' 5" and 155 lbs I found the k-1 too much boat for me.

I've tried other folders at demos and borrowing from fellow paddlers for test paddles, and I would rate my Wisper as the most similar to paddling a hardshell quality sea kayak (I have 5 hardshells and a fixed skin-on-frame kayak in the current fleet). I have taken it out in both the Atlantic and Pacific, Lake Michigan and on large windy lakes like Lake George. It performs wonderfully. But for around $5,000 it had better! The Folbots and Kleppers I have tried seemed bargelike to me compared to the Feathercrafts but I know many other owners love them.

As far as bang for the buck though, it is hard to beat the Pakboat kayaks. We love our XT-15. Actually easier to set up than the FC boats and has some really novel design features. The removeable deck makes packing gear a breeze (though it does leak a little bit in heavy waves, not a problem if you use a sea sock, which any ocean paddler in a folder should do anyway.) The inflatable seats are just as comfortable as the FC versions. We bought it from an outfitter who uses Pakboats (kayaks and canoes) on trips ranging from the Canadian Arctic to Patagonia and who swore by their durability. The XT-15 paddles much better than you would expect from its appearance. It tracks well and propels easily.

Once you become accustomed to folders, you develop a fondness for the contact they give you with the water. They may tend to be a little slower than similar hard boats in calm waters, but they really excel in rough stuff, absorbing the wave energy rather than being battered around by it. And of course, the portability and the overall lightness of the boats is a joy. Yes, frame corrosion is a major concern so keeping the joints well lubed with Boeshield and religiously rinsing out the saltwater as soon as you can after immersion will prevent this. It is wise to not store the boats set up for long periods of time for this reason -- unless you take it apart, rinse and re-lube it before storage.

Assembly can be a pain with FC boats til you get the hang of it. I could do my Kahuna and now the Wisper in under 30 minutes. The K-1 always took an hour. The Pakboats are easier (you put the deck on last so you have better access to installing the frame components). i can do it in under 30 minutes alone but with somebody helping you can do it in under 20.

For travel, you can use a large rolling suitcase to carry the boat or get one of those travel dollies for the bags they come in (FC gives you a backpack that works well).

Feathercraft is a super company -- if you can get to Vancouver you can call them and arrange to visit their tiny shop on Granville Island south of downtown. It is right on an arm of the harbor and they will let you test paddle boats just steps away from their front door. Their customer service is the best I have ever experienced.

Can't comment on Pakboat service since we have not had any issues with the XT since buying it in 2010.

With all the boats I own and enjoy, if I was only to have one boat, it would be my Wisper.

You mention the ocean in Maine
But its unclear if you day paddle or do multiday camping trips.

I think most here are daytrippers but if you are not the lower performance capacity ratings are going to be borderline. A five days supply of water takes 45 lbs. To overload a smaller boat makes long slog of a paddle.

But too big and wind and tidal currents can be an issue.

Just daytripping
I have a bed in Maine so am content to do day tripping mainly in Saco Harbor/Portland/Kennebunkport etc. I have a couple of rubber duckies there (Loon 138) but would like to have a better quality boat for trips under 20 miles without dragging a boat half way across the country. So I would be paddling empty and in reasonably protected waters.


offer of "test paddling"
Do you ever drive from Iowa to Maine on your visits? If so, most weekends I (and my kayaks) are 5 minutes off I-80, the interstate that crosses northern PA. You would be welcome to drop by and test paddle both the XT-15 and Wisper (which would be a tight fit but at least you could get a general idea of performance and quality of the Feathercrafts). We’re directly on the Susquehanna river so it would be easy to do.

I know it’s a darned long trip – we used to drive from Boston to Grinnell, Iowa, to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins.

BTW, YouTube is a good place to do virtual test paddles – quite a number of videos on their of folding boats in the waters.

Folders vs. fiberglass
Folders are a whole nuther thing than what you are used to and my advice to is to paddle some, assemble and disassemble some, and think about your priorities. I like folders better, currently own a Long Haul Mk1 (15’9"), and a Kajaksport Millenium (18’3"). They couldn’t be any different and still both be kayaks. The Millenium is relatively fast, tracks well, just a fantastic boat. The Mk1 is relatively heavy (~85 lbs), very stable, and much slower in calm water. But in rough going I can cover more miles in a day in the Mk1 because I am not constantly bracing. It can be sailed too. In a nutshell the Mk1 is more versatile, but heavy and lower performing overall. What is your priority?

People talk about the feel of folders. Their skin flexes (oil cans) which steals energy and slows the boat down. The frame flexes too, which steals energy and also slows the boat down. On the other hand, that flexing makes the boat feel like it is adapting to the water and that you could take it almost anywhere. Both of my boats are expedition tough and I love them both, but truly a folder is an acquired taste. I love folders, had a Klepper for 10 plus years before trading for the Mk1 and wouldn’t be without one. I sold my Klepper for what I paid for it too. Another advantage to buying a high end folder. Finally, assembly and take down times vary tremendously. I like the Klepper (Longhaul is a close cousin in this area) design philosophy which emphasizes ease and speed of assembly. These boats and the somewhat similar Nautiraid have been used by military special forces for decades because they are both very durable and fast to put together. Other boats might be lighter in weight or sleeker, but none can be assembled as quickly and none are as durable in rough conditions. What are your priorities? In the end it gets down to that.

Folbot Cooper Insights
I own a Folbot Cooper (and a fiberglass-kevlar boat, and a plastic boat). I’ve had no issues with durability of the Hypalon skin…as long as you’re aware it’s a skin and treat it accordingly: No seal launches, care when beaching, etc. The frame is aluminum, with no corrosion problems, but it’s a soft metal that you need to take care not to bend or dent. I’ve been able to assemble it in 20 minutes, but with a rudder, that can add up to double the setup time. I’ve had it in 5-6’ ocean swell and it’s fine. The inflatable sponsons make it STUPID stable for its beam. It does absolutely flex a lot; I take that in stride and it doesn’t bug me a whole lot. It’s not that fast, but with no rocker, 17’ of waterline contributes to more speed than you might expect. Acceleration is slow, however.

For storage off the water, of course, it can’t be beat. I’ve been paddling my other kayaks so much that I have yet to go back to the Cooper for my newfound rolling and edging skills, but that’s a weekend play session for sometime this summer. It EXCELS for camping: You unzip the entire front and rear deck and can access every cubic inch. Brilliant for gear hauling (on the water - never portage that thing loaded!). I’m 5’11" and 160 lbs, and I have totally good contact points within the cockpit (medium torso and longer-than-normal legs).

The biggest issues I’ve had with the Cooper are the fact that it lacks bulkheads (a friend’s got a custom sea sock for his and his LOVES it), and the cockpit coaming size. It’s a real bear to find a neoprene spray skirt that fits it properly, and the kit skirt is nylon and pretty loose fitting around the waist. I almost wish they wouldn’t ship paddles with them at all: Folbot paddles are an embarrassment not worth discussing. If you don’t have good boat control skills - heck, even if you do and you’re taking the Cooper into the rough stuff or winds - get the rudder kit, very worth it.

The seat takes some massaging to get right; a longeron goes right through Ye Olde Buttcrack. A little Thermarest-style sitpad partially inflated more than compensates.