Cross country travelling with kayak?

Okay, so it really seems like shipping is not the way to go according to several people. Glad to have gotten this advice, I can’t imagine how bummed I would be to have my kayak arrive in shambles.

So, here is a question for you. I noticed you mentioned buy local. How feasible would it be to purchase a kayak upon arrival in the northwest and then resell it again before departing. I wouldn’t have a lot of time on my hands to be able to haggle for a good resell, but do you think I would be able to make back a good percentage?

What are your thoughts on folding boats? I have been pointed to them by others and they certainly look intriguing. I have never paddled one before so I am still hesitant. What I really need to do is find somewhere to demo one.

I am paddling a Valley Avocet right now and love it to death. I would just be horrified if it got busted flying cross country.

Where in SE Alaska?

– Last Updated: Aug-29-14 12:08 PM EST –

I paddled out of Petersburg for two summers in a row, but never spent much time out on the ocean side of things. Made it around Kuiu on one trip, portaged it on another trip, peeked out to Coronation Island on a third tip. Lots of good paddling in the SE and you don't have to get out on the exposed ocean side of things to enjoy. My experience in the Southeast, as well as Alaska in general, is that you'd better be prepared to deal with rain. Can rain for days at a time when a low pressure system comes in. You can get pretty good weather reports so you can plan your moves accordingly, but I wouldn't want to be on a SOT all day sitting in the rain. So I'd ask you where do you plan to paddle, exposed ocean or more tucked away in the inland waterways?
Option A: If you plan to paddle exposed ocean, say the west side of Baranof Island, I'd get a good drysuit with a hood, have a bombproof roll and rough water skills, a PLB on your lifejacket at all times, and something along the lines of a expedition rough water capable 17 foot sea kayak.
Option B: If you're planning on tucking in amongst the islands and inland waterways, waiting for calm weather windows to make exposed crossings, I'd get a 17ish foot sea kayak and a really good touring anorak\drytop. Sitting exposed on a SOT sounds pretty miserable to me, especially when you could be tucked into a big old North American\west coast type touring kayak that eats up miles, something like a Current Designs Solstice. Seaward also makes sweet boats and are fairly local up there. You'd really have to go out of your way to capsize a fully loaded west coast style kayak, you're be more likely to fall out when getting in or out, and they can handle choppy\rough conditions fairly well. There's enough nooks and crannies up there that you can find a sheltered spot to land\launch camp.
Either way take a good tarp, a good tent, some books, lots of food, and just wait out the big storms. Good rain gear is a must, gore tex is great, but the old school rubber non-breathable stuff works great for sitting around camp. Boots like extra tuffs or wellies are great for camp as well, and can be used with a good touring top to paddle in along with some Helly Hansen type pants. Rent a Satellite Phone in case you get really stuck somewhere and need to call a water taxi to get out, or have a medical emergency. Lots of float planes up there to get a "quick" evac, a foldable boat can probably travel on one of these little planes with you depending on weight, but a hard boat would need other arrangements to get brought out. Might be possible to buy a boat up there and sell it at the end of the trip? is a great resource, that guy is a local and has been up there a long time.
Good luck planning, sounds like a great trip!

Sound advice
Thank you. I have been thinking about doing a much longer multi-week trip 2016 between my current job and graduate school. That would leave me several months to really explore the region. That would also let hopefully get out to the area next summer for just a couple weeks to test my gear/abilities as you suggest.

Wow, fantastic stuff. Thanks a lot for your advice. There are two possible trips on the horizon. The first would be for just a couple weeks next summer. I would have to take off from work so it would be a pretty short trip as far as expeditions go. The following summer, 2016, I plan on having multiple months to play with between my current position and graduate school. That year I will probably seek out a very lengthy expedition spanning several weeks to a few months and anywhere from Vancouver Island up to the Sitka region.

As for next summer, my great-great-grandfather has a mountain named after him on Chicagof Island (Freeburn Mt.) and my short-term goal is to kayak the protected channels and coves from Sitka to the Patterson Bay area where I could set out for the peak and back. It looks like there would be some open water sections where the Neva Strait enters Salisbury Sound before I would reach Sergius Narrows, but otherwise should be pretty protected. What do you think? Have you paddled those channels before?

Thanks again for your help.

Folding kayak feedback
There is a forum similar to this one on a site dedicated to folding kayaks:

As on here, you need to register (free) to post on the forums and there is much smaller membership and responses may take days or even weeks. But there are people on there with extensive experience worldwide touring with folders. Might be worth posting your question on there. One of my old friends used to go to the Kenai Peninsula to paddle for several weeks every year with his son in a vintage Klepper folding kayak with a wooden frame – did it for more than 15 years. Sorry I have lost touch with him, though.

Tell you what, if you make a trip to Superior at some point you will likely be going through my town (Pittsburgh). If and when you do, contact me through email (click on “email” option under my posts or click on my member name to get my profile and link to email). I would be happy to let you try out my folding kayaks and show you how they set up and transport – I’m ten minutes from water put in on a couple of major rivers here. Always happy to introduce people to the joys of folding kayaks.

If you ever head up to New England, Pakboats has their headquarters in Enfield, New Hampshire, near the Vermont and Massachusetts borders. If you contact them in advance you can stop and check out their folding boats. I knew an outfitter and wilderness fishing guide who used their canoes and kayaks exclusively taking clients to remote places from Alaska to Patagonia.

By the way, I was born in Annapolis – nice place.

Folding Kayak Help
Annapolis is a pleasant place, just a rather different backdrop than the Alaskan mountains. I spent last summer working for a National Park Service crew in the Alaskan backcountry and the itch to go back is overwhelming.

My family is still back in western NY so I will try to plan a trip sometime that can have me pulling through Pittsburgh. Very kind of you to offer your help.

The first thing I noticed was the cost of folding kayaks (both the average, and the range). Would you think something like the $1600 PakBoat XT-17 would get the job done as well as the $4000 Klepper? How about buying a used folding kayak? How well do they hold up over time? Sounds like they must do pretty well if your friend used his for 15 years.

Haven’t paddled out of Sitka

– Last Updated: Aug-29-14 2:00 PM EST –

Would love to though, looks pretty amazing. Had a few camp sites on western side of Kuiu Island where we could look at the eastern side of Baranof Island with Binoculars, looked pretty cool, endless bays and fjords to explore. I heard there are some pretty big bears on those islands though, never travelled around brown bears, only black bears.
Point Kakul looks like the only real point where some energy from the Pacific might come in, but you'd be past that pretty quick, and there is Louise Cove to pull into once you're around it. The long narrow passages can have a bit of current in them, but you can probably get tide info and plan your passing of them accordingly. Those bays can get pretty choppy if the wind kicks up, sometimes you can just travel near shore and avoid it, or build in enough days on your trip that you can just sit and wait for better weather.
If you're planning on being up there for two summers in a row, you could probably just get a boat up there and leave it, then sell it the end of the second summer. Even if it's at a slight loss to sell it quickly, you will have made out versus renting. Or if you want to do this type of thing often, get a sectional hard boat that you can ship more easily.
I've met people who have paddled the folding boats and they're really seaworthy. I've heard it's a little bit like paddling a floating sausage, they just kind of flow with the energy in the water, and can stay upright in some nasty conditions.

Sitka Area
I figure if I decide on a folding boat then it allows me the opportunity to purchase it sooner rather than later and put some serious mileage on it before I head to AK. I have been studying the NOAA charts for the Sergius Narrows area, looks like it can be pretty hairy and a boat that flows with the water may be the best choice.

I have a few companions I would hope to rope into this trip, especially with the brown bears nearby. I spent last summer on a botany crew in the Alaskan interior. No serious issues with brown bears but definitely had some close up meetings and it was comforting being in a crew of 3.

maintenance is critical

– Last Updated: Aug-29-14 3:45 PM EST –

If a folder is well maintained, and many used ones are, they hold up extremely well. The most critical point of maintenance is lubricating the metal frame joints with Boeshield every time the boat is assembled (most of the frames are similar to tent poles, shockcorded aluminum rods. If they are not lubed and are left assembled for a while after immersion, especially in salt water, the joints corrode and weld together, meaning the boat can no longer be broken down to pack. One used Feathercraft I purchased locally had such a welded joint -- I was able to get replacement pole section from the manufacturer but it cost me over $80 and a couple of hours to make the repair.

But two other folders I have bought used came in pristine condition, in spite of being used quite a bit by their original owners.

You can find some videos on YouTube of people using Pakboat canoes and kayaks -- the canoes have been used by many people on arctic zone trips. Their touring kayaks have not been around for quite as long but there are some reports out there. As I mentioned, a huge advantage with the Pakboats is the peel off deck which enables direct access to everything packed inside. They are very durable and even if you get damage, they are easily patched in the field. People have crossed oceans in folding kayaks -- in fact most of the early kayaks adopted from the Europeans (copying traditional skin on frame kayaks of native peoples of the polar regions) in the early twentieth century were folding kayaks, or as they were called in Germany, faltboots. Military special forces have long used them for stealth commando raids.

Another thing about folders is the way they feel when you paddle them. Since they flex somewhat with the movement of waves you have a sense of being one with the water. Also, they tend to absorb the force of waves rather than fight against them like a hardshell does so they are very comfortable and secure feeling in rough water. I've owned a dozen different kayaks and currently have 4 in the "home fleet", all different, and including a hardshell sea kayak. I like each one very much for different reasons. But if I could only have one single kayak, it would be my Feathercraft Wisper folder, the most versatile boat I've ever owned.

I have not had experience with Folbot or Klepper or Longhaul or any of the other makers, but both Feathercraft and Pakboat are fairly small companies and it is easy to communicate directly with them. In fact if you send an email inquiry of any kind to Pakboat, chances are good that you will get a personal response from Alv Elvestad, the owner and founder. He recently helped me order a replacement deck for my small Pakboat.

Feathercraft has a small factory and office on Granville Island, a retail/light industrial park along the water just south of downtown Vancouver. When I visited there on vacation in 2009, I called them ahead of time and they graciously not only gave me a personal tour of their shop but loaned me a demo Wisper and paddle and let me take it out from the jetty behind their building out into the harbor for a few hours -- that demo convinced me it was the boat I wanted and I ended up buying one. Yes, their boats are costly, but the are top of the line. They also hold their value. I bought my first one in 2002 for $3000 and after 8 years of a lot of use (and scrupulous maintenance) I was able to sell it for $2000. Another older Feathercraft I owned ( a K-1 Expedition) cost me $2400 used (new they were around $4000 at the time) and I sold it 3 years later for $1800 after enjoying a lot of trips with it. So if you do the math, it cost me about $250 a year to own those boats in the end. I know I saved more than that in rentals and even gas money (you don't affect the gas mileage of your car by carrying a 40 pound duffel in the trunk like you do carrying a 16' kayak on the roof rack.

I got the Wisper for $2200 used -- it had been used on a month long tour of the Aegean by a couple who owned two of them and had decided to sell them to buy a tandem Feathercraft K-2.

I just thought of another good contact for you: Lyle Hancock at Folding Kayak Adventures in Durango Colorado. He is a Feathercraft dealer who also leads tours, including to Alaska, using Feathercraft kayaks. You can find trip reports on his site with lots of photos. He also offers free classified ads for owners selling their used Feathercrafts and you could find some quality used ones there. I spotted several K-1 models for a bit over $2000. I think he knows that many people only sell their beloved Feathercrafts so that they can buy another model, as I did. You might also want to look at their latest innovation, the Aironaut, a fully inflatable sea touring kayak which they just rolled out this year. I heard that a group of Feathercraft staff are planning an extended field trip with them soon and many of us are interested to see how it goes.

There are also folders for sale occasionally in the classifieds on this site and on the site.


The Ferry terminal is at Bellingham

Cyclists from the East Coast fly west, buy a used bike in Portland or Seattle, cycle often to the San Juan Islands where the rain shadow provides better weather then AK.

Folding hulls are very good but not for everyone. I’d work out in one before going off on a expedition with a foldinghull.

Your hull is plastic ? If composite cutting the hull in 2 or 3 sections for a bolt together is an a l t e r native.’x4’x4’+package

budget ?
Plan was paddling Glacier Bay area NOW but ran out of preparation time.

One folder of ‘choice’ is the hull equipped with a pneumatic device that forces hull into shape around struts…here’s the general selection.

Once you get thru this expense there’s a dry suit…

the total runs close to $6-7000 before you get there.

Then there are paddlers loading onto the ferry for a casual long weekend paddling around Sitka but these folk are mostly West Coasters with equipment.

Shorter trip expectation based on ferry travel to selected paddling areas…well researched…are an alternative to long expedition planning.

The long idea requires a very high level of paddling fitness. Specific physical Training is essential.

patience yields deals
Even the drysuit can be had for a reasonable price if one is patient and persistent. I got my Goretex Kokatat with relief zip for $400, used but in excellent shape other than a torn neck gasket which I easily replaced.

The OP is planning far in advance, so I’m confident he can gather what he needs by then within his budget.

eBay for Drysuits
I just got a new-with-tags NRS drysuit on eBay for $200. Not as good as Kokotat but will do for me. I would think that since you have to years to look for bargains, you should be able to land a drysuit before your trip, and I highly suggest a drysuit over a wetsuit.

I did a day paddle in Ketchikan last September while on a cruise and it rained the entire day. Was glad to have great rain gear for those few hours. Can’t imagine being out there day in and day out in just a wetsuit.

Do not even think about a pakboat
They are far too flimsy to handle Alaska coastal paddling. I have extensive folding kayak experience and I live in Anchorage and paddle year round.

As far as getting a kayak, start watching Anchorage, Kenai, Southeast AK and Fairbanks craigslist. Great deals do come up but you need to be fast. People will be putting kayaks away for winter here soon and many will sell them. If you buy in Anchorage, locals will get you to Whittier for the Cross Gulf ferry to Juneau and beyond. Sell it when you leave.

I paddle in neoprene some of the time in winter. Drysuits are nice but a good neoprene set up works well. There are tricks to it. Surfers in Seward use wetsuits in winter and they are in the water a whole lot.

You can send me an email. I would be happy to answer any questions you have.

Do some shorter shakedown trips first
There are a lot of reasons to do so, but one that has not been mentioned so far is this:

If you haven’t already done multiday trips on salt water, you might discover–on your expedition–that your immersion wear can cause extremely uncomfortable or painful physical reactions from being worn day after day in salt water.

In the case of drysuits, that might be a rash or abrasion from the neck gasket, possibly severe enough to cause bleeding. In the case of wetsuits, there could be rashes, and maybe even fungal infection, because in SE Alaska, a wetsuit hung up “to dry” overnight is unlikely to be dry the next morning, even if it doesn’t rain. It’s humid.

I don’t know what to think about using a SOT for your intended location and length of journey, but I think you’d be best off buying a kayak there instead of trying to have it sent out. We met an expedition addict who said he bought a plastic used SINK every year, paddled it during his several-month expedition in SE AK, and then he would sell it at the end of his trip. He wasn’t a rich person, he just worked hard for a few months each winter and lived frugally so he could live even more frugally while on the water!


It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.

Alan Shepard

REI sold paddles n suits for -10% plus -20% for highest cost item in the order…January/Feb/March

feedback is welcome of course…what protocol are you using for wearing the 5 day use suit into town/ferry ?

How many small tasks needing equipment not on hand were discovered during the trip ?

If you add costs for all trip equipment what’s the total ?

The ‘cheap’ cyclocross trekker here with Deore MTB components with spares cost $1400 all on sale.

Currently, a similar but one level cheaper bike ready made costs $1900

doesn’t float as well.

wet suit
yes, get the wetsuit on and leave it on for 4 days.

Pakboat vs. Feathercraft
I agree that Pakboats are not as substantial as Feathercrafts, but I would not call the XT models “flimsy”.

You (T’Chuck) owned a Feathercraft for a while if I’m not mistaken. Would you agree that a K-1 or Khats, maybe even a Klondike with solo deck, would serve him well on this trip he’s planning?

folder on solo NW Passage
Another endorsement for folding kayaks in arctic waters: Anne Quemere, a Frenchwoman solo paddling the Northwest passage using a Nautiraid folder.

Table of boat shipping rates
In another thread, Guideboatbuy posted a link to a table of shipping and packing costs that Adirondack Guide Boats of Vermont has on their site. Just from Vermont to Seattle costs $589 plus $150 for building the shipping box (and they state they are covering half of the $300 cost to actually build the crate.) So this could easily translate to over $1000 to ship from the East Coast to Alaska.