Came across news at another site that Feathercraft has closed down. Had to be difficult after 40 years.
Sad to hear but they are very complicated to make it would seem to me. Also higher maintenance I would think. Hey they could move to Vietnam and reduce the price. No that really sucks too but seems to be the way of the world. I guess it will be bad for owners of them if they need parts as they seem to be a very specialized kayak. Better to go out on top than lower your standards. Sea kayaking in general seems to be taking a hit as many people prefer to sit in a chair to see the world on TV or computer screens rather than get some great sights and healthy exercise.
Having owned 3 Feathercrafts (my very first touring kayak was one of their Kahunas in 2002) this is very sad news for me and for many folding kayak fans. They really were the gold standard for folders, extremely well-designed and constructed and with the most complete range of models in the business. I would not call them “very specialized” since they perform comparably to hardshells of the same dimension at half the weight and ultimate portability. Yes, they were costly, but they held their value and I got 75% of the original price of the two that I sold after several years of use. Their boats were handcrafted in their single shop in Vancouver and they also made some outstanding accessories for other kayaks, including some of the best rudder assemblies. It can’t have helped that Chinese companies have been churning out blatant knockoffs for a few years, undermining their overseas sales. With the loss of Feathercraft and of the venerable Folbot (earlier this year), the folding kayak market is much diminished. This is really a shame, because with the aging of the touring kayak community, this kind of superlight seaworthy boat that can be taken anywhere with you checked as airline baggage, is ideal for many of us older, retired paddlers.
Airline Baggage Rules - I think this may have had a big impact on their sales. It seems like the airlines change their rules and rates for traveling with excess baggage monthly and it just keeps getting more unreasonable to check extra bags or items that are heavy or large. It used to be possible to travel with a waveski but the costs are too high for average income people. I know several people who bought Feathercrafts second hand, but you need to be quite well off to buy new, and younger paddlers just don’t have that kind of money.
I disagree. Younger people buy costly toys all the time, from high tech bicycles to designer watches. Few pay cash (I bought my first Feathercraft with a Visa card and paid it off over 6 months). I see it as a lack of targeted marketing to create awareness of the products. As to the airline baggage, unless they have changed in the past 6 months, when I went to Lake Tahoe last Spring I checked into the regulations and I could have taken my folders (which pack down with paddles, PFD’s, pumps, float bags and even drywear into rolling sports duffels that weigh just under 50 lbs.) The fee for a checked bag under 50# was $50 each way if you were flying coach. Considering that rental per diem of a decent touring kayak runs $50 to $100, plus the hassle of the rental process and the restrictions on time to use them, if you are planning to kayak 2 days or more it’s worthwhile to take them along. Another option is boxing up and shipping them in a carton by UPS or USPS to and/or from your destination, which can often be done for under $50. I used to do that with my camping and research gear for archaeology field camps – I would arrange with a motel at my destination to receive and hold the carton for me until I arrived and checked in. I almost always mail back a box of my gear and anything I’ve purchases on a trip so I have less to wrangle on the return flight. Since I am going home anyway I don’t care if it takes a few days or even weeks for the stuff to get back.
Besides, I view the cost of a Feathercraft in terms of the resale value. I paid about $7500 total over 10 years for my 3 Feathercrafts (the K-1 was an older used model). But I sold the first two for $2000 each and I know I could sell my current Wisper for $2000, especially now that they will never be available again (it is a desirable model). So my total outlay for owning and using 3 excellent kayaks over a 14 plus year period would be $1500. Some of the younger people I know spend that much on daily Starbucks coffees in just one year.
And I am not “well off”. I’m a middle class self-supported single person with a mortgage and the usual obligations. I have always lived relatively frugally and modestly so that would have money to spend on quality toys that really make my adventures enjoyable.
BTW, I just looked at several domestic airline baggage cost tables and flying economy you can still check a bag under 50 lbs on most for $25 each way. My rolling suitcases are both 10 x 15 x 36 when packed, which meets the 62 unified inches maximum for the $25 class.
That’s sad news, hopefully someone moves in to fill this niche. I’ve never paddled a folder but have heard they are very seaworthy and can hold a lot of gear.
A few manufacturers are producing sectional versions of their expedition hulls, so maybe this is another alternative for people looking to travel.
Personally I’ve been tempted to get an inflatable SUP for vacations, which are mostly spent in one place. I don’t get to partake in backcountry trips anymore, with a three year old in tow it’s a little difficult, maybe in a few more years.
I have always loved the look of the Khatsalano but I see those as a highly specialized niche product. Really expensive and a PITA to set up/take down. I am not even sure what the niche is. Apartment dwellers who literally have no room to store a sea kayak? Globe trotting expedition kayakers who regularly fly to obscure corners of the globe? That seems like it’s maybe 3 people, Dubside and maybe 2 others. They lost me at “40 minute” set up time.
There are more than 3 of us, trust me. I set up my folders in the Spring and leave them set up until Winter, unless I plan to travel with them. I can set up the Puffin in 20 minutes and the other two in no more than 30. Equal to the convenience of packing down for travel is the fact that they are so light. I’m a 5’ 5" average sized 66 year old woman and I hate struggling to load 50 to 65 lb. hardshells. I can carry any one of my folders with one hand (20, 28 and 37 lbs respectively) and lift it onto my roof rack with no effort. They are also extremely comfortable, with inflatable sling seats with adjustable thigh supports. I have never felt tired or cramped paddling any of them, though I do sometimes get fatigued and uncomfortable after 5 or 6 hours in my hardshell. And a folder just feels different in the water, especially when it gets rough. They tend to absorb the force of waves instead of being thrown around by them and I feel a better sense of the water in a skin on frame folder. It’s really kind of hard to describe. I truly believe if more people could test paddle a folder, there would be a bigger market for them.
Sad to see them go. I sold my Khatsalano a couple years ago. Still have a rarely used Kahuna and a Java with a downwind sail. Last fall, I picked up a Nautiraid 14 and it will be used quite a bit. The kayak market has dwindled down.
I own an old Folbot super. They are easy enough to setup imo. I hate to see Feathercraft go belly up. Yost works has good info on making a folder of your own. It seems rec kayak, sot, and sup are the current popular boats. I tend to shop for used which certainly doesn’t help the manufacture. Same thing is happening with many other boat makers a flooded used market kills new sales so many makers go under.
I’m hoping the newest iteration by Pakboat, their Quest 150, due to begin shipping in a few months, will capture more market than their Quest 135 (I own one) and 155 did before they were discontinued. This new version is supposed to combine the simplicity of assembly of their Puffins (have one of those too) and the sleeker performance of the Quests and at a price point around $1500. I really like Pakboats but the company does a really limp job of marketing and advertising.
My Quest 135 performs very similarly to my Feathercraft Wisper and was one third the price (of course they are produced in China, not crafted by well-paid Canadian craftspeople like FC were.) I suspect it will not be as durable in the long run due to the reliance on velcro for the deck (velcro gets “tired” after a while) and some fidgety plastic and bungie fittings, but that’s only a guess and I will be happy to be wrong. And the lack of long tube sponson inflaters (which FC uses) makes setting up the PB’s kind of a pain (you have to strip off the deck to reach the valves). But perhaps they have corrected that in the new Quests.
Maybe since I am now retired I should see if I can negotiate with Pakboat to be a traveling ambassador for their boats in return for a bird dog fee on sales thus generated. Always looking for excuses to make a roadtrip. Could hit all sorts of paddling sites in the Spring with my restored vintage mini-motorhome hitting the popular launch areas with a collection of “bag boats” for demos.
If you can arrange that gig, be sure to come north and do a demo day!
Was looking at the entries for the 2017 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge and noticed a Feathercraft Heron. Has to be a very good kayak to complete that 300-mile unsupported event.
The Heron was a short-lived model for FC but quite beautiful. When I was at the Feathercraft factory in 2009 they showed me a prototype. The Heron was sort of a larger paddler’s version of the Wisper – I gather it was intended as a hybrid between the sleek narrow Khatsalano and their workhorse expedition boat, the K-1. I had a K-1 for a couple of years and it was a bit of a tank compared to the Wisper I have now – sold the K-1 because it was really a little to big for me but it was a remarkable kayak. There is a lot of gear storage in the Feathercrafts and they are very comfortable for long distance paddling .
I’m concerned about the loss of the Feathercraft rudder line. Perhaps they will still make them, the website says they may open up a new website in the fall. Those rudders were used on so many boats…From Sawyer Loons to the Clipper Sea 1, and countless other manufactured and home made craft. If anyone has an old rudder assembly or a K2 feathercraft rudder blade, let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org
or they could sell off rudder production to a firm interest. Fast look on net tells me parts are gone now too.
I, too, agree with one of Doug Simpson’s reasons for shutting down. Living in Edmonton, my wife and I would bring our K-Light and K-1 kayaks with us on our 1 hour 10 minute flight to Victoria, BC. Last summer, WestJet billed us an EXTRA $ 126 for the boats, one way ! That was $ 252 CAD for the privilege of bringing our awesome and trusty boats with us. And that doesn’t even touch upon the hassles we had with terrified CATSA officials ! On may occasions, we had to drag a WestJet check-in attendant to the oversize baggage screening area, and have them explain that the boat WAS safe to fly on their airplane ! These panicked and poorly-trained officials simply could NOT understand what these Feathercraft boats were ! Long patient explanations were wasted on them, and on one occasion, he simply refused to allow the boat through onto the airplane. I won’t even bother to mention how difficult it is to get our Mustang Inflatable PFD’s through these same terrified bureaucrats. It is becoming just too much hassle and too expensive to try to fly with these incredible boats now, in a post 9 - 11 world…
@Chuck von Yamashita said:
Sad to see them go. I sold my Khatsalano a couple years ago. Still have a rarely used Kahuna and a Java with a downwind sail. Last fall, I picked up a Nautiraid 14 and it will be used quite a bit. ** The kayak market has dwindled down. **
Dingdingding! We have a winner. It’s not just about the money.
Young people (and old) do spend money on expensive bicycles. Bicycles go FAST, or are perceived as such. Kayaks do not except in “specialty” activities within kayaking.
In addition, traveling by air has become so cumbersome, kayak or no kayak, AND the security regulations sometimes almost frivolous as to what gets forbidden. How would you like to spend thousands on a folder thinking you will travel all over the world with it, only to find that some authority decides kayaks “could be used for terrorism” or some such garbage?
Yet another factor: Younger people want instant gratification, a tendency that seems to have worsened with increased addiction to electronic devices. To be even a middling paddler requires practice.
There were never many folding kayak companies during the boom years of kayaking. For ONE of them to exit isn’t much of a surprise, given how many hardshell makers have exited or been bought out by the big two.
I became a Feathercraft dealer in Alaska in the mid 80’s, as Wavetamer Kayaking. Doug Simpson (Feathercraft) sent us the first prototype K2, the only one in existence so we could demo it in Anchorage at a spring paddling demo we were putting on. I then moved to Kodiak where we sold several more doubles and singles. It was quite the boat, so much classier and streamlined than the blue barge Kleppers. Sad, indeed, to see them stop…it was a grand product. I still have a K2, thinking of selling it once I make sure it’s still operable after all these years.