flying with a 17' kayak

Is it possible to fly with a 17’ kayak (say, by checking it in as cargo?) - at a price that would beat renting an unknown boat for a week at the destination? I remember stories of a Prijon Kodiak cut into 3 pieces that could be bolted together…

but its easier just to check it in as baggage.

Check Out Demountables…
…or inflatables. A one-piece 17’ kayak airfare would cost me darn near what the boat’s worth!

Another possible option - hit the local for sale boards in the area you are inte4nding to visit - see if you could buy a used kayak, then resell it when you leave…

That’s what folding kayaks are for. There’s a Pakboat XT-15 for sale on Ebay right now for $900 (half the new price). Weighs about 40 lbs and breaks down to fit in a duffel bag you can check for $25 each way. You could take it on the trip and sell it when you came back for what you paid for it. Though I’m betting you would want to keep it.

Pack-boat kayaks indeed look decent, otherwise everything in inflatables I have seen so far looked silly and slow. Real folding kayaks (non-inflatable) are just prohibitively expensive ($5K and above).

BTW - Just how rigid is Pakboat XT? Pictures I see online are taken in flat water, how would it handle swells and wind of the sea, would it just collapse and flex?

perfectly seaworthy

– Last Updated: Apr-02-12 11:36 PM EST –

No, it would not collapse. Aluminum frame folders like the XT and Feathercrafts (of which I have owned 3 models in addition to that model of Pakboat) are excellent in rough water, in some ways superior to rigid boats because they absorb some of the force of the wave instead of being buffeted by them. The frames and skins are very strong -- after all, the first kayaks were skin on frame (sealskin over driftwood and whalebones). Boats of this construction have made major ocean crossings.

The XT-15 is a tough, strong boat and quite rigid. The guy we bought ours from is a fishing guide who uses Pakboat canoes and kayaks in Alaska and Patagonia in very rugged waters. It's a shame there are not more outlets where people can see in person how nice skin on frame boats are.

YOu might want to check out some of the exotic trip reports over at the folding kayak site:

My folders have handled the Aegean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Michigan and Lake George (in high winds and 3' waves) and I've always felt more secure in rough conditions in them than in my conventional 15' to 18' plastic touring kayaks.

Watch this video of Canadian whitewater being navigated with a Pakboat decked canoe (basically the same construction as the kayaks). Mute the music, though:

Nice packboat video, and thanks for the music tip.

It really flexes like a sausage in the rapids. I am not sure if it’s a good or bad thing. Sounds like a soft vs rigid bike frame argument to me. I prefer control to comfort, and thus always go for the rigid frame on a bike.

At any rate, for the price packboats (unlike Feathercraft at 5K per boat) sound like a very good deal.

water vs. pavement/dirt
There’s a huge difference between riding a bike on a hard surface and paddling a kayak through changeable water. There is actually better control of the boat in rough water when it flexes to absorb the wave energy rather than being buffeted and tossed by it. The analogy would be better with skiing rather than biking – the stiff skis you might prefer for flat icy downhill runs are not what you would use in deep powder or moguls, right? For those conditions you want a ski that flexes. Think of the folder’s flex as helping you carve your turns through the changing surface.

it’s a hard sell
It’s hard to convince people of the performance of a good folder just by argument, especially those used to hard boats. They are not perfect – even the best of them can’t match the top speed of the fastest hard boats, but they are darned close. I can keep up easily with fellow paddlers in plastic and glass touring boats in either the XT or my Feathercraft Wisper (the latter is faster) and if the conditions get really choppy, I’m the one in the lead.

People are rightly suspicious of folders – many have only experienced cheap inflatables and paint all bag boats with the same brush. Everyone who has ever test paddled one of my folders has expressed amazement at the feel of being “a real kayak”. If dealers would make them more available to test I think more people would buy them.

The small tradeoff in top speed is more than offset by the convenience for the question at hand – how to take a full sized kayak on a plane. I carry mine in an old oversized rolling suitcase so I can pick it up from the baggage carousel and haul it myself through the airport, into a cab and into the rental car trunk, stashing it in my hotel room at night. The 30 minute set up and 15 minute teardown, even if you have to do it every day of the trip, is far less time in the aggregate than you would spend hassling with air shipping arrangements and ground transport, not to mention worrying about the security of the boat when it was out of sight on the trip.

Another option: 3 piece boltable

– Last Updated: Apr-03-12 9:44 AM EST –

You can also get high performance hard boats that break down into three sections that bolt together. Legendary continental circumnavigator and world class rolling instructor Freya Hoffmeister travels with one. Quite pricey though. Here's a good article by a guy who uses one:

he names the 5 manufacturers that make them plus has reference to an article that explains how to convert your own boat. They are heavy.

As you'll read, there are far more logistical headaches with one of these than with a folder.

shipped to your hotel?
Fed ex will ship your clubs to your hotel cheaper than airline. In san diego, I rented a focus wagon and a kayak. It was ok but I also emailed a local club. We went out together. Very possible you could borrow a boat from a local club and then treat the club for dinner for being such a great host.

If you are going to research the Pakboats, be sure you leave out the “c” in the name. Search engines do apply some “fuzzy logic” but they may miss some of the available data without the brand name spelled right.

country of origin?
BTW - are paKboats US-made or outsourced? The price suggests that they might be outsourced. Otherwise I see no reason why the Feather kayaks are 3x more expensive while overall looking like very similar to paKboats.

cointry of origin

– Last Updated: Apr-03-12 5:14 PM EST –

Feathercrafts are higher quality materials and structure and are hand built in Vancouver. Pakboats are made offshore (Taiwan, I think) and are PVC.

Go waveski 7’10 " 14 lbs.

makes sense
oh that makes sense, I see. Vancouver.

If ever in Vancouver
If you ever are in the Vancouver area it’s worth a trip to the Feathercraft “factory” (actually a compact workshop and office) on Granville Island, a cool development on a small peninsula south of downtown where they’ve converted a former industrial site to a village of shops, theaters, small business and arts group offices. Call first to see if they (FC) are open and can host a drop-in tour.

Back in 2009 when I went out there on vacation the FC folks set me up for a test paddle with a Wisper and one of their Klatwa paddles. They are just steps from the sea wall on False Creek, a harbor inlet off the sound that encompasses the city proper and I took off for a couple of hours with the boat, which was more than enough to sell me on wanting to buy one.

Granville is a neat place to spend a day wandering the shops – there’s a good paddle sports outfitter there as well as native handicrafts galleries and good places to eat.

Feathercraft is definitely a “boutique” manufacturer but you get a real appreciation for their pride in workmanship and outstanding customer service. They have archives of parts for some of their oldest products and state of the art equipment for production and design.

Is shipping by air necessary?
Is shipping by truck an option for the destination you have in mind? I don’t know if it would be cheaper, but figured it might be worth checking.

There is no “one size fits all” kayak
that can go traveling with you. The situation that you will paddle in will direct the most appropriate (or efficient) kayak. The current day airline restrictions certainly make it challenging to fly with a NON-foldable kayak. I own an Easyrider 3-piece 17’ Eskimo and have made trips to the Bahamas, Baja, and Glacier Bay with it. I owned a Klepper Aerius II and paddled several places with it, including the San Blas Islands. I own a Feathercraft Big Kahuna and have taken it on a couple of airline travel trips. All three would face challenges of bag size and weight in todays world. for me, it really comes down to the type of trip I am attempting and the level of performance and/or durability that is needed. How much gear will you be carrying? Will the water be warm or cold? Do you expect a high possibility of damage? If so, is the kayak repairable in the field? what are the destination country’s import restrictions? How long is your trip and do you have to cover long distances in a day?

So many questions. Without more details about your plans, its very difficult to say what some of the good choices would be.