Hi - brand new to this forum. I did some kayaking 20 years ago on a Klepper. I am looking to start up again in the Hudson River valley area and am looking to purchase a folding kayak again. Checking the internet the two options which caught my interest are to go with another Klepper or possibly a Feathercraft. I would be classified pretty much a beginner and would be on largely tranquil waters. Could someone out there offer an opinion regarding these two brands? Quality? Is one better suited for my circumstances? Personal experiences? Stability? Any feedback would be much appreciated.
Klepper/Long Haul vs. Feathercraft
I threw Long Haul in here because it is similar to, but an overall updated Klepper style boat. Long Haul is made in Colorado by the former Klepper service center for North America. I sold my Klepper AE1 Expedition last year and bought a Long Haul MK1. The MK1 is the better boat. You can find my reviews of both boats in the Reviews section of this website. Feathercraft is made in Vancouver BC and is a very high quality boat too. In fact these boats are all unsurpassed in terms of quality. The K/LH would be more stable, but slower on the water than the FC. The K/LH would be considerably easier to assemble and disassemble and pack up. Without rushing it takes about 1/2 hour to assemble either K/LH, and almost twice that much time for comparable FC. My AE1 weighed close to 80 lbs, and my MK1 is perhaps 2 lbs. heavier. A comparable FC would weigh half that much. The K/LH uses very heavy and durable materials in the skin and the frames are wood with a lot of cross bracing for redundancy. FC uses much lighter weight urethane for the hull and a combination of plastic thwarts and aluminum tubes. For armed forces special OPs in the US the LH is the new standard. Klepper has undergone financial reorganization recently and that might have impacted their NATO contract, but the boats are still as good as ever. FC are long, sleek, and lightweight, closer to high performance fiberglass boats in performance. Truly a joy to paddle. The K/LH are more staid, traditional, but are modern works of art. In rough water I find that I can make better time in a K/LH because I am not constantly having to brace. But in smooth water a FC is much sleeker and faster. Again in terms of craftsmanship and quality all three companies are at the top of the heap. There are no better boats made, folders or otherwise.
I have no experience with Long Haul but have heard they are well made boats. I’ve used a tandem Klepper with a friend who has used it for over 25 years and can testify to their durability, but I found the boat slow even compared to other tandems. My main experience has been Feathercraft (I have owned 3 of them, Kahuna, K-1 Expedition and currently, a Wisper) and Pakboat (have an XT-15 and an older 12’ Puffin). I would disagree with the previous comment about assembly time – I can set up a Kahuna or Wisper in 30 minutes or less from bag to water. The K-1 takes longer (and hour the first few times, and down to 45 or 50 minutes with practice). Feathercraft really is the Mercedes of folders – you pay dearly for them because they are a small, craftsman-like “boutique” business with their entire design, manufacturing and servicing done from a compact warehouse/office on Granville Island (actually a peninsula) on the edge of Vancouver, right beside the water. I have visited them when on trips out there – they gave me a tour of the whole place and even loaned me a Wisper and paddle for a morning to test paddle on my own. Their customer service is outstanding.
I’ve owned more than a dozen kayaks, folders and hardshells, and I have to say if I had to limit myself to one boat alone it would be the Wisper, which I have used along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, on Lake George on a windy day, the Great Lakes and countless rivers in the Northeast. It paddles as fast and nimbly as any of my hardshells have yet is nearly half their weight. It’s a boat for small to medium paddlers though my 5’ 9" 190 lb boyfriend also fits it nicely. For a larger guy or someone who wanted a true touring boat with plenty of capacity and that you could take on any waters, the K-1 is an incredible kayak. I sold the one I had because it was a little more boat than I needed and I was lusting after the Wisper. FC have excellent resale value, by the way. In fact the guy who bought my K-1 sold it 6 months later for $600 more than I sold it to him! (he and his wife were buying a tandem folder.)
Pakboats (another folder brand) offer great bang for the buck, being less than half the cost of equivalent FC or LH boats. Their home base is Enfield, NH, which might be a day trip drive from you if you wanted to see their models. They have a new style, the Quest 155, which has similar dimensions to some of the FC’s. Assembly is a bit easier for the PB’s but the quality of the materials and construction is not as high as the FC’s. They are also great boats to paddle and due to being cheaper (made in China) I am less concerned about taking them in shallow rocky streams or other locations where they would get scuffed and banged up. Feathercrafts are very durable, but it’s just human nature to cringe less about beating up a $1500 boat versus a $4500 boat.
You’ll find a lot of excellent information about ALL the available models and brands of folder at the folding kayaks forum at:
Folbot and Trak
As long as we are discussing folders we might as well mention two other brands, Trak and Folbot. Folbot (http://www.folbot.com/) is one of the grand old names in folders. They are U.S. made and their Cooper is a nice solo sea kayak that in many ways is similar to the Pakboat XT-15. They are both lighter-weight lower-cost boats. Trak makes only one boat (at last check) the T1600 (http://www.rethinkkayak.com/). This is an outstanding solo kayak that to me performs very much like an equivalent hard shell boat. Price wise it falls about midway between the lighter-weight Pakboats and Folbots and the Long Hauls and Feather Crafts. Folders need to have a mechanism that allows the frame to be tightened into the skin so that the shell is drawn taught. The XT-15 and Cooper do this with inflatable tubes in the hull. Trak uses a sophisticated jack system that expands the frame to tighten against the skin. As a consequence of this architecture, it is possible to use the jacks to change the shape of the boat. Most interestingly it allows you to change the rocker on the kayak. The other advantage is that it makes the boat very fast and easy to assemble. When I was choosing a folder this was the deciding point. With some of these boats it is a half hour or more at the beginning and end of a paddling session to put the boat together and take it apart again. With the T-1600 it is more like 10 minutes. This is of little consequence if you are going to leave the boat assembled but can be important if you intend to put it together and take it down regularly.
Long Hauls are wide
I took a close look at the specs on the 4 current Long Haul models. They do look very well built but they are far wider in the beam than I like, personally.
So I think it would be best if you narrow down what specs you want in a folder and then concentrate on what best suits the performance and budget. The Long Hauls look like they would be great for ruggedness and baggage capacity but you would sacrifice lightness – their smallest boat, the 13’ Ute, is 12 lbs heavier than my 15’ FC Wisper. In fact the Ute weighs as much as my 15’ plastic sea kayak! Their Mark I solo is a whopping 69 lbs, topping most plastic and composite boats of that size. That also makes it a no-go for meeting the 50 lb airline limit on baggage.
A folder that can’t meet the first piece luggage limit for travel loses a lot of points with me. Most of the single FC and PB models are well undeer 50 lbs, even with paddle, PFD and sprayskirt in the bag.
Compare similar boats
The Long Haul MK1 and Klepper AE1 are very comparable to each other. The most comparable Feathercraft would be the K1. Having owned them all I stand by my comments concerning assembly times and on the water performance. The Kahuna and Wisper are quite nice boats, but smaller, lighter, not expedition type boats, nor are any of the other boats mentioned. It is important to know yourself, your intended usage and priorities in choosing the best boat for you.
type of paddling
Since the OP described wanting to paddle the Hudson and seems to be most interested in day trips on “tranquil” waters, it seemed to me that a lighter, sleeker boat was most appropriate. I read no mention of touring or expeditionary needs. A K-1 is too much boat for most day touring and moderate inland waters.
I agree completely
Wllowleaf, you make a good point here. The Kahuna or Wisper might be perfect for Victor’s needs, and your are right that the K1 is a big hassle for day trips on the Hudson. On the other hand, one of the reasons I sold my K1 and bought an AE1 was that I wanted an expedition type boat, but one that was also easy enough to assemble to make it work for day trips too. Later I swapped the AE1 for a MK1 primarily because it fits my big self better. All of these are lovely boats and top quality. Of the bunch, for my needs the MK1 works the best, but it is quite heavy and no Wisper to paddle. On the other hand, I can take my MK1 anywhere, any time and know that it is as rugged and seaworthy as a kayak can be. It exceeds even the K1 in that regard while being similar to a Kahuna in terms of ease of assembly. We can delight in the choices we have available to us. I love these boats.