Kayak recommendation - long trips in tropics


Semi rookie here. I’m after a kayak (or kayaks), and hoping to get some advice here before opening my wallet.

I need a kayak to do 4-5 multi-day (or rather multi-months) trips in the sea waters of South East Asia. Each trip would be 3-6 months, with the distance kayaked between 2000-5000 km. Sorry I’m not an American, will use the metric system.

Here are the main points I’m considering to choose the kayak:

  • It need to be easily transportable as check-in baggage or sporting equipment. The starting points are in different countries and it would be too much hassle to move it as a cargo.

  • The maximum open sea distance between two landing points won’t be more than 80-100 km.

  • Warm tropical waters.

  • Preferably the kayak shouldn’t need to be assembled/disassembled often.

  • I would land at hundreds of places I’ve never been before. Corals and rocks are the things I’m worried about. The kayak should be sturdy and easy to repair.

  • Plenty of storage place would be nice but not so essential, as I’ll have options to replenish food and water.

  • There are no time limits to complete each journey except fitting within the favourable weather, e.g avoiding monsoons, so it would be good if the kayak is relatively fast, but that’s not the main thing to consider. This is not a competition.

  • I’m not looking for build to order kayak, I don’t have time to stay in an ever delayed waiting lists.

  • comfortable for height 170 centimetres.

  • I travel alone.

I spent quite a bit of time looking and comparing different models, and came with this short list:

  • Point 65 GTX Mercury solo
  • Pakayak Bluefin 14
  • Pakboats Quest 150

I’m inclined to go with a modular one, as they should be safer to land on rocky or coral beaches. I’ve also heard the folding kayaks need to be disassembled quite often if used in salt water. However I’ve recently met a group of kayakers which have done quite a few 2-3 week trips in the same area in folding kayaks, they told me they didn’t have any issues except doing some minor repairs.

I’m fairly new to kayaking however I’ve done quite a few multi-months cycling and high altitude trekking trips.

What do you think? Thanks for reading that far.

Not used any of the ones you mentioned enough to provide comments on them.

But a general comment on folding kayaks needing to be un-assembled - I think most people on trips only disassemble when they need to transport them off the water. So you would likely assemble at start of trip and leave it that way until you stop paddling and go back to some sort of alternate transport (bus, car, train, plane, etc.).

Sounds like a pretty ambitious trip!
I really hate to say this, but until you get some seat time in a kayak, in open water your trip may not work out as expected. When I was learning how to navigate and paddle in open water my mentor told me from the beginning “the water wants to kill you, always remember that”.
Once you get some seat time, lessons from an ACA instructor and a little experience, your boat choices will sort themselves out pretty quickly.
Sorry to be a wet blanket, but that is my opinion.

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I’ve heard that folding kayaks with aluminium based frames are prone to corrosion and “frame freezing”, especially when used in salt water. They require periodic assembly/disassembly and joint treatment to prevent the joints to be welded. That’s OK if it needs to be done say once a month, but I’m worried if the kayak is used every day in salt water I have to assemble/disassemble it much more frequently.

Thanks, I actually do have a kayak and do open water trips up to 30 km per day with 25+ knots gusts, but this kayak is slow, doesn’t have enough storage space and can’t be transported. I do have around an year until I start my first trip, and will have a few months with pretty much nothing to do but spend time in open water welding myself to the new kayak. The distances look long but in reality the land/next hop is pretty much always visible.
As I travel alone I’ve learnt to take the safety issues very seriously, and this time won’t be any different. My main concerns so far are not the kayak handling skills, but the presence of salt water crocodiles in some of these waters and some slight chances of getting ambushed by pirates.

I’m currently based in Thailand and there is not much of a sea kayak culture here, so it is difficult to kayak with group of people and procure equipment. I have trips to Australia and Europe coming and I was hoping to buy the kayak there, but due to the current coronavirus issues these trips may not happen.

I am sure there is some variation depending on different folding boat designs, but I would more put the dissamembly and clean good to do at the every month rather than every day category. The people I’ve know that have used their folding kayaks (generally for 1-2 week trips, so a bit shorter than your plans) didn’t disassemble at all during their trip.

Although out of business, Folbot kayaks can be found used and are very robust. I had a friend that used his for an entire month on the Bay of California during the winter with no major issues, he would rinse his boat daily with fresh water. He did apply silicon to the joints when he assembled the boat.
His was a Greenland tandem (he used as a solo) that we often used as a water and gear hauler for extended trips when we camped in a remote location. It was not terribly fast compared to the sea kayaks in the group, I would compare it with a 1990s WS tsunami in terms of performance.

The Pakboat Quests (I have a 135) are anodized aluminum which offers some corrosion protection. I have used aluminum frame kayaks for 18 years though not all that often in salt water. I did buy a used one that someone had failed to rinse out and dissemble after ocean use and two of the longeron joints were corroded in place and had to be replaced. I have NOT had that trouble since I ALWAYS liberally coat each joint with Boeshield T9 corrosion resisting liquid each time I assemble the boats. I have it in spray form when I assemble at home and in the small drop bottle for travel. Most bike shops sell it. It was developed by Boeing to use in aircraft mechanicals as a lube and protectant so it will not degrade synthetic materials as some oil based lubes can do.

An advantage of the Pakboat will be much more accessible and spacious cargo capacity than the modulars. If you use the combo inflatable/dry bags they will double as flotation bags when you are not loaded ( to fill the space against flooding completely in a capsize when you are not loaded.)

You can also paddle the Quest with the deck removed which could be more comfortable for day outings in hot weather. The Quest seat is extremely comfortable for long days and the boat is fast and handles waves well. Folding kayaks absorb wave force rather than bashing against it like hardshells do (I paddle both types). Be sure to order the rigid adjustable foot peg accessories (an option) if you buy a Quest. Hard to say how available Pakboats will be since they are now sold directly by ScanSport of Europe instead of by Alv in New Hampshire. Their site has info on that. With shipments of material and goods from Asia it is anyone’s guess what stocks are of things like this.

I think a Pakboat is going to be more efficient to transport via airline and land vehicle than the awkward nested modulars. I am able to pack a Pakboat PLUS all my safety gear, PFD, paddling clothing and paddle into a conventional rolling suitcase that meets the baggage regulations for airlines. This bag is 48 pounds and under 62 “unified inches”. I was able to haul it through airports while wearing a carryon sized backpack with my other clothing and non-paddling gear when I took the kayak to the UK in 2017.

Yes, ALL that stuff was in the bag. That is a 4 piece Cannon carbon paddle from Airkayaks.com in the upper left. Two little rolls in the lower right are an inflatable roof rack to carry the kayak on a rental car. I can send photos of that if you are interested. This was a 12’ Pakboat Puffin (5 pounds lighter) but my Quest will also fit in a similar bag I have that is narrower and a little longer (rolling sports duffel), just can’t fit as much clothing and accessories in it.

Better shot of the Pakboat Quest than you will find on their website:

Wow, thanks a lot. Almost convinced. Is it difficult to repair cuts? is the bag part of the package or you had to purchase it separately from somewhere?

I’ve heard good things about Boeshield too.

Looking at the packed size I think I can order 2 and have the second shipped to me via post or courier if the first one can’t be repaired anymore.

There are two Feathercraft Big Kahuna kayaks for sale on Ebay today for $1200 each – says he may offer discount for buying both. My first folder was that model, Kahuna, probably bought at the same store in Holland Michigan where the seller got his pair. That is a STEAL for that model which was nearly $3500 new – they are the Mercedes Benz of folding kayaks. If I did not already have more kayaks than I needed I would buy one. You could cross the Atlantic in that kayak and it comes with a travel backpack. This would be great for your plans.

Per repairing cuts: takes about 5 minutes. You just cut a rubber or nylon patch from the kit, clean off the area on the boat and then glue the patch on. Almost as easy as putting a band-aid on a cut! Cures to use in a few minutes. I have only had to patch small holes and one wear area 3 times in 18 years of using skin on frame folding boats.

There are two Feathercraft Big Kahuna kayaks for sale on Ebay today for $1200 each – says he may offer discount for buying both. My first folder was that model, Kahuna, which I probably bought at the same store in Holland Michigan where the seller got his pair (he is just west of Grand Rapids, where I lived for 8 years). That is a STEAL for that model which was nearly $3500 new – they are the Mercedes Benz of folding kayaks. If I did not already have more kayaks than I needed I would buy one. You could cross the Atlantic in that kayak and it comes with a travel backpack. This would be great for your plans.

There is a long time member of these forums who lived in Japan for a number of years and had two Feathercrafts that he used to kayak around the sea there. I believe he had a Kahuna and a Khatsalano. He lives in Alaska now – might be a good contact for advice on paddling in Asia. His handle on here is Tsunamichuck.

Actually Chuck used an inflatable doll named Wanda. Pirates, salty crocs, and 100 km crossings, what could possibly go wrong?

Thanks for the tip!

I got in touch with the guy selling them. The kayak is manufactured in 2003, I think even if it was taken care of very well and not used much, the materials are old already and major problems can develop very quickly with the rubber and plastic.
I was burned a few years ago in Nepal by old gear where the soles of my trekking shoes came completely off on the first day and I had to trek 80 km in gym shoes until I found replacement. Top of the range shoes, looking perfect but kept long time in a cupboard.

Not to mention the seller is near Chicago and I’m currently stuck in India with coronavirus lockdown across the whole country. The shipping options are very limited and expensive.

Your concerns were mentioned before and duly noted again. Anything else to add?

Seller is nowhere near Chicago though I suppose from your view in Asia it could seem like that. 3 to 4 hour drive around the inland sea of Lake Michigan to Chi Town, or a 60 mile ferry crossing plus 90 minute drive south. He is in Hudsonville which is a near west suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I drove past it while commuting to work for 3 years when I lived out there.

My current Feathercraft is a 2005 and has had no issues despite annual use. Neither does my 2004 Pakboat and its materials are not as high end as FC’s. But you are right, you never know how something has been stored.