I just got a promo forwarded to my email box by Paddling magazine for the venerable Klepper folding kayak company’s lastest “innovation”: a carbon fiber framed folding kayak. I clicked through to see if Klepper was finally making more sleek lightweight kayaks instead of the bulky, heavy and wide barges it has been plugging along with forever.
Alas, this latest model (the Marlin) is 12’ 6" long and 28" wide and still has the big clunky cockpit design (that doesn’t really hold a skirt) and flat hull they have been using since they started making them with wood frames and canvas covers before World War II. And, despite the hype about carbon fiber, the thing weighs 44 pounds, only 2 pounds less than my 15’ x 22" rotomold sea kayak. Also has to be packed in two bags. While I am all for folding kayak makers staying in the market, this is a step I have to wonder about. And they show a list price of $7500 plus $250 shipping!!! I have to think those are typos (other links indicate a list price of $4000 so I am thinking they meant 7500 Deutschemarks which would be around $4150 USD)…
Compare this to a 15’ x 24" Pakboat Quest 150 folder at 31 pounds for $1800 (currently with free shipping) and to Nautiraid’s 13’ x 25" and 35 pound Cross 405 at $2500. Not to mention Nautiraid’s slick Nook 18’ x 20" beam Greenland style folder at 43 pounds and $3500.
I wish Klepper luck – have to wonder who this thing would appeal to. All they seem to have done was duplicate their old style laminated wood frames with carbon fiber. Made them heavier without enhancing performance. Like, what’s the point of that? I think Fujita, who tried to switch from wood frame to carbon fiber folding kayaks, failed and went under.
I saw that ad as well. Went on to other things when I saw the 12’ 6" length & the weight. Didn’t even look for width.
I love my Feathercraft kayaks. I’ve got two K1’s and a K2. Excellent kayaks for fly in type trips.
My first touring kayak was a FC Kahuna in 2002. I had a K-1 for a while but it was too big for me – sold them both to purchase a Wisper (after FC loaned me one for a day when I was visiting Vancouver and I fell in love with it). Still have it and last year I picked up a used Java in great condition to add some versatility to my fleet. The Wisper remains an all around favorite. Also have owned 4 PakBoat kayak models which are also fine quality and even lighter for travel, though not as rugged for open water as the FCs.
While it was a great loss to have Feathercraft close up shop, I’ve been pleased to see that there are finally some companies upping their game with more well-designed folding kayaks in recent years and public interest in folding boats seems to be increasing. I don’t include Trak in the category of being beneficial for the market due to their egregious 100% pre-payment, interminable wait lists and poor delivery business model. But makers like Nautiraid and Itiwit have been coming out with some impressive portable boats, and Pakboat is hanging in there, despite the loss of most of their US inventory to a terrible fire a few years ago and being acquired by ScanSport. They still produce a very affordable and super light line of travel kayaks.
Yeah, my composite solo canoe has a narrower beam than that thing and is 12 pounds lighter. Gotta wonder what their target market might be for such a clunky boat at that price point.
At a guess, perhaps the European market. More limited storage & transportation options along with, perhaps, a certain ‘upscaleness’ due to the Klepper name & ‘Carbon’.
An extra $3500 to save 4 lbs, what a steal!
It looks like they didn’t change the design at all to take advantage of the material, and just replaced wood parts with carbon composite pieces of the same dimensions. Seems they are lacking the design and engineering talent to develop anything new, and are content to milk the name for all it’s worth. FWIW, the gentleman who used to represent Klepper in the USA switched to Neris a few years ago (Gerald Grace), leaving Klepper to deal direct to US customers, and the price only went up.
Europeans have plenty of options rather than Klepper, so I think they are foolish to imagine their ancient name will persuade many buyers to pay double for a klutzy boat when so many better options are at hand. Since folders and inflatables can be shipped, there is universal access by European paddlers across the continent to all the brands based there.
Nautiraid has released a wide range of much sleeker models. Grabner is costly but offers a line of more streamlined inflatables. Scansport/Pakboat continues to offer much cheaper, faster and MUCH lighter folders. Ally continues to hold a strong presence with their sturdy folding canoes. Neris kayaks, though similar in traditional design to Klepper, are still lighter and half the price. I notice that Ukraine-based Neris has now shifted some of their production to equipping the military troops with tactical equipment.
The big European Paddle Sports Show will be in Strasbourg in two weeks. I’ll be watching for YouTube posts of videos from it to see how what sort of presence the folding and inflatable boat vendors may have had. I notice that Klepper is NOT listed among the exhibitors. Among the folder/inflatable makers that will be there are Nautiraid, PakBoat, Advanced Elements, Nortik (who makes kayaks similar to Oru), and the modular boat makers, PacKayak and Point 65.
Not a dinosaur, no way , no how. A great company that has been around for decades still showing innovation.
Might just having a difficult time sourcing nice wood and decided to no longer be a part of using up the best wood that is still here. Taking wood out of the matrix. Second growth is not as nice as first growth.
I have not seen much innovation in their designs. Long Haul, Nautiraid, PakBoat and Itiwit are way ahead of Klepper in lighter, faster and safer breakdown boats. Klepper has not really changed their clunky basic boat for 75 years.