Request for more Pakboat advice!

Hi folks,

This is quite the novel! Sorry for my verbosity, but if you want to just skip all the background, I’ve put my two big questions right up front:

  1. I can’t find much info on how you sit relative to the waterline in the Pakboat Quest 150 or the Puffin Saco Kayaks. The Pakboat website stats describe the the boats as 10 inches deep (or 13 with the Quest deck), but the vendor also indicates that they can be used as sit-on-tops. I really don’t like using normal sit-on-tops since I feel so high and disconnected from the water. I like to feel that I’m sitting at or below the waterline, as in a traditional sit-inside, both for stability and comfort. Does anyone know how much of the 10 inch depth of the Pakboat kayaks is below the waterline? And whether it feels like a sit-in or a sit-on kayak? Or where the bottom of the seat sits? Honestly, I might have to look at other manufactures over this issue…

  2. I know that the Quest 150 is best for coastal and flatwater, but the Puffin Sacco (12.5ft) is better for all around recreational paddling in rivers and rapids. But I was wondering if you think I would be able to use the Quest 150 in a river like the Delaware? It is very, very shallow in parts, but only has class II+ rapids in normal conditions. I found this great thread ( that suggests I might be able to take a Quest on class II river rapids, but I don’t really understand much about the various types of rapids (don’t worry, I’ll do my homework and work up to things–I just want a boat that can do it when I finally have the skills).

The background, which you can just skip:

I’m looking to upgrade my kayak from a cheap Tucktec foldable to a real kayak I can use for both rivers and costal paddles. I’ve been paddling for about 5 years. I’m looking at the Pakboat Quest, although I would also consider the Puffin or another lightweight option. I regularly kayak solo, so I need to be able to lift and maneuver the kayak on my own, and the Pakboats are less than 30 lb. I believe I will be able to get the Quest onto roof racks on my own for a quick launch (or just fold it down for long trips). I’m 5 foot 2, female, 40 yr, and not the most muscular, so I want to save my energy for the actual paddling!

Just to ally any fears, I realize I can get into trouble as a solo paddler so, for now, I stay within swimming distance of shore. I also took some lessons, so I can self rescue with a paddle float, although I need more practice. Ideally, I would have a kayak that can grow with my skills, so that I can eventually do a cowboy rescue in rough water or even roll, but that’s going to take me a while. During those classes, I paddled real sea kayaks rather than my usual Old Town rentals and my Tucktec, and I really want a boat that feels that responsive!

As for the question about different paddling environments, I live on Staten Island. While I really enjoy flatwater, lake, or river paddling in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I would just love the ability to drive 10 minutes to the local beach and paddle in the Atlantic or the Arthur Kill. I will take appropriate classes and find partners before I do any of the dangerous waters in NY harbor proper (I’ve been to Manhattan Kayak Co. classes before). But paddling off the beach would mean no 45 minute drive to the lake and canal where I usually paddle, and no 1.5 hour drive to the Poconos. So I’m looking to magically meet all my needs in one boat!

I would really appreciate any advice you all can give me on Pakboats, conditions, or lightweight kayaks.

Thanks everyone!

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Sent you a private message – not sure when you sent one to me since I was locked out of the site since last Thursday by a system glitch they were having.

I see more information on this post than what you sent me. The Puffin is too short and wide for coastal paddling. By the way, since all the Pakboats have inflatable sponsons (lateral tubes along the gunwales along both sides that serve both as some flotation and to tighten the skin over the frame to reduce drag) they are pretty hard to capsize. You do need to buy a pair of flotation bags to fill the bow and stern if you paddle them with the deck on – otherwise they will fill with water in a capsize and be nearly impossible to drain out. Harmony makes reasonably priced ones.


Thank you, Willowleaf! I got your private message too, and your help is just what I needed! I knew I needed flotation bags, but wasn’t sure what type. I’ll try Harmony!

We have two Packboat Quest 150s. The consensus among those that have paddled them, including myself, is that they feel and perform very much like a typical sit in kayak. The seat has an inflatable bladder, so you can alter your height relative to the bottom an inch or so. It will make a difference in how stable you feel. It would also be easy to eliminate the seat and use a foam pad instead, putting you lower, but I have not tried that, so far everyone who has paddled it finds that the seat is fine, as long as you do not put much air in.

We paddle lakes and large coastal, tidal streams, nothing with rapids. I have been on the Delaware just above the Gap, but in canoes. Easy to deal with the few rapids and shallows up there, I would think a kayak like the Quest would be fine. The rapids have been easy to negotiate, and there was always enough water to stay afloat when I have been there.

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As Greg explains, you sit very low inside a Quest. The kayak is really not like a sit on top when you paddle with tge deck removed, in fact it is more like a pack canoe in tgat you are sitting almost on the floor of the hull, just a couple inches above it so at or even belo the water line.

One thing I forgot to mention, you absolutely have to buy the optional rigid adjustable foot braces when you buy the Quest. Unlike with hardshell boats, they don’t come standard. I have the Pakboat inflatable foot brace in my vintage Puffin but it doesn’t provide a firm enough platform for transmitting stroke piwe through your legs to your torso. I only use the Puffin for leisurely “lily dipping” trips on small lakes and streams so it’s not a big issue. The rigid braces install easily, just popping onto the longerons (the lengthwise frame tubes) with built in clips.

You can brace your feet against the frame ribs but it’s kind of tiring and awkward for longer trips or if you want to paddle with some speed.

Other owner tips: get a drip or spraybottle of BoeShield lubricant to “oil” the frame joints whenever you assemble the kayak if you are going to leave it set up after paddling, espcially if using it in salt water. The frames can corrode together overtime and not come apart though that was more of a problem with Feathercraft kayaks because they did not anodize the aluminum frames the way Pakboat does. Bike shops usually sell Boeshield (used as chain lube) though I order it from REI. A small squeeze bottle goes a long way. I keep it in a ziplock with a soft rag to wipe off my fingers. It is not sticky or greasy.

Also, very critical to let some air out of the sponson flotation tubes, float bags and seat when the boat is not in the water on warm days — heat expansion can cause the tubes inside to rupture. They can be patched or replaced but it is a pain and/ or expense. It’s not hard with Pakboats because you can just pull up one end of the deck and reach the Boston valves. The float bags usually have long enough tubes to reac g valves through the cockpit.

I’ve only had to replace a sponson tube once (on my first Feathercraft, not a Pakboat) but that taught me a lesson so I always automatically relieve the air pressure when I take the boat out of the water before letting it sit anywhere it might heat up.

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Forgot to mention, there have been times when I hung up on a sand or gravel bar with a folder, but (since all the boats are so light) I just climbed out and picked it up and carried it to deeper water and climbed back in.

Thank you Greg and WillowLeaf!

You both have allayed my fears, and I’ve just reached out to start the ordering process. I had trouble feeling too high in an old inflatable, but letting air out of the seat solved the problem there, so I’m sure it will do the trick in the Quest, if I even need it. I already was planning on the foot-pegs, so glad that will be a worthwhile addition!

Thanks for the tips on letting some air out on hot days and the lubricant. I do plan to leave it together for most of the season and car-top for local trips. And when together, it will be stored in the garage, so I’ll definitely want to let some air out.

Greg, I kayaked the area north of the Gap on the Delaware this past summer and fell in love! I want to try to doing the whole river. I did run into trouble with low water, but evidently it was at “historic lows” and had I picked the deeper channel, I would have been fine. And if I can actually pick up my boat easily, it would have been no problem!

Thank you both very much!

I agree with WillowLeaf, good you are getting the foot pegs. When we got our first one, we got it without. After the first trip, I went back and ordered the footpegs, smile.

It is a nice light kayak, I have no trouble picking it up and carrying it to the water by myself. If you can easily lift 30 lbs and carry that around, you should be fine.

I find the easiest way to carry it any distance is to stuff my PFD on the seat and then flip the boat upside down and rest my head inside the cockpit, padded by the PFD and grab the sides of the coaming with my hands. Easier on the body to have the load centered over your body and the Quest is shallow enough that I can still see where I am going.

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Oh, that’s a great idea. I figured I would be able to hoist it to my shoulder, but that would distribute the weight much better! I can lift 30 pounds without much difficulty. I am concerned about balancing it overhead for the car, but I will buy rollers if it is an issue. I still need to figure out all the car top racks I need, but I want to wait to have the actual kayak in hand before I purchase stuff–that way I’ll better be able to figure out what I need.

I have basic Thule square bars on my car. When I haul a set up folder, I carry it upside down so the weight is on the gunwale frame bars, not the single keel bar. Or I cradle it sideways on padded upright J-racks. Padded wing cradles on the bars would be another option.

I did slightly deform some of the longerons in my 15’ 9” Feathercraft Wisper folder by carrying it on the roof rack during a 10 hour highway trip from Quebec some years ago. (the frames in the Pakboat Quests are similar in design to Feathercrafys, so be aware of this.). The rack bars on my Mazda are quite close together so the kayak was not well supported directly on the rack and wind pressure on the forward facing bow caused to to be pressed downward as I drove. I had broken camp in a heavy rain so I foolishly decided toload the assembled boat instead of breaking it down to stash in the car. I was able to eventually staighten the 4 affected frame bars but it was a lot of work.

I had made many similar trips with my folding kayaks on roof racks on my Volvo wagons with no problems, but the racks on those cars were much farther apart and supported the frames against deflection.

River running can work with any Pakboat provided your paddling skill is up to the degree of difficulty of whitewater you are paddling. As in any kayak longer boats are more challenging to maneuver quickly than shorter boats.
Regardless of whether whitewater or coastal touring, wave height and winds will determine how safe you feel venturing out far from shore. Hard shell kayaks especially with bulkheads have significant advantages over kayaks that rely on inflatable buoyancy bags for self rescue. Recovery from capsize in a kayak with bulkheads is a much easier task than any kayak with buoyancy bags. That said, if you pick your location carefully and are mindful of local tides and currents and keep a careful watch on potential changing weather conditions there is no reason you can’t enjoy coastal paddling in any Pakboat. Longer boats track better than shorter boats. Shorter boats are more maneuverable than longer boats in river currents. Depending on where you like to paddle and personal preferences will determine what’s the right length boat for you.
Enjoy the ride and enjoy the pleasure of owning and paddling a lightweight but strong durable boat.

Great choice in getting the Pakboats Quest 150! I have one too and love it although I don’t take it out as often as I’d like to. It’s stable, fast, light and versatile, handles well in both flatwater, coastal and open seas even.
Lots of great tips and useful info given above! :point_up:t3:You could also get something like 303 or Mothers Protectant for the skin to help prolong the life against UV rays. 303 Automotive Protectant - Provides Superior UV Protection, Helps Prevent Fading and Cracking, Repels Dust, Lint, and Staining, Restores Lost Color and Luster, 16oz (30382CSR) Packaging May Vary
Happy paddling! :slight_smile:

@willowleaf Oh, thanks, that’s important! My car is a Elantra sedan, so I will have bars close together too. Maybe I’ll spring for a nice padded cradle or similar carrier to give it a bit of extra support…

@KeepOnKayaking Thank you! I was wondering about a good way to protect the skin, that sounds great

@Think123 Very good points! I was concerned about managing the length of the quest on a river. I don’t do a whole lot of river paddling right now, and I know for sure I want to do some costal. I’ll just focus on lakes to work up my skills and then take on rivers slowly!

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@willowleaf , I’ve had my Quest 150 for a few years and really like it. Remarkably, this is the first time I have ever heard the recommendation to get flotation bags for the front and rear. I’m surprised this isn’t mentioned on the Pakboats website and that Pakboats doesn’t sell them. What you’re saying makes perfect sense, it just never occurred to me. Fortunately I haven’t capsized, but I would like to do some practice with it. I have foot pegs and thigh straps which I have found helpful. I see there are 2 variants (short & long) of the bags you linked to. Which size did you get and how well do they fit?
@SI_KayakingLibrarian , Regarding seat height, I don’t put any air in the seat bladder at all and I find it very comfortable. I find that even the slightest amount of air has a fairly dramatic effect on the perceived stability of the boat. Good luck, I hope you enjoy it.

I have several pairs of flotation bags (since I have 4 skin on frame or folding kayaks and sometimes I am loaning them to friends). All of them are fairly long. like 30". More important than length is width, as you want the bag to expand side to side inside the hull to block as much space as possible. A boat full of water is a massively heavy thing, and nearly impossible to empty on your own in deep water. I do know of people who use other inflatables, including beach balls and various pool floats (saw a photo of a guy who had a blow up shark in the stern and a blow up ice cream cone in the bow!) And you can make your own out of sheet vinyl (fabric stores like Joanns and some Walmart sewing departments sell it by the yard in various weights). You can buy valves from or Seattle Fabrics and use vinyl glue like H-66 (marine supply stores sometimes stock it). The book “Building the Greenland Kayak” has a chapter on how to make them. There are usually cheap used copies of it on line for under $10.

The float bags tend to be costly but I have had good luck finding them on Ebay or checking the paddling gear departments of outdoor shops during my travels. Like during a trip to Lake Tahoe 6 years ago we stopped at an outfitter who had switched from selling and renting kayaks to SUP and was getting rid of all their kayak accessories. I got two sets of pairs of flotation bags for $30 each and 3 spray skirts for $20 each. One of the sprayskirts was a Kokatat Goretex that did not fit any of my boats but I sold it on line for $100 (it was $160 new). So in the end it only cost me $20 for 4 float bags and 2 spray skirts!

Trak makes a set of two very large float bags that can also be used as gear dry bags which you can inflate after filling with cargo. A bit pricey at $130 but would be very useful if you plan to take longer trips and pack for camping.

Thanks for all that info. Very useful. The Trak bags look like a great option although they are HUGE!. They have smaller bags but they’re even more expensive. Gotta love those Trak kayaks though. Drool. I would like to get clarification on something. Trak and other skin-on-frame kayaks have no inflatable sponsons. In this case, the flotation bags would be absolutely essential. But the Quest 150 has inflatable sponsons running the entire length of the kayak. Wouldn’t these serve the same purpose as float bags on each end? Wouldn’t bow/stern float bags be redundant? Are the Quest’s sponsons not enough to keep the kayak afloat and assist in water removal?

The sponsons in Pakboats are primarily for tensioning the skin to make the hull stiffer and the skin smoother, for less drag not for flotation. They do add a bit of buoyancy but will NOT keep the hull from filling with hundreds of pounds of water in a complete wet exit capsize. If you doubt me, try wading a little ways out at a calm lake and tiliting and filling your kayak halfway with water, then try to lift it to empty it.

Feathercraft always included a pair of custom full float bags when you bought one of their folding kayaks ( as well as a large custom backpack, sprayskirt and sea sock, among the reasons they were such expensive boats.) And they had inflatable integral gunwale sponsons like Pakboat as well.

I do feel it is one failing of Pakboat not to offer or at least atrongly recommend float bags. I have only kayaked my skin boats twice without putting float bags in and regretted it both times. The first time I was in Lake Erie, fortunately near shore, and a wave caught me off guard and I capsized without bags or a sprayskirt. The boat was upside down when I fell out and flooded. I had to grab the bow righing and drag it by swimming to the beach to haul it out and empty it. The second time, using my Quest, I was also too lazy to properly inflate the bags or use the skirt for a short trip on a calm warm shallow lake. Then the reflected wake from a passing powerboat caught me and dumped a couple of gallons in the cockpit. I did have my hand pump (a necessity I always carry) and was able to clear most of it out but I was soggy and sloshing the rest of that trip.