Folding Kayaks, Travel Companion
Feathercraft, Klepper and Folbot
Folding kayaks pack right up into a bag and can make a great solution to kayak storage or transport problems. The most closely related kayak to the traditional skin and bone kayaks of the native people of Greenland and Alaska, folding kayaks have a very different affinity with the water and are favoured by many as a more intimate kayaking experience.
The first commercially produced folding kayaks were manufactured by Folbot in London, a company that began selling their designs in 1933. Klepper in Germany soon followed suit, with more recent additions to the market in the form of Feathercraft in Vancouver and Nautiraid in France.
Traditionally made folding kayaks use a birch or ash frame covered by a cotton shell whereas modern designs such as Feathercraft kayaks use an aluminium frame covered with nylon. Most folding kayaks also have inflatable sponsons running the length of the boat to add extra rigidity.
Klepper and Folbot folding kayaks are built in a traditional way with very large cockpits and wide beams that make them very stable but almost impossible to roll. More modern folding kayaks by Feathercraft and Nautiraid follow newer design concepts and are less stable but more responsive.
As with other kayaks wide beam folding kayaks are very stable but lose some of their capacity for speed. However, narrower boats require more paddling experience and better technique as you’ll need to know how to roll, brace and scull in order to control one. Mid size boats with good secondary stability but high performance are favored by most intermediate kayakers. Mini folding kayaks made by all the manufacturers are another great option for small kayakers and short trips. They’re excellent for transport too as they pack up into a backpack.
One of the best sea kayaks on the market is made by Feathercraft and outperforms all but the best fibreglass kayaks. The Khatsolano is an incredible craft and probably the most popular folding kayak out there. It weights in at only 45 lbs and takes about 30 minutes to assemble its 18 foot, 22 inch frame. It will, however, set you back almost $4000.
How much will a folding kayak cost me?
Folding kayaks are expensive but with that extra ease of portability you’ll probably get a lot more use out of them. Prices range from about $1500 to almost $6000. Generally you get what you pay for: more expensive boats have better outer covers and better frames and consequently they can stand up to much more abuse. If you’re planning long trips and need to carry plenty of gear it’s better to pay for a more expensive model. However, test out as many models as possible – with such differences in construction methods and designs you need to get out on the water to get a feel for which folding kayak is best for you.