Visiting the best sea-kayaking spots often involves a daunting first step. Namely, getting your boat there. The cost of shipping, especially for a dream trip to, say, the fjords of Chile, can exceed the value of your vessel. Skirt the airline fees with a kayak that disguises itself as luggage. The Feathercraft K1 Expedition ($3,940) travels as a single 50-pound backpack guaranteed to slip past baggage check unnoticed. At the launch site, put together its aluminum-alloy and high-density polyethylene frame, wedge it into the taut, urethane/nylon skin, and—Shazam!—you've got a seaworthy ride in about 30 minutes. No tools required.
At 16.5 feet by 25 inches, the K1 mimics the handling characteristics of hard-shell touring boats. It's reassuringly stable, yet easily rocked to brace against side-waves. The nylon sling seat is extremely comfortable, the nylon spray skirt comes with the boat, and the upturned bow prevents small waves from slapping your chest. To top it off, the K1 has cargo hatches—previously unheard-of among folding kayaks—so you can reach stowed gear without blindly groping from the cockpit.
The lack of bulkheads allows a lot of frigid bilgewater into a swamped folder, so your dry bags have to serve as storage and backup flotation. I've never seen better bags than the ZipDry duffels from Watershed; they're frighteningly expensive ($70 for the smallest size) but worth every penny if you're capsized. For those hypothermia-prone digits, slip into Northwest River Supplies neoprene Paddlers Gloves ($30) and Chota's neoprene MK100 Mukluks ($72), whose knee-high uppers let you make most landings and launchings with dry feet. The Gore-Tex Meridian dry suit ($679) from Kokatat insulates superbly over a fleece layer and a front-entry zipper makes donning the suit less an act of contortionism.
The Lotus Designs Strait Jacket PFD ($115) is not nearly as constricting as you might guess from its name, thanks to huge armholes. A web loop holds a knife and two pockets suffice for flares and the Garmin 12 ($232)—a nearly intuitive GPS whose display charts your course and speed. As for a suitable paddle, the four-piece Werner Little Dipper ($285) has narrow blades that won't whip around like an albatross in the wind, and it breaks down into sub-two-foot sections. Heck, it's carry-on size.