Gear
Gear Guy
Q:

How sturdy are folding kayaks?

How good, maneuverable, and sturdy are folding kayaks? Are they only made for the lakes and sea? Would you recommend any specific model and producer? Bolek Hilton, Ontario

A: Folding kayaks can go in just about any water you can find, Bolek. Like all kayaks they come in many shapes and sizes, with many of them absolutely as seaworthy (some argue more so) than their rigid-hull counterparts. Many people love their folding boats because they can go literally anywhere. Take one to Europe to explore canals, for instance, or to the South Seas and paddle from island to island. Many travelers can easily handle a backpack and a folding kayak on their trip—that's only two pieces of luggage, you lazy, ounce-counting slackers!

Aleut


Before purchasing, you'll need to think about your own needs and the type of boating you want to do. One very popular boat, for instance, is the Folbot Aleut ($1,480; www.folbot.com), a compact little 12-footer with some forgiving habits. Although a little pokey, it's a very beamy boat, so you can easily pack gear for trips up to a week long. That beaminess also makes the Aleut very stable.

Then there's the Klepper Aerius ($2,458, including shipping; www.klepper.com), perhaps the classic folding kayak. It's a big boat that can handle loads of gear for long trips (payload, in fact, is a whopping 570 pounds!). And, it can easily handle rough, open water. Faster than the Aleut, but still compact enough—at 60 pounds packed weight—to make a good travel-along boat.

Or there's the Feathercraft Wisper ($2,812; www.feathercraft.com), which is similar in length yet narrower than the Aerius. Its materials (aluminum frame, lightweight skin) cut the weight to under 40 pounds—not bad for a big boat! It'll hold a paddler and gear for long weekends or more, so while not cheap, it's an excellent investment if you plan to be spending a lot of time traveling and paddling with one of these craft.

If you can, always try to test out a kayak before buying. Remember, you don't climb into a kayak—you more or less put it on. So fit is important.

For more expert reviews of kayaks, check out Outside Online's all-new Kayak Buying Guide.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Folbot
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