Outside magazine, Travel Guide 1997-1998
A folding sea kayak emerges in pieces from one or two duffel bags — which check on any airline as excess baggage — and assembles into an expedition-ready craft in 30 minutes. How expedition-ready? Folding kayaks have crossed the Atlantic Ocean and rounded Cape Horn. Feathercraft makes the most technologically advanced folders, with aluminum frames and Cordura/Hypalon skins. The K1 Expedition ($3,780) mimics the dimensions and feel of much-less-portable hardshell kayaks. Unique to folding kayaks, front and rear hatches ease access to your gear. The Klepper Aerius 1 ($3,400), with its wood frame and cotton canvas deck, is as old-fashioned as the Feathercraft is modern. Traditional materials don't imply outdated capabilities, however — those two feats of seamanship mentioned above were both accomplished in Kleppers. Arch-rival to the German Klepper is the French Nautiraid ($1,250-$2,950), another wood-frame design. Complement your folding kayak with a four-piece Little Dipper or Camano sea-touring paddle ($291-$464) from Werner, which will fit right in the duffel with the boat. Aqua-Bound Technology also makes fine paddles in four-piece versions ($99-$230). A good water shoe to bring along for boating is the Hi-Tec Piranha ($50); it's lightweight and fast-drying with a Durabuc synthetic-leather upper, a neoprene tongue, and an open mesh toe for better drainage.
If you own a hardshell sea kayak, and are driving to your launch site, check out Yakima's new HullyRollers kayak saddles ($110 per set with straps). Pivoting urethane wheels make it easy to roll your boat up onto the roof — even onto tall sport-utility vehicles. The wheels then lock to form a rigid, supportive cradle.
Not impressed with a sea kayak that fits in a duffel bag? How about a bicycle that you can travel with as carry-on luggage? The Brompton T5 ($962) is a cunning English-built machine that folds to a compact 23 inches square by 10 inches wide. Drop the pretzelized 26-pound package into its nylon cover and stash it in the overhead bin. The five-speed Brompton even sports a simple rear suspension. I also like the Bike Friday New World Tourist ($995), which checks as a suitcase and includes water-bottle cages as standard equipment. Bike Friday also makes an off-road model. If you like the idea of a folding bike, but not the appearance, check out the Montague Urban ($900). With full-size, 26-inch wheels and a traditional diamond-shaped frame, it won't collapse as compactly as the Brompton, but it looks and rides just like a regular bike.
If you'd rather bring your favorite bike but are terrified of trusting it to the airlines, ship it in the Trico Sports Iron Case ($299). No, it's not really iron, but it is virtually crush-proof, and the disassembled bicycle (road or mountain) is held utterly immobile by layers of thick foam. So go ahead — pack up your titanium-framed wonderbike, and then scrawl
inflammatory remarks about baggage handlers on the outside of the case.
For helmets, sleeping bags, tents, paddles — just about anything else you might need to transport — take a look at what is likely the best roof-rack trunk on the market, the Packasport ($645-$925). Available in many sizes and custom colors, the Packasport is reinforced with aluminum and Coremat foam, uses all stainless-steel hardware, and opens from the rear for three-sided access.
You can rent dive gear in virtually any reefside resort in the world. But do you really want to use a chewed-up mouthpiece, or a mask 100 other people have cleared their noses in? Make sure your underwater view is memorable with the Mares ESA ($129-$139), the first six-window dive mask in the world. I also admire the SeaQuest Tetra ($78), with its side-mounted purge valve for easier clearing.
Fin technology is steadily duck-marching onward. The asymmetric blades of the Tusa Cetus by Tabata USA ($79) may look crooked, but they produce a perfectly flat down-kick stroke that increases power and reduces fatigue.
A snorkel is pretty much a snorkel (even when they cost nearly $35). But I like SeaQuest's Sidedraft ($33), which has an extra-large reservoir to keep residual water out of the way. A choice of mouthpiece sizes guarantees comfort.
Until now, the first stages of all two-stage regulators were made from chrome-plated brass — durable, corrosion-free, but heavy. Scubapro's new MK20 Ultralight ($342) is constructed instead from a special aluminum alloy with a hard, ceramic-like finish. It's half the weight of conventional first stages. The G500 second stage ($300) is a good match — it's 15 percent smaller than other Scubapro regulators, yet retains full features. Not as lightweight as the Scubapro, but just as advanced, is the Mares Ruby ($799), which uses a synthetic ruby in the first stage poppet valve to insure lifetime performance.
Buoyancy compensators keep getting more comfortable, and one of the best is the SeaQuest Balance ($480), which employs a triangular load-distribution system that would do credit to an internal-frame backpack. Swiveling buckles allow the shoulder straps to settle to the best angle, and plush padding cushions the load.