I have been searching for a folding boat for a while. A sea kayak, a canoe, or a small boat. An alternative to a rigid boat. Something reliable that can handle multi days expeditions. Something made with a skin on frame that I can store away in a closet or take on a plane in a duffel bag. Ideally less than 23 kilos and around 15 to 16 feet when mounted.
Some boats are better for rivers and white water. Others are better for lakes. Some are good for the sea and can handle waves and difficult weather conditions. A lot of these folding boats can even use a sail ! This is a list of the best brands:
Klepper (Germany) - http://klepper.com
Long Haul (USA) - http://longhaulfoldingkayaks.com
Wayland (Poland) - http://wayland.pl
Nautiraid (France) - http://nautiraid.com
Feathercraft (Canada) - http://feathercraft.com
Folbot (USA) - http://folbot.com
Pakboat (USA) - http://pakboats.com
Trak (Canada) - http://trakkayaks.comOru Kayak (USA) - http://www.orukayak.com
Advance Elements (USA) - http://advancedelements.com
Klepper, LongHaul and Wayland follow the same "classical" design. The frame is generally made of wood. Everything is military grade. Klepper (Germany) has been around for decades and is the leader in this field. Long Haul is an excellent USA equivalent. They make replacement parts for some Klepper models. Long Haul are even better crafted with stainless steel for small metal parts (better for salt water) but they can be slightly heavier.
They are both relatively expensive. From USD 4000 to 4600 for a Klepper expedition model, plus taxes and shipping... and 1000 to 2000 of accessories. In 2015, the price in Canada is CAD 5425 for the Klepper Aerius Exped I, about CAD 6000 for the Quattro, and CAD 6240 for the Aerius Exped II... front and back hatches each are CAD 480+... The optional sail called S1 is probably CAD 1000+... a skirt solo is CAD 340+... adding accessories this "super" package can reach CAD 8200. Plus local taxes, that brings us close to CAD 9500... whiteout the paddles, PFD, compass and other toys. (Klepper are also developing a brand of hard kayaks that can be unmounted into smaller pieces and carried in bag-packs. They call them Backyaks - http://backyak.de)
Apparently Klepper boats are now built by Wayland in Poland. Wayland sells very similar models under their brand for much cheaper. A good Wayland Expedition XL 500 for 1 person is USD 2437. And the Amazon II Expedition for 2 persons is even cheaper at USD 2309... Unlike the Kleppers, their prices includes most features and accessories.
The brand Nautiraid (France) also makes very good military grade kayaks, but their designs are unique and slightly different from other brands. Nautiraid is a bit less expensive than Klepper if one counts accessories. Also maybe a bit lighter. They make beautiful boats. (Nautiraid also makes folding boats that are worth checking out such as the The Coracle. The price of a medium size Coracle - which fits 2 persons - is USD$ 3800. Available in the USA through sedapaddlesports.com).
All of the above (Klepper, Wayland, Long Haul, Nautiraid) are relatively similar in concept (classic wood frames, quick setup) and also equivalent in quality (they sell to the armies). All are heavy duty, very reliable and quite similar in price, except Wayland being about twice cheaper than the others.
Feathercraft (Canada) makes very good expedition kayaks from around CAD 5000 to 8000. They take a little more time to mount than most other brands. They are expensive but they are the best folding kayak for the sea, the speed, the light weight... They have no serious concurrent when sea performance comes into account. Their folding kayaks are as close as possible to hard shell sea kayaks.
Trak (Canada/Philippines) makes only one model for CAD 3700 plus taxes and fees. It is an interesting design, close to Feathercraft. The brand is relatively new. The boat is good and fast. It is heavier that other brands and lacks safe (expedition) features.
Folbot (USA) has the best value and very good designs. Their Cooper model is comparable to the Feathercraft of the same size. It is a good cheaper alternative. They also have a line of wider boats that is unique. These wide kayaks are more stable. They are truly excellent all around options for North America, for fishing or photography. They are light, easy to mount, safe even on rough water. Their Yukon model is 13' and is one their best sellers, preferred by many wild life enthusiasts. (They financial situation is unstable right now in 2015. The company has a very long history but has been changing hands recently. The brand is loved by a community of users.)
Pakboats (USA) also offers excellent value. Models start around USD 1000 and good expedition models are close to USD 1600, plus taxes and extras. In Canada the Pakboat XT-17 is CAD 2600 in Toronto at Keroboats. It is a very good "all in one" boat. It can be converted from 1 person to 2 persons. It is rigid and safe. Pakboats might be a bit more rugged and better made than Folbot. Their designs are really different from most other brands. The top deck attaches with velcro and can be easily removed which makes these boats very easy to pack/unpack. (Pakboats also make foldable canadian canoes for USD$ 2000 to 2400 plus taxes and fees - in Canada CAD$ 2750 for a 16' canoe. Nautiraid - see above - is the only other brand in the world making foldable canoes - with a slightly more rigid hull.)
Oru Kayak (USA) is a new and creative concept. The kayaks are foldable like a Japanese paper origami. They sell a small 12' for USD 1250 and an interesting 16' expedition model package for 2225. They look cool but I wonder how durable they can be. For sure less safe and less durable than any other model. I would not rely on them for anything serious, but they are really fun and worth checking out.
Advanced Elements (USA) does very decent inflatable boats. Inflatables are good for white water and recreative activities. There are other decent brands for inflatables but this is not the purpose of this article.
In comparison to folding boats, hard shell boats can be quite pricy as well. The high end of hard shell fiber glass kayaks are above CAD$ 4000. Sometimes even twice as more. Plastic models are available around CAD$ 2000 (plastic is more resistant to shocks but can loose its shape under the heat). There are many good brands for hard shells, such as Necky, Boreal Design and so on. This is not the purpose of this article.
A word about Canadian canoes with a hard shell. The tough but very heavy ones (35 kg) are above CAD 1000. A super light one, more fragile but very well made, would be around CAD$ 3200. Sourisriver.com makes an excellent canoe 16' long and as light as 18 kg.