“A modern inflatable boat certainly ticks a lot of boxes for those looking for a compact, easy to store and transport canoe or kayak.”
Canoes and kayaks are not always the easiest things to store or transport and unless you live literally on the riverbank or shoreline then you’re probably going to need a vehicle with a roof rack, or a trailer, to get your boat to the water, so difficult if you don’t drive or have access to a car. And not everyone lives in a location with an outdoor, or garage storage space. If you live in a one bedroomed fourth floor flat for instance then owning a sixteen-foot sea kayak is going to prove problematical! But all is not lost if you long to be a paddler but are encountering one of the above, or similar, problems. There could just be a folding, or inflatable canoe or kayak solution for you just waiting to be discovered.
Skin and Bones
Folding kayaks have been around now for over a century and are a direct descendant of the original Inuit kayaks made from animal skins stretched over frames made from bones or timber. The first real modern folding kayak was built by a German student called Alfred Heurich way back in 1905. Heurich called it the Delphin and paddled his folding creation on the Isar River. The Delphin had a bamboo frame with a sailcloth hull stretched over it. It could be folded up and carried in three bags, each weighing less than 4.5 kg. A year after his building his first boat Alfred took out a patent on the Delphin design. The name that really stands out in the world of folding kayaks, even to this day is that of Klepper. Johannes Klepper, whose factory was at Rosenheim in Germany, really made commercially successful. Klepper kayaks were very popular for their compact size and ease of transport. Klepper’s Faltboot was introduced in 1906. During the Second World War folding boats were utilised by the military, in particular by special forces, and one such mission, by a group of Commandos, that later became known as the Cockleshell Heroes, was later immortalised in film.
Is a Folding Kayak or Canoe For Me?
The modern folding boat is available in both kayak or canoe style designs and usually has a collapsible frame made of some combination of wood, aluminium and plastic, and a skin made of a tough fabric with a waterproof coating. Many have integral air chambers built into their hulls, making them extremely buoyant, even when swamped. They can be packed down and transported reasonably easily although they do usually weigh in on the heavy side, so it can be hard work to haul them about if you’re on your own. They can be stored on public transport, and planes, fairly easily, and they usually have an impressive ability to stow and carry kit, which makes them a popular choice for longer, multi-day style expedition paddling. There are also single seated, lightweight kayaks available now, which can be packed up and carried in a bag on your back, just like a rucksack making travelling too, and between paddling venues easy. The downsides of folding boats are the price, these are beautiful pieces of design and engineering and that comes at a premium, the other downside is that many designs can take a reasonably long time to assemble and disassemble, so not ideal if you just want a quick blast up your local river after work. If, however, you have time on your hands and want to paddle something that has a unique feel and has been really crafted then a folding boat might well be what you’re looking for.
In the past inflatable canoes and kayaks were little better than the cheap ‘seaside’ style inflatable toys you’d find at many beachside resorts and their performance and build quality was in a similar class to the good old rubber ring too. But in recent years inflatable craft have really come of age and there is now a flotilla of excellent designs, built of tough robust materials that will deliver a real paddling experience that’ll have you floating on air, rather than feeling flat. Inflatables come in both canoe and kayak designs and in all different shapes and sizes, from short fun boats designed to play in the surf or take on the challenges of moving water, to longer, sleeker craft with rigid bottoms, designed for touring over longer distances.
Is an Inflatable Canoe or Kayak For Me?
A modern inflatable boat certainly ticks a lot of boxes for those looking for a compact, easy to store and transport canoe or kayak. For this reason, they’re becoming increasingly popular amongst general outdoor enthusiasts, such as caravan and motor-home owners, looking to add a little extra adventure and fun to their trips. They’re great for taking to the water with kids too. You can play in the ocean waves, get up close to wildlife or just use it as a glorified diving platform. Inflatable boats are usually constructed from tough fabric skin with a series of inflatable chambers, or baffles. Once these are inflated using a pump they form the structure of the craft. Some designs have rigid sections of foam that fit in to stiffen the hull and further increase performance. The absence of any internal frame means that the inflatable option comes in much lower on the scales than its folding counterpart and they tend to be a lot cheaper too. But beware you do get what you pay for with inflatable canoes & kayaks and those bargain-bucket blow-up boats are still lurking out there, and our advice would be to steer clear and invest a little bit more in a decent make and model for a much more enjoyable time on the water.