Page 1 of 3

Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 11:58 am
by siravingmon
The short version (after 5 assemblies and one 4 hour outing)

What a great kayak. I really, really like it. It’s so light and compact to carry packed or unfolded, handles wind and waves well ( up to 15 knots and 4 feet last Saturday out by the point), tracks well, turns and edges easily, accelerates to surf small wind waves well and is fast for a sub 14 foot kayak, with very low paddling effort required at cruising speeds. Shame assembly takes quite a long time but I hope it’ll get quicker.

Long version

The Quest 135 comes in a good quality shoulder bag and measures 31 x 16 x 9 inches folded up, by far the most compact kayak when folded of those I own. It weighs just under 30 pounds, and when assembled it’s a measured 23 inches wide and just over 13’ 9 “. The light weight and ‘goldilocks’ dimensions were why I bought it. The black skin of the hull is in double sided polyurethane (PU) underneath, single sided on the sides and is very, very supple but appears quite strong and abrasion resistant, while the deck is made of a lightweight, coated fabric of some kind (nylon with PU for the coaming rim?)
Pics here ... aWGm6CjvAE

The Quest comes with a very comfortable clip in hammock seat which I fitted once only (in my lounge), as it raises your bottom 2 or 3 inches above the hull – I replaced the seat with a very comfortable foam pad (see pics) which sits on the relatively small diameter keel (5/16”) (Edit 2017: as they no longer make the 135 I've gone back to the hammock to minimise stress on the hull, lowering the seat height by fixing the hammock end clips with hose clips so I can get the seat ss low as I want). I ordered the optional Smarttrack footrests, which clip on to the cross ribs, are very rigid and sit low enough for me to rest the arch of my foot against them rather than the ball for better power transfer. They’re great! (The back band is comfortable too)
I ordered hip pads and thigh straps with mine, both of which attach to the deck and work well for a close fit for edging. I also ordered the nylon spray skirt which has an aluminium cross bar to stop pooling, but I thought the bar was a bit too long and it also hit my knees so I didn’t use it. As a result the skirt pooled water which inevitably got into the kayak when I tried to empty it. My large Feathercraft skirt fits so I’ll use that from now on. The coaming rim is substantial enough to support a sea sock too imho, but instead I just fitted the flotation bags from my Narak front and rear, as these are just the right size – I hope she’ll forgive me 
The standard pump deserves a mention as it’s small but double acting and very powerful. I got an optional cockpit cover for it too but haven’t used it yet

Next: Design and assembly

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 12:03 pm
by siravingmon
Design and assembly part 1
(2016 Edit: see also this thread for further tips including why you should consider fitting the sling seat and how to get it lower viewtopic.php?f=11&t=6379)
Like the XT series of Pakboats, and unlike every other folding kayak maker I’m aware of, the Quest uses an open ‘canoe’ style construction with a deck that is Velcroed on in the final assembly stages, albeit with additional flaps to help seal the deck. This makes packing easier and means you can go topless on calm summer days . There’s plenty of room fore and aft for a weekend’s camping equipment, too. Like the XT series, the Quest also uses aluminium tubing (mostly 5/16”) for gunwales, stems, rods, cross ribs, chines, coaming rim and keel, and 3 air tubes on each side. These are in PU and hung from the hull by cords on the gunwales on the Quest.
Unlike the XT series, however (at least as I understand it), the Quest frame doesn’t assemble outside the skin, doesn’t use ladder style side I beams and doesn’t have a lever tensioning system. It appears to use fewer parts to keep weight down while using clever design to still keep it pretty stiff, but this does make it more complex to assemble, imho, compared to my Fujita, which assembles completely outside the skin and then is slipped in, after which the rear deck slit is closed up (Velcro and dry bag like fold)
Next: design and assembly part 2

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 12:12 pm
by siravingmon
Design and assembly part 2

On the Quest, first the gunwales slide into channels along the top edges of the skin and are levered onto two short rod-end tubes (see pics) above the forward stem, which tensions the skin. These popped out on me during assembly once during the next step of adding the keel so I’m thinking of adding plastic ties (see pics) to fix them in place, unless the skin stretches enough for this not to happen again. Rearward gunwale travel is restricted at the stern end by a bolt with a nut on the stem, and I’ve fitted a longer bolt and extra nuts as a failsafe measure for extra peace of mind (see pics).

The keel, which has a joint near the middle, is next levered onto the stems. This was difficult and it bowed a lot the first few times I assembled it, as the skin was being stretched really tight, but it’s now getting easier (5th assembly) and I can now get it central on the skin for a straight keel run after attaching the 5 U shaped cross sections/ribs which clip to the keel and gunwales. Each rib to gunwale clip is locked tight with a twist lever mounted on each rib, while elastic bands and plastic hook clips locate the ribs on the keel. There are also two short keel-to-gunwale rods near the bow which are clipped in place after fitting the chines. All the clips require a firm push to get over the gunwales so there’s no chance of them coming off ever

After first inflating the lowest air tubes, the two chines are slid in between the lower 2 of the 3 air tubes on each side and rest against the outside of plastic sleeves on the ribs. I have to be careful each time I assemble it to place the air tubes carefully so that the chines don’t slip off the sleeves onto the ribs, as if they do slip off, you have to deflate the air tubes a bit and start over (edit: Alv from Pakboats told me the chines should go just under the sleeves, which is a lot easier to manage)

As I don’t use the seat provided, the final step for me is to attach the deck with its Velcro strips each side to the hull. This was very tight the first couple of times then got easier. End caps with sturdy grab handles and fabric flaps front and rear help ensure that the Velcro won’t come off at sea. There is a tubular arch in front of the coaming rim attached to the underside of the deck to help the deck shed water, and this is supported by two tubes, also attached to the deck, as are the backband, thigh straps and hip pads, all of which speeds up assembly a bit.

I’m still finding initial assembly quite complex and so it’s still taking me a while each time. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get it down to 30 minutes but for now it’s taken me around 50 minutes each time, about the same time my Narak takes me but twice as long as my Fujita. However, Ralph from Pakboats can do it in 20 minutes from trunk to sea and has kindly offered to talk me through it to see how I can speed up the process

I do think it’s a good idea to assemble the Quest and leave it assembled for a while before taking it to the water to assemble, as the skin does seem to stretch a wee bit and that makes assembly easier each time.

Next: disassembly

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 12:16 pm
by siravingmon

Very easy and quick. One of the nice things about the deck coming off and the air tubes being separate from hull (attached by cords) is that it dries very quickly, so when carrying it on your back to the car/train/ferry etc it doesn’t weigh much more than when it was dry. Having a separate deck makes it very easy to wash it thoroughly in fresh water (bath) after each use.

Next; first paddling experience

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 12:21 pm
by siravingmon
First Paddling experience

Huge smiles! I thought it’d be a bit like a cross between my 14 foot F1 and my 13 foot Fujita, but I was immediately very impressed by how well it accelerates and how little effort was required to cruise with my buddy in his 16.5 foot English style hardshell. It’s a lot faster than my Fujita and easier to paddle than my F1 (haven’t clocked it yet on GPS to see how fast I can get it to go). The glide is ok, similar to my F1, and it tracks very well while still turning easily with paddle strokes and or edging , unlike my Fujita, which has a lot more rocker and starts turning as soon as you stop paddling it. Primary stability (with my foam seat) is better than all but my Incept, and it was pretty much unaffected by winds and waves from most quarters, unlike my Fujita, which is even more manoeuvrable but also quite sensitive to winds and waves from the rear quarter. Being so light and buoyant, the Quest seems to bob over small waves rather than cutting through them, more than my F1 with it’s deep vee bow, but not more than my friend’s longer hardshell next to me did. It did tend to weathercock and broach a bit in following seas with 10-15 knot winds and small chop, but this was very easy to correct, easier than my F1. If anything, maybe the Quest feels waves hitting side on a bit more than my F1, perhaps because it’s relatively high sided or slightly lighter and shorter, but it never felt unsafe (looking forward to side surfing in it), although I’m sure my F1 is better is really bad seas (the F1 seems to just shrug off any kind of wind and waves). The Quest has enough volume at the ends not to nose dive at all in the bigger 4 foot waves I experienced out by the point, unlike my Fujita, and also held a line down these waves better than my F1. I tried sailing it briefly with my Pacific Action sail: it was a blast sailing on a beam reach with me leaning out to one side while paddling but never felt like it was going to tip over (but I really need to install a deck plate for a sail). I didn’t try to roll it as I’ve just had the flu, but it is by far the easiest kayak I’ve ever tried to side scull, meaning I could get away with really bad technique to smile at the camera J (see pics). Hard to tell if much water came in through the Velcro while I was side sculling, as I emptied a fair bit into the cockpit from trying to get it off the spray skirt, but in any case it wasn’t enough to be a problem. Although the thigh brace straps are connected to the deck via the deck ridge bar at the front and a buckle at the back, there was no indication that the deck Velcro would ever come adrift, even with aggressive edging. Lastly, it felt pretty stiff, with just a bit of give to take the brunt out of oncoming waves (a little bit softer than my F1 or Fujita but way stiffer than my 18 foot Narak).

Overall I’m over the moon with it as it means I now have a kayak that’s light and compact enough to easily carry on ferries and trains, even when wet, short enough to be fun and easy to paddle, but also seaworthy enough for me not to worry if a nice day takes a turn for the worst when I’m round the back of Capri or coming back across the shipping channel from Procida. I can now think seriously about that trip around the island of Ponza (train then hydrofoil to get there) J. It’s also fast enough that I can keep up with my hardshell buddies unless they’re trying really hard in calm waters (as I’m only 150 lbs they’re all stronger than me and in longer boats).
The end :-)

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 5:24 pm
by Apathizer
Thank you very much for the detailed review. While I'm more interested in the Quest 155 model, it's still very helpful to get some first-hand info on the 135.

You already partially answered my first questions - what size are you? If the 135 is a good fit for you at 150 pds, it sounds like the 155 would be a great all around boat for me. I'm 5'9", about 160 pds: it seems like the Quest 155 would have enough cargo space and stability for touring, but it's probably light and nimble enough for day paddling.

Based on your review it does seem that Pakboats was a bit disingenuous with their claim that (paraphrase) 'assembly is a breeze'. I seem to remember them saying that the frame structure is simplified compared to the XT series, and assembly is much easier. While the overall frame structure does appear simpler, assembly doesn't seem significantly faster than the XTs. By most accounts XT assembly takes about 20-30 min; the Quest seems about the same.

Overall it sounds like a great boat. I'm tempted to get the Quest 155, but usually wait a year or two to get new models. New models usually have a few quirks/flaws that are later resolved. It doesn't sound like the Quest 135 has any serious flaws, but it seems there are a few minor design issues that can be improved.

Thanks again for the detailed review. :D Hopefully someone with the Quest 155 will post detailed info for that model.

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 5:35 pm
by siravingmon
At your weight and height. you'd fit the 135 just fine, as there is still lots of freeboard for me and the ride is pretty dry. I'm 5' 7 and a half but very long in the back. There's quite a lot of room fore and aft for dry bags instead of float bags too, at least enough for a weekend, even for people with longer legs than mine (not difficult). I think it depends whether you place more importance on luggage capacity (155) or fun and ease of paddling (135)
As far as assembly goes, Ralph was perplexed by how long it took me, so I'll report back when I manage to get it down to 20 minutes

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 2:50 pm
by siravingmon
6th assembly and got it down to a bit over 35 mins working a quickly as I could. I'm sure the skin must have stretched a bit as it's definitely getting easier, although rushing meant the keel wasn't quite straight at the stern. The plastic ties I've fitted to the bow rods mean I don't have to worry about them slipping out during assembly, which also helped. Once the skin has stretched a bit more I think 30 minutes is acheivable.

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 4:06 pm
by Jeremiah

Thanks for taking the time to pass on your impressions. It looks like Pakboat has reverted back to how the Pakboat Swift assembled, with a few alterations. I didn't care for sliding the gunwale tubes in the sleeve and then removing them...a bit of a pain. Other then that, it was an easy kayak to assemble.

I liked the looks of the Quest but was dissapointed in the depth of the cockpit (going by the Pakboat numbers). I felt the Swift was high-sided and felt like sitting in a canoe. Am I wrong to think the Quest would feel the same? What is your feeling compared to other kayaks in your fleet?

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 4:48 pm
by siravingmon
From the numbers I thought it might be a bit high sided too, and the sides are higher than my F1, but it's about the same as my Narak at cockpit level. When I was out in it last Saturday it was pretty windy. Forecast was for 14 knots gusting to 18 and a yachtie we know who broke his boom said he measured it at 20 max. Despite this the weathercocking was minimal, less than my hardshell buddy who had to correct with sweep strokes. I was also expecting it to get blown sideways a fair bit but I was watching for this and it also wasn't noticeable. If you look at the link to the pics I posted (in the lee of the cliff so no wind when the photos were taken) you can see the that its fairly low in the centre as the kayak bends under your weight. My theory (and perhaps nobody else's :)) is that the vee has more effect on single chine SOF kayaks as the skin flexes in, and this helps stop the kayay from being blown sideways so much. When I tried sailing breifly on a reach I was having to lean out as much as possible to keep the kayak even as it was blowing quite hard, but weirdly enough it was actually weathercocking under sail in those conditions. I really didn't expect that!
As I mentioned earlier, out by the point where it was rougher, it felt waves side on more than my F1, but not to the extent of feeling unsafe - it actually feels very buoyant in these conditions. I'd add that my F1 really is astounding beam on to heavy chop - I once held my paddle above my head to annoy my hardshell friend in such conditions in my F1, while he had to do low braces a lot in the breaking beam-on chop, despite the fact that his boat handling skills are better than mine :lol:
With the standard seat removed the Quest 135 feels like I expect a kayak to feel. I haven't tried it with the hammock as I like being as low as possible, but I've never paddled a canoe.

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 10:33 pm
by DLee
Simon that's a great review. Keep 'em coming as you get more time in the boat. I'm guessing the Kayaksailor will continue to fit on this model. With what you've experienced so far it sounds like sailing this little boat could be a lot of fun.



Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 11:30 pm
by siravingmon
Hi Dennis. Thanks for that. I think the 1.4 m Kayaksailor would be way too much sail for the Quest. My PA sail is only 1 m and is very low to the deck on a beam reach and even then it was a lot of sail in last weekend's stiff breeze. Remember the Quest 135 is very light and only 23" wide, and I'm only 150 lb. I also prefer a narrow, very forward catch when paddling and use a high angle stroke with as much hip rotation as I can muster, so need a small sail mounted well forward for paddle sailing
I'm currently talking to Mick about a 0.7 m Flat Earth Code Zero sail which I think would be about right for me for paddle sailing with this kayak. I plan to order one in a week when I'm back from my holidays. I'll have to make a plywood deck plate for it as there are no deck tubes near the bow on the Quest

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Wed May 29, 2013 8:19 am
by Jeremiah
Simon, thanks again. Reviews like yours are very helpful to potential buyers who don't get a chance to "test drive" a kayak. Have fun!

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Wed May 29, 2013 12:06 pm
by Grian
Ooh, a new boat! 8) Sounds like this completes your fleet nicely, or is that a silly suggestion :twisted:

What paddle are you using in those photos?

Re: Packboats Quest 135 first impressions

Posted: Wed May 29, 2013 4:06 pm
by paraglia
Very good review. Unless I missed it, I was wondering why you aren't using the stock seat. According to Pakboats it's the most comfortable seat in the industry. It's usually not a good sign if the seat gets replaced for something else by an owner.