Skin Durability

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Skin Durability

Post by Kathie »

Have canoed and kayaked for many years. Just starting the search for a folding kayak. Will be doing both lakes and rivers so my concern/question is about skin material durability. What happens if I scrape over a rocky bottom? Looking to do some fly in trips and would carry a repair kit so how hard would it be to do a skin repair in the field? Hoping of course that I don't rip a big hole! Thanks for any and all advice!

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by Jeremiah »

Welcome Kathie!

The problem with rocks is that they could cause damage to the frame, not just the hull. Some people put padding (closed cell foam for example) between the frame and hull. Many folders have rub strips attached to protect the hull in the area of the frame but that might not be enough to keep the frame out of harm's way. Folding kayaks aren't fragile but I believe the general rule is that they shouldn't be used in rivers above a class II.

I'm not sure how you feel about inflatable kayaks but they might be a good option for your intended use. They should be less prone to damage in rivers provided you get one with a durable skin. There are many things to consider. In your introduction you mentioned shoulder problems. You certainly wouldn't want to get a folding kayak that is difficult to assemble. The good thing is that you came to a great place to get help with your decision as there are many people here that are knowledgeable and generous with their time.

Good luck!

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by chrstjrn »

Folding kayaks used to be the primary boat used for white water kayaking. PakCanoes are still designed to handle white water far above Class 2. That said, a fabric-based hull is a fabric-based hull. They are tough, but not impregnable. They tend to do fairly well with impact, less well with friction, and not so well with sharp objects.
Chris T.
~'91 Klepper A2 w/ BSD schooner rig.
'64 Klepper Passat/Tradewind and T12 restoration projects.
Non-folding: Early '90s Old Town Canoe.
Previously owned '04 Pakboat Puffin II and '05 Swift (prototype), as well as an '84 Hobie 16.

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by overland »

I don't know about other brands, but I and some friends recently took Pakboats on a river trip in Alaska. These were canoes, but PakBoat also sells kayaks of similar construction. In our experience the hulls are very tough. There are wear strips on the bottom of these boats--along the keel and chines, and in one case, over the whole bottom. These were not damaged at all by sliding over rocks, pulling up on stony shores, etc. We were very impressed. The boats also handled well. They have a little more flexibility than rigid hulls.

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by mje »

A folding boat should be fine for Class I, II, and maybe short stretches of Class III white water. Beyond that I'd paddle an inflatable. Hypalon and Urethane hulls can easily take impacts with rocks.
Michael Edelman Webmaster


Re: Skin Durability

Post by Kathie »

Thanks for all the advice. Will look at inflatables also. My biggest problem is here in southwest Missouri there are no dealers. When I get my search narrowed down as far a brand I plan to take a road trip to look at them.

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by Jake »

Another thought might be to look around for a used lightweight folder that already has a couple of patches from previous sharp encounters. This doesn't reflect on the quality of the boat nor its performance but a patch or two will certainly affect the price in your favor and when your boat "touches" another sharp rock at speed ....well, why care about another patch? At that point, it just adds to the boat's character. :)

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by Alv »

I will add a couple of comments about materials etc. I disagree a little with Michael's comment. For serious wilderness use, ease of field repair is important, and I believe that PVC is the easiest to repair. Appropriate adhesives are easy to come by, and a riverbank repair can be accomplished in minutes.

A closed cell foam pad between skin and frame increases abrasion resistance a lot. 1/4", 4 pound density polyethylene foam is a good choice. A high quality boat outfitted with a foam pad will take a lot of abrasion without getting damaged.

Loading your canoe or kayak for a river trip with some whitewater, you should take care to place your gear so that no hard corners press against the bottom. Such a corner will create an abrasion spot.

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Re: Skin Durability

Post by KerryOnKayaks »

I've owned 6 folders and have taken them in all kinds of waters including moderate rocky whitewater streams. Though I have scuffed up the bottoms on a couple of them, it was never enough to need patching. Since the hulls flex they tend to bounce off rocks though they can get hung up on gravel and sand bars.

As for overall toughness, I bought our first Pakboat (an XT-15) from a backcountry fishing guide who used their Pakboats for trips on wilderness rivers from Alaska to Patagonia. I've had to do two patches in 14 years of using folders, one from puncturing a sponson by assembling a seat strut wrong and one from leaving a sponson inflated on a hot day which caused it to rupture. I also added an extra rub strip on the keel of my first Feathercraft, which was easy to do. Such repairs or modifications are easy and quick.
Feathercraft Wisper
Pakboat Quest 135
Pakboat Puffin 12
Pakboat Swift 14
Greenland SOF
P & H Easky 15LV
Curtis Lady Bug solo canoe
Feathercraft Kahuna
Feathercraft K-1 Expedition
Pakboat XT-15


Re: Skin Durability

Post by CanvasClipper »

KerryOnKayaks wrote:I've owned 6 folders and have taken them in all kinds of waters including moderate rocky whitewater streams. Though I have scuffed up the bottoms on a couple of them, it was never enough to need patching.
The one and only time I took my Greenland II down my local river (class 1 to 111), I got a small nick in the hull, broke a chunk off the bottom of the aft keel section and seriously bent three or four aft longerons.

The nick was easily fixed with Folbot's excellent field repair kit and I did not bother with the broken keel piece other than sand the edges down so as not the create abrasion points.

Repairing the longerons took months, however, as I scoured local aluminium suppliers for tubing of the correct diameter (ordering new pieces from Folbot was way, way too expensive). There was reasonable fun learning how to drill rivet holes an small diameter tubes and then riveting them with a lousy, cheap rivet gun.

Lesson learned and I never used the Folbot in whitewater again.

In case you're wondering, the damage was done shooting a deep, strong flume *through* a cut in a weir. :shock: She flexed nicely down the flume but the stern got pummelled as we paddled out. So, yes, the fault was entirely mine, not the boat's.

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