What we're about
This group aims to bring together people who have folding kayaks/canoes or inflatable kayaks/canoes/packrafts, with a view to getting out on day trips and longer expeditions. My name is Tim, and I have a folding kayak that fits into a backpack, which I have used on many adventures. The main advantage of such portable boats is in being able to jump on and off public transport with them, thereby avoiding the need for cars, roof racks and car shuffles (not to mention the ease of storing them at home, compared to regular hard-shell kayaks and canoes). I have taken my folding kayak out on multi-day camping expeditions along the Goulburn, Glenelg and Murray Rivers, and I often take it out on the Yarra River by jumping on a train to Fairfield or some other place near the river, and then paddle back in to the city. Such kayaks are usually slower than a hard-shell kayak, but they allow much greater freedom in some interesting ways.
You may be aware that running a Meetup webpage for a group with up to 50 members costs $120 USD per year (and $180 USD per year for groups that have more than 50 members). In the interests of fairness we believe that all members should share this cost, so we ask $5 as an annual membership fee from each member. This fee is paid to the group organiser's bank account.
We do have a few group rules:
1. You will need to own your own boat. This can cost as little as about $100 for a new one, or even less for a used one. More information about boats can be found below in the FAQ section.
2. You will need to be responsible for your own safety. We're all friends with a common interest in kayaking/canoeing. There is no tour guide, nor do we charge any tour fee for any of our outings.
3. Generally we do not allow members or guests to attend a multi-day expedition before they have been out with us on a day trip.
4. Attendance on an outing is at the discretion of the trip organiser.
LIFE JACKETS (or Personal Floatation Devices - PFD's)
If you can not swim, definitely wear one!! If you're a long way from the shore, wear one. If you can swim, I would recommend that you have one on hand anyway. I believe it is law that you should have one. However, I note that we often paddle on the Yarra, where many school rowing clubs paddle without life jackets. I am not sure what the rule is for those guys, but in any case, I often paddle without wearing my life jacket when I am in a calm narrow river like this, but I generally have it on board.
Please check to see if your paddle floats. If it doesn't, we suggest that you wrap something buoyant around it or stuff something into it to make sure it does. I have stuffed some polystyrene foam into the tubing of my paddle for this reason. We have seen how easily a paddle can be lost in a river, and discovered just what it means to be "up the creek without a paddle"...
I have snapped the paddle blade off a paddle during an expedition, and we have seen others do this too. It is surprisingly easy to do if you use your paddle as a pole to push your boat off a rock or sand bar. Unless you are carrying a spare paddle, this leaves you in a very difficult situation, particularly if you need to keep up with a group, or negotiate obstacles in white water with the typical agility that is required. You'd be far better off with wet arms or wet feet than to have a broken paddle, so if you do get stuck on a rock or shallow obstacle, my suggestion is that you try the following:
1. Try paddling your boat backwards
2. Try rotating your boat by stroking your paddle through the water
3. Try lifting your boat off the obstacle with your hands over the side (if you can reach the obstacle)
4. Get out of your boat and move it off the obstacle.
TRY TO AVOID USING YOUR PADDLE AS A POLE. THIS IS AN EASY WAY TO SNAP THE BLADE OFF.
Q. How much does a folding kayak cost?
A. New ones start at about $1000.
Q. How much does an inflatable kayak cost?
A. New ones start at about $100.
Q. Where can I get a folding kayak?
A. Generally through the internet. I am not aware of any Australian manufacturers of folding kayaks, and I have only found a couple of outlets for buying them in Australia, neither of which is in Victoria.
Q. Where can i get an inflatable kayak?
A. Usually Ray's Outdoors, Harvey Norman and Anaconda stock them. The internet is also loaded with heaps of inflatable kayaks and canoes. Generally the more you pay, the better the boat, but I have been quite surprised at how good some of the cheap ones are.
Q. Why would I buy a folding kayak if inflatable kayaks are so much cheaper?
A. Generally folding kayaks are faster and can carry more stuff below deck. However, inflatable kayaks have a number of advantages over the folding kayaks: beyond the price, they are generally more resilient in white water, particularly if you bash into a rock! They are generally lighter than the folding kayaks (especially if you get a packraft or other similarly compact model). They generally pack into a smaller bag (especially a packraft). Typically they can be set up much quicker than a folding kayak. (typically 5 minutes compared to about 25 minutes). They are much more widely available to purchase in Australia. Obviously the inflatable kayaks hold many advantages over the folding ones, and their two main disadvantages (speed and below-deck storage) are not major. Most inflatable kayaks can carry luggage above the deck height. Some are specifically designed to enable this, with tie-down loops, ropes and cargo nets being featured. A third reason you might prefer a folding kayak over an inflatable one is that the cheaper inflatable models often look like pool toys rather than kayaks. This is a pretty snobbish reason, but it does come up very often.
Q. What sort of kayak do you have?
A. I have a folding kayak and a couple of inflatable ones:
The folding kayak is a "Folbot Citibot". It weighs 11 kg and folds up into a packpack that is about the size of a large suitcase. Unfortunately Folbot ceased operating in 2017 due to a decline in sales. I believe another excellent American manufacturer called "Feathercraft" also went under in the same year.
I note that there are also a number of other brands of folding kayaks, such as Klepper, Oru Kayak, Packboats, Firstlight and Nautiraid.
My inflatable kayaks are:
"Advanced Elements Packlite". This kayak was only introduced last year, and features some very thin lightweight materials that enable the boat to be only 2 kg in weight, and fold up to something about the size of a football. It looks like a pool toy compared to my folder, but its portability is a huge advantage when you're not on the water. As for its performance on water, it is pretty good, but not as quick as the folder, and much slower than a hardshell. I bought this kayak through the internet, but I believe they are now stocked by Ray's Outdoors (and typically listed for about $500). The disadvantage with this boat is that it is quite fragile. I have punctured it a few times.
"Intex Explorer K2" - This is a cheap two seat model like the ones sold in Ray's outdoors. It goes ok. It weighs about 10 kg and folds up about the size of a medium suitcase. This boat also looks like a pool toy, albeit a big one, and is also slower than the folder, but it seems to be fairly resilient to damage.
Packraft - I have a home-made one of these, purchased as a kit from a US company called "DIY packraft". The materials were posted out, already cut in the US factory, but not joined together. The pieces had to be joined together using a welding iron, which I did myself. The boat paddles well and is quite light and portable, weighing about 2 kg. I believe it is tougher than my Packlite, but the assembly was a pretty big and tedious job, taking about 40 hours. Sealing all of the leaks was tedious too. One of these kits costs about $400. If you like making things then go for it, but if you just want to paddle, I would recommend spending $900 - $2,000 on a ready-made packraft. Alpacka is the industry standard brand, but there are some other brands that are slightly cheaper without appearing to be too bad in terms of quality. Kokopelli, PacKraft and Amfibio are a few brands that come to mind.
I should note that I recently took my packlite kayak on a four day solo camping expedition down the Goulburn River, which was a lot of fun. The very light weight and small size of the boat made the logistics much easier than my previous expeditions with my folding kayak. You can read about the trip (and see some pictures) here:
If you're impressed by that, wait till you read about Oscar Speck, who paddled a folding kayak 50,000 km from Germany to Australia in the 1930s:
SAMPLE GEAR LIST
Paddle (w/ Leash if desired)
PFD (Personal Floatation Device - Life Jacket)
Sponge & Bailer
Mapcase: Maps, Charts, Guidebook Excerpts
Throw rope / Tow Belt
Deck Bag (Waterproof dry bag)
Recharge battery for phone (for multi-day trips)
Spare Camera Batteries & Memory Cards
Sunscreen, UV Lip Balm, Pain Reliever
Signal Flares (if going offshore)
Latrine Kit: Trowel, Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer
KAYAK REPAIR KIT
Containing emergency repair supplies and tools
Water Shoes / sandals
Gloves: Short Bicycling or Neoprene Wetsuit w/ Synthetic Liners
Hat: Baseball or Wide-brim
Tent w/ Ground Cloth, Extra Stakes
Rain Tarp, 10×10′, w/ Stakes (optional)
Torch / Headlamp, Spare Batteries
Book, Journal, Pen
Ziplock plastic bags
Food; (packed in drybags)
Stove w/ Fuel, Lighters;
Cookware w/ Handle
Eatware: Bowl, Mug, Dining Utensils
IN CAR FOR DRIVE HOME
Large Trash Bags for wet stuff
Cell Phone Charger