Expedition kit – Folbot Cooper folding kayak

The Folbot Cooper is a sea kayak which packs in a rucksack and travels in the boot of a Mini. The advert shows it carried by someone on a bicycle!

The craft weighs just 39 lbs, about the same as a three year old child because the frame is made from hollow aluminium tubing and the shell from a canvass upper and a rubber underside not dissimilar to a pair of Converse All-Stars.

Expedition craft

The folding kayaks each fit into individual rucksacks and stow neatly onboard a rib, which can be necessary to reach wilderness islands on the horizon from the Isle of Mull.

Folding kayaks are robust expedition craft used by NATO Special Forces and one kayak of a similar design was famously used by Hans Lindemann to cross the Atlantic in 1959.

He embarked from the Canary islands and, three months later when he shored in the West Indies, the world’s media took one look at him, then his boat and asked “But where did you sleep?” famously he answered “Between the crests of waves.”

Inuit mantra

Folding kayaks give Octane the ability to travel more lightly and to be more mobile. A liberating Inuit saying ‘live life like you are in a kayak’ is a good mantra for life on an island where simplicity is key.

Inuits from the past would be amazed at the technological progress made with the hunting craft design they first gave to the world.

Inuits first made their kayak frames from whalebone and stretched sealskin over the low set frame stitched together with sinew. The craft allows a hunter to approach his quarry silently.

20 minute wonder

The modern folding kayak equivalent has a modular aluminium frame that is assembled, with a little practice, in 20 minutes. A rubberised and abrasion resistant rubber underside and canvass deck, under tension when assembled, creates a taught and smooth exterior shape for minimum resistance through water.

Due to its low weight versus displacement ratio it is extremely buoyant at sea giving the craft a good load capacity for carrying expedition provisions.

Easy folding

Some paddlers prefer the rigidity, sleekness and sheen of fibreglass kayaks. They are a faster craft and superior in a race conditions however, for wilderness expeditions, I prefer folding versions for their load capacity and for their ease in accessing stowed kit.

A zip along the length of the forward deck provides easier access than the rubber deck hatches of fibreglass boats. Being lighter than a composite kayak but sharing a similar displacement (and aided by inflatable sponsons) the folding kayak weight to load ratio is extremely good. And, without the need for a kayak trailer, another advantage of folding kayaks is the ease of their transport – four easily fit in the back of a pick-up truck with their four owners in the cabin.

Zip it

Most usefully on an expedition, the Folbot deck zip, running the length of the boat, means that access to provisions, often under testing weather conditions, could not be easier. There are many Folbot kayak types but the Cooper, set up as it is for expeditions, is my craft of choice.

But beware, dragging the boat over sharp rocks and coral beaches is a no no.


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