Two Letters Re: A Folding Kayak as a Survival Vehicle

Today’s submission on Kayaks as survival vehicles is good but the statement, “Often in a hard shell boat the majority of your effort is spent simply paddling, trying to keep the boat upright!” isn’t really accurate. It might be true of some sporty river kayaks but certainly not of modern hard-shell sea kayaks.

A number of years ago I spent three days kayaking among several islands in Puget sound. It was a guided trip and except for one time on a placid river, it was my only time in a kayak.  I found our tandem kayaks remarkably stable in the water. Because of the way their chines are designed, tipping the boat causes greatly increased buoyancy on the “down” side of the boat, keeping it from going over.  As novices we had no trouble remaining upright, even near shore in a squall with 2-to-3 foot breaking waves.

My only real point is that I wouldn’t discount a hard kayak for fear of its stability.  Also, I’m not certain how much I want my boat to “move as a living organism” given stories like this.

Unlikely, I know, but I doubt a folding kayak would have fared as well. – Matt R.


Sir: I agree with Jan B. that a folding kayak has great possibilities as a survival vehicle.  My own interest in them goes back to a Life magazine cover story from the 50s.  Dr. Hannes Lindemann crossed the Atlantic in a 17′ Klepper equipped with makeshift outriggers made from auto inner tubes.  Klepper is the oldest and still the top of the folding kayak line.  Nautiraid, built in France, is similar but less well known.  Both have been used by special ops units around the world.  (Milspec kayaks are available to civilian purchasers.) The main difference between these European kayaks and the current Folbots, which are made in the USA, is the frame.  Folbots are aluminum and plastic.  Kleppers and Nautiraids are wood.  I prefer wood because I can replace broken parts.  YMMV.  Folbots are serviceable entry-level boats.  I believe Feathercraft still offers more refined aluminum-frame kayaks.  Repair kits would include patching materials for the hull and short sections of aluminum  tubing (on both aluminum and wood boats!) to splint broken stringers.

I would suggest buying two identical kayaks, ideally doubles that are fitted for single paddlers.  I currently own a Nautiraid single but plan to purchase a double as soon as I find one I can afford.

Suggested reading:  Complete Folding Kayaker by Ralph Diaz; Alone At Sea – A Doctor’s Survival Experiments of Two Atlantic Crossings in a Dugout Canoe and a Folding Kayak by Dr. Hannes Lindemann; Cockleshell Heroes by C. E. Lucas Phillips, (in which WWII British commandos use folding kayaks to attack German ships.) Regards, – Randy in Maine


With regards to Jann’s article on folding kayaks, I would like to mention a kayak design that many people are not aware of. After taking a 4-day class on kayak rolling, I felt that there had to be a better kayak design that didn’t force you to sit in one position for hours (which is bad for your back), wasn’t so tippy, and had a storage area that didn’t make you crawl out of the cockpit to reach it. I wondered if there was a catamaran-type kayak and after a web search found it at

It allows for many riding positions and is stable enough to stand up in. Two adults and a child can fit in its huge cockpit. It has many times more storage space than any other kayak. It is the best kayak for fishing big fish because a regular kayak can be dragged until the rider paddles to shore to finish reeling. With the Wavewalk’s huge cockpit you simply scoot forward which points the nose down and creates drag. People put all kinds of custom attachments on them like umbrellas and motors. As far as survival kayaking goes, I think it’s the ultimate!

Respectfully, – Erik M.