One of the outdoor activities my wife and I enjoy is kayaking. We’re not hardcore kayakers doing week long open ocean trips. We mostly enjoy mountain and coastal lakes, estuaries and meandering rivers. Over the years we’ve owned a number of Prijon and Eddyline flat water kayaks and I’ve built both a wood strip and a marine plywood kayak.
When we started Compact Camping Concepts, we wanted to find kayaks that would compliment our trailers. I started researching and testing various “boats in a bag”. My goal was to find suitable kayaks that we could pack inside the trailer when traveling verses strapped on top. I searched for good stability, decent tracking, reasonable speed, and with a price under $1,000.
“Boats in a bag” generally fall into two categories; skin-on-frame and inflatable. I decided to focus initially on skin-on-frame boats. After test paddling a number of boats at demo days and some afternoon demo sessions, I purchased a 12’ Pakboat Puffin. It’s 12’2” long, 28” wide and weighs 23 lbs. It uses an anodized aluminum tubing frame, a PVC coat fabric skin, and air bladders between the frame and skin for flotation and to tension the skin. It also includes a comfortable inflatable seat.
One of the first things to appreciate is the weight. At half the weight of a hard-shell kayak, it’s a breeze to carry. On the water, it’s very stable. I find it great for photography and introducing someone new to kayaking.
In flat to mild conditions it tracks well and is a breeze to keep straight. Going downwind in 1-2’ rollers, I found it likes to weathercock some but didn’t require much effort to stay straight. Additionally, it has very little flex in situations such as crossing boat wakes or in rollers. One “unnamed” kayak brand I tried, literally conformed to every little ripple in the water, I couldn’t wait to get back to shore. You do pay some speed penalty, but for our kind of leisurely paddling and scenery watching, you don’t really notice it. Since my plan isn’t to use it in particularly rough conditions where a spray skirt is necessary, I did a little sewing on the top deck to enlarge the cockpit opening.
Overall, the Puffin proved to be a great kayak and it doesn’t hurt that I can toss it in the back of my Miata to go kayaking.