Submitted: 03-28-2008 by Brazilbrasil
I picked a Folbot Cooper up at the very end of their Sale at the beginning of the year. I have been meaning to share whatever information I could about the boatís characteristics, strengths and weaknesses for some time now but also wanted to get some time with the boat before making any blanket or uninformed opinions. I did quite a bit of research into folders but with the following criteria:
The Cooper won out as the best all around boat for my intended uses. It was significantly less expensive than other boats looked at which, of course, was a big consideration. It weighed in at 39 lbs (5 lbs more than advertised) but I can still stuff a pfd, a spray skirt, and some towels and shorts/t shirts into the bag and stay right at 50 lbs.
- The folding boat would be for occasional use. In other words, it will not be used as my main day boat or camper but it would on occasion serve in both capacities.
- The boat would have to fit under the 50 lb requirement for airline travel. Additionally, I would like the bag to hold pfd and spray-skirt to aid in padding and still stay under the 50 lb mark.
- I was not looking for variety of rolls, but I did want a boat that I could roll pretty easily with an extended sweep or a c to c type of roll.
- I did not want to deal with cloth hatches and would prefer to load the boat from the cockpit or by putting in zippers in the deck to access gear space for dry bags.
- Given the limited usage of the boat, I did not want to sink in a bunch of money on something that may be used 15 or 20 times a year.
- I also wanted to be able to carry some spare parts for field repairs if necessary. (The types of things I anticipated would be of course tears to the skin, bending of aluminum tubes and attachment points for the ďribsĒ (whether HDPE or C clamps style))
- And lastly I was not looking for a surf boat. I wanted a boat that could handle moderate wave action but had no intention of using it for intended rough water paddling even though I wanted and expected it to get me through it if necessary.
I liked the screw type tightening system at the rear to keep the skin nice and tight along with the two air bladders. I was able to significantly increase the overall stiffness of the boat with a couple of stainless steel pipe clamps on the tightening attachment which by default when you turn the screw would have some play inherent to it. I also got Folbot to add two more D rings at the bow and stern so I could run perimeter lines (a big plus in my opinion)
The cockpit is very large as compared to other boats and the spray skirt is not standard size. But I had no trouble rolling it, or locking myself in. Paddling was a very pleasant surprise as I had expected significant changes from a hard shell boat and while it was different, I donít feel that it detracted significantly or made paddling any more onerous. It handled very well in waves and chop; you definitely feel the water under you as the frame flexes more than a standard skin on frame. Turns were pretty crisp and I can balance brace it easily. I was able to get up to 5mph pretty quickly and could sustain 4 easily so it is not a sluggish boat by any means.
I know that they had replaced the skin with a more robust Hypalon skin, as well as introducing the tightening system to add rigidity to the boat and, while I never paddled an older Cooper, I canít imagine having a Cooper without them. You have the option to add more strips to the keel and chines but this does add more weight. (I might do that if I ever choose to sell it after I have beaten the heck out of it. I weigh 205 (today) I loaded it up to 275 lbs and while it settled a bit more in the water, I did not see any reduction in performance. (I was told privately that the 250 lb limit advertised was pretty conservative.) I doubt I even have 70 lbs worth of camping gear since I have gone as ultra light as possible.
One big criticism that I have heard is the C clips that are screwed into the frame that makes up each ďribĒ are not as robust as some other ways of making the frames. Comments have been made that these can break off or get loose and that they are just not as robust as the HDPE or wood version in some other folders. Perhaps, but I wonder if this is a half full to half empty glass sort of thing. I think an equal argument could be made that you can easily replace one item that you can carry with you instead of trying to replace an entire HDPE or wooden frame? Donít know. Ask me in a couple of years.
Another negative I have heard about is the seat. The stock seat comes with a flat back attached that flops down onto the seat if you are not leaning against it (It is a hard panel that rests against the rear of the coaming and sticks out above the cockpit). I ordered mine without the back panel altogether. What I have been able to do is use a paddle float as a back rest which works surprisingly well. This is a minor issue though and can easily be modified (the seat) with any number of options.
Once again I would like to reiterate that this boat is a great choice for me given the paddling conditions for which I intend to use it. Just like any other boat, it will not handle everything well. Will some of the other manufacturers folding boats over the years with the same usage last longer? Again I donít know even though you would think so due to heavier or more robust construction.
If I really concentrate now I can put it together in about 20 minutes. It is all color coded and shock corded so pretty much idiot proof (Unless you pull a bonehead move and put the stern end of the frame into the front end of the skin...donít ask me how I know this).
Something I should mention is that I took off the foam tubing that they put around the coaming. This was totally unnecessary in my book and served to allow the skirt to slide off much easier than not. Now the skirt really grabs and I feel much more confident it will stay put while rolling. The foam tubing is just like the foam tubing you get at home depot to wrap around pipes anyway so it can always be replaced.
The big improvements for me were the extra D rings at the bow and stern so I can run perimeter lines for safety, taking that seat back off so all I really have is a block that sits on the keel and chines and easily replaced and or modified, and oh yeah, one other thing I had them do: At
the stern, there is a piece of industrial Velcro on the deck (both the hook and loop) that sits about two or three feet from the stern on the
zipper flap. Since I did not have a chance to paddle the boat more than a few minutes prior to purchasing it, I wanted to be able to attach that
skeg that Feathercraft sells that wraps around the boat with straps. There was no place to attach the straps so a foot long piece of Velcro was sewn on to hold those straps in place. I haven't needed it or even tried it out yet as I have felt no extra work in a beam wind or waves (so far) but it is there if I ever feel I need it. Small easy modifications but in my opinion, elevated it to a more seaworthy craft.
Folbot has a forum for each of their products as well as general topics. There is a lot of good information to be gleaned from it to tweak your boat like the stops for the tightening system that I mentioned earlier.
Not going to insult your intelligence but just a reminder that the use of float bags and or a sea sock is highly recommended as there is no inherent flotation.
Sorry if this isnít a glowing 10 out of 10 review, even though I am giving the boat a 10 for my purposes and an 8 Ė 9 if I have to try and judge what others may use it for. I love my Folbot Cooper and plan to have it around for a good long time. Nothing beats having a boat in the back of the car that can be put together in less than 20 minutes, is surprisingly agile and fast for its stability, and is very comfortable all around. To me it looks like it is very well put together and the customer service from Folbot is legendary even though I havenít needed it due to there being nothing wrong with my boat at all. I donít think you could go wrong choosing this boat.