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Submitted: 05-24-2014 by TWM
First - this is a folding kayak, made to make storage and travel much easier than with a standard hard shell boat. Because of these advantages, it certainly loses some of the ruggedness possessed by the hard shells. You won't want to be trying to scoot over deadfalls in the river, or run it up onto the cement at the landing. But, if you are buying a folding kayak, then you are aware of this and recognize that any brand of folding boat will trade the same qualities.
Although the hull is very tough, you still must be careful to avoid sharp objects - I found this out the hard way, taking a shortcut over a mudflat at high tide which was littered with oyster beds. Good news though - duct tape (inside and out) is a great temporary fix, and the company was nice enough to patch it permanently for me when I got back to dry land.
I got the Cooper over the Kiawah, due to its load capacity, and the ability to haul lots of gear. This is a really fast boat, and when I paddle it, fully loaded for an overnight trip, I constantly have to wait for the rest of the group to catch up, which isn't a bad thing.
The set up takes about 20-25 minutes, once you have the routine down. Packing the boat for a long trip is pretty simple, as long as you have the proper dry bags to make the best use of space. The zippers give great access to both the bow and stern. Down side here is that once zipped up, you must inflate the sponsons, which stretch the skin, and aid in flotation. To access your gear, you must deflate the sponsons and the re-inflate after zipping back up, or you will have an incredibly hard time zipping them up.
This boat is a little difficult to brace with your thighs, because the cockpit is very shallow. An add on are hip/thigh pads, which aid in bracing and thus help the stability greatly. Stay away from the seat upgrade on this boat, as it will put you even higher in the cockpit, making bracing even more difficult.
I am 6'1" and 180 lbs for reference. Other than sitting a little high in the boat, the rest of it fits very well. I have paddled this boat on multiple overnight trips, and it has done incredibly well. On these trips it was subject to high surf, due to a tropical storm in Florida, which I successfully completed a surf landing on the beach. Another occasion I paddled it all day in a soaking rain, sometimes incredibly heavy, on the French Broad River south of Asheville, NC. On both occasions, the amount of water which entered my boat was very minimal, and most likely due to my skirt, which is only nylon - not neoprene. I was quite pleased with this outcome.
I have also portaged this boat 500 yards or more, fully loaded with at least 80lbs of gear, and it does very well. It will most definitely sag a bit, but it holds up to all the added weight quite well. I added my own pvc and rope carry handles to the existing ones, as the ones attached are not large enough to get more than two fingers through.
The rudder option for this boat works very well when you have an empty boat, it is easy to raise and lower, as well as control with the foot braces. Once you add a lot of gear to the stern, the ropes that connect to your foot pegs seem to get stuck on the gear, unless you are incredibly careful in how you pack it. I usually leave the rudder off on most trips.
When you have limited storage space, or want to pack your boat in to a remote location, this boat is fantastic. Very seaworthy, high capacity for gear, lightweight for the size, and quick on the water.
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