Submitted: 01-09-2003 by Jim
I tried out many brands of folding kayaks, and chose the Feathercraft kahuna (with the regular size cockpit). I purchased the optional bow and stern hatches and rudder. The color is teal. I'll first talk about the deck's construction. Unlike cordura or other materials that are most often used by other manufacturers (and was previously used by Feathercraft), the deck is now made of Polytech which is 100% waterproof. A fabric texture is embossed into the Polytech deck, which gives the finish a fabric material look and feel. It fooled me! I had no idea that the fabric-look was embossed, but I'm not complaining! What I like about Polytech is that it does NOT stretch or shrink according to how wet or dry it is; unlike other material types. This means that putting the kayak together is no longer a hassle due to its frame having to fit into a too loose or too tight skin. As Feathercraft put it, "The fabric is completely waterproof and dimensionally stable." Unlike other materials, the inside of the kayak's skin stays dry; moisture does not weep through. Another thing, since the deck is made of Polytech, it dries amazingly fast. So you no longer have to wait forever for the kayak to dry before storing it folded. Unlike the other cordura kayaks, I have yet to experience the foul/moldy smell indicative of a kayak that needs a serious bath! All the seams are welded; there is no sewing or stitches to worry about (except at cockpit coaming). So the seams are also 100% waterproof. The deck is welded to the hull in a bomb-proof fashion, and these seams are also 100% waterproof. The hull is extremely durable and abrasion resistant. Just in case, the hull has extra rub strips installed over the keel and chine bars; which is standard. The Kahuna looks like a hardbody kayak, it is very sharp looking. There is no sagging of the deck or hull. I have no fear of the deck or hull getting torn or punctured with normal use. I do avoid mussel beds like the plague though; I even did when I owned a hardbodied kayak. I like the hatches, they help me assemble the kayak, since I have extra places to reach into for assembly. The first time I assembled my Kahuna it took me about an hour and 15 minutes. Now it takes me about 30 minutes. I could do it in about 25 minutes but I lubricate all joints with Bio-Shield T-9 and am very detailed oriented. After you assemble the Kahuna about 5-6 times, you can do it in your sleep. Unlike the K1 Expedition, the cross ribs of the Kahuna are made of injection-molded polycarbonate (K1's are made of High Density Polyethylene), and are very strong. I'm not sure of the advantages or disadvantages of either. The frame's tubing are shock corded, much like tent poles, and this makes assembly even quicker. It also helps with storage since you will know which tube mates with what. I like the adjustable foot braces, my feet (size 9) do not rub against the hull or press against the deck. More on the hatches: I store all of my gear in waterproof Sealine see-through bags. This adds addition flotation to my kayak and keeps my stuff dry when I choose to roll or if I get flipped over when hitting the surf. However, I have never felt threatened by surf, since the Kahuna is so predictable and easy to brace due to its intial and secondary stability. The hatches make it easy to get to the gear that I want without having to dig through the cockpit. It also helps to have a load plan, that way you know exactly where everything is. Not only are the hatches efficiently functional, but they also give the Kahuna a pleasant escape-into-the-wild allure. The Kahuna comes with starboard and port internal air-spoonsons located at the gunwales. This is to tighten the skin over the frame and adds extra stability and some flotation. I went to a boating supply store and purchased some extra shock-cord and clips and made extra deck rigging; two parallel lines for the "X-type" stern deck lines, and two "X-type" cross-over lines for the bow's parallel deck lines. This resulted in the bow and stern shock cords having a box with an "X" inside appearance [X]. I just found that it is better to hold my maps and handpumps that way. Due to weather-cocking potential, I never put anything more than my Sealine deck bag, deck compass (straps on deck bag), map, and handpump on the deck. The kayak will weather-cock in a moderate wind but the rudder will relieve this. When paddling, the Kahuna is very fast! Suprisingly so. I do not need or even use the rudder (except for weather-cocking). If you need to turn sharply, just put a little lean into it. Paddling against a river current is no problem. The seat is interesting. The seat actually sits on a sling, however the seat is one of the most comfortable non-aftermarket seats that I have tried. I do plan on getting a gel-seat (Kahuna comes with a foam seat) just because I'm spoiled. My only complaint is the installation of the cockpit single-piece figerglass coaming. A rubber skin is "sewn" onto the deck, and you must place the coaming over the cockpit opening, then the rubber skin is brought through the cockpit and is then tucked into a tight groove on the cockpit coaming piece. First you tuck in the bow, then the stern, then the rest. It is advisable to have the bow cross-ribs in place before trying this, since it is very difficult to do without them in place. I purchased a rubber-like spatula from a store and trimmed it so that the gentle pushing of the rubber skin into it's groove would be quicker and safer (don't want to rip the rubber skin!). What can I put into the Kahuna for my get-aways? Well, I have enough stuff to last comfortably about 21/2 weeks. However, I have been a expediton freak for a long time and have become rather good at being very comfortable (and clean) with minimal equipment. So here is what I can get into the Kahuna: Food (to include military issue unpacked MREs), water filter/purifier (Katadyn Water Filer is great), 5 gallons of water, 2 repair kits, a shower system, foldable toilet, gas lantern, flashlights and batteries, flare kit, clothing, single burner cooking stove, kettle (for hot chocolate!!) fuel, 2 person tent, sleeping bag, first aid kit, dry suit (if the temp drops), camp pillow, navigation stuff (GPS, maps, hand compass, binoculars, waterproof camera, film, chart protectors, charts), and an emergency locator beacon- expensive but recommended!!; which fit into my Sealine dry bags and some smaller things fit into my deck bag. Its a good idea to keep the emergency beacon on your body, such as a jacket/PFD pocket. Its true, the kayak, when packed into its awesome backpack, can make it through airport size restrictions. It is easy to pack and carry. Overall, I believe that the Kahuna is a big-time winner, considering it is a direct descendant of the K-Light which is a legend. The new upward swept bow makes surf entry fun, and helps the kayak slip through the water; rather than plow through it. The new deck material is stronger, does not shrink or stretch, and is 100% waterproof. The colors are beautiful, and the kayak looks like a hardbodied one. The Kahuna is a excellent kayak, I would not hesitate using it for expeditions of up to 14 days duration. The Kahuna's capacity is 300 pounds, and I weigh 160 pounds. All of my gear weighs 85 pounds. With all of this in the Kahuna, the boat is still stiff and the frame is unstressed. What I still can't believe, and I find myself pinching myself often because of it, is that the Kahuna only weighs 35 pounds! If you wash, clean, lubricate, and properly store your Kahuna, it should last decades.