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The Cooper performed as described and as advertised… quite the feat in today's exaggerated world of marketing hype. From entry to exit, the Cooper behaved smoothly and I was pleased to find its cruising "sweet spot" was a nice respectable pace. I haven't GPS'd it yet but in comparison to the multitude of other boats I've experienced in my lifetime, the Cooper was more than adequate – it was a good time.
How can a 16.5 foot boat be only 39 lbs? Let me rephrase that, "How can a 16.5 foot production-grade kayak be only 39 lbs and still provide years and years of service life?" As a product developer, I constantly run across similar customer needs i.e. make it quicker, faster, lighter and stronger…and make it cheaper too! The Cooper is a solid design made of quality components and clearly assembled to a high level of tolerance and standardization. This approach doesn't necessarily represent a high profit margin but it does guarantee a strong, loyal customer base.
My first time assembling the Cooper was less than perfect (I still took it out on the water anyway!) whereas the second assembly was significantly improved. This was more of a reflection on me and my urgency to hit the water. Specifically and as a system, the assembly is easy going and natural. I found myself working ahead of the instructions, making assumptions and for the most part, the correct assumptions. This reflects the intuitive nature of the design and once experienced, repeat performances no doubt improve dramatically.
Dis-assembly was unremarkable and if anything, it was a depressing event. I mean really, who wants to pack up and store away a Cooper? If I was to have any recommendations for Folbot it would be to include a few more photos in the instructions that correlate with the step-by-step assembly procedure. Perhaps add captions to the photos for guys like me who only look at the pictures.
No problems found or identified in the design or delivered product worth mentioning. I hear of various nit-picks and find them to be rather nitpicky. However, I'm not so naïve as to think things don't happen and neither is Folbot. That takes me to the next category – customer service.
What a wonderful world it would be if my telephone, cable TV, car, HVAC or any other aftercare service provider could be as good as Folbot's! Real people answer the phone – customers come first – simple solutions offered to solve complex needs.
Summary: OK, I'm done - two thumbs up - it's a keeper!
Assembly and design:
I practiced assembly/dissassembly about 3-4 times before paddling my Cooper. Plan to spend about an hour the first few times the boat is assembled. This gives you a better understanding of how the Cooper fits together. Assembly now typically takes me about 30 min, but I'm sort of meticulous; with practice it will take most paddlers about 20-25 min. Overall, the Cooper is designed with the 'simple-smart' aesthetic in mind: I love that it isn't any more complicated than it needs to be; assembly is fairly easy, but the boat is reasonably durable.
The first minor complaint I have relates to the half-moon clips: As others have mentioned, during assembly (and often during paddling) the longer ones tend to dislodge from them. Fortunately Folbot has attached Velcro fasteners on the clips at the more critical frame-points, but they should just attach them to all the half-moon clips; this would make the frame more secure for a negligible cost. The cockpit also seems unnecessarily large, though it does make for easy entry/exit.
I ordered my Cooper with the airfom seat upgrade, and a nylon-neoprene spray skirt. The airfom seat provides a more precise fit (esp for larger paddlers). I'm 5'9", 155#, and paddle with little or no air in the seat bladder, but the lower-lumbar bladder provides some nice back support. Overall, the airfom seat is probably a good idea for larger paddlers (6'+), but for others it's more of a luxury than a necessity. So far a rudder hasn't seemed at all necessary, though it might be for those paddling in high winds.
I've paddled my Cooper in a variety of conditions, from the calm inland waters of Lake Washington, to 3' waves off the coast of Kauai. It's proven to be a nice balance of speed and stability, and so far it hasn't suffered any damage other than blemishes and normal wear. This is my first experience with a folder and it's paddling characteristics are more similar to a hard-shell than I expected. The frame is highly flexible, but this doesn't seem to effect the overall performance much. As other have noted the flexible frame and skin improves stability significantly. I'd trust the Cooper in just about anything except heavy surf, and open ocean crossings (though the latter is probably doable).
At a comfortable pace the Cooper easily maintains a speed of about 2.5 mph, and at a brisk pace the speed increases to about 3-3.5 mph. The practical top speed seems to be about 5.5 mph, or at least that's about as fast as I've been able to paddle (at that point greater effort didn't seem to yield more speed).
So far I haven't used my Cooper for any overnight trips, but there is certainly enough cargo space for at least 3-4 days worth of supplies (depending on how light one travels). I've paddled with about 50 pounds of gear, which improves stability (provided the weight is balanced), but causes it to sit noticeably lower in the water.
While the craftsmanship isn't comparable to high-end manufacturers like Feathercraft, and the Cooper does have a couple fairly minor design/engineering issues (to make assembly simple and keep costs reasonable), it's plenty durable enough for the conditions most recreational and fitness paddlers will encounter. Overall the Cooper is an exceptional value for a quality folding kayak.
There is a minor issue with the foam surrounding the cockpit coming loose - and this will in turn make a spray skirt a bit awkward to attach. This problem is easily solved by replacing the drawstring surrounding the coaming with a bungee cord that you can pull really tight. Folbot has probably corrected this issue by now.
It is very fast, easy to paddle and responsive for a foldable, while retaining the good initial stability and excellent terminal stability folders are famous for. It sets up in 15 minutes (after a bit of practice). Very light - I can put it on a car roof with one hand. The boat in its bag is small and light enough to travel as regular baggage on a plane. If only I had this boat during my trip to Amsterdam two years ago! The cockpit is pretty big and the seat comfortable for my 5'9", 150lb body.
At this price (it goes on sale for about $1395) you are looking at plastic boats and entry level fiberglass kayaks - neither of which will fit in your bedroom closet like the Cooper. For me the Cooper wins hands down over anything in its price range. The Cooper received a very positive independent review in Sea Kayaker magazine a few months back.
I am giving this boat a higher rating than it deserves. The reasoning is because I believe it is a great recreational, flat water kayak for short-distances. It would work well for those who do a lot of airline travel. Those considering this kayak should consider carefully the limitations of its design.
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 don’t 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 can’t 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 “rib” 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? Don’t 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 don’t 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...don’t 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 isn’t a glowing 10 out of 10 review, even though I am giving the boat a 10 for my purposes and an 8 – 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 haven’t needed it due to there being nothing wrong with my boat at all. I don’t think you could go wrong choosing this boat.
First assembly was completed without any problems and took about an hour, but that included the time to read the instructions and to unpack and remove the shipping wrapping from all of the components. Instructions are straight forward and easy to follow. Subsequent assemblies are now taking about 25-30 minutes and disassembly can be completed in 10-15 minutes, which includes wiping the skin dry and folding it properly so it all fits back into the bag. With the Cooper’s unique skin tensioning system, assembly requires no physical straining whatsoever. I use a closed-cell foam pad in the bottom of the cockpit to insulate the floor and I let the pad run up over the seat for additional padding. This makes for a very comfortable cockpit.
On the Water:
For a kayak with only 24 in. beam this boat is very stable – easily stable enough for relaxing, photography, wild-life watching, etc. The long cockpit allows easy entry and exit and even with the float bags installed there is still lots of storage both forward and aft. The Cooper accelerates very quickly, tracks absolutely straight and will cruise comfortably at 6-7 kmh (3.5-4.2 mph) with very little paddling effort. With modest effort it will sprint to 9 kmh (5.4 mph) – I have not felt the need to go any faster. I have had it out in 30 kmh (18 mph) winds and it took the waves very well and exhibited negligible weathercocking. Even in those conditions it still felt very stable and secure. I did not order the optional rudder for mine and I have not felt the need for it. This boat is a true joy to paddle! I use a “Seals” partial spraydeck (size 2.5 fits perfectly) and it keeps the cockpit completely dry, even when waves break over the bow. I find it more comfortable than a full skirt (but of course it would not be suitable for rolling).
Improvements over previous models
The current version includes several modifications over earlier models:
Revised stern assembly – the gunwale longerons now include sliding extensions so that they connect to the stern piece same as at the bow.
Velcro straps on critical frame positions to hold longerons in place and prevent them from popping out of the half-moon clips.
Revised seat with rigid, contoured seat pad and stiffeners in the backrest.
All of these combine to provide a stiffer frame structure. Once the frame is properly tensioned in the skin and the sponsons are inflated, the result is a very stiff and rigid hull.
Summary: The Cooper is a stable, fast, fun-to-paddle boat. It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
I have taken the boat from Albany NY to NYC on the Hudson; from Oxford England to London England on the Thames; from Pensecola Fl to TAmps on the Gulf. This in addition to many, many hundreds of miles on local rivers and lakes in upstate NY.
The boat is great. I found it more then capable of carrying myself and the gear I needed for my adventures. You do have to make sure the gear is in good dry bags because some water does get into the boat via the zipper tops. The zipper tops are handy though for getting gear in and out of.
The boat did terrificly in high waves when we paddled on the Gulf. Much of our trip was out of sight of land and at times we were in waves in the 4 - 6 foot range.
The foam on the cockpit is too thick so have replaced with thinner. The screw pieces at thigh level are at times a pain. And, yes, the seat is a joke. I typically use an air pad. I am still working on the backrest. Again, though, I have spent many hours in it.
It is highly recommended to use seam sealer on it and to but the extra wear strips on it on the bottom to lengthen the hull life.
I did switch over to gas pedal type rudder control because I hate sliding petals. I just ordered ones that I have on my Kodiak, Prijon. Easy to switch.
I highly recommend this boat. It folded into a nice large suitcase size bag and was easy to transport on planes to England and Florida. I just purchased a cheap foldable lugga wheel cart and life was great.
If you wanna go places and bring your own boat........this is the way to go. Oh, btw, I purchased it for a little over a thousand on sale. By far cheaper then most other boats.
Since I was not familiar enough with the cooper on my first trip out, my observations deal with the second excursion. The boat is very light, extremely fast, surprisingly maneuverable and easy to assemble and break down. Initial stability seems a little on the tippy side, but secondary stability is great. I was especially impressed since the max load for this boat is 250 lbs with recommended paddler weight of around 200. I weigh 255 lbs, well exceeding recommended capacity. Needless to say I was riding low in the water, but what a thrill to paddle this boat.
One small but serious flaw is the plastic knurled nut that anchors the cockpit frame to the center crossmember. Its placement causes it to gauge my thighs on both sides rather painfully. I will have to modify this quickly. Other than that I would give it a ten. I own or have owned at least eight kayaks, from inflatable to fiberglass, composite and oukume mahogany. This will be my favorite!!
Folbots are sold directly from the factory and shipped to the purchaser. It took about one month for my Cooper to arrive. I found the Cooper quite easy to assemble, the materials were of high quality, and the completed boat was sleek and beautiful.
The Cooper is fast! At my workout pace (maintained for one to two hours) my GPS unit shows that I can paddle the Gannet between 3.6 and 3.8 mph. Using the same amount of effort, the GPS unit showed the Cooper was traveling at 4.0 to 4.5 mph. Even when I tried to paddle very gently, the Cooper always stayed over 4 mph. I paddled the Cooper in 2 to 3-foot waves and 15-mph wind and the boat tracked through the waves as if they did not even exist. I cannot think of any other boat that has the same combination of high hull speed and light weight - especially for the reasonable price charged by Folbot. I am a small person, and I can more easily cartop the 16-foot Cooper than my 11-foot, 45-lb Gannet. The Cooper has a v-hull, and feels a little "tippy" at first; but it does have good secondary stability, and it does not feel like it will capsize. It has full-length zippers on the fore and aft decks to aid assembly and afford easy access to stowed gear.
Since the Cooper is such a great paddling boat, why can't I give the it a "10"? It has the usual Folbot minor engineering problems. For example, the seat is a joke. It is a thin piece of closed-cell foam that sits directly on the keel "longeron" (structural aluminum tube). The longeron presses on the paddler's tailbone so that one cannot sit in the kayak for more than about 10-minutes. As a temporary solution to this problem, I placed a piece of closed cell foam underneath the stock seat. Also, the cockpit coaming is not a really part of the boat, but attaches to the cockpit rim, and it is so high and thick that it interferes with my paddling the boat. All Folbot owners learn to be resourceful in fixing the minor engineering problems, and I am sure that I can modify the seat and the cockpit coaming to make the boat fully usable. Folbot has an excellent user's forum where other owners provide lots of useful tips so that you can improve the boat over how it was shipped from the factory. Overall, the Cooper is a fun-to-paddle, light, and high-speed touring kayak.
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