See Current Kayaks from Pakboats
in the Buyers' Guide
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
First time I used the boat I had too much air in seat. The 14' was a bit long for twisty streams. I did not use in 2012. This year I plan to assemble it and store it that way, and use it more, mostly because it is so light. While in the Everglades, I tied the kayak along the side of my Toyota RV and not going over 40mph it worked, but looked pretty weird.
In the water the Swift was fast, tracked well and turned on a dime. You could really feel how light it was; it is almost effortless to paddle.
My only complaint is the lack of thigh braces. The boat felt a bit tippy to me, which I ascribe to two things. One, I probably had a bit too much air in the seat so I was wobbling back and forth (imagine sitting on a fully-inflated beach ball as opposed to a half-inflated one). But I also think that paddlers make lots of tiny balance corrections with their thighs, which they may not even be aware of. Without thigh braces, you really notice the lack of that extra control. I also worried that I wouldn't be able to roll it- others have said it's roll-able but without thigh braces, I'm not sure how. I've read that there are Puffin thigh straps available, but from the pictures I've seen, they look like they attach to bars on the underside of the deck, and the Swift doesn't have bars there, so I'm guessing the straps don't work with this boat. I'm going to try making thigh braces out of foam and attaching them to the frame (there are support bars on either side of the seat, just under the deck, that might work for this).
Overall, though, I have to say I'm very happy with the boat, especially at the price I paid.
When it arrived I put it together in my apartment (it had spanned across my living room and into the kitchen) Assembly was a breeze except for putting the deck on witch I simply released the hook and loop from the sides that gave me more slack to get it on and as mentioned in the manual the gunwales suck but the notes on getting them out worked great. Two days later I brought it to Town Lake for a test drive. Assembly was even faster this time and had several people come up to me asking questions about it.
With every thing in place I set out, after the first 5 minutes until I got used to the light weight of it I was on my way. When I got back to the take out 4 hours later dis-assembly was easy because the gunwales did not stick at all and was surrounded by more people wondering where I had gotten the yak. Even though the bag is not so easy to port I give the Swift and Pakboats a big 10 plus.
I purchased the Swift, primarily, for use in our motor home. The trips I have tried the Swift on were in the Pine Barren Streams of New Jersey. The books call these waters "challenging" because of the tight twists and turns, the many obstructions and the swift current. I paddle these waters often and, in my opinion, it would be hard to find a better place to "test" a boat. The Swift is not difficult to assemble, although I'm hopeful that I can reduce the assembly time after putting it together a few more times. The boat handled the waters without a hitch. I found it to track nicely, to edged very well, it was comfortable and turned quickly when laid over on its' side. Although it is extremely stable, I was curious to see how it would roll, so I tried several times. It was a little slower than some of my other boats, but it came over without a problem and I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't take on much water during rolls, even though the deck is fastened by Velcro and the spray skirt isn't very tight. I was using the breathable touring skirt that I purchased from Pakboat and I also had the optional foot brace, which helped me stay locked into the boat for rolling.
My "tests" have given me confidence in the Swift's ability to handle anything I might throw at it. I'm not going to take it out on any heavy whitewater, but it is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I also purchased a 10 1/2' Puffin and I am "very pleased" with Pakboat. I bought the boats through L.L.Bean because they are a pleasure to deal with and I love their guarantee (although "I" have never needed it). You can spend a lot more money for a folding boat, and there are a couple models that would be faster, but this will do everything I need a folding boat to do and I've saved one to two thousand dollars to get a great boat. I am VERY IMPRESSED with Pakboat.
Another positive aspect of the boat is its performance. While it may not be the fastest kayak out there, it performs very well. It is easy to turn and can go fairly fast. Most importantly, it doesn’t require you to expend a lot of energy to get the Swift to go fast. The Swift is fairly stable and can handle moderate swells without much of a problem. It is also very dry, the only water I have gotten in hull so far has been from my feet when I first enter the kayak. Further, the Swift is very stable. I have caught the wake of passing ski boats directly on the side and never tipped over. One interesting note, when going over a wave, the Swift acts more like an inflatable raft than a hard shelled kayak, it won’t slice through the wave but ride over it. Lastly, it handles well in windy conditions.
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the Swift when I first saw it in person. It was much sturdier than I imagine from seeing photos and videos on-line. That being said, It is a recreational kayak and I wouldn’t take it on serious expeditions or heavy seas. As an example, I’d certainly take it to kayak in a protected bay or coast line. Lakes and moderate rivers wouldn’t a problem. The kayak dealer who sold me the Swift is actually taking one to use on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
The largest single issue I have with the Swift, and this really applies to all folding kayaks, is the amount of time and effort it takes to assemble and disassemble. It takes me 30 minutes to put it together and then another 10 – 15 to take it apart. Let me just say that when it is 90 degrees outside and you are soaked in sweet putting the thing together, you really wish that you had bought a normal kayak instead. This feeling goes away once you get the boat in the water, but promptly comes back when you are taking it apart.
Overall, I am very happy with my purchase and wouldn’t do things different if I had the chance. For anyone who either doesn’t have the space for a traditional kayak or plans on traveling with their boat, the Swift is a great choice, especially if your intended use is more on the recreational side. If you plan on going on some serious, rugged expeditions then you should consider getting one of the more strongly built folding kayaks from Feathercraft (though be prepared to pay a lot more).
Then there are the stares from passersby at this contraption unfolding before you...
It's easy to dismiss the Puffin kayak as a playboat - how can one take seriously a kayak that has inflatable sides & a deck that's held on by velcro? But the Puffin Swift handles remarkably well - turns easily with a good sweep stroke yet tracks straight with no effort. I'm a keen believer in rudders but I didn't even notice the absence of one on the Swift.
Compared to most kayaks, the Swift is light in weight - but I found the duffel bag too heavy & awkward to carry more than 20 metres. A trolley is recommended for extended portages. I've tried carrying it while assembled but the sides are not reinforced enough to be carried far this way.
The inflated sponsons provide a very comfortable rest for the legs, though they need to be inflated equally on both sides or one has a leaning sensation for the entire paddle. Fully inflated, the Swift is incredibly stable (though initially doesn't feel like it when used to hardshells) & virtually ignores up to moderate swells even side-on. Going straight into waves gives a strange sensation underfoot.
Despite the velcro deck, the inside of the kayak remains dry & I would quite comfortably paddle the Swift in moderate swell, in a fairly calm bay. I would not launch the Swift through surf.
Overall, I would rate this a top quality folding kayak & very much value for money, being the cheapest folding kayak range (the Puffin) on the market. Serious sea kayakers should look elsewhere.
100,000+ people can't be wrong!
The Paddling.net Newsletter is a must if you like to canoe or kayak! Each week it is packed with great articles, photos, product reviews, and special features. Better yet, we promise not to sell your email address to anyone; that's right ZERO spam! Sign up today and find out what you've been missing!