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  second the Puffin
  Posted by: willowleaf on Sep-03-12 1:32 AM (EST)

It's a little above the price of the Advanced Elements, but the 12' long and 29" wide Pakboat Puffin mentioned above has a few advantages. One is that it is a skin-on-frame folding/inflatable hybrid so it has more the performance you are used to in a hardshell. This means it will not be a susceptible to wind and currents as the full inflatables.

Also, the AE inflatables have little in the way of cargo area, which the Puffin has a lot of, and with its peel-back deck it is very easy to pack it and to access whatever you need once you are at your destination. Also, having the removable deck is a nice option in hot weather, as you can take it off and paddle it open like a pack canoe.

The full inflatables are kind of a pain to get dry -- water tends to get trapped in the folds and they can get funky if stored wet. The shell of the Pakboats dries quickly and can be more easily wiped down. The Puffin weighs under 25 lbs and sets up simply and easily. There are a number of YouTube videos of folks assembling and paddling them. They really handle nicely even in rough conditions. The inflatable seat is extremely comfortable, allowing adjustment separately for the back and the seat/thigh supports.

As I said, the biggest obstacle may be price. A new Puffin Saco with deck costs around $1,000 though they turn up sometimes on Ebay. I bought mine used (actually an older model of the Puffin but the same boat, basically) for $550 and there is an actual Saco on Ebay now for $800 (a bit high -- you might want to watch the posting to see if he drops the price since nobody has offered yet.)

The new Feathercraft Kurrent, a 21 pound skin on frame folder, would be ideal and would feel just like a slim, narrow hard body kayak, but at $2200 it is probably not in the running.

L.L. Bean stocks the Innova Twist, at 16 lbs with a built in skeg and costing $400, it might be an option to consider also. Innovas have an excellent reputation, though at 8' 6" and 31" wide it will not be particularly fast and will feel more raft-like.

 Great Products from the Buyers' Guide:

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