Because it can be packed up, the Khatsalano has allowed me to paddle in areas that few others have accessed - Aleutian Islands and remote areas of the north Pacific coast.
The boat has been described as being tippy. I weigh about 175, generally pack for longer trips, and never noticed this. However, if I take the boat out empty on flat water, it feels like it will move suddenly from one chine to the other. This is due to the hard chines and and insufficient weight in the boat. Add a little extra weight and the tippiness disappears.
Rolling up is easy in this boat. Ironically, rolling down can be difficult. Unlike other boats that I've used, this boat can get stuck upside down in the middle of a roll if you don't enter the water with enough umph. This can necessitate rolling back up on the same side you went in on.
The boat comes with a sea sock. I live in Alaska and kayaking often makes for a cold water experience. The sea sock is an amazing insulator. The Khatsalano is far warmer than any composite boat. This can be a real advantage after a long day.
The design of the boat and quality of construction are second to none. Feathercraft asks for a lot of money, but they do not cut any corners on quality of materials or manufacture. The boat is a pleasure to paddle in rough conditions. It has just the tiniest bit of flex that adsorbs the chaotic water and smooths out the bumps.
I find the Khatsalano to be as fast as a hard shell boat. It takes about an hour to assemble, and is more difficult to set up than other Feathercraft kayaks.
All in all, a very fun boat.
But there are drawbacks, too. I am a small man but I am strong and in good condition; nevertheless, I have a devil of a time keeping pace with paddlers in hard shell boats who are less fit and strong than I am. Another issue is the limited storage capacity. The Khats looks small even from the outside, and the inside is crammed with ribs and tubes. Very hard to pack gear and food for a week. On one extended trip, I was cadging food from fellow paddlers. And like other reviewers, I take about an hour to assemble it, even with all the complex directions right in front of me. So now I have it hanging assembled in the garage above my car.
Many happy hours and days spent in this boat, but I am looking for a hard shell boat for my next extended trip.
The Khats trips nice, I can easily get my outfit distributed properly to keep the boat trim. It is easy to pack everything needed for 3-5 days below deck. I use the standard height rib #4 when expeditioning and also inflate the sponsons slightly. Fully loaded in 4-6 footers, with strong winds, the Khats handled terrific.
It is not the fastest boat on the water. I can find a comfortable pace with the Greenland paddle that is a good touring speed though. I'm not racing.
The skeg is effective in windy conditions to minimize battling the weather cocking. I found a rock (8-10lbs) that when I place directly in/under the rear hatch the boat trims out nice for windy conditions.
The Khats is a good roller. I have added/perfected several Greenland style rolls this season. I have a brooks tuilik that fits the oversized cockpit. I would prefer the cockpit opening was smaller, part of the cockpit on the Khats would be foredeck on a qajaq. It also takes on a lot of water during roll practice when using a sprayskirt. I found that was the case for most boats at Greenland TC so I didn't feel too bad. The rolling rib could be a little shorter, but it is noticeably easier to roll with it than the standard height rib 4.
Words like pri/sec stability used to elude me in my paddling. I can now envision an unorchestrated capsize, though I haven’t experienced one yet. The boat is tippy at rest, in motion its pri is good. Sec stability is now becoming part of my vocab. And after several hours of roll sessions, I have discovered the flat deck adds a unique tertiary stability phenomenon that was a little disquieting at first if I was searching for the surface on the side that was cocked toward the bottom. I sometimes have to reach up and pull the yak completely upside down, it will float indefinitely in the tertiary position.
The boat initially seemed very snug, I'm 185lb 6', but after 3 months and becoming accustomed to its fit, I wish it was a little tighter. I have to readjust my position after most roll maneuvers. I will pull the inflatable hip pads from my Kahuna and see if I can make the fit tighter.
The boat is a dream on the water, I'm 51 and not in hurry to get anywhere, but the speed is effortless to reach and maintain. I was surprised by the greenland paddle, I intuitively modified my stroke style and after a little research discovered that what felt natural to do with the G stick, is the methodology developed by the greenlanders. Rolling with a GP was the real surprise. Voila!
The boat weathercocks as do all my boats. I like how a GP allows management of that, and I also have the strap on skeg. I have not loaded the boat with gear as of this date. I do like kayak expedition/camping though as one of my favorite kayak pastimes. Looking forward to qajag tc 2005.
ONLY drawback I noted to the Khat was that it was hard to roll, because of flat rear deck (creates "suction" at exact peak of hip flick). BUT - the secondary stability was so strong, I cannot imagine needing to roll it - AND it was so stable that I could do rear deck re-entry even without paddle float....just use paddle as brace. Surprisingly stable when flooded - but don't try this. Lots of water to pump out if seasock slips.
First, lets get the hard numbers our of the way. It weighs 43 pounds, has a 22" beam, a depth of 11.5" and is 17'9" long. It has a hard chine greenland style hull plan. These numbers put it solidly in the category of a high performance, advanced kayak. The amazing thing is, the whole boat folds into a sinlge backpack that you can check onto an airplane.
This is so important when you think about the Khatsalano that I want to repeat it. This is a high performance greenland style kayak that will hold its own with any hard body kayak -- but it is a folding boat.
The engineering is marvelous and even if you don't plan to buy one, its worth checking one out to enjoy the ingenuity that went into its design.
But what is it like to paddle? Well, they mean it when they call this an advanced boat. Its primary stability is very low. I love putting people in my boat and watch their faces when they see how tippy it is. The secondary stability, however, is dream-like in its quality. This is a sea kayak that loves to be up on its side carving turns and "getting frisky". I have never been in a sea kayak that was so playful. Yes you need skill to handle it, but if you have the skills (and a roll for when the skills let you down), this boat is incredible.
This boat is great for all around paddling. It really shines in rough water where it playful character comes into play. On the other hand, long paddles in rough water get exhausting as it does take active bracing to keep it up. For this reason, I use my tamer and more stable boats on long open ocean trips.
There is a down side to this boat. It costs a fortune. Mine was just under $4000 dollars! Yes, they are supposed to last a long time, but still, I could almost buy a couple fiberglass boats for that price.
Also, at my weight (225 pounds), the boat doesn't have enough volume to manage the surf. I have had it sink like a squirt boat in the breaking surf --- a lot of fun, but not exactly what you're looking for when kayak surfing. On the other hand, this low volume also lets it slice right though big nastey waves making it great for surf launch and landings.
The other downside is the setup time. The feathercraft web site lists setup time as 30 minutes. I don't know what they were smoking when they came up with that number! I have practiced hard and if I realy push it, I can get the boat together in 45 minutes. I usually give myself an hour. Take down is also non-trivial.
Also, the backpack that comes with the boat is usless. For a boat that was so carefully designed and lovingly constructed, the absurd backpack is a real surprise. This isn't a big deal, though, as I find it much easier to move the paced boat throught the airport on a collapsable luggage cart.
I could go on for hours about my Khatsalano, I love it that much. But let me close with one last, little understood aspect of this boat. Like many folding kayaks, it has small internal sponsons. These are like long condoms that are incorporated into the upper thrid on each side of the hull. You can leave the sponson's uninflated to get the full benefits of the boats hard chine. If you want to increase primary stbility and soften the chine, you only need to inlfate the sponsons.
This is wonderful since it gives you two boats in one. If the water gets too rough and I want to have an easier time staying upright, I blow up the sponsons and have my stable cruser. If I want to get a bit crazy and fool around, I leave them deflated. All this in one boat. If you want a folding boat without compromising on performance, there is only one boat to buy --- the Khatsalano.