Once we headed towards the creek, the boat's light weight was apparent as it was handled with such ease on land. When stepping into the boat I was skeptical of its stability, but was immediately proven otherwise as I began testing its ability in the water. Drag as a result of the pliable hull skin and sewn seems were also of my concern, but once we began to pick up speed, paddling against the opposing tidal current seamed natural as the boat glided effortlessly through the water. Entering the harbor we encountered some chop and motor boat wake. The Cooper's long and slender hull remained rigid through every wave like a hard kayak would and kept its track exceptionally well. Once we rounded Crab Bank we came upon small waves breaking over a sandbar where Mr. Thome and I were able to demonstrate the Cooper's stability in the surf. With some speed the boat caught waves just as if I were surfing!
After a perfect day, pulling the kayak from the water I inspected the interior of the boat for any water, it was completely dry other than the drippings from my water bottle. I was amazed that a fabric covered folding kayak could be so dry. I disassembled the Cooper and without difficulty packed the kayak into its backpack. It was easier than packing a tent!
After trying all day to locate a flaw, the only complaint I had was that the boat tended to slightly track to the left. But because of my novice assembly, the hull skin was slightly skewed causing this problem. With careful assembly this can be easily avoided.
Overall I am extremely satisfied the Cooper and am confident to pronounce that Folbot is creating a quality kayak. I will be purchasing a Cooper on my next payday.
The Cooper seems designed with the idea of maintaining a balance between easy assembly, affordability, and adequate durability. Now that I'm practice I can assemble it in about 20-25 minutes. The first few times it took me about 40 minutes. I took my time in an effort to better understand the boat's structure.
The materials seem to be good quality: the aluminum frame tubing-thickness appears to strike a decent balance between light-weight moderate durability. In 2012 they replaced the Hypalon hull with Elvaloy. It appears very durable, but has one crucial flaw: it's extremely difficult to repair, and field-repairs are all but impossible. It seems very little adheres to Elvaloy: consequently, the hull-repair process is time consuming and requires specific safety and environmental controls. This seems like a huge blunder by Folbot: Despite Elvaloy's durability, easy repairability is a crucial requirement of any hull material. Apparently, Folbot didn't consider this when selecting Elvaloy.
The Cooper is generally a good boat for the price, but be aware it does have a few design issues. The frame is very flexy, which isn't that noticeable in calm water, but in stronger current and swell it's more difficult to direct and control than hard-shells and higher quality folders. The zippered-deck isn't watertight, but it's usually not a serious concern except in tumultuous conditions when it's breached or submerged repeatedly. A little bit of water also enters via the hull/deck interface seam, but it's generally very little, and this seam can be sealed. The cockpit is also very shallow, making it difficult to brace lock oneself in for rolling (esp larger paddlers).
Despite it's limitations The Cooper performs very well in calm and moderate conditions: It's comparably fast to hard-shells of similar dimensions, tracks straight, but responds fairly well to leaned turns. Rolling is fairly easy for average-size paddlers (I'm 5'10", 175 pds), I'd guess it'd be somewhat difficult for large or small paddlers.
If you need/want an efficient, folding kayak that's easily assembled for light to moderate conditions, the Cooper is certainly worth considering. There are definitely better yaks out there, but most cost at least twice as much. The only other comparing-quality boat maker in this price range is Pakboats, which are more difficult to find used. A used, reasonably priced Cooper is a good value, but a brand new boat is only a decent value. If I were going to spend that much, I'd probably look for a used boat made by a higher-end maker.
Although the hull is very tough, you still must be careful to avoid sharp objects - I found this out the hard way, taking a shortcut over a mudflat at high tide which was littered with oyster beds. Good news though - duct tape (inside and out) is a great temporary fix, and the company was nice enough to patch it permanently for me when I got back to dry land.
I got the Cooper over the Kiawah, due to its load capacity, and the ability to haul lots of gear. This is a really fast boat, and when I paddle it, fully loaded for an overnight trip, I constantly have to wait for the rest of the group to catch up, which isn't a bad thing.
The set up takes about 20-25 minutes, once you have the routine down. Packing the boat for a long trip is pretty simple, as long as you have the proper dry bags to make the best use of space. The zippers give great access to both the bow and stern. Down side here is that once zipped up, you must inflate the sponsons, which stretch the skin, and aid in flotation. To access your gear, you must deflate the sponsons and the re-inflate after zipping back up, or you will have an incredibly hard time zipping them up.
This boat is a little difficult to brace with your thighs, because the cockpit is very shallow. An add on are hip/thigh pads, which aid in bracing and thus help the stability greatly. Stay away from the seat upgrade on this boat, as it will put you even higher in the cockpit, making bracing even more difficult.
I am 6'1" and 180 lbs for reference. Other than sitting a little high in the boat, the rest of it fits very well. I have paddled this boat on multiple overnight trips, and it has done incredibly well. On these trips it was subject to high surf, due to a tropical storm in Florida, which I successfully completed a surf landing on the beach. Another occasion I paddled it all day in a soaking rain, sometimes incredibly heavy, on the French Broad River south of Asheville, NC. On both occasions, the amount of water which entered my boat was very minimal, and most likely due to my skirt, which is only nylon - not neoprene. I was quite pleased with this outcome.
I have also portaged this boat 500 yards or more, fully loaded with at least 80lbs of gear, and it does very well. It will most definitely sag a bit, but it holds up to all the added weight quite well. I added my own pvc and rope carry handles to the existing ones, as the ones attached are not large enough to get more than two fingers through.
The rudder option for this boat works very well when you have an empty boat, it is easy to raise and lower, as well as control with the foot braces. Once you add a lot of gear to the stern, the ropes that connect to your foot pegs seem to get stuck on the gear, unless you are incredibly careful in how you pack it. I usually leave the rudder off on most trips.
When you have limited storage space, or want to pack your boat in to a remote location, this boat is fantastic. Very seaworthy, high capacity for gear, lightweight for the size, and quick on the water.
The sleek design allows for great speed, especially compared with the Tsunamis I had been used too. But that doesn't compromise stability which I had feared at the beginning. I am able to edge with confidence and trust the integrity of the frame and skin.
I recently spent 3 days and 55 miles in my Cooper during an expedition. I had all kinds of gear for the trip and the seals and waterproofness was amazing, above expectations. But the thing that truly impressed me was being able to handle it fully loaded down a winding blackwater river. I'm still always going to be leary of oysters, but that's a concern for fiberglass boats as well.
Folbot CEO Eric Thome admitted seeing the leakage video last July and immediately telling the plaintiff to return the boat for full refund; he also admitted reneging on that offer. Folbot's counsel argued that all purchasers have an opportunity to return any boat without question within their standard 30-day warranty period but the plaintiff successfully argued that the product's closure system only revealed its flaws after repeated opening and closing.
While Mr. Thome touted the company's 80-year reputation for quality, it was pointed out that his "Death Valley Ventures LLC" had purchased the company only recently (2012). The current owner's reputation is still in the making, however, it doesn't bode well that while declining to appeal the court's decision, they've also declined to make restitution ordered by the judge.
The Folbot Cooper has to be my most expensive shopping fiasco – especially as the company accepts no responsibility for their product's failure and refuses to take the boat back for refund. When the sales rep recommended the Cooper to me, she was aware the boat would be used on an upcoming St. Lawrence River expedition. Folbot's catalog does boast that the boat is, "Designed for oceans, lakes and rivers," however, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
When taking waves along the starboard bow or over the stern deck, the boat quickly became unseaworthy as water poured into the deck zippers. Video demonstration available at YouTube "FOLBOT FOOL – Leaky Zipper"
The Folbot catalog proudly boast, "quick, easy gear access through zippered decks…Velcro storm flaps cover zippers to keep water out." Unfortunately, water also finds quick easy access and the flaps certainly did not prove reliable; after just 3 weeks of opening and closing (2-3 times daily) the Velcro had weakened so badly that a gap opened up allowing water to directly enter the zippers.
The company ran a gentle spray over one of their boats and discovered a trickle which they attributed to leakage through the stitched seams along the zipper, but they never subjected the boat to a blast of water equivalent to a strong wave. So, rather than looking at the possibility of a design problem, (i.e. Does the zipper flap need to be wider? Would higher quality Velcro improve seal? Is it even possible to waterproof a zipper? How can we prevent this issue?) they assigned me the responsibility for sealing these seams. Sure enough, the Cooper Owners Manual mentions, "If you plan to roll your Folbot or bury the gunwales frequently to turn abruptly, we suggest you apply a thin coat of this sealant to the joint between the deck and the hull on the inside of the skin." I never buried a gunwale.
Yet this whole business of customers obliged to seal their own seams does not sound entirely credible for folks selling boats. Isn't a normal boat buyer justified in expecting that a boat, by definition, will arrive water tight? After all, my rain jacket and tent arrived with sealed seams. Why is anyone out there selling boats that do not keep water out? Turns out others have had problems with leaky zippers and have posted online suggestions about plugging leaks with beeswax. Umm, sounds sticky to me but I'm sure neighborhood bears would love it.
Folbot has never been truthful in advertising and to add insult to injury, their lifetime warranty covers framework and skin for manufacturing defects but does not address their major design flaw. Just in case you hadn't heard enough to convince you to select another manufacturer's product, consider that pieces of my frame arrived too long and I had to saw them down to size and that Folbot's new Elvaloy
bottom material is nearly impossible to field patch as only an elaborate three part epoxy seems to stick.
I can't get Folbot to buy back my boat but I can help others avoid the same pitfall. I've learned that, "the bitter taste of poor quality lasts long after the sweet taste of a good price is forgotten." Perhaps I can help others avoid wasting money and compromising their security on a poorly designed boat. For me it's a moral issue – for boaters, it's an issue of safe paddling.
In full, Folbot as a manufacturer and retailer of our folding kayaks went above and beyond to help this customer research, try and test her kayak before her planned trip. We involved most of our staff, previous customers and additional resources to meet this international customer’s needs. In general, we try our best to help each customer select the right kayak for them and their intended use but we cannot and do not claim to be experts on any waterways or conditions. This customer required a kayak that fit into a single bag for her travels and we focused on matching her and a traveling companion with either a Kiawah or a Cooper. After her receipt of the Cooper, for the next month we helped her trouble shoot minor issues over the phone, via email and with Skype and managed to satisfy her to the point she commented via an email in March, "I think we now love each other."
While she used the kayak daily in Italy she had some instances where she noticed water inside her kayak. While this is not common it is not unheard of either. In our Owner's Guide we discuss sealing the seams of our kayak to help minimize or prevent this. Then, we heard from her before her main trip that while hosing away raccoon prints from the kayak deck she noticed water inside the kayak. We tested the Cooper with a hose at the factory, spraying the full stream on the sewn lines of the deck/hull seam, the d-rings, and the storm flap on the stern of the kayak. Noticing water ourselves we repeated the test after sealing all the sewn lines on the bow of the boat. After the seal dried we applied the same, full force of the hose and noticed no water. We communicated our findings to the customer, re-emphasized the need to seal all the seams and felt as if we responded quickly and effectively to her latest need.
During her trip we started receiving communication from the customer and read on her blog about her issues with the kayak. Given her blog reports of extreme weather, with major rain and heavy wind gusts we understood the issue to be the extreme amounts of rain and waves that were causing unsafe conditions and disturbing her trip. We understood the conditions were so poor that her traveling companion was injured and forced to stop the trip. Our customer continued alone and continued to make negative statements about Folbot on her blog. At this point, we considered it a major customer service issue and, of course, a public relations issue. However, we read comments on her blog by her followers to the tune of, "I saw you paddling on the river today and could not believe you were actually out in those conditions."
As it turns out, the customer did not seal all the seams of her deck as we recommended. At the start of her trip the conditions were fair and she had no complaints about the performance of her kayak (even after she punctured the hull while packing her camp stove). However, once the weather turned for the worse, her kayak took on an unmanageable amount of water. The customer continued in these conditions for nearly another week before finally ending her trip.
Soon after the end of this trip she contacted us for a refund for her kayak. From all her descriptions of her paddling it seems as if the kayak performed as it was designed. From my notes, at that time I disagreed with her that the kayak was faulty. However, I offered her a 30% refund for a kayak she had used extensively for more than four months. She was unhappy with that amount and as her review fulfills, she said that she would "liberally add to our advertising campaign". I told her then that even if we refunded 100% of her money that I could not control what she said. Her reply was that she would be "much more likely to delete all negative posts if we gave her a full refund."
The back and forth went on for weeks and eventually I told the customer to return her kayak and I would give her money back. I never watched her videos but simply realized this was not worth the time and attention she was demanding. Since continued attempts to negotiate and after asking legal counsel about our options in this matter I finally realized that this would never end and chose to break off communications. I never reneged on any offer but I did stop reading and responding to the customer's messages.
Eventually I was legally obligated to face the customer as she sued Folbot in our local Small Claim Court. She flew herself and friend from Italy to Charleston to meet with us before a judge for less than two hours. The judge finally ruled that we owed her a partial refund because her kayak still had residual value. Slightly disappointed but glad that the event would be behind us, we followed the court's order and sent money to the customer. As the review shows, apparently this episode will continue. However, we will use it as an opportunity to improve the way we do business and hope to bring our customers better products and services.
And as a point of pride, I must say something about our manufacturing and quality. When I had the fortune of getting involved with Folbot a little over two years ago I inherited one of the finest crews of craftspeople I have ever dealt with. Their tenure with Folbot is from 10 to 32 years at this point and they have been with the company through all sorts of changes. They constantly strive to produce the finest kayaks - period. Their dedication to quality and the customer experience is what makes a Folbot a Folbot. I am proud that we employ six dedicated craftspeople in Charleston, SC to make wonderful kayaks we ship to customers all over the world.
Also, our materials are absolutely top of the line. We have made changes to materials and design and we learned about change, our process to manage change and customers' reaction to change. Our hull is seriously tough stuff to prevent issues and we have easy patches for when those issues happen. Our repair kit to add replacement material uses one tube of adhesive and we have offered it on our website since early 2013. We are dedicated not only to making the best kayaks but also to keeping them in the best condition.
As another point of pride, I must say we have some of the finest customers in the world. We are lucky to be in this industry and working to help people enjoy their health and the outdoors. The stories we hear of great times on the water with friends and family fuel us every day. In fact, most of our business comes from customer word-of-mouth. Thank you to everyone that paddles a Folbot and spreads the word about the folding kayaks you love. As always, please let us know if you need anything."
President and CEO
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.