Read reviews for the Monarch I by Foldlite Watercraft as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
I'm foaming at the mouth trying to assemble H1-H2, as the grommets refuse to take to one another..... I'm thinking a roll of duct tape to put it together, and consider it a lesson learned.... sadly I purchased 4 of them.... I can think of a few people I hate that will receive a nice Christmas present this year... I'd rather give the damn thing away, than dismantle it and have to put it together again.....
Anyways, I would not care if I was happy with the purchase. I was avoiding an inflatable, and thought I would like this instead of just the typically expensive folding frame only types.
It took 2 hours to assemble the first time. And if you can get it to under 30 minutes with help, in daylight you will be doing good. This product, in the dark, with cold hands and no help is going to be a useless pile of parts, some small ones which you will lose. I could handle the pain to assemble AND missing the clearance prices if it was even just OK on the water.
The folding design, a mix of a flexible skin pulled over a rigid hull made of a sections of die-cut corrugated polyethylene sheet (it looks like heavy-duty Coroplast), cut and scrape you with harsh edges as you put it together. The hull is made from a number of sections or modules with a frame between each pair of modules, which are basically bendy plastic ribs. The rib edges are far too bendy for the pressure needed to hold the folded colorplast panels in place. The attachment quick-attach bolts are also too wimpy and and hard to reach in place. The design does allow for very lightweight construction but at the cost of the strength and ruggedness. If you step on it, a kid hops on it, or you do not put your hands right over the ribs when getting in, you will stress and put unintended bends in the colorplast.
Anyways, it was hard to get into based on cockpit size compared to only being able to touch it at a rib section to lower yourself in. Then, it was very unbalanced. I am no racing or expedition pro, but after years of recreational kayaking, found it very hard to keep upright on flat water. Its more like a block of styrofoam than a kayak.
As noted in the review that just came out, but was not out a few weeks ago when I bought this - it blows around in the wind. It is not that it just does not track, which it does not, it is so far beyond not tracking. The freaking wind actually blows your kayak in all different directions. Oh, and I do not mean storm wind, I mean a comfortable breeze.
Anyways, they are supposed to have revamped the design and tweaked it and have a new improved model out. The design is very innovative, it does offer the lightest weight going, and the manual was very well detailed.
My advice is avoid the Monarch folding kayaks, and if you are going to get a Foldlite-brand folding kayak, wait until the new improved versions have been out a year or more and get the reviews first.
There was a light but steady wind, and that made the boat virtually uncontrollable. The only way it would track even close to straight is going directly into the wind. If I went with the wind, any breeze would catch the stern and spin me around 180 degrees, any other angle I would end up sideways. I was constantly stopping and trying to get myself oriented again before I could continue. I own three other kayaks, and have never had problems like this with any of them, including an inflatable Sevylor.
If you're looking for a boat you can put in your trunk, I'd suggest a good quality inflatable. It would also have the advantage of setting up a lot quicker than the Foldlite. I practiced putting it together several times over the winter before going out, and it still took me 45 minutes to put the Foldlite together.
Overall I was impressed by the quality of design and part quality. The instruction manual was extensive to say the least. I scanned it but mostly just put it together without reference to the manual. Once you get the idea each section goes together pretty much the same way. I assembled it the first time in my apt. and it took about 35 minutes. It disassembled in about 10. Most of time was spent screwing the nylon bolts and wing nuts that hold the hull to the ribs. Now that I have done it a couple of times and can do it in less than 30. It tracks reasonably well given its length, actually better than my molded hard shell.
It is fun little boat and perfect for what I needed. I live in an apt., I have no space and I like to get out and go hiking on the weekends, now I hike to places where I can paddle.