Read reviews for the Aerius II 545 Classic by Klepper America 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!
It’s funny to read some of the other reviews in this section. Mostly they are from old timers reminiscing about the good old days. I guess I might fit into the “old timer” demographic too. I think you have to put the Klepper into context. If you are planning a sea kayak trip to some far-reaching destination that requires a small plane or helicopter, then a folding boat is a must. There are a few designs out there but one of the oldest and best known is the Klepper.
If you live out here on the west coast of Canada you might choose a Feathercraft instead of a Klepper. They are the modern equivalent and seem to have a great reputation amongst paddlers I know. There is also the Nauiraid which is very much like a Klepper in many ways. The pre WW2 history of some of these boats is interesting including British raids in Singapore and a Atlantic Ocean crossing. I was first introduced to the Klepper by reading John Doud’s book of the early 80’s called Sea Kayaking. Doud elaborates on a trip he took paddling across the Caribbean in tropical heat complete with sharks.
Folding boats required special care. Rinsing off the canvas and Hypalon hull with fresh water to prevent mildew and corrosion. The Klepper has a wooden frame that may require touch-up varnish on areas of wear and chipping. It is unique to have you can kayak fold-up and store in the hallway coat closet.
I bought my Klepper in Germany while I was working over there. I did what any German would do and folded my boat up, packed it on a train up river assembled it and floated back down. I explored lakes and rivers all over Germany. If you are looking to get way-off-the-beaten-path a folding boat is a great option. The main mission for my Klepper was the Queen Charlotte Island or better known these days as Haida Gwaii off the west coast of Canada. Once I got home to Seattle I started planning.
In May 1980 I folded up my Klepper and flew from Vancouver BC to Sandspit on Haida Gwaii. From there I chartered a seaplane to fly south to Rose Harbor where we assembled the kayak half inside the plane and half floating outside the door of the plane. We spent 3 weeks paddling/exploring the rugged coast on our way back to Sandspit and our flight home. In those days, there was nothing down there and the month of May proved to be very early season with lots of stormy weather. We had one particular day with winds in excess of 70mph that caught us off guard.
I can tell you that the Klepper is a surprising boat. It is short, wide and totally unsinkable. It is actually a good performer if you are paddling alone on a summer day on some German Lake. The big cockpit and a central seat option make a great boat for exploring. For long touring, you need to pack carefully but since the cockpit is so large it is easy to have good access. Take the seats out and use a gear filled dry bags for seats. Pack every available area in the cockpit even under your legs. Tie down the gear in the event of big seas. The spray skirt is kind of leaky so expect water in the boat. I do not think you can capsize a Klepper but swamping a boat over a day of rough paddling is a possibility. We devised a foot operated pump for the bow paddler that had its pick-up tube way back in the stern, we used this a lot!
These days with paddlers looking for real adventure, I think the time of the folding boat might be back. Every time I see a folding boat for sale on Craigslist I think about the idea of flying north to some isolated place for a month of paddling.
Anybody can pull a boat off the top of the car, pack it and go....We start with 3 bags each and build them before we can go.....it's the best.
This kayak is very spartan. The seat isn't padded and neither is the backrest. This can make for uncomfortable paddling experiences if you don't buy your own padding.
As things got better space wise we seemed to acquire ever larger sail boats which went on for 12 or so years. On some outings the Klepper was towed along. It has spent many years in a closet upstairs and we decided to take it out of retirement. 15 minutes later it was back together and seemed to weather storage well. That was Saturday June 10, 2011.
This truly fine product is 45 years old. It is amazing how good of shape it is in after all those years. I don't think that many boats of any type can be as good and as durable as Klepper.
I use my original paddles which have been re-worked with fibreglass where the dry rot has damaged them, tried many paddles, and wind up with the originals, try bracing with one of those fine composite things in a heavy sea, and you will see what I mean.
I have a Latin [triangle including the jib} sail for it [off a sportspal sailboat] works like a charm, designed and made oversize lee boards, which are attached at the back of the front seat, S hooks with twist tensioners secure the crossbar to the bottom of the rib, works great! with foot operated oversize rudder[also made for me by a friend machinist] from aluminum. It sails beautifully upwind with those leeboards, and all I have to hold is 1 rope. I enjoy the looks on the faces of the Other sailors as to what the hell is it!? how can it sail so fast and into the wind? I love my boat, would not part with it, and wouldn't go out in the oceans in anything else. As for putting it together in 15 minutes, after a few practices it's a Snap! and an Event when people see the bags and than a work of art of the frame emerges, and they scratch their heads! its fun! and then they all want a ride in it! It IS the best boat!
I don't use the Klepper much anymore because of family life, but since I've seen so many people asking about sailing the Klepper, and so few who seem to have sailed the Aerius II with full upwind sailing rig (main sail and jib) I though I'd add my comments.
Learning to upwind sail the Klepper was a feat to say the least. But when I got the handle of it (after many calls to Dieter Klepper) I found it to be a hoot. The Klepper will indeed tack through the wind as long as there is sufficient weight in the bow and you don't turn too rapidly. Changing tack by turning away from the wind (can't remember the term for this at the moment) in a stiff wind will almost certainly result in capsizing unless you're experienced.
I have always wanted to sail the Klepper for 2-3 days down the Potomac River to the Chesapeake, but realized I would need to be able to drop sails while in the water. So I built a board with a number of cleats to attach to the cockpit rim just south of midships to which I can attach the various lines and sheets. This works but I've not tried it in a stiff wind or choppy seas. I sit just aft of the board, usually on the rim of the cockpit so I can hike out and reach the tiller. Sitting so far back virtually requires ballast in the bow. I have found that you can't solo sail the Klepper in wind without sitting on the rim. I've thought about building some sort of seat on both sides of the rim to make it more comfortable for longer journeys (such as when I eventually do go on my River adventure).
Capsizing in deep water can be somewhat disconcerting at first, but I found that it's not as catastrophic as you might think -- you will however need to have a method of removing water, sometimes while hanging onto the side of the boat. I used a plastic milk jug cut into a scoop.
As for speed, I know that while on the tack I'm not supposed to be moving that fast, but in a good wind it sure feels like I'm moving at a good clip. And like they say, the look on the faces of the less adventurous boaters as they wonder what the heck I'm riding is priceless!!
As others have noted, the one downside to the Klepper sailing experience is the time it takes to rig the full S4 sailing rig with lee boards etc. And having added a cockpit board and the various extra rigging required to sail and drop sails from the aft position, it takes even longer -- possibly an hour on top of the 15-20 minutes it takes to put the basic kayak together.
I've been looking into buying the Balogh Batwing for my river adventure. If anyone has experience sailing both the Klepper S4 rig and the Balogh, I'd be interested in knowing your views -- especially whether the Balogh is a faster rig. I'm not interested in the AMA rig -- reverting to my Marine psychology-- that's for woosies.
The single large cockpit is more practical as it allows better access to storage areas. Also allows some range in seating positions, which is very useful when paddling solo.
However, this cockpit is also my biggest complaint. The two seating positions are that close together that the stern paddler must be constantly focused on keeping time with his partner, or bang paddles. Read divorce boat. Get a single, or paddle this one solo. Or take you child, and give him/her a real short paddle
Do folding boats lack the performance & efficiency of rigid kayaks?
In a nut shell, no. These observations are made by persons wishing to use defensive paddle strokes. Folding kayaks are so stable that normal defensive strokes are not needed. Several individuals have weathered hurricanes in Kleppers. Folders actually perform better than hardshells in saucy weather. Folders are generally only 2' wider at the water line than rigids, so in "glass" conditions these kayaks may be toward the back of a pack, but in real life, the rougher the weather, the further in front they are. I regularly "solo" my AE II ahead of hardshells, -even double. In open class races, folders are faster than 80% of hardshells.
Are foldables really sea kayaks?
It is probable that more long open sea expeditions have been completed in Kleppers than all other manufactured kayaks/canoes combined.
Do they accidentally fold up on the water?
This one is my favourite! No! There is so much redundancy in fasteners and design, that it's impossible to accidentally fold a folder in anything but conditions that would "fold" most other kayaks. The upside is that folders "unfold" and hardshells don't. Folders are 10 x easier to repair than rigids by my experience.
Do folders require lots of maintenance?
A folder that isn't maintained may only last 40 years instead of 80. My kayak is 40 years old now and if I continue to care for it in the minimal standard I do, I expect some distant descendent 200 years from now to still be able to use it! Replacing a broken or worn part doesn't take time, you just assemble the boat when you plan to use it, w/ the new part.
Are they pricey to purchase?
Folders are more expensive than plastics, but the prices are more on an even keel when comparing top-end kayaks. Also, foldables generally don't depreciate as fast due to life expectancy. In 5 years, a foldable may only depreciate 10 to 15% where as rigids generally depreciate 50%. I've seen 30 year old Kleppers in top condition regularly fetch 3 to 4 x their original purchase price. I have yet to see a Klepper 20+ years old in any condition go for less than its original purchase price on an informed open market.
Are foldables heavier than hardshells?
In general, when weighed by the foot, a single or double foldable weighs the same as a rigid, -plastic or fiberglass. Some foldables even weigh less. I have personally experienced plastic kayaks being heavier than my Klepper.
Do folding kayaks take long to assemble?
No. It typically takes me 15 minutes to assemble my Klepper, not including rigging the rudder which typically takes me another 5 min. It takes practice to get proficient, but I don't consider my assembly time a significant deterrent.
I recently purchased my second Klepper, a 2005 model Aerius II Classic. I didn't see the need for the heavier duty (and much more expensive) Expedition model. The overall quality is on par with my first Klepper of 35 years ago. The new boat enjoys many subtle improvements over the old one. It is made with better quality materials and is more robust. Workmanship is equal to the older kayak. The seats have been improved upon; they're now more comfortable. It now has the ability to have the seat moved to the center of the cockpit for solo paddling. It handles beautifully and identically to the old boat. While not a part of the kayak, paddle designs are much better today than they were years ago. I'm enjoying my Werner Kalliste paddles much more than I did my old Klepper wooden paddles. Paddling the kayak is easier and it goes faster with the new paddles.
Great kayak, then and now! Expensive, but worth it. No regrets. (Consider buying the third bag for packing the ribs, etc.; it makes packing and hauling around the disassembled kayak much easier.)
I can assemble this boat myself in 15 min. and find it very stable. One of the unexpected strengths I found with this boat, is its reparability. Recently a friend folded this boat around a rock. Though badly damaged, I was able to repair the boat by cannibalizing the various broken components and ordering a couple new parts from Klepper. Any rigid kayak or canoe would have been a complete basket case. I was able to repair the wood frame in ways that would have been impossible with aluminum.
These boats are expensive but the quality speaks for its self.