“Origami" kayaks first arrived on the paddling scene a few years ago, and they’ve quickly exploded in popularity. The innovation was to lose the poles, inflatable chambers, and skin components that were utilized in previous packable designs and to replace them with a single, foldable piece of polypropylene–think a beefy, UV-resistant version of that campaign sign in your neighbor’s yard.
Now the style has been applied to by MyCanoe, a Kickstarter funded project that allows a 14.5-foot, one- or two-person canoe to stow away in the trunk of your car or your closet. This is a game changer for anyone who is limited on space, but who still wants a vessel that's quick to set up and more sturdy than an inflatable.
We recently took the MyCanoe down the San Juan River in Utah for a three-day test run. The plan was to push the boat to its limits right out of the 55-pound box, trying its performance in Class III whitewater while carrying overnight gear.
At the boat ramp, we employed the "man-method," a rigorous gear-testing technique pioneered by C&K editor Jeff Moag, where you jump right into assembly, ignoring all instructions for as long as possible. After 10 minutes, we had the shape of the canoe laid out and the structural poles, which add rigidity to the hull, inserted, but we eventually had to peek at the instruction booklet–just the pictures, of course, not the text. That was enough to finish installing the seats and snapping the gunwales together with MyCanoe's clever wire-tightened system. Twenty-five minutes after breaking out the boat, we had our bags packed and we were afloat. (The next set-up brought the total assembly time closer to the ten-minute mark that MyCanoe advertises.)
On the water, there were a few adjustments to make compared to to paddling my main steed, a 16-foot Royalex classic. The gunwales felt closer to the water than most canoes, and the MyCanoe seats, made out of the same polypropylene material as the boat itself, were only a few inches off of the floor. But overall, it felt like we were paddling a canoe–sturdy and maneuverable but also capable of carrying momentum as directed. We quickly adjusted to the low seats, which brought down the center of gravity in the boat and made it feel stable across eddy lines and through waves. MyCanoe was the real deal.
The next day, we hit our first whitewater and (I'll admit it) smacked into a few rocks. The slight rocker on the boat performed well, keeping us mostly dry through the rapids, except when we deserved it. The boat responded quickly to draw strokes and felt surprisingly capable. There was little perceptible flex as the boat rolled over wave trains.
The MyCanoe material is tough and, according to the company, is good for 20,000 foldings. That said, it's hard to put a layer of polypropylene up against Royalex or any modern canoe material. I'd be hesitant to take it out on too many whitewater trips where contact with rocks will probably take its toll sooner or later. In anything less than Class III–from slow-moving rivers to lake trips–I'd trust the MyCanoe for many years of use.
When we finished the trip, the fold-up process proved as time consuming than the set-up and forcibly twisting the boat back into its box shape felt counterintuitive at first. Again, folding up the canoe was much easier on our second outing.
Since that trip, I've enjoyed paddling the MyCanoe on several other occasions, and I've even flown with it. (Try doing that with your Royalex.) If you're tight on storage space at your apartment or house, or if you want to travel with a capable canoe in your trunk, the MyCanoe is worth looking into. Early bird deals are available on Kickstarter until March 17.
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