By Su Reid-St. John
I love boats—no wonder, since I grew up on the shores of Lake Champlain. I’m especially fond of kayaks, as they allow you to be so close to the water; it’s almost as if you’re part of the water. Living landlocked as I do now, though, I don’t get to use boats of any kind very often. So when I was offered a chance to test the new canvas Folbot Citibot Folding Kayak at my sister Kym's lakeside home in upstate New York, how could I say no?
Packed up, the Citibot is the size of a large rolling suitcase. For maximum portability, the bag comes in a backpack style, which seems like a great idea—unless you're short like me (5'4" on a tall day) and not used to carrying 24 pounds, not including the collapsible paddle, on your back. But unless you’re planning to take it on the subway, as the website suggests (to where? Coney Island? who would do that?), it’s really not an issue.
Determined to put the boat together by myself, I opened the pack and spilled out the contents—and experienced a sinking feeling as I gazed at the parts spread across Kym’s lawn. Sighing, I began to work while my husband, Eric, and 14-year-old nephew, Alex, looked on and gave (mostly) helpful pointers. Happily, the instructions turned out to be easy to follow, and the boat soon began to take shape. Ultimately, it took about an hour and 15 minutes to assemble (Eric and Alex helped out toward the end). However, it seemed clear to me that someone familiar with the process could do it much faster. (Two days later, when Alex and I disassembled the boat—it took just 15 minutes and fit easily back into its pack—he immediately began to put it back together without the instructions. That took about 45 minutes.)
The Citibot is a handsome kayak. It looks light and swift, and it is. We carried it down to the lake (at the aforementioned 24 pounds, it’s light enough for one person to carry, but less cumbersome with two) and took turns paddling around. It was comfortable, felt stable, and was easy to maneuver. Eric discovered that you can inflate or deflate the seat while sitting on it, to get just the right mixture of cushiness and stability. It’s also simple to get in and out of—no small thing when the “beach” you’re launching from is actually a profusion of large, slippery rocks.
So why buy a folding kayak instead of a regular one? If you live in an apartment, have limited storage space, or have no way to tie a boat to your car, it’s ideal. The website suggests you can leave it in your trunk and pull it out only when you need it—a great idea. It’s also small enough to store in a closet. Flying to a waterside vacation spot? Simply check the boat with the rest of your luggage.
The only gripe I have about the Citibot is that it requires a lot of nuts and bolts, but doesn’t come with any extras. One of the nuts disappeared during the disassembly process; luckily, it was a standard size and my older brother found us a spare in his sailboat.
That, however, is just a quibble, and it in no way dims my admiration for this ingenious boat. If my landlocked status ever changes, the Citibot will move right to the top of my to-buy list.
Product: Folbot Citibot Folding Kayak
Pros: Easy to assemble, light, swift, and a cinch to handle, this is a really fun boat. It’s perfect for folks short on space, campers, and travelers itching to take their kayak on vacation.
Cons: It doesn’t come with spare nuts or bolts, which could leave you stranded if you lose one and don’t have a replacement of your own.
Cost: $1,197 at Folbot.com
Extra tip: For comfort, consider spending an extra $60 to purchase foot braces. Although a tad difficult to adjust while on the water (do it on dry land, before you head out), they’re easy to install and fit nicely into the backpack with the boat and paddle.