By Alan Koslowski
I wanted a touring kayak that would also be efficient for recreational day paddling. The Quest 155 seemed like a great option, especially for it's reasonable price. I'm 5'9" 160 pds, so it's 15' 6" length and 24" beam seemed pretty suited for me; big and spacious enough for touring, but also reasonable for day paddling.
Pakboats considerately emailed me a copy of the assembly instructions before I bought it; assembly seemed easier and faster than any other folding kayak in it's price range. I previously owned a Folbot Cooper that I sold because of the leaky deck zipper and highly flexible hull. The Quest 155 is more more rigid and watertight, and also 7 pds lighter.
Consistent with Pakboats' philosophy, the Quest 155 is designed to be as simple as possible without compromising function. It's truly a folding/inflatable hybrid and seems to combine the best elements of both: It's light like a folder (32 pds), and fairly simple to assemble like an inflatable. The removable deck is an ingenious feature that not only makes it easier to assemble than most other folders, but also makes loading/loading gear easier. With the deck removed it also dries fast for packing. The polyurethane hull is durable and is easily patched if needed.
The storage/transport duffle bag has ample room for accessories. In addition to the kayak I also carry two 4-piece paddles, a pfd, splash deck, water shoes, a 65 liter dry bag (folded), and all other needed accessories.
Now that I'm familiar and comfortable with the process, the Quest assembly is simple and reasonably expedient. At a casual pace I can assembly it in about 30 min. Of course the first couple times required considerably more time. The first time took me about 90 minutes, the next couple times a little more than an hour. By the 5th or 6th time it took about 45 minutes, and by about the 8th time I was able to assemble it mostly without referring to the instructions. Disassembly and packing only takes about 25 minutes.
In most conditions there seem to be no practical differences between the Quest 155 and similarly sized hard shells. The hull is rigid (more than the Cooper), and tracking, primary and secondary stability are excellent. It's also responsive to leaned turns and corrective strokes. The velcro deck/hull seam is more watertight than I expected: Little or no water enters the boat from waves/wakes, and the seam is high enough that it's usually not submerged when the boat is put on edge (leaned turns, etc.). I have narrow hips, so I also ordered the optional hip pads, which are comfortable and provide a snugger fit. I also have the optional foot pegs, which, for me are a necessity for better control and efficiency.
The Quest seat is by far the most comfortable kayak seat I've ever experienced. It's designed so the paddler is suspended just above the keel, and this seems to eliminate virtually all pressure points. I'm also happy to report the initial minor issue has been completely resolved. Initially the seat was positioned a little too high, thus making the Quest feel less stable. Pakboats resolved this with a minor adjustment, which lowered the seat so it now sits about 1-2" above the keel. It's now both very comfortable and very stable.
This is where the Quest really shines over all other kayaks I know of, folding or hard shell. The deck opens up completely at the bow and stern sections enabling remarkably easy and fast loading/unloading. The storage space is ample as well. Since the cross-ribs are completely open at the top, there's nothing to hinder loading/unloading, or limit dry bag size. For camping trips I use a 65 liter dry bag that fits completely in stern section, with plenty of spare space; an 80 liter bag would probably fit. There's enough space in the bow section for a 40 liter bag.
The Quest 155 is not only an exceptional folding kayak, but a great kayak overall, and an absolutely phenomenal value compared to other high-quality folders. While the craftsmanship and aesthetics aren't on the same level as more expensive folders, for the majority of paddlers this is trivial. While the Quest might not "look" as good, to me it's easy assembly, great performance (esp the comfortable seat), ample storage space, ease of loading/unloading gear, and light weight make it a great kayak. All other comparable-quality folders cost at least 50% more, and most cost at least twice as much.