FLYING WITH PAKBOATS
The most attractive feature of folding boats may be their portability. If you are planning a very remote trip where the logistics really get out of hand, a folding boat may be just what you need to make your trip work. And most of these trips involve at least one airplane - often both airliners and bush planes.
Baggage rules have been changing recently, and you can no longer expect the rules to be the same from one airline to the next. You should always check with the airline what the rules are for your particular itinerary. And bring the rules with you in writing. The check-in agent does not always know all the details.
If you have more than two bags, you pay - often quite a bit. Needless to say, it is a good idea to pack your boat in one bag if you can. If you travel a lot, pick a boat that packs into a single bag. Generally, cost control means: Keep the number of checked bags low - and keep each bag's weight at or below the maximum weight. Some airlines have a 50 pound limit on each checked bag, but will let you upgrade to 70 pounds for $25 per bag. Make sure you know about details like this. It can save you a lot.
A big concern of mine used to be what would happen to my boat once the airline got its hands on it. Fortunately, my experience is that damage is rare. In fact, I have never had a boat damaged by an airline - and they have had many opportunities. The bags, on the other hand, get damaged a lot. This is one reason we use simple and inexpensive bags for our Pakboats. Simple bags are less likely to hit snags on airport conveyors, and it hurts less to replace an inexpensive bag.
One way to minimize the potential for damage to both bag and boat is to line the inside of the bag with cardboard to prevent pieces of the frame from poking into the side of the bag. A similar effect can be achieved by using pieces of gear as padding. It is a good idea to pack smaller items into a separate bag (that then goes into the canoe bag) that is less likely to fall out of a punctured bag than individual small items.
It is becoming more and more common to have baggage opened and inspected at airports, and you may want to take some special precautions to avoid problems:
1. Do not get tempted to pack the bag too full. You may feel that there is adequate space, but the inspector may not be as good at packing as you are.
2. Make sure the bag is easy to close securely. We often use a plastic zip tie to reinforce the closure, and baggage inspectors have similar ones they can use.
And one more point: Do not try to check in with fuel for your camp stove! It is quite illegal, and there can be hefty fines involved. Even empty fuel bottles are often not allowed on board - although new ones that have never had fuel in them should be ok. Keep in mind that some fuels are hard to find or may be unavailable where you are going, so check availability before you go. In foreign lands, kerosene or alcohol is often much easier to find than white gas.
The adhesive in the repair kit is also not legal to carry on airline flights. But there is a way around the problem: You can take packages with up to 30 g (or 1 oz) of adhesive in approved packaging. And you can take multiple packages. Airlines may have stricter rules and refuse to carry the adhesive, but you will not be in violation of FAA rules.
Did you know: You may be able to pack two Puffin kayaks together as one piece of airline baggage.
Bush Plane Flights
The situation becomes more complicated when a bush plane is involved. To keep your costs low, you and your group need to find a plane that fits your particular needs and utilize its capacity in the best possible way.
Did you know that when chartering aircraft with regular canoes carried externally, the weight of the canoe has to be doubled by Transport Canada law? This means that a 75 lb plastic canoe has to be calculated at 150 lbs - a very serious compromise on your payload. Then, since external loads slow the aircraft down substantially, additional fuel is required to accomplish the flight - with yet more payload lost.
The 17 ft PakCanoe is the perfect remote wilderness fly-in canoe. It fits inside the aircraft with ease, eliminating the need for expensive and compromising external loads. The 17 ft PakCanoe weighs in at 56 pounds and will increase your payload immediately by a precious 97 pounds per boat, plus possibly more than 100 pounds in fuel weight that is no longer needed for the flight.
A couple of additional points are well worth considering. The payload increase means that you may be able to use a smaller plane, which translates into significant savings. If your trip ends at a town with commercial flights, a folding boat can travel back with you as baggage (or you mail it back from the local post office). It sure beats abandoning the canoe at the end of the trip.