We recently posted our Sneak Preview on the new Twain inflatable tandem packraft from Kokopelli Raft Co., an inflatable kayak/packraft for one or two paddlers, weighing in at a mere 13.6 lbs.
For those unfamiliar with the term, “packrafts” are loosely defined as a an inflatable raft weighing under 10 lbs, that can easily be packed/rolled up, making them a great choice for accessing remote locations. While the sport originated in Alaska, the popularity is rapidly expanding globally.
Kokopelli won Gear Junkies “Best In Show Top Gear for 2016” at last summer’s Outdoor Retailer. The current Kokopelli line-up consists of four whitewater models – the Nirvana and Nirvana XL in self-bailing and spray deck versions – joined by three new touring series, the Castaway, Castaway XL and Twain two-person version.
Weights range from 7.3 to 13.8 lbs, with the Castaway XL and Twain sporting removable tracking fins and removable floors. All models come with an inflation “bag” weighing a mere 4 ounces, as well as an inflatable seat(s), though they also can be pumped up using a traditional hand or foot pump. Prices range from $725 to $999 dependent upon the model and options.
While many reviews focus on whitewater backpacking, we will begin with the new touring/flatwater packrafts, in particular the two-person version.
Following is our writeup on the Kokopelli Twain Inflatable Packraft, a 10 ft 2 inch tandem kayak. Please note, some of this will be repeated from prior write-ups.
Getting Started with the Kokopelli Twain:
We unpacked the box and laid out the pieces – inflatable packraft body, inflatable floor, two seat backs, two seat bases, fin, inflator bag, instructions, 2 cinch belts and repair kit. Initial measurements showed the kayak body weighs 9.2 lbs (26 x 13 x 7 inches folded), or 14.5 lbs with everything minus the box. Boxed up, the dimensions are 27 x 14 x 7 inches with a shipping weight of 17.65 lbs.
For the minimalists reading this blog, we have detailed the weights of the individual pieces as follows:
- Two seats (four pieces) weigh 21.7 oz. Each seat base is 5.3 oz, measuring 20 x19 inches flat. The seat backs each weigh 5.6 oz and measure 23 x 12.5 inches flat – this includes the webbing and clips.
- The floor weighs 3 lbs, measuring 25 x 12 x 1 inch.
- The two straps are 2.1 oz., inflator bag 4.4 oz, fin 2.1 oz and repair kit 2.6 oz.
Kokopelli Twain Inflatation and Setup:
The generic instructions include inflation and storage techniques, as well as use of a spray skirt (available for some models) but lack details on actual set up; we will outline the steps we took, below. In general, set up is straight-forward – unpack, unfold, inflate.
The first step is to unfold the kayak – it is remarkably flat – and orient yourself; the rear/stern has numerous seat buckle attachments on the sides.
Included with the Twain is an inflator bag with Boston valve-style fittings – we will go into detail on this later.
Next, pump up the floor outside of the kayak body. The floor uses a twistlock valve, simply twist open the valve to inflate. Here was our first issue. The inflator bag will not couple with the twistlok valve, so we started to inflate it orally. After about 10 puffs, we realized this was going to be a long and dizzy process (indeed, Kelley Smith at Kokopelli said it took him about 7 minutes to inflate with his mouth) so we pulled out a double action hand pump.
The Boston valve fitting will not friction fit over the twistlock valves, so we were forced to hold the adaptor over the twistlock with one hand, while inflating with the other – this is not really that big of a deal, and if you are paddling tandem, you have an extra pair of hands to hold it for you. AirKayaks note: Here is a nifty little home-made adaptor that works with these twistlocks.
It took about 15 strokes to get it filled out, but still “bendable” – this is important, as you need to angle it into the kayak body. Twist the valve shut, and lay the twistlok side face up, and positioned at the back of the kayak. Then go around the perimeter, tucking it into position, and bending it under the kayak nose, keeping everything centered.
At this point you can finish inflating the floor until firm, with slight give when you push your thumb on it. Then contort yourself over to finish blowing up with your mouth.
Move on to the two main chambers, which use recessed Boston valves. Boston valves are two-part, screw-on valves. The bottom portion is threaded onto the kayak, the top valve is screwed open for inflation and then tightened shut after inflation. Air is easily released by unscrewing the base connector. How does it work? A flap inside the valve opens when air is pumped into the kayak, and falls shut when not pumped so that air will not rush back out.
(AirKayaks Side note #2: The Boston valves have a tether that keeps the valve attached to the kayak, ensuring that the valves don’t get lost after deflating. Make sure that the string does not get in the way when screwing on the valve base,and the valve is not cross-threaded, or you may have some air leakage.)
The Kokopelli instructions suggest entirely unscrewing the Boston valves from the packraft body, then taking the inflator bag, and screwing it onto the packraft body. At this point, we want to mention that a “comedy of errors” ended up being a boon. While we had read the instructions, it was not possible to couple the inflator bag to the valve opening on the Twain, as we only had a female connection. (We subsequently found the inflator bag arrived inside-out, so the male connector to screw onto the kayak body, was inside the bag).
So, there are two methods to inflate the Twain using the inflator bag – both with pros and cons. We will outline both here, you can decide which method you wish to use. For reference, we have included a photo of the inflator bag fittings, and the Twain packraft fittings (shown in gray instead of black), above.
Following the instructions, remove the Boston valve (C and D) from the Twain and screw on the inflator bag (Side A).
Shake the inflator bag to capture air, fold up, and the squeezed air will fill the kayak. When no more air can be squeezed in, unscrew the inflator bag from the Twain and QUICKLY screw the Boston valve (Side D) back onto the packraft, trying to minimize the amount of air that leaks out. Then pull on the Boston valve enough that you can grasp it with your mouth, and start puffing into Side C to re-fill the body back out. This method allows you to get air in very quickly, but there are associated issues. One, the well is recessed so it is tough to get your fingers in (you need to pull the valve base out to grasp it), two – if you are in a hurry to get the Boston valve attached to the Twain, you may cross-thread it, three, if you aren’t quick, you can lose a lot of air and four, it’s tough to get a grasp on the valve with your mouth, unless you pull the valve out of the recess.
Now we have the second method – which works great but takes 2-3 times longer to get air into the body. Screw the Boston valve adaptor (Side D) onto the Twain carefully, and open the top of the valve (C).
Find the female connection (B) on the inflator bag and couple this with the Boston valve (C). What’s nice about this method is that we would not need to remove the Boston valve fitting and lose air.
With the inflator bag now attached to the Twain, we faced into the wind, shaking to get air in.
Then pull the two pole handles together, tucking in the sides to create a vacuum, and roll down, forcing air into the body.
It helps to grab, clutch in your arms, and squeeze. Once you can’t squeeze any more air inside (it took us about 8-9 bags full, taking about four minutes for one side of the Twain body) then reach inside the inflator bag to find (A). Use (A) as a stem to blow air into the packraft – this took us about 7 or 8 puffs and the chamber was nice and firm. Then unscrew the inflator fitting (B) from the Boston valve cap (C) and screw the cap (C) back on.
We spoke with Kelley Smith at Kokopelli about this – as with everything, a trade-off is involved. It is much faster to inflate the packraft when the inflator bag is directly attached to the body (instructions method), but you may lose as much air making the switch. We leave it to each individual to figure out what works best for them.
Along that vein, for the second chamber, we decided to try a double action hand pump. While much heavier and bulky, there may be many times when that is not an issue. The Kokopelli instructions say never use a pump, but they actually mean, don’t over inflate (stay under 2 PSI). We friction fit the Boston valve adaptor into the Boston valve cap. It took us 29 pumps for a total of 54 seconds of pumping to get the kayak almost firm, at which point we removed the pump and topped off the chamber with about 6 or 7 puffs by mouth, until we could get no more air inside. A quick check with an aftermarket manometer showed our side chambers were running about 1.5 to 1.7 PSI (perfect).
Now is the time we will mention our quick fix for the floor inflation using our miracle product – duct tape. A half inch strip does a great job of binding the double action hand pump Boston valve adaptor over the twist lok on the floor, if one needs to pump solo. We also found that the same strip of duct tape worked great binding the inflation bag (male side “A”) to the twistlok.
With the body inflated, we moved to the easier parts. Inflate the four twistlock valves on the seat backs and bases orally (this took about 3 puffs for the seat back and 5 for the seat base.)
There are four upper tube clips each side (2 large and 2 small) and two lower side clips (small) each side. Take the seat bases and attach them to the lower side clips.
Then take the seat backs and attach the front straps to the wider clips, and rear straps to the smaller clips – not easy to screw up as they are different sizes. You can tighten as needed, or wait until you actually sit inside the kayak.
Last, attach the removable tracking fin, which enhances paddling/tracking in deeper water. Make sure the fin is pointing towards the rear of the kayak. The Twain utilizes an Air 7 box with a Click Fin. While the fin is actually quite simple to install, we were hesitant to press hard at first. Slip the fin into the slot, then hold the fin base with one hand, and the fin box with the other. Pull back and it will click into position.
At this point, pull up on the fin to make sure you have it locked in position. You may want to bring along a towel, as the fin and bottom hull of the kayak are black, and can become somewhat burning in the sun.
That’s it! You’re ready to paddle.
Features and Specifications on the Kokopelli Twain
The Twain Packraft features side tubes constructed from a 210 denier, double-coated nylon; one-inch seam welds with reinforced tape ensure durability and the highest-quality, air-holding properties, capable of holding 650 lbs.
The floor is a beefed-up 840 denier double-coated nylon with v-tape floor construction for even more durability.
The v-tape provides added strength to the floor seam, so that the floor doesn’t tear out when stepped into – see the photo above. The oversized 11-inch tubes ensure stability on the water as well as providing some protection from swells.
There are 7 inflation chambers – the two main chambers with Boston valves, and 5 twistloks for the floor and seats.
The Kokopelli Twain does not have carrying handles (weight savings) but is ultralight and easy to carry under you arm, or hooked over your shoulder.
There are four cloth outer d-rings on each side; the first two sets are 12 and 28 inches from the nose, measured around the perimeter. The back two sets are 22 and 63 inches from the stern; the second and third set are 41 inches apart.
Measuring from the inside straight back, the upper seat clips are located 31, 51, 69 and 85 inches inches from the interior nose, on the side walls (positioned about 8 inches up the side walls). The lower side clips are positioned at 48 and 84 inches from the interior nose, up about 3 inches on the wall. Tube widths are 12 inches in the bow, and 20 inches in the stern.
The inflatable seats consist of a back support and seat cushion, with one twistlock for each piece. The seat base is roughly 16 inches deep and 14 inches wide, and roughly up to 4.5 inches thick. The back rest sits up 12-13 inches above the floor, or 9 inches above the inflated seat base; it curves about 17 to 18 inches wide. There are two connectors on the seat base, and four on the back rest.
There is one removable Click Fin measuring 5 inches deep and 6 inches front to back.
The inflator bag is 32 inches deep by 27 inches wide with the Boston valve adaptor fittings and two handles. There are two 36″ long cinch belts for keeping the packraft body rolled up when deflated.
This particular Twain featured one tizip chamber (this is an upgrade), used to store gear inside the bladder. The waterproof, airtight zipper is roughly 16 inches long, beginning 11 inches from the rear, on the right rear chamber. The d-ring in that area is underneath the tizip, sitting lower than the other side d-rings.
We did measurement tests. The kayak inflated is 10 feet 3 inches long and about 36 inches wide. The side bladders are roughly 11 inches in diameter, making the sides about 10 inches above the seating area. Interior dimensions are approximately 7 foot 2 inches long by approximately 15 inches at the widest point tapering to 9 inches in the very front.
When set up as a tandem – with the rear seat back as far as it can go, and the front seat back aligned with the yellow side seam, there is 44 inches from the back of the front seat to the interior snout, 33 inches from rear seat back to front seat back, and roughly 7 inches wide by 5 inches deep behind the rear seat. The back seat can move up about 4 inches, and the front seat about 3 inches either way.
For solo paddling, we took out the rear seat. We then moved the front seat back as far as it could go, attempting to get just “rear of center. ” To do this, we fully lengthened the upper front straps as long as they could go, then loosened the the upper back straps, putting most of the weight/stress on the upper straps. Then tighten up the bottom straps. This creates 37 inches behind the seat roughly 12 inches wide and tapering down, and 50 inches from seat back to interior snout – lots of room.
Weight limitations are 650 lbs for persons and gear.
Kokopelli Twain Pack Raft On the Water
We took the Twain Pack Raft out as a tandem on a somewhat calm day.
With our combined heights of 6’2″ and 5’4″, the seating room was surprisingly, perfectly adequate. While my husband’s knees were bent, he felt quite comfortable and did not take much time adjusting. We were both impressed with tracking and handling – for a lightweight, shorter kayak, the Twain was pretty speedy and neither of us noticed much wag in the nose. And what’s most impressive, it turns on a dime!
We then repositioned the seats for solo paddling. I took the Twain out first. As a single kayak, it’s quite roomy and handles pretty well. Using a double-bladed kayak paddle, one must assume a high angle to clear the side walls. I did feel more weight in the front would help, and there was a little wag, so stashing a backpack is perfect.
My husband then went out solo. He liked the open design and also remarked on how maneuverable the Twain was. His only issue – he felt he was sitting pretty low, and would have preferred more height as his shoulders were raised a bit high. But, he didn’t notice any wag and felt it paddled great.
I later took the Twain out in some chop. The kayak rides over swells, but with wind – and the oversized side tubes – it’s more difficult to handle. Added weight inside the pack raft nose would help.
One thing I noticed that is quite different from the standard, heavier kayaks – since the Twain material is lighter-weight, and the tubes are much larger, changes in temperature have more of an effect. When pumping up in ambient temperature and then launching into colder water, the air contracts quite a bit, causing sag. Conversely, if the boat seems underinflated, putting it in the sun tightens it up quickly. So, be prepared to tweak the chambers dependent on the conditions, and absolutely make sure you bring your inflator bag or pump on board.
Please note, while this was the Tizip version, we did not utilize it for this review. We will do a followup at some point on storing gear inside the Kokopelli Tizip chambers.
We asked Kelley Smith about durability. According to Kelley, of the few issues they’ve seen with the packrafts, most occur off the water – just a little common sense prevents this. When rolling up your packraft, make sure you have a towel, grass or tarp underneath – don’t push on sharp objects. Slip the kayak body into some sheath so that when back packing or climbing, it doesn’t get snagged on rocks or trees. And never over-inflate, or leave it fully inflated for any length of time in the hot sun. Luckily, most pinholes and tears can easily be repaired with the included patch kit.
I do want to add in a little story on durability. Last summer I had our first Kokopelli Nirvana packraft stored inflated in our building on the water. As the roof was being replaced, I asked the contractor to cover the kayaks with tarps so they wouldn’t get damaged. Of course, no one did, but I didn’t find out until the job was complete. At which point I pulled out the Nirvana and was stunned to find 27 four-inch nails which had accumulated in the bottom – but happily without a hitch. To this day it’s still fully inflated.
Because of the black hull, I do want to caution paddlers not to leave the kayak upside down in the sun fully inflated, unattended, for extended periods of time.
Packing up the Kokopelli Twain Inflatable Packraft
Packing up the Twain is slightly trickier than the other, smaller models for three reasons: 1) the longer length, 2) the added floor and 3) the fin box. It took us a couple of tries to get it right.
First, lay the Twain body on a tarp or softer surface, and remove air from all the bladders. In this case, we opened the seat twistlocks, removed the seats, rolled them up to extrude the air, then closed the twistlocks so air doesn’t come back in. Open the floor twistlock and unscrew the two Boston valves from the main chambers. We left the floor in the body.
Flatten out the Twain body, then fold in half the long way, smooth it out. Then, fold in half the short way. This then puts all three valves together at one spot, the two Boston valves and the floor twistlock.
Starting at the “fold” begin rolling/folding up and with luck you will roll/fold over the fin box. This continuously pushes air out of the chambers. Tuck over the end with the valve openings, and then fold the body over that. Lay out the seats flat just inside the last fold. Fasten the cinch belts around the body – if you’ve taken care, the cinch belts will be long enough to fasten.
With longer cinch belts and if space is not an issue, there are no problems.
Bottom Line on the Kokopelli Twain Inflatable Packraft
The Kokopelli Twain Packraft is a great choice for those needing a highly portable, performance-oriented kayaking option for flatwater paddling – and it’s one of the only choices available for tandem paddling, or those needing plenty of room for gear. In fact, the addition of the floor and removable tracking fin open up another world of paddling outside of traditional whitewater use.
At 13.6 lbs, it’s lightweight, easy to assemble and packs down to a small footprint. As a tandem, the Twain is roomy enough for two adults, but is also easily paddled by one – making it a great choice for those with lots of gear. While some of the ultra-lightweight and shorter kayaks can bob around, the longer silhouette and added tracking fin allows the Twain to be better seated in the water – it’s speedy, paddles well, and it’s so maneuverable it can almost break-dance.
The two-chamber design provides greater safety than traditional one-chamber packrafts, while seam welds with reinforced tape ensure durability and the highest-quality, air-holding properties – it’s pretty rugged for a lightweight!
The ability to strip down to bare basics for remote backpacking, or utilize standard kayaking equipment and pumps, makes it quite versatile. This is a great candidate for air travel.
The included inflatable 4-inch 240 denier floor provides extra buoyancy and rigidity, allowing the paddler(s) to sit higher, keeping out of the water, yet could be removed for those interested in conserving weight. When paddling solo, added weight in the snout is quite helpful, as well as boosting up the kayak seat base a bit to clear the side tubes.
The Kokopelli Twain is a good choice for slow-moving rivers, lakes and flat inlet kayaking, or for some light whitewater – probably through Class II.
The open design will also appeal to those who need easy entry and exit – such as seniors or those with physical disabilities – as well as paddlers with a myriad of gear to transport.
The Kokopelli Twain inflatable packraft starts at $875. For more details or to purchase, visit the Kokopelli Twain product page at AirKayaks.com. Stay tuned, we’ll be putting up a video within the next couple of weeks.
You can also watch this beautiful video short, featuring three friends trekking across Mongolia with their mountain bikes and Kokopelli Nirvanas!