How light is your kayak really?
The FirstLight 420 C weighs 19.6 lb (8.9kg). This weight
includes kayak, seat and footrest but does not
include pack, dry bag, paddle, spray skirt, PFD or the optional
How does FirstLight Kayaks achieve
such a radically light kayak?
FirstLightKayaks has produced a product that can realistically
be back packed into remote locations. Our approach is minimal,
what are the most simple and efficient ways to achieve this
goal and what are the best materials. We have combined the
use of composites tubes, injection moulded componetry, foam
technology, urethane films and polyester fabrics developed
by a leading manufacturer of sail cloth. We have introduced
innovative mechanisms to tension the skin, eliminating the
need for sponsons and air pumps which greatly increase pack
volumes and weights
Is strength compromised in such an
exceptionally light kayak?
Not at all. FirstLight kayaks use composite tubes for the
longitudinal members. The FirstLight 420 C kayak uses carbon/Kevlar/fibreglass
tubes which offer maximum hull stiffness with minimum
weight. The Kevlar fibres are laid at a 45 degree angle across the
tube and offer immense strength to the tubular wall. The carbon
fibres are laid linearly down the tube and provide longitudinal
stiffness. The injection moulded frame components manufactured
from Duponts Zytel ST801 are virtually indestructible!
Can the kayak be stored for a long
FirstLight Kayaks do not use aluminium parts for their longitudinal
members and so there is no risk of oxidation
and the freezing of joining parts. However salt crystals forming
within the male-female joins can make the disassembly more
difficult. A kayak that has been thoroughly washed with freshwater
can be left assembled, but we recommend disassembly if the
kayak is to be stored for a lengthy period. In hot conditions we recommend disassembly of the kayak to prevent warping of the kevlar carbon tubes. A light spray of a silicon lubricant on the male/female connectors prior
to assembly greatly assists assembly and disassembly.
Why is urethane film used for the
FirstLight Kayaks is the first to introduce the use of an
unsupported urethane film for the lower part of the hull.
The term unsupported indicates that the material is solid
urethane and is not a matrix that has been urethane coated.
Urethane is highly UV stable, elastic and abrasion resistant.
Because of its elasticity it conforms to the 3-dimensional
underwater section of the hull without the need for separate
panels with longitudinal seams. This is an advantage because
it reduces the weight of the canopy. Furthermore the urethane
is energy absorbing. If the kayak is placed on a rock, the
canopy will deform through the elastic urethane without placing
excessive loads on seams or zippers. Because the urethane
is unsupported, it can be provided clear or coloured and the
clear option offers the user visual access to the underwater
world. The clear hull will eventually yellow slightly with
age but this has no effect on strength or abrasion resistance.
For those seeking a stronger hull, we offer optional keelstrips
which will further protect the hull from damage caused by sharp
shells and rocks.
What is the effect of temperature
variation on the urethane film?
The unsupported urethane will be subject to a degree of expansion
and contraction in hot or cold conditions. FirstLight Kayaks
compensate by allowing the small frames to be slid fore or
aft to alter the fullness of the hull sections at either end.
This simple mechanism allows us to produce a lightweight,
seamless lower hull from a material with excellent abrasion
resistance and UV stability.
Why does FirstLight use zippers? How
strong are these zippers?
We use zippers to simplify assembly and provide easy access
into the kayak. The zippers are marine grade and are constructed
from polyester tape and acetal parts. They withstand up to
60kg/inch load. We use dual zippers fore and aft, i.e. the
main zipper is covered by a flap and this flap is also zippered
to maximize strength and minimize water penetration. We use
semi-drysuit G-lock zippers to minimise water entry.
How water proof is the deck fabric?
The deck material is a three layer polyester composite that
is waterproof to 100psi. The deck fabric has an upper layer
of 150 denier, a rip stop bias thread of 1000 denier and an
inner layer of 60 denier polyester. Crucial areas are seam
Do you produce a double kayak?
No, we produce only single-person kayaks.
How do I insert the expansion clips?
Inserting the expansion clips is the one step in assembling a FirstLight kayak
which requires a bit of practice. It does not require extreme force, however you
may need to experiment to find a method that suits you. For a PDF describing our recommended method of insertion, please click here.
How do people use FirstLight kayaks?
FirstLight kayaks are designed primarily for recreational paddling and short term trips. Their light weight makes them ideal for portaging in to remote locations. Becaue the kayaks are low volume, they may be less suitable for extended touring where lots of gear needs to be carried, but Greg Knight's report on his Virgin Islands trip shows that this isn't necessarily a problem.
What about skin repairs?
If the urethane skin is damaged, the skin should be washed
with fresh water and a self adhesive patch material applied.
Duct tape can also be used for this purpose. This will enable
the user to return to civilisation where a proper repair can
be undertaken. Urethane can be patched using urethane patches
and a urethane adhesive.
Why do FirstLight kayaks have such
distinctive bow and stern profile?
Our kayaks have very square bow and stern profiles. The bow
and stern do not slope back like the traditional kayak. Our
aim is to achieve maximum waterline because the physics of
water displacement and hydrodynamics dictates that, the longer
the waterline, the faster the boat. Because the ends of the
boat are light, there is no difficulty riding waves and surfing.
Because the boat is light and the waterline is long, the boat
behaves like a longer folding kayak.
Why do FirstLight kayaks use foam
in the bow and stern?
We use foam to define the 3-dimensional profile at either
end of the kayak to minimise the weight and to protect the
canopy from abrasion and impact damage. There are no hard
components rubbing against the skin at the ends. These are
typically high wear areas in folding kayaks.
How should I maintain my kayak?
Kayaks should be washed with fresh water, dried and stored
disassembled. Detergent can be used if necessary. When the
kayak is folded, the zippers should be left un-zippered. The
kayaks should not be left in the sun when not being used as
the polyester colours will fade and the urethane will yellow. Urethane should always be stored dry
Can I cartop my FLK?
The kayak can be carried on a car roof-rack; webbing with
rope ends is preferred for tie downs as the webbing is more
gentle on the canopy surface. Try to locate the main frames
close to the kayak supports and make sure the supports are
suitable for the kayak cross sectional profile. Tie the kayak
to the car racks tightly in the cockpit region. Straps can
also be attached at the ends to prevent excessive movement
but avoid causing reverse flex of the hull by having too much
tension at the ends of the kayak. If the kayak is to be transported
for a long distance or at speed then dismantling is the best
Do FirstLight kayaks have inherent
Our kayaks have only a small amount of positive buoyancy via
the foam seat and bow and stern foam units. The recommended
dry bag which should be purchased with the kayak offers up
to 115litres of positive buoyancy. In addition, combination
dry/air bags should be purchased from a number of suppliers
and these provide positive buoyancy and storage space for
gear. Tapered bags fit nicely through the small frames and
into the ends our kayak. We have not included these items
as standard equipment with our kayaks as we have found they
can be purchased more cheaply at your retailer than we can
supply them! This is because we do not manufacture these items,
so we would need to buy them and then on-sell. This also gives
you the freedom to choose whichever carry bag and buoyancy
bags you want.
Do FirstLight kayaks have rudders?
The 420 does not require a rudder. The addition of rudders
adds weight and increases pack volume. Our objective is to
provide a truly "backpackable" kayak. To achieve
this goal we have had to eliminate the non-essential.
Why does the deck line rise so high
at the cockpit?
The FirstLight kayak has a relatively high deck in front and
behind the cockpit. The kayak is designed for the recreational
market and light touring. High central deck frames are less
restrictive for entry and exit, shed water easily and provide
ease of access to storage space. Some might argue that the
high back frame is restrictive for certain rolling procedures.
However the FirstLight kayak can readily be rolled (see video),
but in reality most users of this kayak will choose to stay
How will the wind affect the boat?
The kayak is balanced and fine trimming can be achieved for
windy conditions by sliding the seat fore or aft. The bare
kayak is so light; care should be taken to secure the kayak
if it is left on the beach, as it could be blown away by a
gust of wind.
Why are there no hatches in the deck?
There are dual zippers fore and aft and these provide easy
access to storage areas in the kayak
What is the warranty?
We offer a two year warranty on all parts and workmanship
in our kayaks. If you have a problem please contact us through
your dealer or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have put a lot of time and thought into the design and
construction materials used in our kayaks and we want to ensure
your FirstLight experience is trouble-free. Please note that our warranty does not cover damage through incorrect assembly, inappropriate use or damage incurred during travel except during transportation from us to you. Neither do we cover skin damage due to UV exposure, humidity, hitting objects or abrasion.