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 keelstrips.


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 Dupont’s Zytel ST801 are virtually indestructible!


Can the kayak be stored for a long period assembled?
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 hull?
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 sealed.


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 option.


Do FirstLight kayaks have inherent buoyancy?
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 upright!!


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 info@firstlightkayaks.com. 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.