Quick review of the 2007 Montbell kayaks

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Quick review of the 2007 Montbell kayaks

Post by DevNull »

Recently I have been trying to figure out what kayak to get. I came here in an attempt to narrow the field of possibilities. Instead, folks began suggesting yet other kayaks where to burn my cash. Very unhelpful folks, very unhelpful :(

Given the fact that I’m already in Japan an individual suggested I look at the Mont-Bell offerings. This past weekend I drove to the nearest MontBell store, a mere 100 miles away, and came back with information about their 2007 foldable kayak lineup. What you see here is an executive brief of said boats. Executive not as in well-written, but as in meant to be short and to the point.

US prices were calculated using a Yen to USD exchange of 120-1. As they say, your mileage may vary.

MontBell Arfeq Ellsmere Whala wala what?
To clear the first stumbling block: MontBell is the company created by Isamu Tatsumo with two of his mountaineering cronies back in 1975. Since then MontBell has been developing outdoor products that follow the Japanese tradition of kinobi: function is beauty. And a thing of beauty they are. They build things to an exquisite level of craftsmanship. One caveat; they like their stuff light. For an ultra light backpacker, they are a godsend. For folks used to things made of heavyweight canvas, they may be a disappointment. Often the only disappointment is price, but then again you get what you pay for.

ArfeQ is their lines of kayaks. ArfeQ means ‘whale’ in one of the Greenlander native tongues. Why they gave them a new name instead of the already illustrious MontBell name is beyond me. The name soup can only create confusion; confused consumers are not buying consumers. In any event, the literature says “ArfeQ, Produced by MontBell”, and for all I could see it is their house name produced and sold just by them. A note to the fashion whores out there; nowhere on the boat it says MontBell, so if you get one, be prepared to explain yourself at every turn :roll:

Without further due, the 2007 ArfeQ line of kayaks has three offerings, the Aleut, the Voyager, and the Ellsmere.

The Aleut

Aleut 380T

Aleut 430T

There are two kayaks on this lineup, both doubles; the Aleut 380T and the Aleut 430T. I had a chance to look at the 380T and a frame of the 430T recently. Well made, solid, very light. I wish I could give a full description of their construction as compared to other boats, but my knowledge of foldable kayaks pales when compared to my ignorance. Things I noticed is that the seats ‘float’ from the aluminum frame, they have a center connector for single seat setup, and the back end closes with Velcro all the way to the stern. Deflating the pontoons and unvelcroing the back gives ready access to anything back there. While this may not be as critical on this boat, it could help a lot on their other kayaks with smaller cockpits.

One thing I should add about the Velcro used on all of their boats. Lifting it up takes a nice an even amount of pull to get it undone. Sideways, the way it is meant to be stress loaded, forget about it coming apart. Very nice quality, as it is everything else they do.

Aleut 380T, 12.47’ x 30.31”, 30.8 pounds, capacity 418 pounds, cockpit 18.9"x76.77", retail $1,331.67
Aleut 430T, 14.11’ x 30.31”, 37.73 pounds, capacity 506 pounds, cockpit 15.75" x 81.1", retail $1,487.50

No ruder option is available for the Aleuts.


Voyager 415

Voyager 460T

Voyager 520T

Three kayaks dot this lineup; the 415, 460T, and the 520T. You probably figured out by now but I’ll say it anyways, the ‘T’ at the end of the name stands for ‘Twin’ or double. The 415 seems to be the right boat for the casual paddler, yet it seems capable to be pushed if wanted/needed. At 13.62 feet it may be short, but then again if you are buying this kind of boat is because you want a short one so this is not necessarily a detraction. Its 26.77 inches which should make a nice stable platform. 34.5 pounds makes for a fairly light boat by most standards. At $1,650 it is certainly attractive.

The 460T and 520T are of course the twins or doubles, following the same lines as the 415.

Voyager 415, 13.62’ x 26.77”, 34.54 pounds, capacity 264 pounds, cockpit 14.96" x 29.92", price $1,650
Voyager 460T, 15.09’ x 30.31”, 44 pounds, capacity 638 pounds, cockpit 15.75" x 81.10", price $1,900
Voyager 520T, 17’ x 31.5”, 50.6 pounds, capacity 704 pounds, cockpit 15.75" x 206", price $2,233

For just under $400 Montbell will sell you a rudder kit for any of the Voyagers. What can I say, Japanese are crazy about accessorizing everything, so accessories are priced accordingly.

The Ellsmere

Ellsmere 480

Ellsmere 530

Ellsmere 570T

Ellsmere Island is a land of extremes. A land of fjords and glaciers, it is the northern most territory of Canada, home of the world largest lake north of the Arctic circle, as well as the most northern mountain range in the world. Surrounded by Greenland, the Baffin Bay, and the Artic Ocean, the region evokes the conditions where only the best of breed could hope to survive. I don’t know if the Ellsmere line of kayaks is suitable for this harsh environment, but they sure look seaworthy.

The 480 is the shortest at 15.75’ and it is build for speed. At the cost of cargo capacity (330 pounds none the less) you get a hull that is less than 23 inches wide and a pronounced V shaped bow and stern. The dry weight is stated at just 39.6 pounds, which is light by just about any standard. The Ellsmere 530 is longer at 17.39 feet, wider at 24 inches, and heavier at 44 pounds. It is also capable of carrying a load of 440 pounds. The 570T at 18.7 feet, 32.28 inches, and 748 pounds of cargo capacity should fulfill the needs of ultra long tourers and chronic rat packers alike.

Ellsmere 480, 15.75’ x 22.83”, 39.6 pounds, capacity 330 pounds, cockpit 14.96" x 29.92", price $1,983.33
Ellsmere 530, 17.39’ x 24”, 44 pounds, capacity 440 pounds, cockpit 14.57" x 33.46", price $2,200
Ellsmere 570T, 18.70’ x 32.28”, 60 pounds, capacity 748 pounds, cockpit 15.75" x 88.58", price $3,025

For each of these boats a rudder ‘set’ is available for a bit over $400.

This is version two of this review. It adds pictures, cargo capacity, cockpit sizes, and miscellaneous text fixes. Comments and suggestions are welcome.
Last edited by DevNull on Sat Jul 14, 2007 7:34 am, edited 4 times in total.


Post by Christov_Tenn »

Many thanks for the information.

Anyone so inclined could write, "Montbell" on the Arfeq with a Sharpie marker to minimize questions and gratify whatever it is that's gratified by spending money to advertise someone's product.

Were you able to test paddle any of them? Did they have any attractively priced trade-ins or demo boats for you to consider? Can they be purchased online? Did you take any photos you could post to an album on the main site?

Stylistically, you started well and finished like you were trying to get done, but it's the really good start by which I'll remember your work.

Probably a grammatical horror, a barbarism of some sort, in the post, but I wouldn't have the perspicacity to actually name it if I noticed it.

H.G. Wells, if I remember correctly, wrote, "In the Country of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king."


Post by DevNull »

I wish I had a chance to test one. I probably would have purchased one on the spot. The store was on a mall, with just one foldable on display (Aleut 380T) plus an empty frame (Aleut 430T). Most of the information was gathered from the catalog and from bugging the salesman. Language barriers can be such a funny thing :lol:

I'm still trying to figure out if there are local (Japanese) kayaking clubs around my area. The problem is that I live so far up north that I stand a better chance to test ride a rice harvester than a kayak. The nearest place I could conceivably get close to one these boats, in the water, would be Matsushima bay in Sendai. This is quite away from my location.

MontBell has U.S. distributors, but it doesn't seem like any of them carry these boats. You can find a listing for them here: http://www.montbell.us/dealers/. Chances are that contacting the Japanese side would be cheerfully redirected to the U.S. side of the business. If somebody is truly interested I could probably help with acquiring and mailing one of these boats.

I'll scan the pictures from their catalog as soon as I get a chance. I'll then ask our gracious host if I can put them on an album.

And yes, the review was done in a hurry in about half a morning. I figure that if I didn't put it out here, chances are it would not get done anytime soon. Now that I know that somebody else cares about it I'll post the pictures and clean things up a bit.


Post by Christov_Tenn »

David Hupert has a photo album on the main site featuring his Ellesmere. C.


Post by DevNull »

found some time to add the pictures to the post, as well as cargo capacity and cockpit sizes. I also cleaned the text a bit.

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