Tucked away in one of the most distant corners of last week's Boot Düsseldorf show was one of the show's most interesting products: the ultra-versatile Klepper Backyak. As its name suggests, it's a kayak that can hike to water's edge on your back. But it's also a sailboat, a snow sled and a floating sun deck.
The carbon-constructed Backyak follows Klepper's century-old history of building folding kayaks for easy transport and storage. Only the Backyak doesn't fold; the six-piece vessel breaks down into two separate 22-lb (10-kg), drum-shaped backpacks that strap to the shoulders of two paddlers by way of the attachable harnesses. In this way, two paddlers can get the kayak to the water, no matter whether they're traveling by subcompact car, foot, bicycle or public transportation.
Not only is the Backyak far easier to transport than a standard single-piece kayak, it looks even easier than other modular designs like the Point 65 Tequila, thanks to the fact that it works as its own backpack.
The backpacks don't exactly look compact or nimble enough for long backpacking treks or bushwhacking to first-ever river runs, but they're certainly more convenient than a one-piece kayak for hiking to the water. The design could be useful for hiking to pristine water bodies that can only be reached by foot, creating multi-activity hiking/kayak trips, and plenty of other trips that would be uncomfortable or impossible with a full-size kayak.
The Backyak is not quite as light or agile as a packraft or Trekkayak, but it seems to strike a nice balance of familiar kayak structure and superior portability. Klepper says that the design offers enough stability for rivers, lakes and oceans, though it does recommend using air sponsons in rougher waters.
At the water, the Backyakers pull the two packs off and construct the 17.7-ft (5.4-m) kayak, which is sized for two adults and one child. With the addition of the end caps offered in Klepper's "Fun" package, the tandem kayak can be broken down into two 8.8-ft (2.7-m) single-adult kayaks.
The concept of a kayak-backpack hybrid is already a versatile one, but Klepper doesn't stop there. In addition to the single- and dual-kayak modes, Klepper offers the "Relax" configuration that transforms the two kayaks into hulls strapped together by a bathing platform. This design lets you paddle, float and sunbathe on calm water. Add the available sail, which constructs in about 15 minutes, and the Relax turns into the "Sail" catamaran sailboat.
With all the aforementioned add-ons, the Backyak has warm-weather water sports covered. If you want to give it life in the winter, you can make it an all-season vessel with the "Snow" package. This package turns the Backyak into a sled-for-two with a set of steerable front rails and a sharp sled nose.
Adding the extra equipment will increase the weight on your back, but all the components are designed to fit neatly inside the drum packs. The sail package is the heaviest, with each pack weighing 31 lb (14 kg).
The Backyak isn't a brand-new launch and has been around for about three years. Prices range from €5,000 ($5,650) for the basic single two-person kayak kit to €11,000 for the full five-configuration set-up. Klepper also offers other accessories like inflatable side sponsons, an electric motor and a rudder. The company told us that it is not shipping the Backyak at the moment due to manufacturing issues but plans to have shipping back up around April.