The Wisper is described by Feathercraft as a cross between its popular but somewhat bargy Kahuna and its narrow and nimble Khatsalano Greenland-style boat. It features a graceful upswept bow and much narrower beam than the Kahuna and edges well with only the slightest shift of one’s hip and thigh against the braces. Like all sit-in Feathercrafts, Wisper is a skin-on-frame boat, with an aircraft aluminum interior frame that fits inside a skin comprised of proprietary urethane hull material which is RF welded to the waterproof Sealskin deck material.
My Wisper XP includes bow and stern hatches, the famous FC rudder, and double-coated sea sock and hatch material, and comes in at just about 40# dry weight. As a 5’6″ female, the weight is a big consideration; I can manage the kayak very well on land, but of course it is in the water where it really shines.
On long paddles in Alaska’s Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords, I was able to readily keep up with friends in sporty hard-shell boats, something that has been difficult in the much slower Kahuna. The fabric hull absorbs a good deal of energy from waves and keeps the boat very quiet even in confused waters. I am loving the way the Wisper performs.
The hull material is tough, and really takes a beating on our rocky Alaskan shorelines. It helps that Feathercraft adds a reinforcement strip over the keel and chines.
It takes about 30 minutes to assemble the kayak, after some practice. The supplied backpack includes room for a PFD and a four-part paddle; much more and you’d be really pushing up against the 50-lb airline weight limit. That said, I usually keep my Feathercraft assembled and car-top it to the put-in.
Each kayak is made to order in Feathercraft’s shop on Granville Island in Vancouver. It took about 2 1/2 weeks from the time I ordered the kayak until it arrived at my front door. They take great pride in their workmanship, and offer unparalleled customer service.
A couple of small drawbacks – Wisper does not have any hand loops for carrying, so you must carry the boat by cradling it against your hip. Since it is narrower than the Kahuna this is not so difficult, but grab loops would be helpful. Second, Feathercraft has gone to a new “gas pedal” style rudder pedal system, where your feet remain stationary and control the pedals by flexing your foot forward from the ankle. Personally, I preferred the older track-mounted pedal system and plan to swap out the pedals from my Kahuna into the Wisper.
Overall, Wisper is a comfortable, nimble boat that is perfect for a smaller paddler who enjoys a luxurious, organic ride.
Submitted by: Anton
Had my Wisper now for about 3 months and finally got to take it out on a longer expedition than just a day paddle. I’m 5’5″ and 150lbs. The boat assembles and stores gear much like my ’98 K1.
You got to be careful how you assemble the boat – if the bow and stern (especially the stern) chines do not align straight with the protected strips on the hull when tightening the extension bars, then the kayak will tend to favor a side and pull in that direction. Used the skeg but found it pulled the boat to starboard and took it off. The boat isn’t very fast and with 50lbs of gear it takes some effort to keep a fast pace, especially if your buddies are in glass boats. Got into some reflective wave chop and the boat performed as it should, no bracing or leaning needed, just kept paddling along with no worries.
For those that are looking for a great kayak with expedition potential and safety, this is your ticket! Am going to purchase the calf plates, hip braces and rolling rib (the standard #3 rib really bites into the lower back) for a more snug fit – still feel like I’m swimming inside the cockpit. All-in-all, a good boat to have for traveling.
Submitted by: AJB
The other reviewers before me covered a lot of information, so i’ll keep my review short and sweet. One can really appreciate the quality and workmanship Feathercraft puts into its products every time you take it out of the backpack (the bag itself a testament.) The Wisper is solidly built, assembles quickly, and is nimble and stable on the water (i’m pretty much a novice, and I have yet to feel like it is going to slip out from under me.) It tracks like an arrow, regardless of wind and waves (waves within reasonable size,) and the Sealskin provides an extremely dry ride. The foot bracing platform is comfortable and stable, though a little tough to figure out exactly when in the assembly process to install it. The cockpit is comfortable, but snug with the bracing bars installed (probably supposed to be.) The stern hatch makes gear access and assembly easier, and the optional bow hatch would as well (mine doesn’t have a bow hatch.) I give this a kayak a 10. It’s quick, stable, responsive, and is very aesthetically pleasing. I think it’s downright cool to look at on and off the water.
Submitted by: medicineman
Wanting to add to my initial review I write this after 3 days of rolling at the Sweetwater Symposium. The Wisper out of the box (backpack rather) is fine for all the forward leaning rolls as are most kayaks but fails for layback rolls (maybe if you are much much smaller then this might not be the case). It fails because the rib behind the seat will knife into your lower back. Fortunately for me I hooked up with Dubside for some one on one. He also uses a Wisper and after a quick trip to shore my Wisper was instantly converted into a folling machine. This was accomplished by removing completely the rib immediately behind the cockpit.
Feathercraft doesn’t recommend this of course but realize that for rolling we were less than 30 feet off shore with Dubside standing in the water critiquing my every move. After the session was over I examined his Wisper which has a custom rib behind the cockpit, a rib Dubside fashioned to render his own rolling machine (this must be said tongue-in-cheek because on this same day I witnessed him rolling my QCC700 via elbow and hand rolls)… The custom rib was fascinating because it is a ‘floating’ rib. Picture the typical Feathercraft rib more as a rectangle and then remove the sides leaving the top and the bottom. The top and bottom of the ribs are where the longerons and chine bars connect. This keeps the longerons and chine bars in place (with a little help from velcro straps)but allows the rear deck to flex as you roll up and onto it AND removes the knife in the lower back of the OEM rib.
The only caution I can see in this setup for rolling practice is in entering the kayak, just go slow and dont place your entire body weight on the rear deck which at this point is not truly supported via the rib. Just as obvious is the need for the OEM rib in place when doing serious paddles. I plan on making my own custom rib, maybe not a floating rib, preferring to keep the four sides of the square, but a rib that is 2 inches lower than the OEM. This would yeild about an inch of freeboard on the back deck. I’ve noticed that cutting boards can be had for cheap, are made of the same HDPE, and can be found thick enough. I will experiment with them.
Some more thoughts on the Wisper. After assembling/disassembling many times now I would recommend all who get the Wisper to get the optional bow hatch…it makes it so much easier to get the longerons in place and if you get the float bags it makes them easier to install too.
Back to the ‘rolling machine’. After Dubside removed the offending rib, 2 minutes later I had a balanced brace that felt wonderful. Almost as good as the feeling I got in Hoffmeister’s Qaajaaq SS.
One more thing at this juncture. At my height—6’1″—-I need the calf plates offered by Feathercraft, when rolling my shins are in line with the forward cockpit rib and get a wee bit too much pressure….which reminds me of why I think the Wisper is so easy to roll, my knees and Dubsides knees actually push into the fabric (skin), with your knees jammed this weigh your legs form a diamond which allows much more torquing of the kayak compred to when your legs are straighter. I think it allows a larger movement from the hips when you begin to turn the boat right side up.
Submitted by: medicineman
Well you have to give anything as impressive as FC’s Wisper a 10, in fact during a 2 hour get-to-know paddle of the Wisper one cannot stroke without constantly reminding himself/herself that this boat was a few minutes before in a backpack. Why a folder? I’ve had one before, from another manufacturer so I know the advantages of having a complete paddling package in the trunk of the car, plus I’m hoping to visit Norway this summer and want to have a boat with me to negate having to locate an outfitter and rent…too many times in New Zealand a body of water presented itself but there was no outfitter anywhere near. Another desire was to move closer toward a true Inuit boat, a more human boat in having skeleton and skin versus the exoskeletal hardshell that is so insect like-this I’ve heard espoused by the Greenlanders. I’ve heard of the differences in feel a SOF can provide and during the two hour paddle experienced it…it truly is a pleasing departure from hardshells feeling a wave dissipate its energy into the skin. The stats of the FC Wisper are on the Feathercraft website, no need duplicating them here. I chose the lightweight skin (its offered in 2 different weights) because 33 pounds is important to me. I was shocked to discover that the backpack provided by FC is an excellent product that has room not only for the complete kayak but also the necessary paddling accessories: PFD,spraydeck,drysuit,paddle float, and so on. Once you add the necessary components you will not be at 33 pounds anymore so care must be taken in chosing the accessories to keep under the magic weight limit the airlines will impose. The only challenge in the accessories department will be the paddle, yes 4 part paddles do exist and even 2 part Greenland paddles but you cant get the 2 part Greenland paddle into the backpack…and that puts me into a quandry because the Wisper begs for a true Greenland paddle. If you choose the black hull/black deck like I did then anything other than a true Greenland sik will seem out of place. The construction of FC boats is METICULOUS, quality control like you will find nowhere else in the industry….and its not just the skin, pick any part/piece/accessory supplied by Feathercraft and you can get out the magnifying glass and go over each mm of seam, each stitch (but not on the boat, its completely welded!), and find nothing that isn’t perfect. I found myself admiring fully the hatch design and after installing the hatch rims and rolling the top closed I wondered why other boats have hatches that leak, it is simple, effective and foolproof. The paddling experience was wonderful. I’m used to faster craft but you already know that this boat at 15’7″ wont be as fast as a boat with a waterline length of almost 18 feet, but its fast enough considering most can’t fly a QCC700 to the west coast or anywhere else for that matter.
The seating is fasciating…FC has a hammock style arrangement that is comfortable on its own, but couple that with a dual chambered inflatable seat and you have gluteal bliss….I did experience operator failure here-when entering the cockpit (with seasock in place) I inadvertantly pulled the seat back down to far, began paddling and felt back discomfort, eventually pulled over and got out to discover that I had not strapped the back of the seat down..my bad and easily fixed.
The cockpit is snug for me- 6’1″, 189 pounds, and I have to sit on the deck and slide my feet in straight legged at one time, so I would fear for anyone taller or with longer legs having easy access…..the seasock is just smart for SOF, obviously keeping out crud and providing for quicker water removal in the event of a wet exit…but know that with wet feet you will stick a bit sliding in. Note that the seasocck nor the spraydeck are options, they are included but you can and I did upgrade the spraydeck to a nylon-neoprene model, both of which again show that Feathercraft invests in quality control.
The foot rest works, just establish proper placement before a long paddle, once the distance is established it is easy to reproduce.
As far as storage the Wisper has plenty, being an ultralightweight backpacker I could easily store enough for a week long paddle, but do consider the optional forward hatch, it also makes it easier to install the longerons and chine bars. You should also pay attention to the weight rating of this boat, at my weight I have 60 pounds of gear I can add-if you have to pack a lot of water this may be an issue.
The assembly of the Wisper is no biggie….my first attempt took over and hour and a half but that was watching a movie and playing with the kids. I’ve put it together 4 times now and can do in under 30 minutes at this point and that includes the optional hatch installaion, the seasock, and inflating the float bags (get these, cheap insurance). I have not rolled the kayak yet, but if I can roll an Eggemoggin or a QCC700 the Wisper should be no big deal, and some established champions in the rolling sports have used the Wisper in Greenland.
Stability and sponsons….another distinct advantage over hardshells is the existance and use of sponsons in SOF kayaks…with the inflation tube you can essentialy dial in however much stability you desire. The sponsons also effect the final tensioning of the skin and with them you can achieve a hardshell look that has decieved onlookers. I could not recommend the Wisper to anyone without knowing their intended use, shouldnt do that with any kayak but I can now fully recommend Feathercraft…I’ve just never seen attention to detail, and that is EVERY detail, from any other company that matches what they put out. If you have any questions about this boat dont hesitate to ask.
Submitted by: —
I recently purchased a Feathercraft Wisper (beautiful red deck and black hull) and have had the opportunity to take the boat out on two occasions now. I am a 5’10” 185lb novice paddler who owned an Airframe inflatable kayak prior to the purchase of the Wisper. My overall impressions of the boat are very positive, the materials are very high quality, the assembly is pretty straightforward, the boat is very lightweight, and in my initial couple of hours it seems to track very well and reach cruising speed easily.
Packaging: The kayak is shipped inside its backpack, which is then placed inside a cardboard box. Inside the backpack the frame components are wrapped in a thin lightweight sheet of packaging material.
Materials included with the kayak: The Wisper doesn’t have a lot of options; it comes standard with a stern hatch and a skeg which is strapped onto the kayak when you wish to use it. It also comes with a lightweight backpack for storing and transporting the kayak, a spray skirt and a lightweight sea sock. Note that you can upgrade to a neoprene and nylon spray skirt or a heavier duty sea sock if you are surfing or doing lots of rolls. My materials included a video showing assembly of a Kahuna with a note attached indicating they haven’t yet finished the Wisper assembly video and that the assembly procedures were very similar. There is also an assembly manual, owners manual, and a repair kit in a dry sack which included patches and epoxy for the hull and deck as well as a small container of Bo-Shield T9 which is used to lightly coat the frame pieces where they join together allowing for easier disassembly if you leave the boat assembled for months at a time.
Assembly: I watched the included video prior to putting the boat together the first time and believe that’s it worth your time so you have an overall feel of how this all goes together. Feathercraft states it takes 20 mins to assembly the kayak, which certainly seems possible after some practice. Overall it’s pretty straightforward, I don’t consider myself very skilled with mechanical things but this really wasn’t very hard. The first time there are only a couple of items that I felt were difficult, the one area I had the most difficulty with was getting the skin centered on the bow and stern frame. I’m guessing this is because the skin in new and pretty tight and it will get easier as the skin stretches a bit and forms to the frame after being assembled for a while. The second area that took a bit of playing around was using the levers to extend the keel, chine, and gunwale extension tubes. It’s a bit tricky figuring out how to keep everything aligned while you are applying pressure to extend the tubes, the second time was much easier so don’t worry about taking a while the first time you build the boat. I think the foot brace is also worth a quick mention, as I didn’t think I would like it at first but now think it’s a great design. Basically it’s a single piece of high density polyethylene which is attached via webbing to the gunwale bars and the bow cockpit crossrib. The beauty of this is that you can easily adjust the length of the brace as well as the angle of the brace. I initially thought it wouldn’t be very stable but was happily surprised to find it both stable and very comfortable allowing for a lot of different foot positions when paddling.
Paddling: Now for the fun part! I’ve had the kayak out twice now, once on a day when there were a lot of ski boats on the lake creating quite a confused state on the water and today when there was a light breeze and pretty calm conditions. The first day I left the skeg off and today I had the skeg on. The boat tracked significantly better today but I’m not sure if it was the conditions or the skeg. I’ll add an update after I’ve spent another month with the boat in different conditions, at the moment I’m planning on leaving the skeg on since it’s pretty small and very lightweight. The boat is very comfortable; I really love the suspended seat and the ability to blow up the backrest for lumbar support. I also like the sea sock although it takes a bit of pulling when I first settle into the kayak to give my feet enough room to move but once adjusted I think it’s very comfortable and I like the fact that it is easy to pull out and clean while keeping dirt and sand out of the actual interior of the boat. As I mentioned earlier I’m a novice paddler but have found this boat very easy to put on an edge for turns, I have yet to feel as if the boat is going to roll out from under me. She is very easy to paddle, gets up to speed quickly and if you want to get some fitness she will really respond to aggressive paddling. I hit 5.1 knots with her today and cruised at just over 3.5 knots. I will be taking a class the end of this month to learn how to roll her so I’ll provide an update after that class
Summary: Very well made, reasonably easy to assembly, very lightweight (app 37lbs at 15’7”) and lots of fun on the water. She wasn’t cheap but at this point I’d say she is absolutely worth the money.