Folding kayaks are quickly becoming the coolest (and most convenient) option for nature lovers looking to hit the water. If you're like me, you love spending time outdoors kayaking, but don't always have the space necessary to haul around a traditional yak.
That's why foldable kayaks are so amazing — they're portable enough that you can fit them inside your small car, yet still offer all the fun of a traditional kayak. With a folding kayak, you can skip the roof racks, tie downs, and awkward lumbering down to the beach. Most of these kayaks set up in just minutes, and weigh less than your neighbor’s chonky cat. So if you’re looking to invest in a great new toy for the great outdoors, turn your attention to a foldable kayak.
Types of folding kayaks
To create a folding kayak, designers have to get quite creative, so there are a few different types of “folding” kayaks on the market. The most common are origami kayaks, which take their name from origami paper, and inflatable kayaks.
Origami kayaks are made of a single piece of rigid plastic that folds up into a small package, exactly like an origami design done with paper. Though they’re made of a hard puncture-proof plastic, these kayaks still manage to be incredibly lightweight.
Next, we have the inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks consist of an inflatable shell, and are sometimes reinforced with an inner aluminum skeleton.
What to consider
Folding kayaks come with a wide range of features and specs, so what the heck should you be looking for?
Since the goal of a folding kayak is to be portable and easy to use, you'll want to know exactly how heavy it is, total set-up time, and the durability and lifespan.
If you're hoping to use these kayaks for camping or fishing, it's also important to look into their maximum capacity. Most folding and inflatable kayaks are rated to hold a decent amount of weight, but to avoid any Titanic-like scenarios, please double check this before hitting the water.
Finally, if you're interested in ocean kayaking and long explorations, keep in mind that not every folding kayak can brave harsh conditions. Check out what the kayak is designed for before pushing it through any long-haul adventures, strong currents, or rapids.
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The Oru Kayak Beach LT is excellent for paddling around lakes, rivers, or just having fun with friends. You can assemble it in five minutes, and it only weighs 28 pounds. The cockpit has extra space for storing your fishing gear and camping gear, and the 5mm double-layered polypyrene plastic provides strength and durability. This kayak is great for beginners and weekend warriors.
The MyCanoe Duo is a revolutionary canoe that folds up small enough to fit in your tiny car, but when unfolded, it can hold two people and their gear. It weighs 43 pounds, can hold up to 480 pounds, and is made of a durable 5mm double-layer custom polypropylene. You can get an optional stabilizer kit installed, which gives you the ability to stand up while casting your fishing rod. This baby can even be fitted with rod holders, making it a good camping adventure craft. For extra cool points, the MyCanoe can even be converted into a freakin’ sailboat.
Oru dominates the folding kayak market, and the Coast XT is their top-of-the-line kayak. It features aluminum cockpit latches and extra-reinforced strap anchor points, making it one of the most durable kayaks in the Oru lineup. All Oru kayaks come with the Oru Pack, which allows you to pack the kayak down small enough to bring on a plane, or trek out into the bush for some off-grid exploration. Weighing just 32 pounds, it can hold up to 400 pounds of weight — so bring your gear along.
The Advanced Frame Sport Kayak is incredibly easy to inflate and deflate, so you can get on the water in minutes. You'll appreciate the built-in aluminum ribs that give the kayak extra shape and stability — great for paddlers of all experience levels. The kayak has great stability, good for day trips or fishing excursions. It also has a large cockpit opening that makes loading and unloading a breeze. Comes with an adjustable backrest, ensuring that you stay comfortable even after hours on the water. The only downside is the max capacity is 250 pounds, so it’s not ideal for campers or multi-day trips with gear.
Sea Eagle's Razorlite 393rl is made entirely with drop stitch material, meaning it can hold its own against even the most rugged hard-hulled kayaks. With its threaded drop stitch, the Razorlite can inflate to a high PSI, which is what helps feel so firm and stable. This kayak is incredibly fast with rigid bow and stern molds that help you cut through the waves. It comes in at only 35 pounds, but it can hold up to 500! It also sets up in just 10 minutes.
The Advanced Elements AE1007-R is designed with a drop stitch rigid floor, so it feels more stable and controlled. It can be switched between “open” and “closed” cockpit styles, giving you the choice of more mobility, or protection from the elements. Since it’s convertible between a single-seater and two-seater, it is slightly larger than other foldable options and weighs in at 52 pounds. But this gives it the ability to hold up to 550 pounds, so you can bring a friend, and all your gear, along for the ride.
The HoSports Scout 1 Inflatable is a solid choice for multi-day kayaking adventures. With the rigid drop-stitch floor and ArmorShark reinforced side bladders, it can handle rougher water with ease. Two bungee storage zones on the front and back keep your gear essentials safe and secure, and the “open top” design leaves plenty of room for gear inside the kayak as well. With the ergonomic high back seat, you’ll stay comfortable through hours of paddling. It also comes with built-in fishing rod holders in the seat.
The TuckTec is durable and rigid. It’s primarily intended for beginner recreational kayakers. It weighs in at 28 pounds and can hold up to 300 pounds. It has a very wide and low middle, which makes it great for fishing, but you will get splashed if the waves get choppy. For that reason, this kayak is best for calm lakes, rivers, and channels.
Coming in at less than $200, the Intex Challenger K1 is the best option for any broke paddlers. While it might look like a pool toy, this kayak actually holds its own out on the water. It’s fun to use, easy to set up and inflate, and tracks pretty well in calm waters. Recommended for hot days out on the lake, completed with a cold beer in one hand, and a pepperoni stick in the other. Best for beginners just looking to cruise, float and go easy on their wallets. (It goes on sale frequently so you can get it for even cheaper!)
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