Kayaking serves many purposes, including a unique cardio workout, a way to get in touch with nature, and a fun social activity. But even with all of the amazing features that come along with kayaking, there is one thing in particular that prevents people from purchasing this watercraft. Kayaks take up space, and not everyone has enough space to keep a kayak properly stored. On top of that, a kayak can be tough to transport thanks to its bulky nature.
Luckily, kayak manufacturers have come up with a solution: the folding kayak. Folding kayaks come in many shapes and sizes, but the main draw of the folding design is that it’s easy to store and transport. The assembly of these boats is quick and easy; you can be out on the water within minutes with the proper fold-up kayak. Here we’ll cover the basics of this unique watercraft as well as the best space-saving folding kayaks on the market.
Folding Kayak Styles
There are two common styles for folding kayaks: inflatable and origami. It’s impossible to say if one is better than the other since there are pros and cons to both.
An inflatable kayak is constructed entirely from an inflatable outer shell supported by solid inner ribs. Many kayakers wonder if this type of kayak is safe because of the lightweight material used. We can assure you that inflatable kayaks are entirely safe as long as you purchase from a reputable manufacturer. If you choose a high-quality inflatable kayak with durable construction, you might even find it more stable than a hardshell kayak.
Before and after each kayaking excursion, you'll need to inflate and deflate the kayak. This takes virtually no time at all and can typically be done in 10 minutes or less. Because of the inflatable feature, these kayaks are the easiest to store and transport. Many inflatable models even come with an easy-to-carry bag for storage. They’re lightweight, but this doesn’t mean they skimp on durability or stability.
There are just a few minor drawbacks to the inflatable design. One is that it can be difficult to gauge the proper amount of air while inflating. There is a very fine line between too much air and too little, so it is recommended that you use a PSI pressure gauge during inflation, similar to using a tire pressure gauge. Some kayakers find that inflatable boats are harder to control while on the water because they are so lightweight. This shouldn’t be a problem, though, if you plan on sticking to calmer waters.
Origami kayaks are not inflatable, but instead, they use non-rigid flexible materials to fold-up. The outer hull is made from rigid materials, but unlike a hardshell kayak, these materials can fold for optimal space-saving and transport. The top origami kayak model can even be carried around in a backpack. Because of the rigid materials, there is essentially no risk of the kayak becoming punctured by a hard or sharp object while in the water. These watercrafts are stable, durable, and highly portable.
The main drawback of the origami design is that the origami design is more costly than the inflatable design. Many kayakers are willing to pay the extra price, especially if they prefer boating on a watercraft constructed from rigid materials. The only other downside of an origami kayak is that the weight capacity is often lower; some larger individuals claim that these boats are too small for comfort.
Pros/Cons of Fold Up Kayaks
The pros of fold-up kayaks outweigh the cons. Actually, there really aren't many cons at only. The only potential downside of opting for a folding kayak is that the lightweight nature of the boat can be challenging to control on fast-moving water. But it’s important to remember that all boats are more difficult to control with strong currents, wind, and waves. This isn’t just limited to fold-up kayaks.
The main advantage of the fold-up design is that it is highly portable. You won’t ever have to tie down your kayak on top of your car or tow it behind your vehicle. Just throw the bag containing the deflated/folded-up kayak in the back of your car and be on your way. You can even include it in your checked luggage before boarding a plane. Because it folds up entirely, there's no need for storage space in the home or garage.
Here are a few more benefits that come along with the fold-up kayak design:
Choosing Top Quality Fold Up Kayaks
It’s a given that a folding kayak will be more compact than a hardshell model, but it's still important to consider the size of the watercraft. Research the measurements of the kayak while folded and while assembled. Ideally, your folding kayak will take up virtually no space while disassembled, but it will be large enough for optimal stability, lots of storage, and a high weight capacity while on water.
Durability, Design & Comfort
In the past, folding kayaks weren’t known for their durability, but modern-day foldable models have gotten a much better rep. Manufacturers are using durable, puncture-resistant materials as well as UV-resistant. Many avid kayakers are claiming that folding kayaks are just as safe and sustainable as their hardshell competitors, even while white water rafting. Look for highly durable materials like polypropylene, specifically polypropylene that has been treated with a UV-resistant coating.
The design of your assembled kayak needs to meet your specific needs, like whether you need lots of storage for fishing equipment or you're looking for a tandem seating arrangement for two kayakers. Kayak design has a lot to do with determining the boat's comfort level. Make sure there's enough space to stretch your legs and sit in the seat for hours on end.
Ease of Setup/Storing
The main difference between folding and hardshell kayaks is that folding designs require setup and breakdown. Before you use your kayak, you’ll have to assemble it correctly for safe use out on the water. Afterward, you'll need to break it down so that you can pack it away. Chances are you want to get out on the water as quickly as possible, and the best folding kayaks allow you to do this. Look for a folding kayak that comes with a pump for short inflation/deflation and folding time of 10-15 minutes.
Maximum Weight Capacity
The maximum weight capacity refers to the amount of weight that a folding kayak can comfortably and safely hold. If you consider yourself a large individual or you plan on kayaking with lots of equipment, high weight capacity is a must. The top folding kayak models vary in the amount of weight they can hold, anywhere from 300 to 600 pounds.
Storage & Portability
It is a common misconception that a folding kayak is limited on storage space, mainly because they are so compact when disassembled. But that’s the beauty of folding kayaks; they may be compact while not in use, but when assembled they can be extremely spacious. The best folding kayaks have tons of storage space in the bow and stern, and some of them even feature dry storage compartments.
The other main perk of choosing a folding kayak is that it’s highly portable. While disassembled, most of the top models can be stored and carried in a duffel or backpack. Even while they are assembled, these kayaks are highly portable. Look for a model that comes with carrying handles on the bow and stern for easy launching and beaching.
Stability & Safety Features
Another common misconception is that folding kayaks don’t meet the same safety standards as hardshell models. This is not the case at all; a top folding kayak is specifically designed to be highly stable thanks to its durable materials and hull shape. If stability is your main concern, look for a folding kayak that features an extra-wide, flat hull. This hull shape is a bit more challenging to maneuver through the water, but the chances of tipping or capsizing are slim to none.
Usage/Primary Paddling Location
To choose the best folding kayak for you, it's important to consider the primary paddling location. Will the kayak be used for fishing, white water rafting, or only just paddling through peaceful waters? Consider the water movement trends as well as the typical weather of the area you plan on kayaking most.
Price & Warranty
When it comes to folding kayaks, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for. Try not to be too attracted to the most budget-friendly option just because of the low price tag. A lower price tag often means that low-quality materials were used, and you might be replacing that kayak sooner than you hoped. Of course, staying within budget is important, but so is purchasing a folding kayak that is built to last.
Some folding kayaks come with no warranty at all, while others come with lifetime coverage. It’s always a good sign when manufacturers include a decent warranty along with the purchase. This shows that they stand by their product and have faith in what they’re selling. When considering warranty, be sure to read the details clearly; many policies offer coverage only for specific parts and pieces rather than the kayak as a whole.
4 Best Folding Kayaks Reviewed
1. Oru Bay St
Best Folding Kayak
Max Load Capacity
Body Type (Material)
Folding Kayak Type
12’ L, 25” W
Oru is one of the top names in the folding kayak industry, so it makes sense that their Bay St model is the best folding kayak to make our list. The Oru company has come out with several origami folding models over the year, but the Bay St is the original Oru kayak. It was initially designed in 2012 but has undergone some significant upgrades in terms of durability, performance, and comfort.
Even with the skinny hull design, the Oru Bay St is stable enough for beginners (but more ideal for intermediate kayakers). Its contoured shape is also ideal for advanced kayakers in need of high maneuverability. When disassembled, this kayak can be stored in an easy-to-carry box equipped with a handle. Once you take the folded kayak out of the box, it should only take about 5 minutes for full assembly.
The award-winning design has been featured on Shark Tank, CNN, Forbes, and even Oprah Magazine.
Even though it weighs only 28 pounds (less than half the weight of a traditional kayak), the Oru folding kayak can still hold up to 300 pounds. The cockpit provides ample storage space for keeping equipment and personal items protected. The only potential drawback for beginners is the narrow width of the boat, which makes the cockpit space too small for comfort for some kayakers.
2. Oru Beach Lt
Best Rated Beginners Folding Kayak
Max Load Capacity
Body Type (Material)
Folding Kayak Type
12’ L, 28” W
Another best rated folding kayak from the Oru company is the Beach Lt. This model came about after the Bay St, and it was specifically designed for kayaking beginners. The main difference between the Bay St and the Beach Lt is the kayak’s size; the Bay St is just 25 inches wide while the Beach Lt measures 28 inches. Beginners love these 3 extra inches since they provide additional stability.
The Beach Lt is often referred to as the fun and friendly kayak because it's great for day trips, smooth rides on the water, and active social gatherings. The foldable origami design is remarkably similar to the Bay St, and it packs into an identical carrying case with the same disassembled dimensions.
A happy Beach Lt user says that “I’ve had my Oru for several months now, and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I can stash it in my car during work and hit the lake near my office afterward.” It’s as easy as that.
With the Beach Lt, you get to experience more outdoor fun at a fraction of the weight. It was built with simplicity in mind, but it somehow still exceeds the expectations of kayakers around the world. Don’t be surprised if you can set it up and break it down within 5 minutes after the first few tries. In addition to sturdy construction with durable materials, Oru treats all of its kayaks with a UV-resistant coating that is meant to last 10 years.
3. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
Best Collapsible Kayak
Max Load Capacity
Body Type (Material)
Folding Kayak Type
15’ L, 32” W
If you’re on the hunt for the best collapsible kayak, nothing quite compares to the Advanced Elements Convertible Inflatable Kayak. Unlike the folding kayak reviews we’ve offered so far, this one features an inflatable design rather than an origami folding system. Many kayakers like this model because the price is right, but that’s definitely not the only reason.
All you have to do to get this kayak out on the water is unfold, inflate, and attach the seats once inflated.
The greatest feature of this collapsible kayak is that it can accommodate two kayakers. The maximum weight capacity is 550 pounds, so you should have no trouble fitting two people within the cockpit. No matter if you use this as a solo or tandem watercraft, you can count on optimal stability. Part of this is thanks to the 15-ft length and 32-inch design, but it can mostly be attributed to the rigid bow and stern rib-frame design.
Everything comes preassembled with the AdvancedFrame kayak, so you can get on the water as soon as it’s delivered. The open deck design makes entering and exiting easier than ever, and the 3 layers of hull material make this kayak highly puncture-resistant. All in all, this is the best collapsible paddle kayak on the market, and the best part of all is that it won’t break the bank.
Best hardshell Foldable Kayak
Max Load Capacity
Body Type (Material)
Folding Kayak Type
Hard Shell Foldable
The Tucktec folding kayak is the best hardshell foldable kayak on the market right now. It comes with all the benefits of an inflatable kayak, but instead of an inflatable design, it features a hard outer shell. This rigid 10-foot kayak easily folds into an easy carrying case while not in use. It weighs less than 30 pounds and can easily be stowed away in the trunk of a car, garage, or basement.
The Tucktec takes about 2 minutes to assemble, and it can be deconstructed just as fast. All you have to do for assembly is quickly latch 6 heavy-duty clamps that keep the kayak together. Once assembled, it performs just like a traditional hardshell kayak. The streamlined design allows the fold-up kayak to cut through the water smoothly, and maneuverability is at an all-time high. Many Tucktec users are surprised by this kayak’s agility.
The main goal of this company is to offer extreme portability without sacrificing any performance features. They’ve certainly achieved that, plus this is the top option if you’re looking for a folding kayak for sale. The Tucktec is the most affordable folding kayak on our list, and surprisingly enough, it comes with the most extensive warranty coverage.
Foldable Kayak Material Types
Using short for polyvinyl chloride, PVC for short, is a common practice among kayak manufacturers. High-grade PVC is lightweight yet durable, making it perfect for folding kayaks. Although the most common use of PVC is in the plumbing and medical industries, it is expanding into the outdoor gear market.
Anodized or Aerospace Aluminum
Aluminum Anodizers Council is “an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant, anodic oxide finish.” According to the Aluminum Anodizers Council, “aluminum is ideally suited to anodizing, although other nonferrous metals, such as magnesium and titanium, also can be anodized.”
The reason anodized aluminum is ideal for the construction of kayaks is that it is anti-corrosive. Any outdoor equipment, especially equipment meant for use on the water, needs to have anti-corrosive properties to avoid rust. If you see that a kayak is made with anodized or aerospace aluminum, you can rest easy knowing that your kayak won’t be affected by rust.
As you can see from the Oru kayak reviews above, the company uses polypropylene material in all of its products. Polypropylene is one of the most common forms of plastic found in the world, and it has many uses. It is incredibly durable, but also lightweight, and it highly resistant to chemicals and heat from UV rays.
Polyethylene (Military-Grade or Elvaloy)
Another widely used form of plastic, polyethylene shares a lot of the same properties as polypropylene. The main difference is that kayaks constructed from polyethylene have a good chance of being cheaper than polypropylene kayaks. They are extremely inexpensive to make, but that doesn’t mean these they won’t get the job done.
Hypalon or Neupron
Hypalon and neupron are typical in folding kayaks, specifically in inflatable kayaks that use durable fabric for their shells. These materials are used to coat the fabric since they are both highly resistant to oil as well as abrasions. You can expect an inflatable kayak coated in one or both of these materials to hold strong against wear and tear.
Top Brands of Folding Kayaks
The most well-known brand in the folding kayak industry is Oru, which is why we’ve included 2 Oru models on our list. Oru has been designing foldable kayaks for years, with their first foldable model (Bay St) released in 2012. Since then, the Oru team has perfected the original design in more ways than one. They have 5 unique foldable designs to choose from, each one better than the last.
Another popular folding kayak brand is Tucktec. This family-owned company believes that a foldable kayak doesn’t have to make sacrifices when it comes to traditional performance. They have designed just one folding kayak model, which has regularly been reviewed as the top hard shell folding kayak on the market.
Assembling & Using a Foldable Kayak
The assembly of your foldable kayak depends on the specific make and model you choose.
Assembling an Oru kayak is very different than assembling an inflatable Advanced Elements kayak or a hardshell Tucktec kayak. For this reason, it is imperative that you read the owner's manual before trying to assemble your new kayak. Don't be surprised if you experience some trouble with setup the first go-around; it will only get more comfortable each and every time you do it.
As long as you choose a top-rated model like the ones mentioned above, using a foldable boat will feel the same as using a traditional kayak. Just like a top-rated non-folding kayak, one with a foldable design will be easy and fun to use. Using a foldable kayak doesn’t mean you have to make sacrifices on stability, durability, or comfort. The only difference is that a foldable kayak is much easier to store and transport.
Folding & Storing the Fold Up Kayak
Just as you need to read the manufacturer’s specific instruction for assembly, the same goes for disassembly. When you’re ready to fold and store your fold-up kayak, be sure to have the owner’s manual on hand. Even if the steps for disassembly seem fairly obvious, always read the instructions the first time around.
It is recommended that you use the provided carrying case or duffle bag to store your kayak. This will keep it protected from sun, wind, rain, heat, and cold temperatures. In addition to using the carry case for protection, try to keep the folded-up kayak indoors, like in the garage, basement, or even in the trunk of your car if you plan on using it again in the near future.
How To Avoid Fold Up Kayak Capsizing
For some reason, there is a common assumption floating around the kayaking world, and this is that fold up kayaks have a higher chance of tipping and capsizing. There is actually no evidence of this at all, and it’s just as possible for a non-folding kayak to tip or capsize. No matter which type of kayaking you are using, taking the proper water safety precautions is a must.
The main thing you can do to stay safe is to always come to the water fully prepared. Bring along the necessary safety gear, like a flotation device and first aid kit. The best way to avoid capsizing is to always keep the weight capacity of your kayak in mind. The manufacturer has set a weight limit for a reason, so you must never exceed it.
Care & Maintenance: Taking Care of Your Foldable Kayak
One way to ensure your folding kayak remains in tip-top shape is always to follow the assembly instructions. Failing to follow directions could lead to kayak damage, so this is the very first step in kayak maintenance. If you're using an inflatable fold-up kayak, it's a good idea to clean the valves before you begin inflating. Sand, dirt, and salt can be lodged in the valves, and a blocked valve could lead to rupture during inflation.
It’s important to clean the kayak and allow it to dry before stowing it away. Storing the watercraft while it’s still wet is just asking for mold and mildew growth.
Sailing Britican says that “mold thrives when boats are closed up. Air that is trapped inside holds moisture that can’t escape. And with water, air and hull temperatures changing at different rates, condensation forms.”
By storing (closing up) your kayak while it’s wet, mold is likely to become present. So whatever you do, allow your kayak to dry before packing it away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are foldable kayaks safe/stable?
Foldable kayaks are just as safe/stable as traditional non-folding ones. If stability is your main concern, consider a folding kayak that features a wide hull design, like the AdvancedElements Inflatable Kayak. A wider hull doesn’t just offer more stability, but also more space in the cockpit for the kayaker.
How long do folding kayaks last? Do they have warranties?
The lifespan of a folding kayak depends on how you treat it and whether you properly maintain the kayak. If all goes well, your folding kayak could last a lifetime. With regular use, though, it is more likely that your kayak will last 10 to 12 years before you need a replacement.
As far as warranties go, the majority of folding kayak manufacturers do offer coverage. This coverage varies, but the standard warranty period for folding kayaks is between 1 and 3 years.
Are folding kayaks durable? Can dogs go in them?
Yes, folding kayaks are durable, and yes, you’ll be able to take your dog along for the ride. These days, manufacturers are using only the toughest materials for folding kayak construction, like PVC, polyethylene, and polypropylene. As long as you stay within the weight limit, there’s no reason to leave your pet behind.
Can you fish from a foldable kayak?
Fishing from a foldable kayak is more than possible. Some anglers prefer non-folding pedal kayaks like the Hobie Mirage, but others prefer folding kayaks for their extreme portability. If you plan to use your new folding kayak for fishing, just be sure that it comes with plenty of storage for fishing poles and other equipment.
Can I attach a motor to my folding kayak?
Attaching a motor to a folding kayak is possible, but it is important first to make sure that the folding watercraft is compatible with a motor. If motorized kayaking is for you, consider investing in an Oru; these kayaks are all compatible with the Oru trolling motor.
Are folding kayaks delicate or damage-prone?
Folding kayaks are far from delicate. Many people believe that folding kayaks are likely to “pop” or become punctured, but manufacturers use materials that are resistant to abrasions, punctures, and damage in general.
Accessories needed for using a folding kayak?
The main accessory needed for using a folding kayak is a paddle. You might also need to invest in a kayak pump if you opt for the inflatable design. Other necessary accessories include a life jacket, kayak spray skirt, helmet (for white water rafting), whistle, and a flashlight. There shouldn’t be any need for a folding kayak rack or a folding kayak trailer for transporting the watercraft. These kayaks are highly portable and can easily be stored in the trunk of a car, so no need for a rack or trailer.
Oru is the top folding kayak brand, so obviously our top choice for the best foldable kayak is the original Oru, the Bay St kayak. Nothing beats the Bay St in terms of durability, performance, and comfort. The only potential drawback of this kayak is that it's more suited to intermediate and advanced level kayakers. If you consider yourself a beginner, you might find the next best option, the Oru Beach Lt.
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