What’s the best part about kayaking?
Gliding along glass-like shorelines? Sure. Checking out the local wildlife? You bet.
Schlepping that big heavy fishing kayak into the water? Not so much.
Unfortunately, as calm and peaceful as kayaking can be, getting the thing into the water can make you want to scream a few choice words. Then there’s the whole strapping it down to your roof dilemma.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to all of that. A folding kayak!
What Is a Folding Kayak?
Folding kayaks have collapsible frames that do just what the name says. They fold.
Typically, there’s a durable piece of fabric that covers the frame once it’s unfolded. Being folded (rather than one solid and non-flexible piece of metal or acrylic) means that it’s easier to store, easier to transport and easier to carry to the water. The suitcase-style ones are super cool.
The only downside (that I can see) to a folding kayak is that they do have a “fold rating.” This means that there’s a certain number of times it can be folded and unfolded before you would need to replace it. The upside is most are rated for upwards of 20,000 folds, which is quite a lot of time.
Reasons to Consider a Folding Kayak
A folding kayak can come in handy for many reasons. Here are just a few:
- They’re easy to transport, stow and carry
- If you don’t have or want a roof rack
- If you don’t have a friend that has a roof rack
- They can be taken with you (as checked baggage) on airplanes
- Use it as an easy-to-store dinghy or tender on your boat
Features of the Best Folding Kayaks
Folding kayaks are sometimes confused with inflatable kayaks. The set-up is what makes the two different. Inflatable kayaks are inflated (blown up with a pump), while folding kayaks fold down into a small size. So, technically, an inflatable kayak can fold. But a folding kayak is not inflatable. Make sense?
Besides that cool folding factor, the best folding kayaks should offer the same top-quality features as any other kayak. Check out a few more features of the best folding kayaks.
- Easy Assembly — You’ll want to find—and try out—the folding mechanism before purchasing a folding kayak. Make sure it’s easy for you to carry and put together (as well as take apart). If it’s too complex, you’re not going to find it enjoyable at all.
- Durability — You’re gonna want to find a folding kayak made out of a sturdy material such as polypropylene. This is to be sure it will hold up to weight and many times of putting together and taking apart.
- UV and Weather Resistance — UV and weather resistance kind of go along with durability. You’ll want to find something that isn’t going to fade, peel or rust in the sun and water. UV coatings are great in the outdoor sporting world.
- Waterproof Seals — Since it’s going to be folding, make sure there are waterproof aspects such as seam covers over the connection points.
- Light Weight — Practice carrying the folding kayak. If you’re going to be kayaking solo, you’ll want to be sure it’s not too heavy to carry solo.
The Best Folding Kayaks for Ultimate Freedom
Coovy MyCanoe 2.5 Origami Folding Canoe
The Coovy MyCanoe has the traditional look of a Canadian-style canoe.
It comes with two seats and lots of safety certifications. It’s lightweight and about 14 feet long and 35 inches wide.
The body is made of custom polypropylene with a 15-year UV treatment.
It’s rated for 20,000 folds and can be set up in 10 minutes and taken down in about five minutes.
- Size: 14′ L x 35″ W
- Folded Size: 37” x 8” x 25”
- Carry Weight: 52 lbs
- Maximum Load: 440 lbs
Elevens Cruise Plus Foldable and Portable Kayak
The Elevens Cruise Plus Kayak is a one-person sit inside-style.
Made out of FRPP, a sturdy and rugged polymer, it’s puncture, tear, abrasion and UV resistant.
The frame is made of anodized aluminum alloy with aluminum buckles and hardware.
It’s rated to 10,000 folds and weighs about 30 pounds when folded.
With a set-up time of about 10 minutes, you’ll be out on the water in no time.
It comes with a paddle, life vest, seat, cup holder, camera or phone mount and a storage bag.
- Size: 12.8′ L X 23.6″ W x 14.2″ D
- Folded Size: 34” x 30” x 14”
- Carry Weight: 30 lbs
- Maximum Load: 200 lbs
Oru Kayak Foldable Kayak Beach LT
The Oru Kayak Beach version has a wider design for waves and paddling on lakes, rivers and calm ocean water.
It’s made out of one sheet of plastic that folds up into a box. A fold-over deck closure and side release buckles make for easy set-up and take-down (about 10 minutes).
Sleek and durable, this sit-inside kayak has a wide cockpit that can fit one-person or an adult and a child.
It’s rated for 20,000 folds, is great for any skill level and meets and exceeds US Coast Guard safety requirements.
A carrying case (29” x 33”) is sold separately and has a strap. (Find this in the handy list of accessories below.)
- Size: 12′ L x 28″ W
- Folded Size: 33″ x 12″ x 29″
- Carry Weight: 28 lbs
- Maximum Load: 300 lbs
Oru Kayak Foldable Kayak Bay ST
The Oru Kayak Bay version has all of the same great features at the above-mentioned Beach version, but it’s slimmer and designed for sport touring and recreational paddling in lakes, rivers and calm oceans.
It also has a hard chine for extra rigidity while underway.
- Size: 12′ L x 25″ W
- Folded Size: 33” x 12” x 29”
- Carry Weight: 28 lbs
- Maximum Load: 300 lbs
Tuctec Folding Kayak 10 Feet Hard Shell
At 10 feet long, this is a great choice for use as a dinghy or tender on your boat.
It weighs about 30 pounds when folded and has a solid hard-shell.
It’s made from a single sheet of 1/8 inch solid HDPE that won’t puncture.
It sets up in about two minutes with six heavy-duty clamps that latch.
The streamlined design and wide flat bottom provide stability and smooth sailing.
A seat is included.
- Size: 10′ L x 14″ D
- Folded Size: 48” x 15” x 8”
- Carry Weight: 30 lbs
- Maximum Load: 350 lbs
Folding Kayak Accessories
Whether you have a folding kayak, a fishing kayak or an inflatable kayak, you’re going to need (better make that want) all the cool gear and accessories that make a day on the water safe fun and worry-free.
Seals Coastal Tour Spray Skirt
A spray skirt is a must for cold weather kayaking. The Seals Coastal Tour Spray Skirt is made of medium-weight coated nylon packcloth that’s coated with polyurethane for extra water resistance.
The Ballistic nylon edge guard has multiple lash points to clip gear, kayak coolers and other accessories.
There’s also a zippered mesh deck pocket for storing small items.
Cold water and rain stay out via the double-stitched and sealed seams.
A tensioned deck stay makes water run off rather than collecting in one spot. The neoprene waistband has adjustable rip and stick sides to get a watertight fit. A bungee grip system keeps it securely in place.
Essential Marine Products Scupper Plugs
Scupper plugs are a necessity for kayaks, especially sit-on-top kayaks. If you’re unfamiliar, scupper holes allow water to drain out of the kayak, keeping the water out while you’re on board.
Essential Marine Products Scupper Plugs are made of durable rubber and fit most kayaks. They fit ¾” to 1.5” scupper holes and come in several bright colors.
Mexidi PVC Inflatable Kayak Outrigger Stabilizer Kit
Stabilizers, sometimes called outriggers, are detachable air tubes that provide buoyancy and keep the kayak stable.
Basically, it’s a pole that extends out on either side and holds buoy-like stabilizers in place (the stabilizers float parallel to the kayak).
They’re a great feature to have for really narrow canoes and kayaks to provide stability while fishing and paddling. Mexidi PVC Kayak Stabilizers inflate and deflate quickly.
Oru Kayak Pack
Hikers and airline travelers will appreciate the portability of this kayak pack, which is designed for Oru Kayaks. Simply fold up your kayak and stash it in this backpack-style carrying case.
It has padded straps and a handy spot to stow paddles and other gear. There’s a hip belt to keep it steady while you’re walking. It’s made of heavy-duty nylon and has a zipper and two grab handles.
Are you ready to purchase a folding kayak? Hopefully this has given you some ideas about what to look for when choosing a folding kayak.
The ease and convenience factors alone give them several stars in my opinion.
Sandy Allen is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, islands and yacht charters to theme parks and family fun. She enjoys boating, snorkeling and jet-skiing along the waterways of Virginia, Florida and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Follow her adventures at Somewhere in the Sand.