Best Folding Kayak
Maybe you live in a city or a small apartment and you don’t have the space or transportation to accommodate a traditional kayak? A folding kayak (also known as origami-style) may be the solution to your problem, wrapping fun and convenience into a compact, easy to store package.
At A Glance: Top Origami Kayaks
(these take you over to Amazon)
You may have already looked into inflatable vessels but foldable ones might be better suited to your lifestyle. For one thing, a foldable craft doesn’t require inflating and you may find it less bulky and even more portable.
But since there isn’t a lot of information on these handy vessels, we thought we’d put together a guide to help you out and point you in right direction to find the best folding kayak for you.
Folding Kayaks 101:
What Are Folding Kayaks?
Folding kayaks are generally built for convenience. They can allow you to own a kayak even if you don’t have the space at home to store a traditional kayak. They can also fit in the back of a car so you don’t need to worry about trailers or other transportation methods.
The fact that they are collapsible, often into the size of a suitcase, means you can even live in a small apartment and still be able to enjoy kayaking in your free time.
However, unlike an inflatable kayak, a folding kayak simply requires that you fold the various interlocking sections together to build it rather than inflate it with air. This means the vessel can be more similar to a hard shell kayak than an inflatable one and may offer similar performance qualities, such as speed.
What Are They Made Out Of?
Many foldable yaks are made out of polypropylene, a type of plastic that is durable and can retain its shape after being bent or folded.
For the purpose of folding kayaks, this can make it a good choice to provide the strength needed to support weight in the water and resist small impacts. This material also means it has the flexibility required to enable the vessel to be folded and refolded numerous times.
As with many materials, however, frequent exposure to the sun can weaken the plastic. You might find that some folding yaks will be treated with a UV protectant to give you added durability.
But it’s recommended that you keep your folded yak somewhere out of direct sunlight when you’re not using it.
How To Build A Folding Kayak, And Pack It Away Again
The convenience of a folding yak relies upon its ability to be built when required and folded down for storage. Each style and brand will likely come with its own particular set of instructions for how to assemble it.
With the Oru kayaks, the carrying container forms the hull of the kayak. Once you’ve removed any separate parts or sections, such as the seat, the main section can be folded to form the shape of the hull.
Video: Assembly Of An Oru Beach LT
Step 1: Lay It Out
Once you’ve opened the box or bag and have all your parts, lay out the large section that will form the hull.
Step 2: Install Your Footrest
If your vessel has footrests, these should be installed according to the assembly instructions for your particular yak. You may have to attach it to the bow as well as the center near the cockpit.
Step 3: Close The Bow
Next you’ll want to close your bow by folding the corresponding sections upward. You may have a strap at the bow to tighten first before you fold in the sides over the footrest, which will create a bulkhead. Secure each strap and tighten as required.
Step 4: Close The Stern
Similar to closing the bow, close the stern by tightening the strap at the end of the stern. If you have a rear bulkhead, install this before securing the rest of the stern straps just as you did with the bow in step 3.
Step 5: Install The Cockpit
Now that your hull is enclosed at the front and back, place the floorboard into the cockpit. This may be a separate section and will need to be installed into the hull to provide a floor for your boat. Your seat can then be installed according to your instructions.
Pack It Away
To pack your yak away again, simply reverse the steps you used to build it, removing the seat first followed by the floor, and then undo the straps at both the bow and stern, remembering to remove the bulkhead and footrest sections.
Fold up the bow section, pushing it with your knee so that the top part folds back on itself, accordion style. Do the same thing with the stern.
You can then fold the bow and stern together and they should slide in, one in front of the other, so that they’re essentially side by side. You should be able to feel the original folded box taking shape. You can then use the straps to secure it in position and you’re good to go.
It’s recommended that you keep your folding yak clean and make sure that no sand, mud or salt water can get stuck in the crevices before you pack it away. Rinsing it in fresh water can help.
Storing your kayak
As with most yaks, it’s not advised to leave your vessel exposed to sunlight for a prolonged period. So storing it inside where it’s dry can be a good idea. Because these vessels are built for convenience you may be able to slide your yak under your bed or keep it in your closet.
If your vessel comes with a bag to carry it in, this can be ideal for storing it, as it can help to protect it from dust or sunlight.
How To Choose A Folding Kayak
What Is Its Purpose?
When you’re buying any type of vessel there are certain things you will probably want to ask yourself beforehand. And when choosing a folding kayak, many of the questions will likely be similar.
For example, how often do you plan to use it and will you be kayaking alone? Durability and perhaps a tandem craft could be high in your priorities. You may want to consider where you plan to paddle, as this may narrow down your search, to a faster sea kayak, for instance.
If you simply want to get out on the water for recreational paddling, however, length or speed may not be as high on your list of must-haves. But if you want to bring along any gear for an overnight trip, it can be a good idea to look at the weight capacity of the craft.
If you’re looking for a vessel that can give you high speeds while paddling, a folding kayak may not be ideal for you. While many of them can be efficient on the water, they are probably not going to be as efficient as a hard shell equivalent, simply due to the moveable nature of the construction.
If you plan to use your folding yak frequently, consider how many times you might be folding and building your craft. Many of the folding vessels out there are rated to last for a certain number of fold cycles. This could mean your craft may not last as long as you’d hoped, particularly if you are on the water everyday.
While many folding yaks will be durable during their lifespan, because of the nature of their construction, they’re generally not going to last as long as a traditionally constructed vessel. This is because during each fold cycle the creases where the sections fold will tend to weaken.
Video: Oru Origami Kayak
Another thing you should think about is the size of the craft when it’s folded and whether or not it comes with a carry bag or backpack. Think about where you might want to store it and work out roughly how much space you have.
While a folding kayak can fold into a compact size, you don’t want to get one that’s still too large for your home or storage area. The weight of the vessel may also be something to think about, especially if you plan to carry it over a significant distance to get to the water.
Depending on the type of craft, you may find you’re able to purchase a backpack to put the kayak in, which can make it a little easier if you have to travel with it.
It can also be a good idea to consider the length of the craft and whether it will suit your height and leg length.
Ease Of Use
Let’s face it, if a folding yak wasn’t easy to use then you probably wouldn’t want to be buying one. Before you settle on one, it can be important to look at how easy it might be for you to put it together and pack it away again.
A lot of the time, the less parts there are the better, as this can mean there are less things for you to install. With folding yaks, you will often find that they are constructed mostly with one piece serving as the hull. The detachable parts will likely be the seat and any additional features, such as footrests or cup holders.
...And The Seating
As with all yaks, if you’re planning to be on the water for a significant amount of time, you’re probably going to want a comfortable seat. While many foldable vessels may come with a seat included, some will not and others may require an upgrade, especially if you plan to paddle over long distances.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Going Foldable?
4 Best Folding Portable Kayaks Review
1: Oru Kayak BayST Folding Kayak
The Oru Kayak BayST is a single sit-inside foldable kayak that has been engineered using inspiration from the Japanese art of origami. It’s a durable craft constructed from 5mm polypropylene and is designed to hold its durability and integrity for 20,000 fold cycles.
This original kayak from Oru is ideal for exploring bays and calm waters, with space to store extra gear. It can also be used to perform a roll if necessary and you can even attach a spray skirt if you choose (additional purchase).
Inside the cockpit, there are adjustable footrests and a padded seat with an adjustable backrest designed to maximize comfort for longer paddling trips.
2: Elevens Cruise Plus Foldable Kayak
This Elevens Cruise Plus is a foldable kayak designed for one paddler built from fibre-reinforced plastic that is designed to withstand 10,000 folds. It’s a stable craft that can be ideal for a range of water, including salt water touring but is not built for whitewater.
This durable craft is lightweight, easy to transport and store, and is designed to be stable as well as efficient on the water. There is some space for gear for a day trip or overnight trip and bungee rigging on the front deck for extra gear. However, with a maximum capacity of 200 pounds, it’s not designed for significant amounts of gear.
The Elevens Cruise Plus also comes with a padded seat and a paddle so you can get on the water right away. The handy package also includes a life vest and a deck mount for a camera or cellphone.
3: XT-17 Solo/Double Combo
The XT-17 from Pakboats is a folding kayak that can be used as both a solo and tandem craft, as it comes with two decks - one for each type of paddling. This can make it an ideal vessel if you have a paddling partner who likes to accompany you on some of your trips but is still suitable when you’re by yourself.
Being 17 feet long and just 24 inches wide, it’s designed with speed and performance in mind, and could be well suited for touring on slow moving rivers or bays. It has a low profile and a multi-chine hull to minimize wind resistance and aid efficiency.
The craft maintains its rigid structure on the water thanks to the structural I-beams that feature along the sides. This can help to support two paddlers in the kayak or if you’re carrying heavier loads.
The XT-17 also has plenty of space to store your gear, with bungee cords on the front, center and rear decks; ideal for holding a few dry bags for an overnight trip.
4: Oru Kayak Beach LT Folding Kayak
This Oru Kayak Beach LT is a lightweight yak that can be folded down into a convenient size for traveling and carrying. It is designed for recreational use and therefore has a more open style cockpit compared to the more enclosed style found on touring vessels.
It’s crafted from double layer polypropylene and has the durability to withstand light rock bumps and folded and rebuilt up to 20,000 times. Additionally, it features UV protection designed to last up to 10 years.
Because of its recreational design and wider cockpit area, it could be a stable craft for beginners. But it can also be ideal for more experienced paddlers looking for a convenient vessel to take to the beach or for flat water paddling.
The roomy cockpit can be ideal for tall paddlers and there’s also plenty of room for essentials and gear for an overnight trip. The spacious cockpit also means that a small kid or even your dog could tag along for the ride.
Owning a folding kayak can be a really convenient way to get out on the water when you don’t have the space to store a traditional kayak. While a lot of folding yaks can be expensive, you may find that you save money on transportation or storage, so it could balance out financially.
Remember to think about the size of the vessel when it’s folded to make sure it’ll fit where you want it to. And make sure you check the dimensions and weight capacity of the craft beforehand so you know it’ll be able to handle you and your gear, or your dog.
Let us know your thoughts on folding kayaks and if you have one we’d love to hear from you. Maybe you have some friends who think they have no space for a yak in their apartment? Make sure you share this with them to show them they can get one after all.