Best Folding Kayaks in 2018 | Portable Kayak Reviews
Purchasing a kayak is a big financial commitment. It may not seem like it at first, but by the time you add in the cost of paddles, a cart, and a car rack, you will have spent almost as much money on equipment as you have on the kayak itself.
That being said, folding kayaks are a newer form of kayak. As the name implies, it folds up and can be stored in a carrying bag. You take the bag to the water, open it up, unfold the kayak, and off you go.
This removes much of the cost of “extras” when purchasing a kayak. Many paddlers assume these foldable kayaks are worse than the standard kayak.
However, the best folding kayaks have quickly become as efficient and useful as a standard kayak. This is due to their ease of travel, sleek build, and excellent performance on the water.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Folding Kayaks in 2018
- 1.0.1 1. TRAK Kayaks Seeker Portable Performance Kayak
- 1.0.2 How to Set Up TRAK Kayak’s Seeker Portable Performance Kayak
- 1.0.3 Features
- 1.0.4 2. Oru Kayak Bay ST Kayak
- 1.0.5 Further Review of the Oru Kayak
- 1.0.6 How To Set Up Oru Kayak’s Origami Bay ST
- 1.0.7 Features
- 1.0.8 3. Oru Kayak Beach LT Folding Portable Lightweight Kayak
- 1.0.9 How To Set Up Oru Kayak’s BeachLT
- 1.0.10 Features
- 1.0.11 4. Folbot Recreational Gremlin Foldable and Portable Kayak
- 1.0.12 How To Set Up The Gremlin Foldable and Portable Kayak
- 1.0.13 Features
- 1.1 How to Buy a Folding Kayak
- 1.2 Our Final Review for the Best Folding Kayak
4 Top Folding Kayaks on the Market
TRAK Kayaks Seeker
Oru Kayak Bay ST Kayak
Oru Kayak Beach LT
Folbot Recreational Gremlin
Purchasing a folding kayak can seem like an odd thing to do for many kayakers. These kayaks are thought to be easily punctured and unstable in the water. However, they have become incredibly stable and puncture resistant in recent years.
For those with small vehicles or those who live in apartments with no storage, purchasing an easily foldable kayak can allow them to own a kayak without the hassle of finding a place for it.
Ultimately, these kayaks are easy to assemble, easy to transport to the water, and efficient in the water.
Best Folding Kayaks in 2018
1. TRAK Kayaks Seeker Portable Performance Kayak
TRAK Kayaks Seeker is a portable kayak which is efficient on rivers, lakes, and even the ocean. This is a rare feature for any sort of portable kayak, as many of them are easily damaged in this kind of an environment.
The Seeker is made from military-grade polyurethane, which simply means it will hold up through almost anything. Supporting the polyurethane is an aerospace aluminum frame. This aluminum frame gives it even more protection from wayward obstacles.
The hull of the kayak measures 22 ½ inches. Typically kayaks which are portable have a very wide beam to ensure that they stay stable in the water. However, the Seeker has a rather narrow beam. This, combined with the length of 16 feet, allows this boat to reach a high rate of speed very easily.
Another feature which worries many kayakers about foldable kayaks, is the weight capacity. Typically, they simply cannot hold as much weight as they have a tendency to be less durable. However, this kayak has a full weight capacity of three hundred pounds. This makes it easy for anyone to fit in with all of their gear.
To set up the kayak, simply pull out the frame and put it together. Once together, it remains in two separate pieces. Then, lay out the polyurethane fabric of the kayak. The frame fits inside the polyurethane one piece at a time, and then the two pieces of the frame click together. The total set up time is less than ten minutes.
This kayak is fairly easy to put together, however the storage makes it a little bit of a hassle. The length of the storage pack in comes in is a whopping 52 inches. This requires quite a bit of extra space, and a fairly roomy car trunk.
The hull remains flexible, while the kayaker still feels secure inside of the kayak. To add to the feeling of a solid kayak, are footpegs, thigh braces, seat and the entrance of the cockpit. All of these pieces are built the same as they are on a typical kayak.
- 300 pound weight capacity
- Set up in 10 minutes
- 22 ½ inch beam
- 16 feet length
- Thigh braces
- Comfortable seat
- Solid cockpit entrance
- Polyurethane Fabric
- Aluminum frame
- River Friendly
- Lake Friendly
- Ocean Friendly
- 48 pounds
Oru is known for making foldable kayaks. They are so well-known for this, they have dubbed their kayaks “origami kayaks”. The Bay ST is one of their absolute best origami kayaks. Also in this line of kayaks are the Oru Beach and Oru Coast.
The Bay ST is 12 feet long. The beam of this origami kayak comes in at 25 inches. Due to this length and beam width, the Bay ST is stable enough for beginners. However, it does not leave experience kayakers wanting, as the beam is not too wide.
This length and beam allow for the boat to handle very difficult currents. In fact, the Oru Bay ST has been tested in Class III Rapids, which are moderately difficult rapids. However, it is really only recommended for Class II Rapid use.
Further Review of the Oru Kayak
As far as putting the Bay ST together, it takes quite a bit of time. For an old hat, it will probably require approximately 20 minutes of set up. For a first-timer, expect closer to the 45 minute mark.
This kayak has been made from polypropylene and has a 10 year UV treatment. It is also said to be able to withstand 20,000 folds. All of this means, that although this is a foldable kayak and though it is made of a very lightweight plastic, it should not break down easily.
To back their claim that this kayak can hold up to any challenge, it comes with a warranty for one year. This warranty only applies to defects from the manufacturing process, but still--that is a fantastic bargain.
Finally, the weight capacity of this Oru origami kayak is also three hundred pounds, matching the Seeker.
Additionally, the setup is much more complex than the TRAK Kayaks Seeker. That being said, an impressive think about the Bay ST is that the kayak IS the box it comes in. In other words, when you take the top off the box, you later use the box for the floorboard.
Inside the box, you will find six zipper channels, the stern bulkhead, the seat cushion, and backrest. Then you unfold the box and voila--it is your kayak. The next step is to tighten the straps on the kayak, and then begin applying the zipper channels.
The zipper channels are pieces of heavy duty plastic which slide over the seams of the kayak. These zipper channels seal the kayak hull to prevent water from coming in. That being said, these are the most difficult part of assembling this kayak. You must be sure not to force the zipper channels, as this can break the channels or seams.
There are several more straps which must be tightened, and various parts fit into the kayak cockpit. None of this is quite as tricky as the zipper channels--be cautious when closing off those channels!
- One year Manufacturer Warranty
- Can fold 20,000 times
- 10 year UV treatment
- 12 feet long
- 25 inches wide
- Kayak is the carrying box--no extra pieces to store
- 20-45 minutes of setup time
- Two bulkheads
- 28 pounds
Another origami kayak designed by the team at Oru, the Beach LT is another incredible, sleek kayak. Coming in at 12 feet in length and 28 inches wide, it is a little wider and shorter than the Bay ST. Take note--this is a fantastic little portable kayak.
This additional width makes this boat even more stable in the water, although it is not going to handle tough currents as well. This kayak is more recommended to be used by beginning kayakers and for more casual kayaking experiences.
The Beach LT is also called Oru’s friendlist kayak. The reason for this is because it is incredibly easy to put together. The Oru kayak website boasts that it is a 3 minute assembly, but most new users take between 15 and 30 minutes and the average amount of time for experienced users is still 10 minutes.
This kayak, like all of the Oru kayaks, comes with a one year warranty on the manufacturing. This means that if the UV protected polypropylene wears out or the straps break, the company will replace it. This is partially to back up their 20,000 folds promise--this kayak can be folded up 20,000 times without breaking.
Just like the Bay ST, this kayak has a weight capacity of three hundred pounds, allowing for you to haul quite a bit of your gear in your kayak.
Just like the BayST, the BeachLT is the actual container it comes in. The lid of the box becomes the floorboard of the cockpit and inside the box are the seat cushion and the backrest and both bulkheads.
Then, you unfold the box which is the actual body of the kayak. For this kayak, you place the bulkhead in the bow section, fold the bow together, and then tighten it with a ratchet and snap system. WHile this is definitely easier to use than the zipper channels of the BayST, it requires a lot of strength and dexterity to seal this bow and stern as needed.
The ends of the kayaks are also covered with a fairing, which seals off the kayak to prevent any water from leaking in. Additionally, the bulkhead which rests in the stern and bow keeps this kayak solid. This allows it to be just as sturdy as a normal kayak.
More on Setting up the Oru Kayak
After creating the bow, you place the floorboard into slots on the side of the cockpit. These sides then fold over so that the cockpit has doubled walls. There is a bungee cord on the floorboard and seat cushion slides under this. Then the backrest clicks into another piece of this floorboard.
Keep in mind, the backrest can be adjusted up and down, but not forward and backward. There is also an adjustable footrest in the bow of the yak. After completing the cockpit, you repeat the bow process with the stern.
As you can see, this is still a decently long process. However, after assembling it several times it certainly would not take much more than 10 minutes.
- 20,000 folds
- UV protected polypropylene
- One year warranty
- Assembling is fast
- Backrest can be adjusted up and down
- Kayak is also the carrying
- No zipper channels
- Wide beam
- Two bulkheads
- 26 pounds
4. Folbot Recreational Gremlin Foldable and Portable Kayak
The Folbot Gremlin is a kayak measuring 12 feet with a 34 inch beam. As you can tell, this is much wider than the other kayaks on this list.
This wide beam means that it is incredibly stable in the water, but lacks the sporty feel of the Orus.
Assembly for the Gremlin is extremely complicated. If you use this kayak regularly, you stand a good chance of being able to do this quickly. Perhaps even in under ten minutes. However, for most who are doing it for the first time, this will take upwards of 40 minutes.
Before you even open the Gremlin, you will find it tucked away neatly in a backpack. This makes for extreme ease when carrying the Gremlin down to the water. Especially since the kayak weighs 27 pounds.
This kayak does not quite measure up to the others on this list, as the weight capacity in only two hundred and fifty pounds. That being said, this is still a significant amount of weight for such a lightweight foldable yak.
Once you open the backpack, you will find lots of aluminum pieces. These aluminum pieces can be put together, quickly, without any sort of tools. This is extremely handy. That being said, there are lots of different pieces, and opening the backpack can be extremely confusing.
These pieces fit together to create the aluminum frame of this kayak. There are cinch straps as well, which keeps the frame tight and stable in the water.
After putting all of the aluminum pieces and cinching the straps together, you add the cockpit framing. Then you add the airfoam seat to the cockpit frame.
After the airfoam seat is added, you attach sponsons to either side. Sponsons run the length of this kayak and are air tubes. These help with buoyancy and keep the kayak more stable.
Then, simple run the aluminum frame into the hull fabric. The fabric is made from an Elvaloy polymer. It can handle salt water, sun, and will maintain its shape over time.
- Setup 10-40 minutes
- Airfoam Seat
- Sponsons help with buoyancy
- Wide beam of 34 inches
- Hull fabric is Elvaloy Polymer
- Held in a backpack for easy carrying
- No tools needed
- 27 pounds
- Aluminum frame
How to Buy a Folding Kayak
When purchasing a folding kayak, the biggest consideration is easily how easy it is to assemble. If the kayak is difficult to assemble, it may not make the purchase truly worth your time. However, if the assembly is easy, it is easy to store, and the kayak hull material is durable, it will easily be a superb kayak for you to take out on the water.
The beam of these kayaks simply must be considered. If you are a new kayaker, you certainly want to consider purchasing the Gremlin. The beam on the Gremlin is 34 inches. This allows for maximum stability and ensures new kayakers will not tip easily.
However, if you have been kayaking for a decent amount of time, you may want to consider the Bay ST or Beach LT. Both of these beams are middle of the line beam widths and allow kayakers a steady balance and still maintain a sporty feel.
Finally, for those who are very advanced kayakers, the Seeker is a tough challenge. With a narrow beam of 22 ½ inches and the longest length on this list, at 16 feet, this kayak is a beast in the water. It is easily capable of handling rough waves, and strong currents.
Ease of Assembly
Once you get this kayak to the water, putting it together needs to be an easy process. If you come across too many problems, you may find yourself trekking back and forth between your vehicle and the water.
That being said, the easiest kayaks to assemble are easily the Oru kayaks. Both of these kayaks are the box they come in and there are very few pieces to put together. Some of the steps are indeed tricky. However, the few number of steps outweighs the trickiness.
The most difficult kayak is very easily the Gremlin. There are simply so many pieces to put together, this kayak takes too much time and it is too easy to become confused.
The middle of the line kayak, in terms of ease of assembly, is the Seeker. The Seeker has the aluminum frame, but does not have quite as many pieces as the Gremlin.
Durability is obviously a major factor in these kayaks. When considering the kayaks on this list, they are made from three different materials. The first is Elvaloy. The second is a sturdy Polypropylene, and the final is a Polyurethane fabric.
Elvaloy is a polymer, which means that it is made of multiple materials all blended together. However, Elvaloy is different from other polymers because it has PVC added into it. This increases the durability of it.
Polypropylene is another polymer, but this polymer include propylene. Propylene is an industrial grade product which, like the PVC creates more durability. Polypropylene is commonly considered more durable than the Elvaloy.
Finally polyurethane fabric is unique, as there is no one specific addition to make it stronger. It simply combines polymers and urethane. Of the three, this is the least durable.
The main reason kayakers purchase these kayakers is the ease of storage. It is easy to tuck this kayak away in a small apartment or in the back of your vehicle.
As far as storage size goes, the smallest on the list is the Gremlin. The Gremlin comes in at 36 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches. This allows for a very compact kayak to be kept in your home.
Next come both of the Orus. They both measure 29 inches in width by 33 inches in height and only 12 inches in depth. This is an incredibly compact unit, and remember--none of it is wasted space. There are no parts of this purchase which do not help build this collapsible kayak.
Finally, the Seeker comes in at the largest, with a width of 52 inches, a height of 16 inches, and a depth of 12 inches. If you do not have a long space, the Seeker simply is not a good choice for you.
One of the primary reasons people purchase a folding kayak is because they are light and easy to transport to the water. For those who are bringing a lot of extra gear or those who always kayak alone, this makes for an excellent option.
The lightest kayak on this list is the Oru Beach LT at 26 pounds, closely followed by the Folbot Gremlin at 27 pounds. The Oru Bay ST is only one more pound, weighing in at 28 pound. Finally, the heaviest kayak on the list is the Trak Seeker, weighing 48 pounds.
If you are concerned about weight, you want to consider the Beach LT, Gremlin, or Bay ST--the Seeker probably weighs too much.
Our Final Review for the Best Folding Kayak
Most people purchase these "origami style kayaks" because they are easy to store carry to the edge of the water. If these two things are the main reasons you are considering a foldable kayak, make sure you check the size of your purchase and the weight of it.
Beyond that, it is very important for any kayak to be durable, especially for foldable kayaks. Those kayaks with aluminum frames can puncture easily. You must consider the fabric chosen for these kayaks.
Finally, your kayak must be easy to assemble. If your kayak takes more than 45 minutes to assemble, or has too many pieces, you may find yourself more frustrated than relieved.
What's your favorite folding kayak? Share with us in the comments!