Are Folding Kayaks Any Good?

Is the only thing holding you back from purchasing a kayak lack of storage or the means to transport a full-sized kayak? As it turns out, many kayakers are in the same boat (no pun intended).

You may think that living in a small apartment or not having a roof rack on your car means that you’ll never be able to purchase your very own ‘yak. But thanks to compact models like folding kayaks, that’s no longer an excuse!

These kayaks fold up to the size of a suit case, transform into a full-sized kayak in a matter of minutes, and are an absolute game-changer for those wanting to save space.

Skeptical that something that can fit in a small closet will also be able to float on the water? In this article, we’ll break down the basics of folding kayaks, including the pros and cons of this kayak type. By the end, you might just be wondering where you can purchase your very own! 

What are folding kayaks?

Folding kayaks, sometimes called origami kayaks, are a type of folding kayak made from a super-durable polyethylene plastic that folds out to create a rigid hull. The boat shape is secured using a system of straps and latches, and can typically be put together in a few minutes.

Sometimes it just helps to see it with your own eyes. This assembly video from the well-known folding kayak brand Oru shows how easy it is to assemble a folding kayak. It also gives you a better idea of what the material looks like and how it holds up.

Video source: Oru Kayak

Pros of folding kayaks

  1. They’re convenient
  2. They’re surprisingly durable
  3. They’re really cool 😎

Cons of folding kayaks

  1. They can be expensive
  2. Setup takes some practice


There are a ton of advantages to this type of kayak. 

They are super convenient.

It’s hard to beat the convenience of a folding kayak. They’re small enough to go virtually anywhere and they’re easy enough for one person to unfold, construct, and get out on the water.  Most models are under 30 lbs, which is significantly lighter than many other kayak models.

Even if you have a spacious garage and a car with a roof rack, being able to easily carry around your kayak makes the type worth it for some people.

They are surprisingly durable.

A folding kayak isn’t like sitting in a cardboard box on the water. If you get a good brand, your kayak will be durable and able to withstand common obstacles you may encounter— sticks, logs, rocks, and more. Some brands like Oru make a handy kayak repair kit with everything you’d need to patch a hole, just in case. 

Several folding kayak manufacturers also coat their kayaks with a UV resistant coating. This prevents damaging sun exposure, which fades and weakens the plastic. 

They’re just plain cool.

This might not be high up on your reasons to get a folding kayak, but we have to mention how cool they are. 

Everyone has seen a normal kayak. But not many people have seen one fold up and tuck away so easily! Be prepared for some stares (the good kind) when you’re at the dock assembling your kayak.

Pakboats folding kayak
The Puffin folding kayak from Pakboats

Cons of folding kayaks

Nothing is without its downsides. Here are the disadvantages of buying a folding kayak.

They can be a little pricey. 

Because of their special design, origami kayaks can get a little pricey. There are cheaper compact kayak options out there, like inflatable models

One thing that makes a large purchase a little easier is to look at the cost over time. If you kayak frequently and have to rent a boat every time you go out, those costs start to add up. You may find that even though you’re spending more upfront, buying your own kayak can actually save you money over time. 

Setting up the kayak takes a little practice.

When you first get your kayak, you’ll probably be eager to open it up and take it down to the water. Unfortunately, it may take a little longer than expected the first few times you unfold it. Not only will you need to get the hang of the assembly steps, but the plastic may be a little stiff at first. 

What to look for when buying a folding kayak

Like any type of kayak out there, you’re going to find more than one brand and dozens, if not hundreds, of models to choose from. So how do you pick the right one?

1. Find a brand you can trust.

This goes for almost any big purchase in life, but it’s important to find a trusted brand. You want a brand that has a great reputation and that has made a name for itself with their product. 

You can find a trusted brand by doing a little digging. Read, read, read reviews. And if you’re on this website—— we can assume that you’re on the right track! By reading reviews, you can learn from people who have been there and done that. It speaks louder than any brand’s claims to durability and performance. 

2. Get a kayak that fits your paddling needs.

Just like hardshell kayaks, folding kayaks come in a variety of shapes and sizes— they aren’t one-boat-fits-all. It’s important that you get one that matches the type of trips you’ll be embarking on.

3. Check out the specs on the kayak.

The last step to finding the right kayak is to look at the specs. You’ll want to know things like:

  • Weight limit: This is how much weight your kayak can safely hold. You want it to be able to carry you, as well as any gear you wish to bring. 
  • Size and weight: Check how much the kayak itself weighs and the size it folds down to. You want to be able to carry the kayak without issue.
  • Storage space: This is especially important if you’re planning on any touring or kayak camping. The kayak should be able to safely stow any gear you need to bring.
  • Cockpit dimensions: Make sure you have enough room to sit comfortably. This is especially important to check if you are on the tall side. Some kayaks may even note the maximum paddler height.
  • Fold strength: About how many folds can the material withstand? The more folds, the longer it will theoretically last.

Understanding these different factors will help you pick the best boat for you. 

Paddle away!

Overall, a folding kayak is an excellent choice for paddlers looking to buy their own kayak— especially if you find yourself with limited storage space. Though they can be on the expensive side, you can’t put a price on their convenience and reliability. For many, they are the kayak of choice and provide days and days of fun on the water.

Check out Amazon for the latest and greatest folding kayaks.

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