In this piece, we will be accumulating 21 hours of research to find out the best folding kayak for your custom paddling experience.
Hi, my name is Derek and I have over 20 years of paddling experience from recreational to sea kayaks. While I have not paddled everything on this list I know the characteristics of what makes a good vessel for most skill levels. In this review we have looked after the needs of the novice to the advanced paddler to find you the correct folding kayak
We Rated the Oru Bay as the Top Folding Kayak due to the fact that it is the most versatile folding kayak on the list. It is good for a wide range of skill levels so it is very much a boat that can grow with you.
We are just getting started here. Below I will be showcasing the top models and labeling them according to the paddler’s skill level and the kayak’s use.
The Best Folding Kayaks are as Follows:
- Oru Bay ST Kayak – (Best Value)
- Advanced Elements Convertible – (Best Inflatable)
- Oru Coast XT Kayak – (Best for Touring)
- Oru Kayak Beach LT – (Best Budget Option)
- Advanced Elements Sport – (Best Single Inflatable)
- My Canoe 2.5 – (Best Folding Canoe Option)
- Sea Eagle 370 – (Best Budget Inflatable Pick)
Folding Kayak Reviews
The following are my favorite folding kayak brands that have been picked based on the trustworthiness of the brand, what customers think of the kayak, and how well the kayak is made.
#1: Oru Kayak Bay St Folding Kayak (Best Value)
- Length: 12 feet
- Width: 25″
- Weight: 28 Lbs
- Max Weight Capacity: 300 Lbs
- Set Up: 10-15 Mins
The Original origami briefcase kayak that started it all, Oru Kayaks first launched this vessel back in 2012, and you can now buy it around the world. Over the years, the design of the Bay St Kayak has continually improved until it was the standard for the folding kayak.
The design makes it more comfortable to use than many of its predecessors. We should also mention, this makes for a great starter kayak because of how it offers plenty of stability. In addition, the design allows you to cut through the waters and have a great time exploring your surroundings.
Ready for the Adventures of a Lifetime
Hopping into the Oru Kayak Bay ST, you can guarantee plenty of fun and exciting adventures that won’t go away any time soon. This is a great vessel that you can grow with. Meaning as you advance your kayaking skill set it will still be there, ready when you need it.
In fact, you can get an estimated 20,000 folds out of this packable kayak, which means that you can use it on many trips before you have to replace it. To put that into perspective, many of the other folding boats only have a lifecycle of 10,000 fold cycles.
What’s the Weight Limit?
You can fit a person of up to 300 pounds in the Bay St Oru Kayak. In addition, this kayak includes up to 90 liters of storage space, and it comes with float bags. You will find them inside of the kayak when you first unfold it. Float bags were intended as a type of material to keep some of your most essential equipment dry and free from harm.
The Process of Setting It Up
It does take a little bit of practice for the process of setting it up, but once you have figured it out, it doesn’t take too much more to understand how to do it. As stated before, one of the biggest cons comes from the fact that it can be difficult to fold it up.
However, with a little bit of practice, you shouldn’t have too many for problems. The first time that you try to set it up, it will take about an hour. The second time, it will take 20 minutes, and thereafter, the setup takes around 10 minutes. Maybe 5 minutes if you’re quick!
- Sleek and fast performance on the water.
- Easy to assemble and disassemble.
- Stable kayak on the water – good for beginners.
- Super light and easy to carry.
- Not limited strictly to calm water conditions
- Difficult kayak to enter after you’ve fallen out.
- The seat pad starts to get uncomfortable after a couple of hours.
- The boat opening is small and can feel obnoxious when getting in and out of it.
#2 Advanced Elements Convertible (Best Inflatable)
- Length: 15 feet
- Width: 32″
- Weight: 52 Lbs
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 550 Lbs
- Set up Time: 15- 20 minutes
Looks can be deceiving as the Advanced Elements Convertible is indeed an inflatable kayak. In fact, it is rated as our top-rated Inflatable kayak here. In-person these kayaks actually do look like traditional kayaks to 70 % of paddlers. Its aluminum ridge intervals give it that hardshell look and feel while out on the water. Paddling with a friend I actually noticed that this kayak could more than keep up with many recreational kayaks.
Room for Three
The cool thing about the Advanced Frame Convertible is that it has multiple cockpit configurations and a 550-pound maximum capacity which classifies it as a folding tandem kayak. That’s room for three smaller to medium-sized adults (About 183 lbs each) or two adults and a child. If you consider your pupper as your child then good news there’s room for him too!
This is thanks to the triple polyester drop stitch layers that surround the double layer PVC with welded seams. You can also paddle this as a solo. However, you need to get a separate single deck conversion spray skirt for longer trips to insure too much water does not get into the cockpit.
It Can Handle Most Conditions
As we have stated already the Convertible is durable, but what kind of conditions can it face? Well if you take a look at the Advanced Elements website, as well as customer testimonials it can handle anything from the arctic circle to a casual day paddle around your local lake. It is also great to use as a touring kayak as it has more than enough room for gear in the cockpit thanks to its 15-foot length and its maximum capacity of 550 pounds.
The only thing I would caution you on is taking this kayak out in fast moving water conditions like rapids. It is definitely not built for anything more than Class II Rapids as you risk bending the aluminum frame. Overall we are a big fan of this kayak at Floating Authority.
- Great Kayak that can handle anything from recreational to touring
- The material covering the PVC helps protect it from gashes from below
- Multiple seating configurations
- Has a great maximum capacity
- Roomy cockpit
- On the Pricy side for an inflatable
- It may be overkill if you are looking for something more recreational
- Kayak can be difficult to set up and take apart the first bunch of times
#3: Oru Kayak Coast XT Folding Kayak (Premium Pick)
- Length:16 feet
- Width: 25″
- Weight: 36 Lbs
- Max Weight Capacity: 400 Lbs
- Set Up: 10-15 Mins
If you want a kayak that grabbed its inspiration from the kayaks in the Arctic Ocean, look no further than the Oru Coast. What you have is a touring kayak that will fold into a box. Some enthusiasts even suggest that you take it along with you on a hike so that you can access some of the most remote lakes.
This Oru kayak also has a higher weight capacity than the Bay St, and it can hold up to 400 pounds. Which means you have more than enough room for dry bags to put your gear in.
Why People Enjoy This Kayak
If you were to pick the Coast, you have a boat that does well with maneuvering tricking conditions. You can do some advanced turns and edging with this kayak to boot! In addition, this Oru kayak feels stable enough where you feel safe to paddle, even if you are an intermediate kayaker.
Like with the Bay St Kayak, the assembly isn’t terribly difficult if you follow the instructions, but it does take some time to get used to. After the learning period, however, you shouldn’t experience too much difficulty. As we have recommended before with folding kayaks, it’s normally best to have someone else nearby who can help you. It makes the process easier.
You Can Store It Easily for Use
One of the advantages of this Oru kayak is that you can store it easily inside the trunk of your car and take it to the lake without a problem. However, if you were to decide to use it on the ocean, it is recommended that you stay near the coast for safety reasons. What a lot of people say they like most about the XT is how it cuts through the water like a hot knife through butter. You can maneuver easily with this portable kayak and do some of the more advanced kayaking techniques. Including rolling, self rescue and a bit of wave surfing. Some of the reasons for the acceleration are due to its lightweight and low bow and stern profile that reduces friction while it cuts through the water.
- This Oru kayak can cut through the waters with a minimal level of friction.
- You have an awesome acceleration rate with this touring vessel.
- Does as well as any hardshell kayak, it also has a similar traveling speed.
- You can store this folding kayak easily in small storage spaces if needed without it taking up much room.
- The assembly has a long learning curve, and it can be annoying.
- Some people have reported that this kayak leaks near the hull, and it’s not the most durable.
- Very expensive kayak considering that it leaks and has problems with taking on water.
#3: Oru Folding Kayak Beach LT Lightweight Kayak (Budget Pick)
- Length:12 feet
- Width: 28″
- Weight: 26 Lbs
- Max Weight Capacity: 300 Lbs
- Set Up: 5-10 Mins
Built to leisure in, the Oru kayak beach LT will expand your playground and make it even better than ever before. Manufacturers designed it for the picnics with the family and the full-day trips. Because of the origami design, you can set it up within minutes.
It does take some time to get used to set up, but once you have figured out this aspect of the kayak, it will be quite simple.
Great in Terms of Price
When we compare the Oru Beach LT to some of the other folding kayaks, it features the best price. Some people may still find that this one is a bit on the pricy side in comparison to the hardshell recreational kayaks. If you don’t have space for a hard shell,and you live in an apartment, you can store these foldable kayaks away in the closet.
Simple to Assemble
Following the instructional video on how to assemble this boat, you won’t find it terribly difficult to assemble. However, you may have to set it up once or twice before you start to get the hang of it, especially if you have never used a foldable kayak before. It has been reported that you can assemble this boat in as little as 5 minutes, once you have begun to get the hang of it.
How Does It Perform?
When we look at the performance of the Beach LT folding kayak. One of the things to keep in mind, however, is that its large open cockpit. They didn’t intend this vessel to be used in rough and choppy waters. The water will seep into this vessel, as there is no drain hole in this boat. The places where it would make the most sense to paddle include calm lagoons, lakes and ponds. They especially built this boat so that families could have a lot of fun with it, and you have a weight capacity of up to 300 pounds.
- You can assemble and disassemble it very quickly as needed.
- Feels comfortable to sit in, and you have one that will be fun to paddle around in.
- This kayak doesn’t have any problems with leaks
- The tracking and the glide of this folding kayak is poor compared to other Oru kayak models, some people may feel dissatisfied with it.
- They made the seat cheaply, and it seemed like a second thought rather than a priority.
- The wind can take this folding kayak off course too easily, which can be annoying.
#5 Mycanoe 2.5 (Best Folding Canoe Option)
- Length: 14.7 Feet
- Width: 35″
- Weight: 52 Lbs
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 440 Lbs
- Set Up Time: 10 to 15 mins
A Folding Canoe?
Mycanoe is a very similar concept to Oru Kayaks except well it’s a canoe! On second look it actually acts as a rowing canoe! It’s a pretty brilliant design when you think about it. Those of you who used to go solo fishing in a canoe can recall how much of a pain it is to maneuver the heavy craft around with one single paddle. With the rowing accessory, you will be able to track more ground on the water with less effort. Win-Win.
A Dream to Portage
Those of you who have had canoes in the past know how much of a pain it can be to transport and carry them to the lake. Unless you had your portaging technique down perfectly it would be almost impossible to lug it around on the ground until you get on the water. I know because
I grew up with one and transporting it onto our Ford Taurus was a three-person job! With the My Canoe, it is easy to store and transport it in two separate cases. The main body (36 pounds) and the accessory bag (16 lbs). That’s a total weight of 52 lbs which differs greatly from the 80 lb canoe that we used to have!
But How Does it Perform on the Water?
As shown in the video below the Mycanoe is pretty stable in the water making it a good fishing pick for those who don’t want to convert to fishing kayaks. There are two types of Mycanoe, the standard, and the plus canoes. The main difference is that the plus comes with the rowing system while the standard does not. Unfortunately, the standard system does not come with any sort of paddles so that would be an extra expense you would need to consider.
- Lighter than most canoes on the market
- Easier to transport thanks to its two cases
- Different adjustable seating positions available
- Could be a great portaging option if you get the standard
- More Expensive price tag (Especially with rowing system)
- Heavier then most of the folding kayaks on this list
- Loosely fits the definition of “kayak”
#6 Advanced Elements Sport (Best Single Inflatable)
- Length: 10 feet 5″
- Width: 32″
- Weight: 26 Lbs
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 250 Lbs
- Set Up Time: 5- 10 mins
The Advanced Elements Sport is sort of like the budget solo cousin of the AE Convertible kayak. At 10 feet long 5 inches it will not track as well but it is still comparable to many hardshell recreational kayaks out there.
What is the difference between the Convertible and Sport?
The most obvious difference with this foldable kayak is the fact that it can only hold one paddler. As a result it’s a tighter fit, especially for taller folk (like me in this case). Where the Advanced Elements Sport would shine compared to the Advanced Elements Convertible is smaller calm rivers.
The Sport is definitely a more maneuverable vessel thanks to its lighter maximum capacity and shorter length. However, the Sport falls short on touring capabilities and tracking compared to the convertible. This is due to the fact that it has a smaller length and less room in the cockpit area. This vessel would be ideal for a day type of excursion. Unlike its Convertible cousin that has two air chambers the Sport only has one. Which makes it less than ideal for open water should a bladder burst.
What is it’s On Water capabilities?
The good news is the cockpit on the Sport is wide so getting in and out of the kayak is easier than many kayaks with closed-in style cockpits. Unfortunately, this also means that this boat is not rated for open water conditions because you cannot fit a spray skirt around it. It also does not have an open water rating like it’s cousin which means that it’s best to stick close to shore. This boat would be ideal in smaller to middle-sized lakes as well as calm coastal bays.
- Has a great price for what you get (Cheaper than any of the Oru’s)
- Ideal for recreational paddlers who want to paddle along the shore
- Has a lot of open cockpit space for a single kayak which allows you to adjust your seat
- One of the easier kayaks to set up on this list
- Not made specifically for taller people
- Has one Inner Tube compared to the two in the Convertible
- Not Open water rated
#7 Sea Eagle 370 (Best Budget Inflatable Pick)
- Length: 12 feet 6″
- Width: 34″
- Weight: 32 Lbs
- Maximum Capacity:650 Lbs
- Set-Up Time: 8 Minutes
I was hesitant to put this on the list as it is considered to be more of a “traditional inflatable style kayak” than a folding kind but its price point is too good to not put on the list. The Sea Eagle 370 is the ideal boat for those who want a durable inflatable boat that they can mess around in for the day in the lake without expecting too much in the way of on-water performance.
How does this budget kayak compare to the folding kayaks?
I feel many of you that land on this page are looking for a transportable yak that has similar on-water capabilities as a normal traditional kayak. Unfortunately, you will not get that same ability with this kayak compared to the others on this list. This is because the 270 has a wider frame and two skegs smaller skegs which makes it less efficient when in the water.
This by no means indicates that this is a terrible kayak, far from it actually! But it does have limitations, especially when it comes to touring ability. One thing area where this kayak would be better is Class II to Class III white water environments. Of course, I highly recommend you get training before trying this out but it has been known to take punishment that would break the other kayaks on this list.
Many Different Varieties to Choose
The 370 comes in 4 different packages that are around a similar price point. The Quiksale, the Deluxe, the Pro, and Fishing packages. As a brief overview, the Quiksail features an attachable sail that can be attached to the hull of the kayak that allows you to ride the wind efficiently.
The Pro features more stow pouches and improved seating while the deluxe is the standard baseline package. The fishing package gives you rod holders and a fishing compartment but only comes with one seat.
- It’s the most budget-friendly kayak on this list
- Best for recreational paddling for a few hours
- Is durable enough to take on Class II and III rapids
- Different packages available
- Comes with a good amount of accessories and a repair kit
- Tracking is well below average compared to the other kayaks on this list
- It is definitely the slowest kayak on the list
- Limited lakes and rivers, don’t recommend using this kayak in ocean conditions, especially if there is tidal flow
- Can easily be bullied by stronger gusts of wind and chop that come through once and a while.
Foldable Kayak Buying Guide
In this buying guide, we will be going over what to look for in the top foldable kayaks. As well as the differences between inflatables vs origami boats as well as things to look out for.
How To Select The Best Folding Kayaks
In the past, portable kayaks cost so much that they only appealed to people who knew for certain that they couldn’t store a kayak or transport a rigid traditional kayak. They feel bulky to lift, but most people still chose it over the cost. However, they have become more affordable with time, and these kayaks feel lightweight and durable.
Where Do You Want To Paddle?
When it comes to folding kayaks your options are down to recreational flat water paddling or touring trips. Kayaks that are meant to be used as touring boats are typically more expensive. The budget range of a touring kayak would be the Advanced Elements Convertible while on the expensive side you would be looking at the Oru Coast XT.
For recreational paddling anything from the Oru Bay, all the way to the Sea Eagle 370 can be used for some paddling for the day. Look at your area and most importantly, honestly identify your skill level.
This plays off the where do you want to paddle section above. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money it’s best to start off with a modest budget and stick to flatwater kayaking. If you choose something like the Advanced Elements Convertible or the Oru Bay kayak you will have a kayak that can grow with you throughout those experiences.
Portability/ Storage Space
This is one of the main reasons why you are here right? Packed-up dimensions of origami kayaks like Oru are around the range of 33” X 12” X 29” while bigger models like the Mycanoe 2.5 have two bags with the biggest case being 37” X 8” X 25”. For inflatables, the range is a bit more varied but something more heavy-duty like the Convertible would be 25” X 21” X 12”.
Unfortunately for many folding boats, you may be sacrificing a bit of comfort compared to their traditional kayak cousins. In these cases a lot of the time it’s the inflatable kayak that comes ahead when it comes to comfortable seating. If comfort is very important to you consider the Convertible kayak.
I’m not going to sugar coat this for you, the first few outings of a folding kayak will take you longer than the suggested setup time. But just like me with my tent trailer, the more you set it up the more you get used to all the steps and soon you won’t even need the instructions manual. The standard set-up time for most of these kayaks is typically 10 – 20 minutes. It is also important to note how many folds/ inflations a model can withstand. Oru models can typically withstand about 20,000 folds, which makes them a particularly popular pick among paddlers.
You will also have to consider the breakdown or deflation time of these vessels. While these kayaks have advantages in storage and space you have to pencil in a good 15-20 minutes to set up and about the same amount of time to breakdown. If you have an inflatable kayak like the Advanced Elements Convertible, then you may have to lend a bit of extra time for the triple-layer polyester to dry.
One of the biggest priorities, when we made these picks, was to find boats that were durable. Nothing is worse than buying something over $500 only for it to malfunction and have to deal with the retailer/ manufacturer. What are some signs that a watercraft has good durability? For origami kayaks look for something that is at least 5 mm double-layered polypropylene. For inflatable models look for a kayak that is double layered PVC with welded seams. If you are looking to go venture around rougher terrain then get something that has some sort of protection cover over it.
As with all boats, maximum capacity is a pretty good indicator of how many people and how much gear your kayak can carry. Typically one seater kayaks will range in at about 250 to 350 lb maximum capacity. Kayaks that feature more than one seat can range anywhere from 400 lbs all the way to 600 lbs maximum capacity, depending on what type of vessel you are after. Kayaks with high maximum capacities include the Oru Coast XT, Advanced Elements Convertible and the Mycanoe 2.5.
Origami Folding Kayak vs Inflatable Kayak
A lot of this comes down to preference but from my experience, I have a few things to say about these two types, both pros and cons.
On Water Performance: Advantage Origami kayak
This is Because they are made of hard polypropylene they will give you the one water performance that mimics their hardshell cousins. Depending on which you choose, your average inflatable kayaks can be underwhelming. More high performance kayaks like the Advanced Frames can have comparable performances but because they sag a bit more compared to origami kayaks, they feature more water resistance. This of course would be for pure tracking.
For maneuverability, inflatable boats are more favored, especially in tighter areas. This is due to their wider width and the sag we mentioned about above.
How Long they Last: Slight Advantage to Origami Kayak
This is a little bit more of a difficult variable to measure because no two kayak uses are the same. It is also dependant on where you launch these boats from, how you store them etc. I only give a slight advantage to the Origami kayaks because the umbrella they fall under is more narrow, meaning there are less varieties and competitors in that space. Inflatables can cover anything from cheap $100 varieties to the more expensive and durable Convertible kayaks.
Pricing: Advantage Inflatable Kayak
By a big margin inflatables are the winners here. Inflatable models can range anywhere from $80 on the cheaper side all the way to about $1000 for a high quality inflatable kayak with more paddling ability. Good quality origami kayaks range anywhere from $1000 for recreational styled models to + $2000 .
In Kayak Storage: Depends
This is a bit of an unfair comparison really as there are so many different models and makes of inflatable kayaks. I will say though that for multi day excursions your best bet in this group would be the Oru Coast XT and the Advanced Frame Convertible. This is because they are designed for longer paddling trips and their long lengths gives them plenty of room to stow away gear. For something more in between the Oru Bay ST kayak will work well for that.
Things To Be Aware Of
We also need to understand the context of folding kayaks specifically. Not all portable kayak makes were created equal. While you have some that use higher quality materials and have a better design than your traditional hardshell kayak, you have some that do a much better job. The five features that matter the most include:
Design quality: Quality materials used are essential criteria for any kind of kayak, but especially for collapsible yaks. When looking for the best collapsable kayak it is best to see how long the manufacturer has been around and what customers say about the craft. The more negative reviews the more reason to stay away.
Comfort level: Chances are you will be sitting in this kayak for at least a couple of hours as you explore your local paddling hot spot. As a result, you will most likely remain seated for most of that time so you want a craft that can be comfortable for both your butt and back. Comfort is an often overlooked criterion in the kayaking world but it is an important one especially if you want to enjoy your journey. If the seat or cockpit is known to be uncomfortable make sure that there are options such as kayak seats that can easily be fitted into your chosen kayak. The manufacturer should have some options available as well.
Ease of use: This rings true especially for folding kayaks, how easy is it to set up and put together? Chances are when you buy a collapsible kayak you don’t want to spend more than 20 minutes trying to figure out how to put the thing together. A way to avoid this is to do some research beforehand, read instructions, see if they are complicated, look at what previous customers say about setup.
Extra included features: Who doesn’t like extra features to be included with the kayak? See what can be included, asking never hurts anybody.
Your Size: When looking for a proper folding kayak you have to account for how tall you are and your weight. All kayak manufacturers will have the maximum capacity of the kayak, so take that and what you want to bring on your paddling trip into consideration. Again looking at customer reviews is a great way to see if the kayak is the right fit for you and your body type.
In conclusion, if we had to say which is the best portable kayak, we’d have to say that you should go with the Kayak Bay ST for the folding origami kayak. If you are looking for an inflatable kayak go with the Advanced Frame Convertible. The biggest difference between the two is budget but both are excellent all around kayaks that can tackle a wide range of different conditions.