Whether you’re new to kayaking or a seasoned pro, folding kayaks make it easy to enjoy time on the water.
These are lightweight and portable kayaks, making them great for paddling on nearly any body of water—from calm lakes to exposed coastal environments. They’re also easy to store in your vehicle, saving you the hassle of fiddling with kayak racks on your car or truck.
However, folding kayaks are decidedly complex pieces of equipment, so selecting just one for your paddling needs isn’t easy. So we’ve researched and reviewed the best folding kayaks on the market.
Our Top Picks
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best Overall: Oru Kayak Beach LT
- Best Value: Oru Kayak Inlet
- Best Folding/Inflatable Hybrid: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
- Best Touring: Oru Kayak Coast XT
- Best Tandem: Oru Kayak Haven
Best Overall: Oru Kayak Beach LT
Length: 12’1″ | Width: 29″ | Weight: 25 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
A top-of-the-line folding kayak for fun and casual paddles, the Oru Kayak Beach LT is our top pick in this review thanks to its ease of use on and off the water.
With the Beach LT, you get a quality 12’1” kayak with a wide hull for added comfort and tracking ability as you paddle. The kayak is even rounded at the center of the hull and more V-shaped toward the bow and the stern to provide you with improved responsiveness and stability at the same time.
While the Beach LT is a sit-in kayak, it comes with a large open cockpit. As a result, it offers enough space for gear storage or your adventurous dog. This open cockpit design also makes this kayak suitable for paddlers up to 6’6” tall.
Other key benefits of the Beach LT include the kayak’s minuscule 25 lbs weight. The kayak also packs down to about the size of a standard couch cushion, and it comes with the company’s popular Oru Pack storage system for easy transport. If that wasn’t enough, the kayak is even made from UV-treated polypropylene for extra durability.
Of course, even the best kayaks have disadvantages, and the Oru Beach LT is no exception. In particular, the rounded hull of this kayak makes it less suitable for very rough conditions. Additionally, the Beach LT is pretty darn pricey. But if you want a mix of quality, comfort, and performance, it’s hard to go wrong with this kayak.
Best Value: Oru Kayak Inlet
Length: 9’8″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 20 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
Decidedly portable and lightweight, the Oru Kayak Inlet is a do-anything kayak for fun adventures on flat water.
Tipping the scales at just 20 lbs, the Inlet is by far one of the lightest recreational kayaks on the market. It also packs down to just 42” x 10” x 18” in size, so it’s easy enough to toss in the back of a small car before a fun day of paddling on your local lake or stream.
At the same time, the Inlet provides much more responsiveness and control than a similarly sized inflatable kayak. It has a relatively wide, flat hull that provides much-needed stability as you paddle, but its handling abilities make it more nimble for use in tricky navigational waters.
Furthermore, the Inlet comes with a fully adjustable footrest and backrest so you can be more comfortable when you paddle. As is the case with most Oru kayaks, this model also has a large open cockpit that provides a decent amount of space for a dry bag for kayaking.
However, note that the Inlet’s shorter length detracts slightly from its tracking abilities over long distances. Additionally, this kayak is designed for smaller paddlers who are less than 6’2” tall and 275 lbs in weight. Nevertheless, if you need a highly portable kayak for flatwater outings, the Oru Inlet is well worth considering.
Best Folding/Inflatable Hybrid: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame
Length: 10’5″ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 36 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
Combining the best features of an inflatable kayak with the versatility of a folding kayak, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame is a solid option for budget-conscious paddlers.
The AdvancedFrame is designed with a nifty aluminum frame in the bow and stern that folds up for easy storage. Meanwhile, the bulk of the kayak is made from Advanced Element’s durable, 3-layer ripstop fabric. Combined, these two features allow for a mix of portability and improved tracking and stability in the water, especially in choppy conditions.
The AdvancedFrame comes with a highly supportive and fully adjustable padded seat that provides ample comfort during long days on the water. The kayak also has a reasonably spacious cockpit, so you can stretch out and relax as you paddle.
Although the AdvancedFrame is primarily designed for flatwater and modest coastal conditions, it does have an inflatable coaming so you can attach a spray skirt to the kayak. It also includes a storage compartment and bungee deck lacing for streamlined gear storage.
Despite all these excellent benefits, a notable disadvantage of the AdvancedFrame is its heavier weight and bulk. When compared to hard-shell kayaks, it’s lightweight, but it’s heftier than most folding models. It’s also designed only for paddlers under 6’2”. However, if you want portability and affordability in one package, this kayak is an excellent choice.
Best Touring: Oru Kayak Coast XT
Length: 16’2″ | Width: 25″ | Weight: 32 lbs | Capacity: 400 lbs
Designed with the adventurous paddler in mind, the Oru Kayak Coast XT is a premium kayak that pushes the limits of what was previously thought possible with a folding kayak.
Oru crafted the Coast XT out of its rugged UV-treated polypropylene material, but the company added extra-strong steel latches to improve the kayak’s performance in rough waters. They also made the kayak 16’2” long, and they gave it a slight rocker to help it slice through waves while you paddle.
Additionally, the Coast XT is one of the few foldable kayaks available that’s fully compatible with a spray skirt. This means that it’s perfectly designed for use in an off-shore environment, and it’s possible to roll the kayak if you find yourself in a tricky situation.
The kayak comes with a set of deck bungees for easy gear attachment. The Coast XT also has a massive amount of internal gear storage space, and it has a 400 lb capacity.
But keep in mind that the Coast XT doesn’t have any dry hatches, so all of your gear needs to be packed into the kayak’s bow and stern. Furthermore, while the kayak can be rolled up and stored easily, it takes longer to set up the Coast XT when compared to other Oru models. However, if touring is your jam, it’s hard to go wrong with this kayak.
Best Tandem: Oru Kayak Haven TT
Length: 16’1″ | Width: 33″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs
Want a tandem kayak for paddling with your friends, but also want a kayak that is easy to transport to and from the put-in? With the Oru Kayak Haven TT, you can have the best of both worlds.
As with all Oru kayaks, the Haven TT is designed to fold down into a small box, making it easier to store and transport. That means no more struggling to lift your tandem kayak onto your vehicle. Furthermore, the Haven TT comes with color-coded straps to help speed up the assembly process so you can spend more time on the water.
Another key advantage to the Haven TT is that it can be paddled solo or tandem. In addition, the kayak provides an exceptional amount of stability and excellent tracking in either configuration, thanks to its 16’1” length and extra-wide hull.
Other notable benefits of the Haven include its built-in universal rail track system. This allows you to quickly attach accessories, like a GPS, fishfinder, or GoPro mount, for extra fun on the water. The kayak also has a huge open cockpit for additional comfort and gear storage space.
While the Haven TT is one solid tandem kayak, we can’t overlook some of its drawbacks. For example, this kayak weighs 41 lbs, which is relatively heavy for a folding kayak. It’s also quite expensive for a recreational kayak, but if you want portability and quality, the Oru Haven TT is hard to beat.
Folding Kayak Buying Guide
Folding kayaks are inherently complex pieces of gear. As such, deciding which model is suitable for your adventures isn’t always easy. To help you out, we’ve created a list of key things that you should consider when selecting the best folding kayak.
- Intended Use & Paddling Style
- Assembled Kayak Dimensions
- Maximum Weight Limit
- Maximum Paddler Height
- Folded Size
- Ease of Folding & Unfolding
- Gear Storage Options
Intended Use & Paddling Style
As is the case with pretty much any kayak, the most important thing to consider when shopping for the best folding kayak is what you intend to use it for. Your intended use and paddling style will dictate the type of kayak you should have on the water.
For example, if you’re more of a recreational paddler that sticks to sheltered lakes and flat rivers, a shorter, wider kayak like the Oru Inlet that provides more stability might be ideal. Alternatively, people who prefer longer paddling expeditions might want a touring kayak, like the Oru Coast XT.
Either way, it’s important that you understand exactly what you intend to use your kayak for before you invest. Doing so will help you narrow down your options, so you get a kayak that’s well suited to your paddling style.
Assembled Kayak Dimensions
A kayak’s length and width significantly impact the vessel’s performance on the water. This is true regardless of what kind of boat you’re looking for, whether that be a yacht or a folding kayak.
With respect to folding kayaks, the assembled dimensions of your kayak will determine how stable it is and how well it tracks over long distances.
Although there are slight variances from model to model, as a general rule, longer, narrower kayaks will track better, though they lack stability as you paddle. Alternatively, shorter, wider kayaks often provide more stability at the expense of tracking abilities.
There’s no one “perfect” set of folding kayak dimensions for all paddling adventures. This is why it’s important to understand your intended use before you commit to buying a kayak.
Maximum Weight Limit
All kayaks have a maximum weight limit, and folding kayaks are no exception. Most manufacturers will list the kayak’s total weight capacity in their specs, and you must adhere to these limits for safety reasons.
Note that the manufacturer’s stated maximum weight capacity for a folding kayak includes your weight and all of your gear. Therefore, as you shop, take both your weight and the weight of any equipment you usually paddle with into account.
Also, keep in mind that it’s best not to load a kayak beyond about 80% of its stated weight capacity. So, for example, a kayak with a 300 lb capacity shouldn’t be loaded beyond about 240 lbs whenever possible. That’s because following this 80% guideline helps to improve the performance and responsiveness of your kayak.
Maximum Paddler Height
Many folding kayaks aren’t as adjustable as non-folding models. Therefore, some folding kayaks come with a maximum paddler height listed in their specs.
This metric effectively tries to quantify how much leg room there is inside the kayak. While two people of the same height can have vastly different length legs, companies use the average size and build of people to give paddlers a general idea of the internal size of their kayak.
Of course, you should take maximum paddler height information as a guideline, not a rule. But in general, it’s best to avoid folding kayaks that have maximum paddler heights that are within 1 to 2 inches of your height.
Unlike traditional hard-shell kayaks, another important spec you’ll hear about when shopping for a folding model is the kayak’s folded size. This refers to the size of the kayak when it’s folded up and placed into storage.
Most folding kayaks come with their own carry case, or in the case of Oru kayaks, the kayaks fold up to become their own box-shaped container. These carry cases tend to be surprisingly small when you consider that a kayak is inside, but it’s important to pay close attention to the kayak’s folded size as you shop.
In particular, take note of the folded size of a given kayak and then measure your vehicle’s trunk to ensure that it will fit. If you suspect that you may want to fly with your kayak in the future, you also want to double-check that your bag is large enough to hold your kayak.
Ease of Folding & Unfolding
The portability of a folding kayak is easily its best feature. However, in exchange for portability, all folding kayaks require a bit of extra time to assemble when you arrive at your paddling location.
The good news is that most folding kayak manufacturers have made their kayaks as simple as possible to assemble. But, of course, there will always be a bit of a learning curve with the assembly process, so be sure to practice a few times at home before your first trip.
It’s also worth watching a few assembly videos for a given kayak—both from the manufacturer and from other paddlers—before you buy. This will provide you with a better understanding of the steps involved in the assembly process so that you can decide if a folding kayak is right for you.
Gear Storage Options
Kayaking is a gear-intensive sport, so many paddlers look for kayaks with built-in storage options. However, while many hard-sided kayaks have integrated hatches and storage compartments, many folding models don’t.
This lack of dry hatches can be a bummer to many paddlers that like the ease of use that comes with this method of gear storage. But, even though folding kayaks don’t have hatches, most of them still have plenty of gear storage space.
For most folding kayaks, gear can be stored inside the kayak in the bow and stern of the boat. In many ways, it’s easier to pack gear into these compartments than into a storage hatch. However, there is more of a risk of your gear getting lost if you were to capsize in the water.
Furthermore, you can find out precisely how much gear storage space a folding kayak has by looking at its stated storage capacity. This is often listed in liters, and it will give you a rough idea of how much gear you can transport in a given kayak.
While modern folding kayaks are designed to withstand the rigors of the water, they do come with some inherent durability concerns.
Since these kayaks aren’t made from the same rugged plastic that we see in many other kayaks, there’s always a chance that the fabric in a folding kayak could rip or tear. Of course, this isn’t likely, because folding kayaks are made with super-tough polypropylene, but it is something to consider.
Folding kayaks have something called a “folding strength,” which is the number of times the kayak can be assembled and disassembled before the materials will wear out and become unsafe for use on the water.
Thankfully, most new folding kayaks have folding strengths that well exceed 20,000 uses. As such, you’ll likely get an entire lifetime of paddling out of your kayak before it needs to be replaced.
However, as more affordable folding kayaks come on the market in the coming years, be wary of any company that advertises rock-bottom prices on their kayaks, as this may come at the expense of durability.
If you’re buying from a lesser-known manufacturer, carefully inspect their website for information about the expected lifetime of their kayaks. If you can’t find this information, either reach out to the manufacturer or proceed with caution with your purchase.
Folding kayaks have quickly taken the paddling world by storm by making it easier to transport a kayak without sacrificing performance on the water.
Although there are plenty of superb folding kayaks available, the Oru Beach LT wins our award as the best option on the market today. We particularly like that the Beach LT is stable and nimble, all while being easy to pack in your car or your checked luggage. The kayak’s large open cockpit also enhances your comfort on the water.