Best Folding Kayak In 2021 – Minimum Weight, Maximum Portability

“Traditional” kayaks are great and all – but I think we can agree that they tend to be heavy, bulky, and not that easy to transport by yourself. That alone is enough to deter some folks from taking up kayaking altogether. 

And, well, I can’t let that happen. 

Now, inflatable kayaks might seem like the obvious solution to that problem – and they are. But were you aware that foldable kayaks were an option, too? 

Yup – they’re lightweight, portable, fold down to a size of an average suitcase, and don’t require any inflating. How’s that for convenience? 

If that sounds interesting, you may want to stick around – I’m about to help you choose the best folding kayak!

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In A Rush? The Winner After 40 Hours Of Research:

Oru Kayak Coast XT

Oru Kayak Coast XT

Our Rating: ★★★★★

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Why is it better?

  • Made of five-millimetre double-layered polypropylene for puncture and abrasion resistance
  • Suitable for open waters, waves, windy conditions – and even Class III rapids 
  • It weighs only 32 pounds and folds down to the size of 33 x 14 x 29 inches
  • It has pre-creased with folding lines and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to set up 
  • Rated at 20,000 folding cycles 
  • Treated for ten years of UV protection 
  • The roomy cockpit is suitable for paddlers up to 6’3’’ tall 
  • Has an outstanding 400-pound capacity for a single-person kayak 
  • Backed by a 30-day return window and a one-year warranty 

What Is A Folding Kayak? Or: Where Fun Meets Practicality

Assembling Oru kayak on river bank

A folding kayak is a kayak that can be folded down. No kidding, Sherlock – I know, I know.

Okay, time for something less obvious, then:

Folding kayaks can collapse to roughly half the size – and in some cases, two-thirds – to a “suitcase kayak,” as I like to call them. As such, they can get around the usual limitations of traditional, full-sized kayaks – things related to storage space, transportation, and so on.

If we’re talking history, a folding kayak is one of the veterans of the kayak family. Yup, you read that right. These are the OGs in the game. 

Foldable ‘yaks date back to the very dawn of kayaking, as they were primarily designed to be packed away and easily moved by nomad hunter-gatherers.

Fast forward a century later, and manufacturing technology has evolved so much that folding kayaks are built for pretty much every scenario out there – from recreational paddling to full-on touring. And yet, they remain lightweight and portable. 

I genuinely believe that portable folding kayaks are the perfect choice for the modern explorer.

Who Should Buy A Folding Kayak?

Man assembling a folding kayak on the pier

You’re not sure if this type of kayak is the right one for you? 

Say no more. Let me introduce you to the main uses and advantages of folding kayaks; it might help you decide whether they’re something worth considering.

To begin with, these bad boys are beyond easy to store. I’d even add that a folding kayak is one of the most practical solutions if you lack the space for storing a hard-shell traditional kayak.

Maybe your apartment has limited storage space, or your garage is already full of items that are squashed in like sardines. If that’s the case, a folding ‘yak is a real problem-solver. Once folded, it can fit under the desk, bed, under-the-stairs drawers – you name it.

Secondly, a folding kayak equals a portable kayak. Thus, it’s super-convenient to haul a folding ‘yak to your kayaking destination: 

It’s easy to collapse and carry it with you. If you can manage a suitcase, you can manage one of these, too. Best of all, you can tuck it in the trunk if you prefer not to use the roof rack.

Their ability to transform from “boxes” to ‘yaks means you’ll slash the time it takes to transport it and minimize the effort to get it into the water. 

Getting around these problems is no small feat, by the way. 

It could spare you the headaches and the trouble – and make the difference between paddling and not paddling.

Next, a folding ‘yak is an excellent choice for kayak camping trips and long-distance paddling.

I can see how that might seem a little odd. It may appear as though you need something bigger for your long-distance trips or lake camping. 

However, a collapsible kayak will offer you the best of both worlds:

A high-quality model built for adventures will allow you to make the most out of your trip due to its transportability. And what’s more, you’ll quickly find a place to store the ‘yak when not in use, which makes it great for traveling – something that doesn’t usually go well with the word “kayak.”

How To Choose A Folding Kayak?

Oru Kayak - origami kayak on river bank

It’s vital that you choose the right ‘yak – but with so many factors to consider, things can be a little daunting, even more so if you’re a beginner

You might be left scratching your head, thinking, “Where do I even start?”

Well, that’s why I’m here – to nudge you in the right direction and share a couple of tips along the way – I’ve even gone as far to review the best portable kayaks on the market today.

Types Of Folding Kayaks

In general, we can speak of two types of folding kayak:

  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Origami kayaks

It’s a common misconception that a fold-up kayak is always an inflatable kayak. Albeit this is one of the two main types of foldable kayaks, as you can see above, a collapsible kayak isn’t inflatable per se.

Although the end result is the same – folding down your ‘yak – these two types of mechanisms vary greatly. 

So, let’s dissect them further and see about their pros and cons, shall we?

Inflatable Kayak

An inflatable kayak is, well, air-filled and generally comprises of multiple air chambers for added security. It can be inflated using a pump – foot, hand, or electric one, whichever you fancy. When it’s deflated and folded, you can easily store it in a carrying bag that often comes with it.

The inflate-deflate mechanism fits into the whole idea of compactness and easy transport – even if it’s not 100% synonymous with folding.

Interested in how the inflatables function? 

Check out this video:

Inflation / deflation of Hobie i12 inflatable kayak sunset paddle

Also, inflatable kayaks are usually cheaper than their Origami siblings.

Draining an inflatable ‘yak can take a while since the fabric and the creases can retain a lot of water. That also makes them heavier – and slightly less portable than the other type.

Origami Kayak

Ready to take an Origami course? 

Luckily, the art of kayak folding is much easier than its paper counterpart. These ‘yaks are made of material that folds against itself in a very straightforward manner.

Some might argue that the folding and unfolding process is a bit of a pain in the behind – but the truth is the oh-so-boring phrase: 

Practice makes perfect. 

Once you’ve got the knack of the mechanism and done it a couple of times, you’ll go from the “suitcase” to the full-size kayak in a matter of minutes. 

And true, a pump will do it instead of you with an inflatable kayak. But is it just me, or does DIY always feel better?

Here, you can check out the folding and unfolding of an Origami kayak:

Oru Kayak Inlet Folding Kayak Assembly Video | Lightweight Origami Kayak that fits in your trunk

The prototype of Origami-style kayaks would be canvas or nylon “skin” stretched over an aluminum or wood skeleton. However, nowadays, these ‘yaks are mostly frameless, thanks to the carefully constructed geometrical folds that result in a rigid structure.

Origami kayaks win the day when it comes to size. They’ll generally fold down to smaller sizes than inflatables – and you won’t need to carry the pump with you, either.

Also, while inflatables usually come with a bag, the so-called Origami kayaks don’t need them – they are suitcase kayaks in the real sense of the word.

Material

After you narrow down the category of folding kayaks you’re interested in getting – inflatable or Origami-style – you should consider its construction.

The material a kayak is made from ultimately affects its quality and durability.

Now, for inflatables, the most commonly used materials include:

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Lightweight, easy to fold, and budget-friendly – however, not the best for high temperatures and prolonged UV ray exposure.
  • Nitrylon – A premium construction that combines 1200D polyester and synthetic nitrile rubber, offering complete tear-resistance. Due to its robustness, it’s more often used to reinforce the chambers around the sides and at the bottom.
  • Hypalon – A synthetic rubber fabric lauded for its durability. It’s excellent at resisting harsh chemicals or high temperatures – however, it’s more expensive than the other two options.

On the other hand, the best material for Origami designs is polypropylene. This type of plastic has excellent folding properties and behaves well when exposed to different elements. It’s often double-layered and UV-treated to provide additional protection – on top of general resistance to punctures and abrasion. 

Size

Since you’re here reading this article, you’re already getting some pretty major benefits in the size department:

Folding kayaks are arguably the most convenient type of ‘yaks in this regard. 

Still, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t check its dimensions – both folded and unfolded. And while you’re at it, here’s what else to consider:

  • The width of a ‘yak (the beam) will affect its stability. Wider kayaks are better-suited for taller paddlers who have a higher center of gravity.
  • Length-wise, the rule of thumb is – longer kayaks are faster, but that sacrifices some of their maneuverability. 
  • Don’t forget to check the load capacity rating. It’ll indicate the amount of load a kayak can take on – both in terms of the paddler and accessories.

Of course, all these numbers work together, determining how the kayak will “behave” in different challenges. For instance, Oru’s lineup of Origami kayaks features five different sizes of ‘yaks for different purposes:

Oru Kayak Model Comparison: Meet the Oru Kayak Lineup

Best Folding Kayak Reviews – Top 8 Picks Reviewed & Rated

1. Oru Kayak – Inlet

Oru Kayak – Inlet
  • Best Budget-Friendly Suit Case Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★★
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One thing you should know about Oru – heads up, there will be more than a few Oru kayak models featured on this list – is that the design of their folding kayaks is heavily inspired by the Japanese art of origami.

The first one up is the Inlet: 

A lightweight, portable, and relatively affordable ‘yak with a streamlined and efficient fold pattern that goes from “box” to “boat” in a matter of minutes thanks to the side-release buckle closures. 

There’s usually a limit to the number of folding cycles – but with the Inlet, that rating clocks in at 20,000 fold cycles.

The 9.5-foot Inlet, is the smallest foldable kayak in the Oru range, made out of five-millimeter double-layered extruded polypropylene, boasts a 30-inch beam, and weighs a mere 20 pounds – while still having a 275-pound capacity. The ‘yak also features polyethylene fairings, removable bulkheads, an open cockpit, and footrests. 

I have to add that this kayak is designed for flat water. If you get caught in windy conditions or any kind of chop, you’ll find it a bit challenging to remain in control. 

Technical Specs 

  • Five-millimeter double-layered polypropylene
  • Measures 9.5 x 2.5 feet  
  • Weighs 20 pounds 
  • 275-pound capacity 

Pros

  • The most lightweight folding kayak I’ve tested  
  • Wide cockpit for easier entry and exiting 
  • Streamlined folding pattern 
  • Has a 10-year UV treatment 

Cons

  • It’s only suitable for calm, flat water environments  
  • A bit harder to handle in windy conditions 
  • Not that great for bigger paddlers

If you want something simple, lightweight, and made with casual afternoons on calm waters in mind, it honestly doesn’t get much better than Oru’s origami-style Inlet.

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2. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
  • Best Convertible Foldable Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★☆
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Now, this one is a hybrid of sorts, combining the advantages of inflatable and folding kayaks into one, with a touch of versatility and customization sprinkled on top. 

Wait, so, this Advanced Elements kayak is foldable, inflatable, built for two – and a convertible? 

Yup, that’s right; this ‘yak has it all – and then some. It’s arguably the most “multi-purpose” kayak out there. Think about it: 

It converts from a tandem to a one-person kayak and from an open-deck ‘yak to a sit-in one. That said, the Convertible Decks don’t come with the ‘yak. You’ll have to spend more to get them – or stick with the “basic” one. 

Another potential downside would be the weight. And while it’s not heavy per se, at 52 pounds, this Advanced Elements ‘yak is much heavier than my previous pick. 

Then again, given the built-in aluminum frame and 550-pound capacity, I can’t complain about it weighing as much as it does. 

Technical Specs 

  • Three-layer PVC with aluminum frame
  • Measures 15 x 2.7 feet 
  • Weighs 52 pounds 
  • 550-pound capacity 

Pros

  • Built-in aluminum ribs for structural rigidity 
  • Can be configured as a solo or tandem kayak
  • The deck can be open or closed 
  • Six air chambers for additional safety 

Cons

  • Has to be inflated (but that’s hardly a downside)
  • It’s the heaviest foldable kayak on my list 
  • You have to purchase the Convertible Decks separately

If you want versatility and don’t mind getting a hybrid between a folding and an inflatable kayak, Advanced Elements’ so-called Convertible is as good as they get. 

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3. Oru Kayak Coast XT

Oru Kayak Coast XT
  • Best Folding Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Unlike the Inlet, which is designed for flat water, the Coast XT is Oru’s sea-worthy folding kayak – and a fantastic one, at that. 

Some things remain unchanged, like the origami-inspired structure and the 20,000 folding cycle rating. However, the Coast XT is much longer and sleeker, measuring 16.2 feet in length and 25 inches in width. It also features a closed cockpit design. 

With this change in dimensions comes a slightly higher weight – 32 pounds, to be exact – and a load capacity of 400 pounds. 

On that note, you’ll find bungee rigging in the front for securing gear on hand; everything else can fit in the relatively spacious cockpit. 

The Oru Kayak Coast XT also gets bonus points for being easy to roll – meaning you can venture into Class III rapids or waves without worrying about capsizing. 

But all that’s going to cost you. Oru’s Coast XT is many things – but “budget-friendly” isn’t one of them. 

Technical Specs 

  • Five-millimeter double-layered polypropylene
  • Measures 16.2 x 2.1 feet 
  • Weighs 32 pounds 
  • 400-pound capacity

Pros

  • Easy to roll and suitable for heavy surf 
  • Has an excellent capacity and bungee rigging in the front 
  • A spacious cockpit 
  • Impressive speed and tracking performance 
  • Has a 10-year UV-protection treatment 

Cons

  • Might not be suitable for beginners 
  • One of the pricier models in Oru’s lineup 
  • Assembly takes a bit longer

If you’d rather venture into the coastal waters rather than spend your day paddling at a nearby lake, then the Coast XT by Oru would be a much better fit.

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4. ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak

ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak
  • Best Cheap Collapsible Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Let’s start things off with Boreal’s Baffin – a 17.5-foot ‘yak for taller paddlers who frequently have issues finding enough commodity and legroom. 

Again, when it comes to Advanced Elements’ AdvancedFrame ‘yaks, the thing that makes them stand out in the crowd – among both inflatable and folding kayaks – is their aluminum-reinforced body. 

And this so-called Sport model is no different: 

The three-layer PVC construction, 1000D polyester reinforcements, and built-in aluminum ribs that define the bow and stern amount to a surprisingly sturdy, 10.4-foot kayak that weighs only 26 pounds. 

It’s essentially the lighter version of their bigger AdvancedFrame models. 

The Sport also sports – pun intended – a larger, easier-to-enter cockpit opening and its own seat with an adjustable backrest, which is a nice touch. 

Remember that this is a recreational kayak, though. Hence, it has a low weight limit of only 250 pounds and not much else going on – but for casual afternoon paddles, you probably won’t need more than that, anyway. 

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t cost a fortune, either. 

Technical Specs 

  • Three-layer PVC with aluminum frame
  • Measures 10.4 x 2.7 feet 
  • Weighs 26 pounds 
  • 250-pound capacity 

Pros

  • A lightweight version of the bigger AdvancedFrame kayak
  • Larger, easier-to-enter cockpit opening 
  • Suitable for lakes and slow-moving rivers 
  • Four chambers for additional safety 
  • The cheapest kayak on the list

Cons

  • The limited capacity might not fit larger paddlers 
  • Tends to be a bit hard to control in windy weather

If you’re looking for a lightweight, portable, beginner-friendly kayak and the money is tight, I’d highly recommend that you consider the AdvancedFrame Sport.

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5. Oru Kayak Haven TT

Oru Kayak Haven TT
  • Best Tandem Fold-Up Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★☆
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I told you this round-up would include more than a few Oru kayaks, didn’t I? Well, here’s another one that deserves mention – the Haven TT, a folding kayak built for two. 

The single-piece hull, constructed out of five-millimeter, double-layered, extruded polypropylene, is pre-creased with folding lines that quickly turn from a suitcase to a kayak shape, held together with neoprene end caps, buckles, and nylon straps. 

And much like its cousins, the Inlet and Coast XT, it also boasts a 20,000-fold-cycle rating.

When set up, the Haven TT measures 16 feet in length, with a 33-inch beam, and has a weight capacity of 500 pounds. All the while, Oru’s tandem kayak weighs a reasonable 41 pounds, making it a surprisingly lightweight two-person ‘yak. 

The coolest part? Like the AdvancedFrame Convertible, the Haven TT goes from tandem to a single-paddler configuration, promising some versatility when needed.

I should probably mention that it doesn’t come cheap, though. 

Technical Specs 

  • Five-millimeter, double-layered polypropylene 
  • Measures 16 x 2.7 feet 
  • Weighs 41 pounds 
  • 500-pound capacity 

Pros

  • Can convert to a single-paddler configuration when needed 
  • Relatively lightweight for a tandem 
  • Has a 10-year UV treatment 
  • There’s enough room for stashing gear 
  • Pre-creased lines for effortless folding 

Cons

  • It’s not the most affordable model in Oru’s lineup
  • The seat could stand to be a bit more comfortable

If you enjoy paddling in two – with the occasional possibility of heading out solo – spare yourself the trouble and go with Oru’s Haven TT tandem kayak. You won’t regret it.

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6. TRAK Kayaks 2.0 – Portable Performance Kayak

TRAK Kayaks 2.0 - Portable Performance Kayak
  • Best Portable Kayak For Touring
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★☆
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Okay, in the spirit of being completely honest and unbiased, I have to say, right off the bat, that a kayak like TRAK 2.0 isn’t for the budget-minded paddlers. This thing is as expensive as they get – and if you’re not up for spending roughly $3500 on a ‘yak, I suggest you look away now. 

Are you still interested? 

Well, then, allow me to introduce you to this sea-worthy 16-footer, designed with durability and long-distance performance in mind. 

This sit-inside kayak boasts military-grade polyurethane fabric, coupled with Hi-Tech aerospace aluminum frame – which amounts to tough-as-nails construction. The rigidity of the TRAK 2.0 is – well, insane. Still, it weighs 48 pounds. 

It has a narrow, 22.5-inch beam, a distinct V-shape, and hard chines, promising speed, tracking, and excellent secondary stability. 

However, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t arrive as planned. I’ve heard countless stories about the not-so-timely production and lack of communication – which is a shame given the price tag.  

Technical Specs 

  • Polyurethane fabric with aluminum frame 
  • Measures 16 x 1.9 feet 
  • Weighs 48 pounds 
  • 300-pound capacity 

Pros

  • Sea-worthy, touring fold-up kayak 
  • The V-shape hull with hard chines ensures tracking, speed, and secondary stability 
  • Tough-as-nails construction with an aluminum frame

Cons

  • The kayak is insanely expensive – especially with all the extras
  • One of the heaviest fold-up kayaks on my list 
  • There were some hold-ups in the production

If you came in search of a touring kayak that collapses down to a portable size, the TRAK 2.0 is a safe bet – although, again, your wallet might not agree with you on that. 

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7. Oru Kayak Bay ST

Oru Kayak Bay ST
  • Best Do-It-All Origami Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★☆

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You’re starting to catch on to which brand dominates the foldable kayak portion of the market, huh? 

The Bay ST is pretty much the OG of Oru’s lineup of origami-inspired folding kayaks – the kayak that started it all. So, if proven performance is what you’re after, this one is a more than safe bet.

Now that you’re more familiar with Oru’s kayaks, you know that the 5-millimeter double-layered polypropylene construction and a folding limit of 20,000 cycles are to be expected. What makes it stand out, though? 

Well, the Oru Bay ST is a 12-foot intermediate-level kayak designed for a variety of water conditions – whether you’re exploring bays or small bodies of water. It weighs a mere 26 pounds, making it one of the lightest on the list. 

It has a 300-pound capacity, accompanied by bungee cords in the front and a spacious cockpit that can be used as an additional storage area. Speaking of the cockpit, it’s also compatible with most standard-sized spray skirts. 

The 25-inch beam might make the Bay ST feel a bit tippy for beginners, though – at least initially, anyway. 

Technical Specs 

  • Five-millimeter, double-layered polypropylene
  • Measures 12.2 x 2.1 feet 
  • Weighs 26 pounds 
  • 300-pound capacity 

Pros

  • Suitable for a variety of water conditions 
  • Structural bulkheads in the kayak’s front and back 
  • Bungee deck lacing in the front 
  • The cockpit’s compatible with standard-sized spray skirts

Cons

  • Total beginners might find the Bay ST a bit tippy initially
  • It can feel a bit stiff during the first few uses

The Oru Bay ST is the origami kayak that launched Oru – the OG of their lineup. So, if you want proven design and performance, this is the fold-up kayak for you.

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8. Oru Kayak Beach LT

Oru Kayak Beach LT
  • Best Recreational Folding Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★☆
  • Price: ★★★★★

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Surprise, surprise – another Oru Kayak on this list. What can I say – the folks at Oru apparently know how to build a reliable folding kayak. On that note, I decided to finish up this round-up with the Beach LT, Oru’s most popular model. 

And when you see the price-to-value ratio, it becomes apparent where the Beach LT’s popularity comes from: 

This 12-foot recreational kayak is the definition of keeping it fun, casual, and beginner-friendly. It boasts the same five-millimeter, double-layered polypropylene construction, ensuring durability – and yet, it weighs a mere 25 pounds. 

The Oru Kayak Beach LT’s capacity is average – 300 pounds, to be precise – and you’ll get easy-to-access storage space, along with a wide and roomy cockpit, which makes it a great choice for full days on the water. 

Even more so, it’s cheaper than most other Oru foldable kayaks I’ve talked about today – second only to the budget-friendly Inlet. 

Technical Specs 

  • Five-millimeter, double-layered polypropylene
  • Measures 12.1 x 2.4 feet 
  • Weighs 25 pounds 
  • 300-pound capacity 

Pros

  • One of the lightest kayaks I’ve tested 
  • Can be assembled in five or so minutes 
  • A pretty decent weight capacity for a solo paddler
  • Wide and roomy cockpit  
  • Suitable for beginners 

Cons

  • Not really a good choice for rough water 
  • Some might find it a bit slow and sluggish

The Beach LT is Oru’s most popular origami kayak, and I think it’s easy to see why. So, if all you need is a reliable – and highly portable – recreational ‘yak, I recommend this one. 

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Conclusion – The Winner Of Best Folding Kayaks Is?

You’ve made it to the end, which can only mean one thing: 

You’re genuinely considering buying a collapsible kayak. The only question left to answer is – which one should you get? 

Now, you already know that the Oru Kayak Coast XT is my personal favorite. I’d say I made that pretty clear by now. 

The Coast XT is all about performance; it feels right at home in waves and Class III rapids and can hold a good amount of cargo – and yet, it weighs a mere 32 pounds. 

It’s far from the only fold-up kayak worth considering, though. There are other fantastic models – some cheaper, some pricier – featured on my list. So, it’s only a matter of sorting your priorities and requirements out and choosing a kayak that meets them. 

Let me know which one you pick!