Since folding kayaks are the least common type of kayak, you may have never heard of them. I know that I was surprised, and a bit doubtful about their viability, when I first discovered them. However, after some diligent research, I quickly changed my mind. Good quality folding kayaks are much closer to the characteristics of a hard shell, traditional kayak than any inflatable you can buy.
Just like inflatable kayaks, folding kayaks are an excellent choice if you’re looking for a kayak that’s easy to store and transport. Since they fold up and travel inside your vehicle or in your trunk, they do not need an expensive rack for your car or truck. They can also be stored in compact areas in your home or garage rather than using a space gobbling storage rack. You can, however, treat them similar to a hard shell and use auto and garage racks to transport or store them. It’s a nice option to have.
Folding kayaks are a throwback to the original kayaks built by the Indians and Eskimos with skins over sticks or bones. Their frames are light metal and skins are modern flexible polymers. A folding kayak tracks in the water much more like a hard shell kayak. The slightly more flexible skin and frame structure, though, absorbs more wave energy and often makes the boat feel steadier in the water. Folding kayaks can take up to 20 minutes to assemble (faster with practice), potentially twice as long as pumping up an inflatable kayak with a foot pump.
Folding Kayak Manufacturers
Commercially, the folding kayak business makes up the smallest niche of kayaks. There have been a variety of manufacturers who have attempted to enter the market, but these are a few of the highest quality names in the business.
- Folbot, the oldest major manufacturer, closed it’s business in 2016 after 83 years of manufacturing and sales throughout the world.
- Pakboats started out in 1984, distributing folding canoes from Norway. By 1995, Alv Elvestad began designing, manufacturing and selling folding canoes and kayaks. Although Alv retired at the end of 2019, Pakboats is still in business with Mike Jones, a long time Pakboat employee at the helm.
- Oru Kayaks, a new company, founded in 2012, has taken a unique “origami” approach to their original folding kayak design. Oru was featured on the “Shark Tank” TV show in 2104, attracting an investment from Robert Herjavec. The company remains active in the paddling market.
- TRAK Kayaks, a Canadian company, has been manufacturing portable performance kayaks since 2006. They make a, truly, high end touring kayak that is, most likely, the highest priced folding kayak available. We at PortableKayaks.com were one of the first dealers of TRAK kayaks, with several satisfied customers.
Where & How To Buy A Folding Kayak
Just like inflatable kayaks, folding kayaks are mainly available for online purchase. Very few sporting goods stores stock them. However, there is plenty of information about folding kayaks on these seller’s web sites. A telephone call to one of these dealers can also provide you with help in determining which type of folding kayak is right for you.
Pakboats.com – Visit their web site for information about their folding kayaks and folding canoes. You can not purchase directly from the Pakboats web site. You will need to call them and talk to an actual human being to purchase a Pakboat. Quite a unique concept, huh?
OruKayak.com – Check out their ‘origami’ style folding kayaks. Oru has five different models available, including a tandem kayak. Their newest solo kayak model is only 20 pounds. Financing is also available from Oru. Click here to watch a video showing how to assemble an Oru Kayak in only Two Minutes!
TRAKKayaks.com – TRAK is a Canadian company that makes what they describe as the “ultimate touring kayak”. Prices start at just under $3,000. This is a kayak for seriously dedicated paddlers!