Kayaks are bulky items and for many people, particularly those living in urban environments, it is not a viable solution to buy and store their own kayak as there is limited space. This means they either have to rent a kayak every time they head to the water, which can become very expensive, or they can use an inflatable kayak or a folding kayak.
Folding kayaks are not just designed for those people who are unable to store a full-size kayak. They are often much lighter than standard options making them ideal for those people who struggle with the weight when carrying them to the water. Equally, they are also a lot easier to transport, so they are ideal for those kayakers who do not have access to a vehicle or perhaps want to hike and camp.
What are folding kayaks?
Folding kayaks are exactly as they sound, kayaks which collapse down into an easy to carry solution. There are two main styles of folding kayak on the market: an origami-style foldable option made from a durable and flexible material, and an inflatable style.
Both of these are designed to be easily portable, but there are a number of factors to consider when purchasing your folding kayak:
One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a folding kayak is the size when folded down. These can vary drastically between different models so it is important that you understand the overall size. The origami-style often closes down a lot smaller than the inflatable option due to them not featuring the supporting ribs required for inflatable folding kayaks.
This overall size is important in determining how you will be transporting and storing the kayak, so make sure that the dimensions fit into your home or car or can easily attach to your backpack for those backcountry hikes!
Alongside the overall size that the kayak packs down to, one of the other main factors to consider when choosing a folding kayak is how easy it is to set up. The majority of the kayaks on the market today have been designed to be quickly put together and disassembled, with many taking just twenty minutes to be put together by someone on their own (and even quicker if you’re with a friend!)
When it comes to the foldable inflatable options, the time taken to fully inflate can be quite different between models, ranging anywhere from ten minutes to forty minutes. Typically an inflatable kayak will also need a foot pump or electric pump to ensure that it is inflated to the required level for optimal performance.
In addition to the setup time, you should also factor in the time taken to breakdown and pack up the kayak too. Origami designed options are often easier to breakdown than the inflatable options, which can take quite some time to fully deflate and pack up.
Price is an important consideration when choosing a folding kayak. While they are designed to be portable, the best options on the market are often not cheap however, there is usually a solution for every budget. Generally speaking, the higher the price the better the quality.
A lot of folding kayak models let you choose from a range of seating positions and styles; from solo to tandem as well as between open and closed deck. If you are tall, you should ensure that whichever option you choose can accommodate you comfortably.
While every kayak has a maximum weight capacity, this is often lower in folding options so it is important that you understand the weight capacities of your choices before purchasing to ensure it is suitable for your requirements. When calculating weight load, don’t forget to include any gear you need to take with you while out on the water.
Another very important factor to consider when choosing a folding kayak is its waterproofing. As it folds down, you will want sturdy seams covering every connection point to prevent it from leaking over time.
You should also evaluate more typical kayak requirements including the overall length and the width of the boat when it is fully set up.
Pros and cons of foldable kayaks
Foldable kayaks are very easy to transport, often folding down into a bag or box with wheels, much like a suitcase. This means that they can easily fit into most cars and can also be easily carried as needed.
They also help to make kayaking far more accessible, allowing people living in the middle of a city or who lack the strength to transport a traditional hard hull kayak the chance to enjoy everything that kayaking has to offer.
It is not just city dwellers who get to enjoy more accessibility from a portable kayak though, the fact they can be easily carried means even experienced kayakers can discover lakes and bodies of water inaccessible by car; unlocking whole new sceneries and adventures.
Portable kayaks are also often very quick to set up, meaning that you can be ready and in the water by the time your friends have unloaded their traditional kayak from their car and dragged it into the water.
Travel the world! That’s right, not only do foldable kayaks help you to explore new places in your own country, but many of them pack down so small that you can check them in as extra baggage on most international flights – letting you discover even more of the world in your kayak.
Portable kayaks can be quite expensive, particularly when compared to the cost of purchasing a more traditional kayak. However, for those unable to store or transport a traditional kayak, then a portable one can be more cost-effective than renting one each trip.
The fact they are foldable means they are not as long-lasting as a traditional kayak and often have a much shorter lifespan, based on the number of times that the kayak can be set up and repacked. But certain wear and tear can be minimized with proper maintenance. Inspect and identify weaknesses early and learn how to make simple repairs.
Although there are some fantastic options on the market, typically foldable kayaks offer users lower performance than traditional kayaks can. Usually, they are not as rigid, which means they are less streamlined in the water and are slower than the smoother fiberglass frames.
As they have many different parts, foldable kayaks also require more maintenance to ensure that it is working as it was designed to.
If you love getting out on the water and exploring the world around you, then folding kayaks give those kayakers who are not able to store or transport a kayak the option to do just that. They are an expensive outlay, but when you take into consideration the money spent renting or transporting a traditional kayak, then they can become a far more cost-effective solution.
As it is with every kayak, traditional or foldable, you should always make sure that you purchase one that is the right size and style for you and your needs – ensuring it has the space to carry everything that you will require on a trip.
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