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August 24, 2022 15 min read

Portable Kayaks

Two inflatable yellow kayak

Hard shell kayaks that are difficult to transport are a thing of the past thanks to the development of inflatable and folding kayaks. The benefits that come with a portable kayak are immense, and we’re here to narrow down the 9 best inflatable and folding kayaks on the market. 

So, whether you have limited storage space, or if you enjoy traveling long distances or even overseas with your kayak in tow, then keep on reading. These kayaks might just be for you. 

Types of Portable Kayaks

Before we get into our top 9 choices, we first wanted to discuss the portable kayak options. 

Inflatable Kayaks

Man fishing using Advanced Elements inflatable kayak

First, there are inflatable kayaks, and an inflatable kayak is exactly what its name suggests, a kayak that you can inflate and deflate. 

Inflatable kayaks are a fantastic portable kayak option as once deflated, they can fit in a small backpack or duffel bag, which can then be transported to remote or overseas locations. On average, an inflatable kayak will weigh between 30 to 40 lbs making it extremely lightweight and easy to carry. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Surely an inflatable kayak isn’t very durable? Well, you’re wrong. Inflatable kayaks are now as strong, if not stronger, than a hard shell traditional kayak. The dents, dings, and scratches you get on a hard shell are non-existent on an inflatable, and if you do happen to get a puncture, it can more often than not be easily fixed.

Folding Kayaks

Oru folding kayak

The second portable kayak option is a folding kayak. Although folding kayaks aren’t the most popular choice when it comes to portable kayaks, they have a huge amount of benefits and should definitely be considered if you’re looking for a lightweight, easy-to-transport kayak. 

Obviously, the first benefit of a folding kayak is that because it is simply made from a large piece of rigid plastic, it can effortlessly fold down into a compact bag. Many people refer to these kayaks as origami kayaks as their design resembles that of the Japanese art of paper folding. 

Along with being extremely portable, folding kayaks also don’t succumb to any damage like their hard shell and inflatable cousins. I mean, you can’t ding, dent, or pop a folding kayak now, can you?

But, although folding kayaks do have their benefits, they also come with downfalls, and one of them is their price. Folding kayaks are more often than not expensive, so that’s something to keep in mind when purchasing. 

GILI’s Top Picks: By Budget

Best Budget
Intex Challenger Kayak, Green and Blue
Intex Challenger

Even though the Intex Challenger is an extremely affordable kayak, it doesn’t lack in quality and durability. Intex designed their Challenger from heavy duty materials and equipped it with storage areas and grab lines.

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Best Mid-Range
Advanced Elements Inflatable kayak, Red
Advanced Elements Ultralite Kayak

The Advanced Elements Ultralite made it onto our best mid-range pick because of its incredibly lightweight design. Once inflated, the Ultralite only weighs 17 lbs making it an ideal option for paddlers who want to take their kayaks overseas or to remote locations.

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Best Premium
Trak kayak signature series, Yellow
Trak 2.0 Kayak

The Trak 2.0 kayak has a unique feature that allows the waterline and rocker to be adjusted to the specific water conditions you’re paddling in. This touring kayak can work well on rough, choppy oceans or calm waters because of this unique feature.

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Inflatable Kayaks

Advanced Elements Ultralite Kayak

Advanced Elements Inflatable kayak, Red

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

10’5” x 32”

17 lbs

225 lbs

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The Advanced Elements Ultralite Kayak is one of the lightest kayaks on the market, weighing only 17 lbs when deflated. As I'm sure you can imagine, carrying this kayak over long distances would be a breeze once it is deflated and stored away in its carry bag.

When designing their Ultralite Kayak, Advanced Elements paid close attention to the materials they used in the process. As they wanted their kayak to be high performance and durable, as well as lightweight, they used three layers of polyurethane and added aluminum rib-frames in the bow and stern to improve the kayak’s overall tracking. 

The entire boat has a simple inflation chamber design that makes it easy to deflate and inflate the within minutes. All you need to do is inflate the kayak, clip in the supportive high back seat and foot brace, and then you’re ready to set out on the water.

Some other notable features of the Ultralite kayak include front and back bungee storage areas, molded handles to make transportation when inflated easier, storage compartments, D-ring tie downs, and a skeg tracking fin.

Package

The Ultralite Kayak from Advanced Elements comes with nearly everything you’d need to get out on the water in an instance. In the package, you’ll receive a duffel bag with shoulder straps, the folding seat and inflatable foot brace, and a repair kit. The only things missing are a pump and a paddle which you’d need to buy separately. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from three layers of polyurethane
  • Bow and stern aluminum rib frames
  • Front and back bungee areas
  • Molded handles
  • Storage compartments
  • D-ring tie downs
  • Skeg tracking fin
  • Foam floor

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • It is extremely lightweight making it an excellent portable kayak option.
  • They carefully thought about the kayak’s tracking so added aluminum ribs in the bow and stern. 
  • Advanced Elements included a high back seat for extra support on the water. 
  • You have access to front and back bungee storage aswell as additional storage behind the seat.
  • The Advanced Elements Ultralite is on the higher end of the inflatable kayak price scale.
  • You need to purchase a pump and a paddle separately. 

Sevylor QuikPak K5

Sevylor Quikpak, Gray

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

10’ x 36”

25.5 lbs

250 lbs

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The Sevylor QuikPak K5 is a sit in kayak which makes it excellent for cold water paddling. Sevylor constructed the K5 from 24-gauge PVC and added a tarpaulin bottom with a polyester cover to protect it from any damage or punctures. 

If you do happen to get a puncture, however, then don’t worry. The QuikPak K5 has multiple air chambers to stop you from sinking into the water. You see, if one of the air chambers gets punctured, then the remaining will stay inflated so you can paddle back to shore. 

What makes this kayak great for cold water paddling though, are the spray covers that prevent any water from entering the kayak’s cockpit. These covers will ultimately keep you dry, which is essential in cold water and weather conditions. 

Sevylor also added front and back bungee areas for storage, D-rings so you can attach additional equipment, and front and back carry handles so you can get your boat to and from the water easily. 

Package

Sevylor included everything you’d need with their Quikpak K5. The backpack, which you can use to store and transport the kayak, doubles up as the kayak seat once the kayak is inflated. When it's being used as a bag, however, it is comfortable on your back thanks to padded shoulder and waist straps, and it is even big enough to store the included pump and paddle

Specifications and Features

  • Made from 24-gauge PVC
  • Tarpaulin bottom with polyester cover
  • Multiple air chambers to prevent deflation
  • Spray covers
  • Front and back bungees
  • Front and back carry handles
  • D-rings

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Sevylor Quikpak K5 is a great choice for cold water paddling because of its enclosed cockpit and spray skirts.
  • It has multiple air chambers to prevent you from sinking into the water in the event of a puncture. 
  • Sometimes sit in kayaks can lack storage spaces but the K5 has large front and back bungees to resolve this issue.
  • You get everything included with the package. 
  • The seat could be more supportive. 

Intex Challenger

Intex Challenger Kayak, Green and Blue

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

9’ x 30”

23.9 lbs

220 lbs

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The Intex Challenger is an extremely affordable inflatable kayak that is made from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl. Intex designed their Challenger kayak to be able to take on recreational and whitewater paddles, and, as stability is important in a whitewater kayak, they added an inflatable I beam flooring to help improve the kayak’s overall rigidity. 

Most inflatable kayaks share the common characteristic of multiple air chambers, and the Challenger is no exception to this. If one of these air chambers pops, you’ll still be able to make it back to your vehicle without getting wet. If you do happen to fall into the water for any reason, however, Intex added grab lines along the back section of the boat that help make it easier to get back in. 

As well as the convenient grab lines along the back section, Intex also used the enclosed cockpit to their advantage. Not only does the covered deck prevent you from getting wet when paddling in whitewater rapids, but it also makes room for a front bungee net storage area that can hold a large amount of gear and personal belongings. 

Package

The Intex Challenger comes with a an 86” paddle, a hi-output pump, and a duffel carry bag so you can get out on the water as soon as your kayak arrives.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from heavy-duty puncture resistant vinyl
  • Inflatable I-beam flooring
  • Dual air chamber compartments
  • Rear grab lines
  • Front bungee net storage system

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Intex Challenger is extremely affordable.
  • Intex included everything you’d need to get out on the water. 
  • The added I beam flooring improves the kayak’s rigidity. 
  • Storage isn’t an issue thanks to the large front bungee area.
  • The carry bag isn’t the most comfortable bag to be carrying over long distances.

Intex Explorer K2

Explorer K2 Kayak with Aluminum Oars

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

10’ 3” x 36”

30.6 lbs

400 lbs

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The Intex Explorer K2 is a perfect example of a portable tandem kayak that is affordable, relatively lightweight, and of good quality.

Just like their Challenger kayak we mentioned previously, Intex created their Explorer K2 from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl and added an inflatable I beam floor to improve the kayak’s rigidity. Unlike the Challenger, however, the Explorer K2 has three air chambers instead of two, which are inflated and deflated by Boston valves.

Although the Explorer K2 has two seats for two passengers, you can actually adjust, remove, and reposition both. The K2 is incredibly versatile, so if you want to paddle solo, that is totally possible!

All in all, the design of the K2 is relatively simple, so if you’re a paddler who doesn’t need much, then this kayak could be a great option for you.

Package

Intex do a fantastic job of including all necessary equipment with their kayaks. The K2 comes with two 86 inch paddles, a hi-output pump, a carry bag, and a removable skeg that helps to improve tracking.

Specifications and Features

  • Made from heavy duty puncture resistant vinyl
  • Inflatable I beam flooring
  • Three air chambers
  • Two adjustable and removable seats
  • Front and back grab lines
  • Front and back carry handles

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Although the K2 is a tandem kayak it can also be transformed into a solo paddler kayak.
  • Intex included an inflatable I beam flooring to improve the kayak’s rigidity. 
  • The three air chambers will prevent you from ever sinking into the water.
  • It is affordable for a tandem kayak. 
  • When being used as a tandem kayak there are very little storage areas. 

Folding Kayaks

Oru Kayak Beach LT Folding Kayak

Oru Kayak Beach LT

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

12’1” x 29”

25 lbs

300 lbs

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The first of the foldable kayaks to make our list is the Beach LT Folding Kayak from Oru Kayak. This 12 foot kayak is ideal for both beginner and more experienced paddlers who enjoy leisurely paddles down slow-moving waters.

Oru Kayak designed their origami-style kayak out of 5 mm double-layered polypropylene and added a 10 year UV treatment to protect it from the sun. Polypropylene is a very durable material, so the Beach LT can really withstand a beating. 

When it’s not in use, the Beach LT can be folded down to the size of a cushion to fit under your bed, in the back of a car, or even on a plane. The best part is, you don’t even need a carry bag with origami style kayaks as fold and clip together to form the shape of a bag.

What we personally love about the Beach LT is that Oru Kayak didn’t skimp on cockpit space. The cockpit is wide enough so that you, your belongings, and even your dog can paddle all day without feeling cramped and uncomfortable.

Even though the Beach LT is made from a single sheet of plastic, Oru Kayaks added handles at the front, back, and in the cockpit for easier transportation, an adjustable footrest, and an adjustable backrest for comfort, and tension straps to give the cockpit extra strength. 

Package

Luckily folding kayaks don’t require any of the accessories that an inflatable kayak would. But, with that being said, the Beach LT only comes with the kayak itself, so your paddle would need to be bought separately. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from 5 mm double layered polypropylene
  • Coated with a 10 year UV treatment
  • Secured together with buckles
  • Front, back, and cockpit carry handles
  • Adjustable footrest and backrest
  • Tension straps

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The material used in the Beach LT is extremely durable so it can withstand a beating on the water.
  • It has a 10 year UV protectant. 
  • Oru Kayak gave their Beach LT a roomy cockpit. 
  • It has an adjustable back and foot rest for improved comfort. 
  • The Beach LT is a fairly expensive kayak.
  • It doesn’t come with a paddle so that would need to be bought separately. 

Oru Kayak Inlet Folding Kayak

Oru Kayak Inlet

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

9’8” x 31”

20 lbs

275 lbs

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The next best folding kayak to make our list is another Oru Kayak, and this time, it’s their Inlet Folding Kayak. At just 20 lbs, the Inlet is Oru Kayak’s lightest kayak to date making it an excellent option for those looking for an extremely portable recreational paddling kayak. 

Like their Beach LT kayak, the Inlet was designed from 5 mm double layered polypropylene, which was then coated in a 10 year UV protective treatment. What makes the Inlet different from the Beach LT is its size and stability. 

The Inlet kayak is two inches wider and just over 2 feet shorter than the Beach LT, and although this may not seem like a big deal, it actually makes the Inlet far more stable when paddling. If you’re new to the kayaking world, then the Inlet would be a better option until you gain your balance out on the water. 

Oru Kayak added front and back carry handles to their kayak, along with an adjustable footrest, an adjustable backrest that is clipped onto a padded seat cushion, and removable bulkheads that help to keep your belongings in place at the front and back of the boat. 

Package

As we mentioned before, folding origami kayaks don’t require a carry bag or any other additional accessories. When you purchase the Inlet, you will only receive the kayak itself, but you do have the option to add on a bundle if you don’t already own a paddle. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from 5 mm double layered polypropylene
  • Coated with a 10 year UV treatment
  • Secured together with buckles
  • Front and back carry handles
  • Adjustable footrest and backrest
  • Padded seat cushion
  • Removeable bulkheads

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Oru Kayak constructed their Inlet with a heavy duty material that can withstand bumps in the water as well as sun damage. 
  • Its 31 inch width makes it stable on the water. 
  • The seat has a padded cushion and an adjustable backrest. 
  • The back section of the boat has ample amounts of storage space.
  • Even though the Inlet is cheaper than the Beach LT, it is still fairly expensive.
  • You would need to purchase a paddle separately. 

Tucktec Folding Kayak

Tucktec Advanced 10 Foot Foldable Kayak Folding Canoe, Yellow

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

10’ x 30”

28 lbs

300 lbs

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Another of the best folding kayaks on the market is the Tucktec Folding Kayak. Tucktec wanted their kayak to be stable and durable, so constructed it out of a solid ⅛ inch thick plastic sheet which, once folded, feels like a hard shell kayak.

Something we appreciate in the Tucktec Folding Kayak are the marine grade foam sponsors that act as a cushion for your arms while paddling. Not many, if any, other folding kayaks have this feature, so it’s nice to see they really thought about comfort in the design process.

Along with the foam sponsors, Tucktec added a full retractable skeg fin to improve tracking while paddling, bow and stern handles to make carrying the boat when folded easier, and an adjustable high back padded seat and footrest. 

Package

The Tucktec Folding Kayak comes with the kayak itself, a high back padded seat, and a retractable skeg. It doesn’t, however, include a paddle so you’ll need to source one separately. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from a solid ⅛ inch thick plastic sheet
  • Foam side sponsors
  • Retractable skeg
  • Bow and stern handles
  • High back padded seat
  • Foot rest

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Tucktec Folding Kayak is the most affordable folding kayak option on our list.
  • It has a high back padded seat to improve comfort.
  • The side sponsors protect your arms while paddling.
  • Tucktec added a retractable skeg to improve the kayak’s tracking. 
  • It comes in 10 bold colors.
  • It doesn’t include a paddle.

Trak 2.0 Kayak

Trak kayak signature series, Yellow

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

16’ x 22.5”

44 lbs

350 lbs

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If you’re looking for a portable touring kayak, then look no further. The Trak 2.0 is a 16 foot touring kayak that excels in ocean paddles. When designing the 2.0 Touring Kayak, Trak decided on three-ply expedition grade polyurethane material to make it as strong and durable as can be.

What makes the Trak 2.0 kayak so unique, however, is that you can adjust the waterline and rocker to suit a wide variety of environments and water conditions. The kayak you once used in rough, choppy oceans can now be paddled in flat water rivers and lakes thanks to the hydraulic jack tensioning system. 

Along with this unique feature Trak also included deck rigging, tow handles, and grab lines similar to what you’d find in your standard traditional kayak. 

Package

Understandably for the price you’re paying, you get (almost) everything you’d need for your day out on the water. The package that comes with the 2.0 Touring Kayak includes a rolling travel bag, a spray skirt, a sea sock, two gear flotation bags, and a kayak lubricant. 

Of course, the only thing missing is a paddle, so if you don’t have one already, you’d need to purchase one. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from three-ply expedition grade polyurethane
  • Hydraulic jack tensioning system to alter the rocker and waterline
  • Deck rigging
  • Tow handles
  • Grab lines

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • You can alter the waterline and rocker to turn it from the ultimate touring kayak into a recreational kayak. 
  • It is incredible durable thanks to its three-ply expedition grade polyurethane construction.
  • There are four colors to choose from.
  • You have ample front and back storage. 
  • The Trak 2.0 is definitely a more premium purchase.
  • Limited Trak 2.0’s are available each year.
  • It is 44 lbs which is quite heavy for a folding kayak.

Pakayak Bluefin 14’2

Pakayak premium packable kayak, green

Dimensions Weight Weight Capacity Check Price

14’2” x 35.5”

59 lbs

300 lbs

Check Price

The Pakayak Bluefin is different to our other foldable kayaks as instead of folding down like origami, this one comes apart in six separate pieces. To rebuild the kayak, you simply clamp the parts together. 

Pakayak constructed their Bluefin from polyethylene, so really, you’re getting a hard shell kayak and a portable kayak all in one. As well as the Bluefin’s unique design, it also has some notable features. The first are watertight hatches at the front and back of the kayak to keep your belongings dry. 

Next is the foam seat, adjustable back rest, and adjustable foot pegs to help improve comfort while paddling over long distances. And finally, as with many other kayaks, the Bluefin features bungee systems, grab lines, and carry handles.

Package

The Pakayak Bluefin comes with a carry bag that can be worn on your back or dragged along the sand. Pakayak do also sell all terrain wheels that make the transportation process easier, but they don’t come included with the kayak. 

Specifications and Features

  • Made from polyethylene
  • Breaks down into six pieces
  • Foam seat with an adjustable backrest
  • Adjustable footpegs
  • Bungee system
  • Grab lines
  • Carry handles

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The unique design gives you the best of both worlds of a hard shell kayak with increased portability. 
  • Pakayak thought about comfort and added a padded seat and footrests.
  • You have front and back watertight hatches for storing your belongings.
  • The Pakayak Bluefin is the heaviest foldable kayak on our list.
  • Even when broken down into six pieces the Bluefin is still fairly large which may make it difficult to carry.

FAQ’S

🏆 What types of portable kayaks are there?

There are two types of portable kayaks: inflatable kayaks and folding kayaks. 

As their name suggests, inflatable kayaks can be inflated and deflated to improve their portability. They’re usually made from PVC material and have multiple air chambers to keep them afloat on the water.

Folding kayaks, however, resemble origami. These kayaks are cleverly designed out of a single sheet of plastic so you can fold and unfold them in a matter of minutes. Folding kayaks are secured together with clips and work very well out on the water. 


👍 Are folding or inflatable kayaks the best portable kayaks?

Whether an inflatable kayak or a foldable kayak is the best portable kayak option for you will come down to personal preference. Both are just as portable as one another as they can both be compact to relatively small sizes and weigh around the same amounts. 

Inflatable kayaks, however, tend to be cheaper than folding kayaks and are more comfortable on the water because, let’s face it, they’re essentially an inflatable air mattress. 

But, although inflatable kayaks have the upper hand when it comes to price and comfort, folding kayaks may be considered more durable as they don’t run the risk of punctures like an inflatable does. 

If you’re making the decision between the two, it’s best to check individual folding kayak reviews and individual inflatable kayak reviews to see which one aligns with your wants and paddling needs. One thing we will highlight, though, is that folding kayaks rarely come in a tandem version, so if you’re looking at tandem kayaks, then an inflatable might be best. 


🏝️ Are portable kayaks as sturdy as hardshell kayaks?

A common misconception is that portable kayaks like inflatable and folding kayaks are flimsy, unstable, and not as durable as hard shell kayaks. This couldn’t be any far from the truth. 

Portable kayaks are as strong, if not stronger, than hardshell kayaks. Portable kayaks don’t run the risk of denting or dinging like a hard shell would. If an inflatable does happen to puncture, than they usually have back up chambers to keep them afloat, and the puncture, more often than not, can be easily fixed.

If you’re on the hunt for a new kayak, don’t rule out portable kayaks, they’re much more sturdy than you think.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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