Portability is the name of the game these days. Smaller lighter, easier to pack and store. Almost everything you can think of is pushing to be smaller, lighter and more portable; houses, computers, phones, exercise equipment, it’s all shrinking down and becoming more compact. Here’s one you may not have thought of; kayaks. Kayaks bring up images of peaceful glides across quiet morning lakes as the sun rises, or rapid descents through raging rivers so fierce you end up in a lost land. The kayak is a getaway, leave behind your day-to-day stuff, and get out there to what really matters. But first you have to get out to the wild with your water craft. This is a bit tricky if you don’t own a large vehicle or own a vehicle at all. So, what to do?
Enter the foldable kayak. This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a kayak that you can fold up and carry with you on your back. It folds up for easy carrying, is lightweight and portable. There are a few models out there to choose from as well as some DIY projects.
One of the first models I was introduced to is called the Oru kayak. This thing is really cool. It’s made of UV treated polypropylene. This boat is very tough and can take a beating. It can do anything you can do in “non-folding” kayaks, like rolls, rock impacts, etc. The company even made a video of them trying to destroy the boat with a hammer and drops from high places to no avail. It’s light too, weighing about 30 lbs. It folds up to 33″ x 12-13″ x 29″, about the size of an artist’s portfolio, and can be carried like a backpack. The company offers 3 models, slightly different variations on a theme. One of the things I really like about it is the low number of parts.
A similar kayak is the Hypar (not yet on the market). Like the Oru, it is a fold-up polypropylene vessel and is very light, weighing in at 18 lbs. It also has a very interesting shape. The Oru was designed similar to traditional arctic kayaks; the Hypar is shaped more like an arrowhead, but it cuts through the water with great efficiency. The Hypar is also versatile in its ability to be converted into a sail boat or a power boat.
Another awesome folding kayak is produced by a company called Long Haul. Long Haul folding kayaks are again, a little different from the Oru kayak. Instead of folding like a piece of paper, these are folding wooden frames surrounded by a skin. This is a high performance, quality kayak. Very durable and very good in the water. These boats are heavier than the Oru and take a bit longer to assemble, but these boats are made more like fine furniture.
In the same vein of ‘Long Haul kayaks’, there is the Napali transparent folding kayak. This kayak also uses several pieces surrounded by a skin, however, the Napali uses lighter materials so its weight is similar to the Oru. The cool thing about this kayak is the transparent military grade urethane skin which is tough and see through, allowing you to view under the boat as you go.
For a totally different concept, there is the Pakayak (clever name). This kayak is a hard-shell kayak that breaks down into pieces and packs into itself similar to a Russian doll. You can carry this on your back as well, although it is a bit heavier than some of the other mentioned kayaks at 55 lbs. This kayak is super durable, each piece is made of a hard resin and designed to lock together for increased strength. Like the Oru, this kayak is also shaped like the traditional arctic kayak.
The above boats are great if you have experience kayaking and know you are ready to invest some money into a quality craft. However, if you are new to kayaking and are not sure it’s for you, there is a low-cost DIY option you can try. Paul Elkins sells plans for making a kayak out of corrugated plastic sheets. The whole boat costs about $100, not including plans which cost about $10. It is easy to put together and is relatively durable and waterproof. It doesn’t hold a lot of weight compared to the other watercraft, but what do you expect for a $100. This is a good craft to try, and will last you a while, until you are ready for an upgrade. This is also one of the lightest kayaks weighing in at about 7 lbs.