Portable Kayak Reviews: Are They Really An Option?

Cheap inflatable kayak

Portable kayaks are an interesting way to enjoy the water on a budget.

If you haven’t figured it out already, we really love being out in the water. Whether you read our article about tents for camping on the beach (because sand shouldn’t stop a wonderful time out in nature) or how we’ve never seen a reason to let below zero temperatures keep us from enjoying the adventure of winter camping, we love everything that has to do with getting out and finding life in the natural world.

If something is experimental, all the better! This is why hearing about portable kayaks or backpack kayaks really caught my attention because it’s not something my brother and I had heard of before. We’re not solid enough water athletes to buy our own kayaks and roof mounts on vehicles to haul them to and fro, but these were something we could definitely see ourselves dropping some money on.

Time out on the water is amazing, but I’m not a great swimmer. The extent of my natural swimming gift is showing people how not to float. This won’t stop me from tossing on a life vest and getting out there, but I’m not the type who gets to just swim out into the lake, so hearing about portable kayaks has definitely fired up my interest.

Many Different Types of “Portable” Kayaks

One of the more interesting points I found about these kayaks is just how many different directions companies have gone to get that all important “portable” or “fold up” effect going for their kayak models.

Just a few examples include:

  • The backpack kayak
  • Bare frames with canvas “skins” to pull over
  • Inflatable kayaks
  • Hard shell kayaks
  • Folding kayaks and more!

There are people looking at new designs and even taking current models for creating a version of a kayak that is easy to transport and making minor changes and improvements that continue to create progress to make every single one of these options better, more durable, and more reliable.

Pakayak, for example, is a portable kayak that started via Kickstarter program and was pushing for a solidly designed, sturdy, and truly portable backpack version of a kayak that can literally be put on the back, allowing you to hike to your ideal kicking off point before spreading it out and getting it out in the water.

You can check out their original Kickstarter video HERE.

Then again, they are far from the only ones who have figured out how to create some sort of a kayak that is much more portable than the more conventionally designed and built one piece models.

Read on to see some of the popular options that are currently available for you fellow outdoor enthusiasts as well as some information about what is being worked on to give you even more high quality options in the future.

#1: TRAK High Performance Kayaks

Unfold portable kayak chart

This is how these amazing portable water boats work.

These folding kayaks are among some of the most popular with frequent outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s not hard to see why as these high performance water craft are so popular among so many outdoor fans. The picture off to the left shows the popular  T-1600 TRAK portable folding kayak, and this is a model that really sets the standards for the field.

The TRAK T-1600’s frame is made from anodized aluminum, creating a skeleton that is extremely strong and durable while also remaining very light weight by comparison to other metals.

The PolyTrak shell that goes over the frame is completely water proof and designed to be some of the best you can find on any type of folding kayak anywhere because of its super durability to resist all but the most concentrated and brutal of punctures. This is one of those rare high quality options that works for true beginners as well as experienced paddlers with an adaptable and innovative design that will help you explore any local waters.

Definite Pros:

  • Extremely high quality materials used in the design
  • No tools needed to assemble (easy to figure out)
  • Adaptable design
  • Very good looking design, especially in comparison to many inflatable models
  • Will stand the test of time
  • 16 feet long
  • Supports up to 292 lbs
  • Foldable, relatively easy to carry and store

If you want the absolute best when it comes to folding kayaks, which are often the best of the best when it comes to the various portable models, then this is the one you want to try out!

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#2: Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

inflatable yellow kayak

A dang fine inflatable kayak with aluminum oars.

Not everyone can afford the top of the line portable kayak models, but that doesn’t mean they can’t find high quality watercraft in a much more modest budget range.

While the full folding kayaks with outer skins are generally seen as often being the best as far as “high end” models, but there are several inflatable kayaks that are absolutely worth checking out.

Two of our favorites come from Intex, and so we’re starting with the very popular Explorer K2 kayak. This is a 2-person kayak that is inflatable and while you won’t be hitting the white water rapids with this model, for a calm river or time on a smooth lake, it’s a great way to get out and about the water without having to lug around the full sized kayak – or pay for a cheap beat up one at a ranger’s station.

Bright colors make this inflated kayak very easy to see, which can also come in handy if you happen to end up needing rescue. The shipping weight is a mere 37 pounds and this kayak can support up to 348-350 lbs safely.

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#3: Intex Challenger 2-Person Inflatable Kayak (w/aluminum paddles)

Green and blue inflatable kayak

Click the picture for current pricing!

The challenger is the other inflatable kayak by Intex that really has a strong reputation among avid river rats and other outdoor fans who have enjoyed a lazy summer day on smooth water. This portable kayak is inflatable in nature and is 40.5 lbs and can carry up to a maximum of 350 lbs.

Add in two solid aluminum 86 inch oars and suddenly the family day out on the lake or slow moving river can take on all its full water fun!

Sporting over a 4.0 rating as of this writing, there’s a lot of praise being sung for the durability of this particular inflatable boat and how it has performed in lake and lagoon type areas.

While this good looking blue and green portable inflatable kayak by Intex looks good as it holds up well to durability test, it’s important to note that these are still portable by nature which means you want low currents or gentle water, they’re not designed to white water anything. If you keep that in mind, you’ll love what these sporting kayaks can bring to the table.

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#4: Oru Kayak Bay Kayak

white single kayak

Click for up to date pricing on Amazon!

The Oru was definitely going to make this list, and we find it to be an intriguing choice that has certainly caught the attention of many other outdoor adventurers, as well. The Oru is not an inflatable model but an intricately designed body and skin setup that allows the packed up unit to go from box to fully functioning and water-worthy kayak in less than five minutes once you’re familiar with it.

This sleek white kayak is a single seat kayak that folds out to 12 feet in length and weighs just a touch over 35 pounds. Solid polyethylene construction gives this boat a very different feel and setup in addition to a solid foam seat.

Because of the advanced design of this folding kayak it can be transported in a noral car trunk or the back of an SUV instead of needing a heavy duty rack installed on the top of your vehicle. That easy transportation is definitely a plus.

Have doubts? Check out this amazing article on travelers carrying and using this kayak over an entire year. It’s a great read!

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Looking Up More Information On Portable Kayaks

There are all kinds of stories online looking at the various options when it comes to owning your own mobile kayaks, so don’t be afraid to get out there and do some research on what’s being developed and what new options might be out there. The nesting kayak, as described at this news atlas article, is another example of how outdoor enthusiasts are looking at traditional kayaks and focusing on moving to a more mobile and adaptable solution.


This is one example of a “backpacking kayak,” which is portable and can be carried like a (heavy) backpack for hiking to be marched in to isolated lakes or water areas where you can then expand and properly set up your water craft before pushing off into the water with your now fully set up and fully functioning kayak.

This is a really interesting way to get out and really enjoy the great outdoors so why not see what’s being done to expand your options in this area?

In Conclusion

There are many different types of portable kayaks out there, with new ideas being formed all the time. Take a look at the many interesting options out there and see which one hits your needs perfectly! These might be a far cry from your heavy duty conventional kayaks or from the popular fishing kayaks that combine two amazing outdoor activities, but there’s a lot to love about what these models have to offer! I look forward to seeing you out there!

Take a look at this great video to get an idea of how these kayaks work and I’ll see you out on the water sometime soon!

Resources for Further Reading:

Nesting Kayaks article by News Atlas

Folbot portable kayaks

Orukayaks home page

Great article on a long-term trip using a portable kayak for one year

 

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