Top Eight Portable kayaks for Your Fall Adventure

In which we review the best eight foldable kayaks (portable kayaks) from which to watch the leaves change color.

Honestly, if space is at a premium and you simply don't have the room to store a kayak, don't despair. Portable kayaks save both storage and transportation space, and there are two kinds: inflatable and foldable.

We've done the hard work to bring you the best ten portable kayaks we could find, complete with what we liked and didn't like about each.

Autumn's coming.

Grab your paddle and let's get on the water and watch those leaves change color before the ice arrives!

Top Eight Portable Kayaks for Autumn - Comparison




Max. Payload

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

23.9 pounds

220 pounds

Oru Kayak BayST Folding Portable Lightweight Kayak

Oru Kayak's Bay ST Kayak was completely updated in 2017, and now features an easy-to-use seam cover that replaces the old ratchet buckles, slipping over the middle seam to provide a waterproof seal.

The Bay ST is constructed with a durable, double-wall polypropylene material that's designed to survive 20,000 folds. The kayak also has a 10-year UV treatment to increase the longevity of the polypropylene. Neoprene sleeves at the bow and stern double as handles, making it easy to carry the Bay ST to the water.

What we liked

  1. Fits into an apartment closet or a VW Jetta with room to spare
  2. Neoprene sleeve handles that make the kayak easy to carry
  3. Lightweight (34.4 pounds) enough for anybody to carry.
  4. Fast assembly, only fifteen minutes with practice
  5. Nimble and quick through the water

What we didn't like

  1. Minimal foot rest and seat cushion
  2. Designed for shorter people (max height 6' 1")
  3. Limited leg room
  4. Salt water corrodes the metal parts
Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Sport Kayak

This beautiful, 3-person, 650 pound capacity boat weighs only 26 pounds, making it one of the lightest boats we reviewed. Designed to handle up to Class III whitewater, this boat easily carries two people plus a hefty amount of cargo as well!

The SE370 Sport Kayak comes with two (2) AB30 paddles, two (2) inflatable moveable and removable DKS seats, a foot pump, and a carry back with a convenient shoulder strap. With five deluxe one-way inflation / deflations valves and two skegs on the bottom for better speed and tracking, this is a solid contender for the adventuresome couple.

What we liked

  1. Easy setup, inflates via the foot pump in fifteen minutes.
  2. Class III whitewater capable
  3. NMMA rated
  4. Thick material resists puncture from dragging across sharp rocks

What we didn't like

  1. Harder to paddle than a hard-shell kayak
  2. Seams can sometimes fail
  3. Slower in the water than some other kayaks
  4. Extremely susceptible to sharp knives and fish hooks
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is the king of the kayak choices offered by Intex. Designed for two people to enjoy on quiet water, this Sports Series kayak is lightweight and compact, made with rugged vinyl and a snap to inflate. With an inflatable I-beam for both stability and comfort, the K2 has two adjustable, inflatable seats, with backrests, included for comfort. Quick inflation, using the included Intex high-output pump, is a breeze with two Boston valves, one on each side. Each end has a grab line and handle, and this inflatable kayak comes with a US Coast Guard ID and a repair patch kit.

What we liked

  1. Bright yellow for easy identification
  2. Rugged vinyl construction, designed to withstand punctures
  3. Low profile, for lakes and quiet rivers
  4. Inflates in minutes
  5. 400 pound weight capacity

What we didn't like

  1. Users report some leak issues
  2. Designed for shorter people (max height 6' 1")
  3. Included paddles are a bit short
  4. Accessories aren't covered by warranty
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

A worthy alternative to the Explorer K2, the Challenger K1 is an inflatable kayak designed for a single user, with bright, sporty green colors and rugged vinyl construction. The inflatable I-beam provides stability and comfort, and the inflatable seat is adjustable for maximum comfort.

What we liked

  1. 27.2 pounds in weight, it carries 220 pounds of occupant and gear
  2. Included: 86 inch aluminum paddle, repair kit, and hand pump
  3. Nine feet long, inflates in minutes
  4. Easy to get into after capsizing
  5. Removable skegs

What we didn't like

  1. Not a lot of cargo capacity
  2. Included hand pump could be better
  3. Harder to paddle than a hard-shell kayak
  4. Paddle is a bit flimsy
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Kayak AE1012-R

The AdvancedFrame kayak is a hybrid between a folding frame kayak and an inflatable kayak. Using built-in aluminum ribs in the bow and stern, it slices through water and rivals the performance of hard-shell kayaks. The stern acts as a skeg, increasing stability in the water.

This kayak is designed using 3-layer construction of durable materials and has plenty of on-board storage for long trips. It sets up quickly, in mere minutes, and is compact enough to throw in the trunk of your car for a weekend adventure.

What we liked

  1. Weighs 36 pounds but can carry 300 pounds of occupant and cargo
  2. Hard-edge bow and stern
  3. Welded aluminum seams
  4. Fast assembly, only fifteen minutes with practice
  5. Well-constructed and reliable

What we didn't like

  1. Outer chamber should never be inflated fully
  2. Hand pump is a bit underpowered, but adequate
  3. Slower in the water than other, similar kayaks
  4. Shallow water can wear holes in the bottom
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak is a fifteen-foot kayak that can be paddled either solo or in tandem. Built-in aluminum ribs define both the bow and the stern, providing stability and rigidity on the open water. Easy to assemble by unfolding the frame, inflating the chambers, and installing the two seats.
The design of this kayak uses three-layer construction for durability, and combines a rigid bow and stern rib-frame design with the versatility of either tandem or solo seating positions. At 52 pounds, this kayak can carry up to 550 pounds of occupants and gear and is the heaviest boat in our review.

What we liked

  1. Extremely stable and rock-solid in the water
  2. Welded keel enables arrow-straight tracking
  3. Bright orange color is easily spotted from a distance
  4. Fast assembly, only ten minutes with practice
  5. Floats well at only 2 psi

What we didn't like

  1. Slow moving in the water
  2. No footrest
  3. A bit top-heavy in wind
  4. Takes a long time to dry
Driftsun Rover 220 Inflatable Tandem Kayak

The Driftsun Rover 220 is an inflatable tandem kayak designed for two people. At only 28 pounds, this 1000D reinforced and layered PVC inflatable kayak carries up to 600 pounds of occupants and gear while maintaining stability and maneuverability.

Ready to go in under ten minutes, this kayak is bright blue, easily seen from great distances, and is fully buoyant at only 3 psi. Designed for white-water rafting, it can handle up to Class IV whitewater easily. Designed to mimic the capabilities of a hard-shell kayak, this versatile, reinforced PVC-construction water craft performs exceptionally well in both fast water and still. Rigid and light, this kayak zips right through the water.

What we liked

  1. Double PVC construction makes punctures almost impossible
  2. High-pressure drop-stitch floor provides the feel of a hard kayak
  3. Lightweight (28 pounds) enough for anybody to carry.
  4. Fast assembly, only ten minutes with practice
  5. Nimble and quick through the water

What we didn't like

  1. A bit sensitive to wind
  2. Seats were initially uncomfortable, but after adjustment they were fine
Oru Kayak Beach LT Folding Portable Lightweight Kayak

Oru Kayak's Beach LT is touted as Oru's friendliest boat. Setup is quick, at only three minutes from box to boat. The model was revamped last year, and boasts an increased cockpit size to make entry easier than it used to be. 

On the water, the BeachLT is lightweight, sturdy and durable. The hull is made from custom polypropylene, has a 10-year UV treatment, and has been rated up to 20,000 folds. Designed to be stable enough for beginners, the Beach LT is fast and sporty with plenty of room to stash gear.

What we liked

  1. Designed for taller people, the Beach LT has lots of leg room
  2. Neoprene sleeve handles that make the kayak easy to carry
  3. Lightweight (26 pounds) enough for anybody to carry.
  4. Fast assembly, only three minutes with practice
  5. Clip and strap buckle has replaced the old ratchet buckles

What we didn't like

  1. Seat pad and seat back are uncomfortable
  2. Salt water corrodes the metal parts

Things to Consider Before Buying a Portable Kayak

If you've never tried a portable kayak before, you might want to first check out this introduction.

Foldable Kayaks

Fisherman on a misty morning, Missouri lake.

1. Size Matters

Ranging in weight between 23.9 and 52 pounds, the kayaks we've selected above offer a broad spectrum of options, including the ability to haul between 220 and 600 pounds of cargo and passengers.

Designed to fit into tight storage spaces, the engineering marvel of a folding boat made headlines back in 2016, with this video and this article highlighting the durability and capabilities of folding, personal watercraft.

If you don't live in a house or have enough space to store a bulky, full-sized, rigid kayak, your best option is to choose the portable kayak that's right for your budget and expectations.

2. Inside or On Top?

The portable kayaks we reviewed are only a small segment of the available spectrum of boats available, and a key difference is whether you want to sit inside the boat, or on top of the boat.

3. How many times can this be unfolded?

Durability can be a problem when it comes to boats and water, and a famous author once wrote that a boat is a "hole in the water into which you pour money."

Portable kayaks solve storage and transportation problems quite neatly, blending art with engineering to create a lightweight solution to an age-old problem: how to make a waterproof craft elegant and efficient?

These origami boats are designed to fold and unfold, inflate and deflate, and the repetitive nature of these movements creates stress along the seams and boundaries. Choose the best quality you can, and remember that some of our reviewed kayaks are rated for up to 20,000 folds without failure!

4. Features and Extras

Carrying bags or backpacks, there are multiple ways to carry your portable kayak from your home to your vehicle and, ultimately, to the water's edge. Which is right for you?

Caring for your favorite portable kayak requires diligence, keeping the metal parts away from salt water and carefully covering sharp points with the recommended neoprene protection. Rinse your boats thoroughly as soon as is practical when you remove them from the water to ensure long life and reliability.

Treat your polypropylene with the manufacturer's recommended UV protection treatments, keeping in mind that the worst enemy of your plastic boat's components is the harsh, ultraviolet rays of the Sun.

Take care of your kayak, and it will bring you safely back to shore every time. Treat it poorly, and you may very well end up swimming to shore, pulling your boat behind you.

And, in Conclusion...

You've seen a wide variety of different portable kayaks, both foldable and inflatable. You've read what they can do, and you have probably narrowed the field from our eight selections down to your two or three favorites.

Do me a favor, please?

Let me know what you ultimately decide and send me some pictures of the beautiful fall leaves you spy from your vantage point, in a portable kayak, on the still waters of your favorite lake.

I can't wait to see them!