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PORTABLE KAYAK: INTRO
Kayaks have been around for centuries, but they are not without certain disadvantages. One such disadvantage is the heavy and bulky design of the majority of the kayaks on the market. Certain products have come available to address these concerns (like Kayak Carts, for instance). Have you wondered if there was something even more simple? Why not just make a kayak that is less bulky? Well, someone has thought of that – the Portable Kayak! We’ve identified the best portable kayak and have dedicated this post to helping spread the word about its availability and benefits! Let’s get started!
Portable Kayak: Guide
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This KFC article focuses on all of the important details about one of our favorite kinds of portable kayaks – with an emphasis on kayak fishing, of course! We want to make sure this is an easy to follow guide, so we have organized this post into a number of different categories. We begin with some basic information about portable kayaks which will help you further your understanding of this particular category of fishing kayaks.
After that, we’ve authored a useful “how to” section that can serve as a reference guide for you to use when learning how to properly work with a portable kayak. After that, we go into detail on the top 3 most critical features to find in any type of portable kayak. We go into great specificity on each feature so that you can learn why each of them is so important individually, and why the combination of them is such a powerful tool. You’ll also be able to determine whether the particular portable kayak that you are evaluating contains the necessary features to make it top of the line!
We also added a link to the product page for one of the best portable kayaks on the market. This determination is made after thorough research, product comparisons, and even a good old fashioned dosage of personal experience. We write about our personal experience with a portable kayak in the next section! I don’t know about you, but I seem to learn better from someone who has “been there, done that”! Be sure to check out our Comments board at the end of this post – its a great place to pick up some tips from others who have experiences with portable kayaks! Time to dig in!
The Basics of Portable Kayaks
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We mention it above, but one of the biggest downsides about traditional kayaks is their size, irregular share, and general difficulty of transportation or storage. A traditional kayak will weigh between 35 and 95 pounds, though it depends on whether you are talking about a solo or tandem kayak. This is a lot of weight for most people and even if you are in really good shape, a long trek with even a 35 pound kayak can be very tiring! It can also be pretty dangerous depending upon what kind of terrain you are trying to navigate!
Portable kayaks, however, weigh roughly 25 pounds. Even at such a light weight, the average portable kayak will be able to support a load size of approximately 300 pounds! A portable kayak is, often times, foldable! Yes, believe it or not, many portable kayaks can fold down into a size only 25% of the fully deployed size. This is a desirable feature, and one that has only become available in the last several years!
Portable kayaks are usually built of double-layered polypropylene (as opposed to fiberglass or other kind of heavy plastic). Without getting too scientific, you should know that this is basically a kind of plastic called “thermoplastic”. It is very popular in several industries (though polyethylene is slightly more prevalent). It is a very strong material – allowing the portable kayak to be folded and unfolded thousands of times without forming “wear” spots or otherwise cracking!
How to Use a Portable Kayak
If you are like us, the foldability feature of the portable kayak is one that is of particular interest to you. See the image above? Would you believe that this is actually a 12 foot kayak that has been folded into its carrying case? Pretty amazing right? Well, we think so. Its also WAY easier to carry than its non-foldable cousin!
At this point, I have folded and unfolded my kayak seemingly hundreds of times. I’ve discovered some helpful tips and tricks to make the process a snap. The checklist below will help you walk through some of what I have learned. After a little bit of practice, I suspect that you’ll reduce your overall unfolding (and refolding) time down to roughly 5 minutes. Don’t get frustrated, this will take some time, but you’ll get there!
- Your portable kayak will come with a user’s manual and an assembly guide.
- Read both pieces of material! They will inform you of some of the details that you could otherwise miss!
- Open the box. Don’t misplace any of the small packages that are contained inside.
- Loosen the shoulder strap off of the box.
- Set the shoulder strap somewhere that it won’t get lost – it is needed to repack the kayak.
- Locate the stern, seat back rest, seat pad, and some spare parts, all contained within the package. It is good to acquaint yourself with the contents of the package so you don’t try to use the wrong piece in the wrong location.
- Unfold the box and unclip the side straps.
- Now is the time to separate the ends apart to extend the kayak to its full length. Don’t worry if its kind of difficult the first time, this will “loosen up” after its been unpacked for awhile.
- Attach the footrest (located towards the front)
- You’ll want to use the included bungee cord to do so.
- Close the front of the kayak. Make sure to tighten the front strap.
- Now is the time to put the bulkhead into the bulkhead channels.
- Remember, bulkheads are the parts of the kayak that divide the kayak’s interior into separate compartments.
- Now you’ll want to close the back of the kayak.
- Make sure that the back of the kayak is inverted (we think its easier to do it this way).
- Place the bulkheads into the bulkhead channels.
- You’ll now want to tighten the straps.
- Insert the floorboard.
- Inserting the floorboard may require that you tilt it upward and place ends into the channels, then press down.
- Again, don’t worry if it doesn’t stay totally flat just yet, it will flatten over time! It has been in its package for months and maybe even years!
- Locate the seat.
- Put the seat column into floorboard.
- Attach the seat back straps.
- Adjust the footrest by using the buckles on the straps.
- The footrest should be adjusted to that your legs are comfortably bent.
- Remember that the seat’s angle can be customized by adjusting the backrest straps.
- OK! That’s it! Remember, when you are done, just follow a reversal of the instructions above.
- Remember, if you get hung up or don’t know what step to take next, just reference the portable kayak’s user’s manual and installation guide (they have nice big color photos – easy to follow!
Features to Look For in your Portable Kayak
Luckily for us, we are living in a time where many high quality options of kayak are coming onto the market. I think this is because the sport of kayak fishing is growing very rapidly. Foldable, portable and other lightweight kayaks are no exception. Traditionally, the quality of the lightweight kayaks simply was not up the the level of quality that would warrant any endorsement from KFC. It was our experience that “wear patterns” would eventually form (where the kayak is folded over itself time and time again) then cracks and invariably leaks would follow. Yuck!
Despite the increasing availability of these type of kayaks, we want to make sure that our readers are informed of the very most important features that a portable kayak needs to have to make it appropriate for kayak fishing. Below, we focus on the top 3 features which (from personal experience) we know to be the most critical to a successful kayak fishing outing.
Remember, some portable kayaks will have 1 or 2 of the features. While 1 or 2 is good, it is the combination of each of the top 3 features that will set one kayak apart from the next! Let’s take a look at each of these top 3 features in greater detail. Ready?
Storability. The storability of a portable kayak is a crucial feature. Some models are technically able to shrink in size, but the way in which they do so doesn’t help you in terms of convenience. Why? You are left with a folded up kayak that is pain in the butt to carry around – most of the times this is because it has been designed without much logic! You need a portable kayak that has been designed to fold along logical lines, allowing for the storability of the kayak to be much improved!
One other feature that is along the same lines. Be careful to avoid purchasing a portable kayak that doesn’t come with its own custom bag. Believe it or not, many portable kayaks don’t come with a bag in which to carry the kayak itself! You absolutely need to ensure tat your model comes with a bag (and you’ll want a shoulder strap as well). This will help out in terms of storability and will also make carrying the already lightweight portable kayak to and from the water! A no brainer!
Durable Material; Quality Design. You don’t want to “save a few bucks” by buying a portable kayak that is made of low quality materials. The lower the quality, the more likely you” experience a puncture in the hull of the kayak, or even the development of wear-lines that will eventually crack and allow water to seep in! Your portable kayak should have at least 3mm double-layered polypropylene (preferably 5mm). Only a kayak with an appropriately thick hull will be reliable enough to keep you safe on the water!
Only a double-layered polypropylene will stand up to the full range of temperatures that you are going to encounter while kayak fishing. Another bonus? This lightweight plastic can support tremendous load sizes. In fact, most portable kayaks made of this material will weigh only ~25 pounds, but can support load sizes up to 300 pounds! This extreme ability is one that is almost wholly unique to polypropylene based kayaks – anything else is going to require a much heavier material to support such a load!
Ergonomic Design. It doesn’t much matter if your portable kayak is not comfortable, is poorly laid out, has too narrow of a cockpit, or doesn’t allow for storage of your kayak fishing gear? There are many kayaks on the market that flaunt their foldability and light weight, but they have been designed without any eye as to their ergonomics!
Focus on finding a portable kayak that has a wide beam (at least 26 inches). This wide length is critical in terms of keeping the cockpit uncrowded. You should also look for one that has a padded seat. Remember, you’re going to be on the water for a long period of time. The more comfortable the seat, they more likely that you won’t be tempted to cut your trip short!
Another wise consideration in terms of ergonomics is to ensure your kayak seat is adjustable. The adjustability will allow you to alter the angle of the seat for periods of paddling, resting and casting. You’ll also need uniform weight distribution built into the portable kayak so that carrying the boat from the car to the water is more manageable!
Portable Kayak: Our Favorite Model
Remember, we are fortunate to be living at a time when there are a number of quality portable kayaks on the market. This wasn’t always the case! The portable kayak linked to above is one of our favorites. We have used this particular model for three kayak fishing seasons. It performs just as well today as when we first got it out of the box.
It easily breaks/folds down and storing it is quite simple! The storability component has been a real life saver (otherwise, I’m pretty sure that I am reaching my max in terms of the amount of space that my wife will allow my kayak gear collection to take up)!
This model is made of 5mm double-layered polypropylene. It is 12 feet in length, a great size for holding its own against strong waves and currents. It weighs only 26 pounds, adding to its portability, and measures only 33″ x 29″ x 12″ when folded up. It also boasts of a weight capacity of 300 pounds.
The 28 inch beam allows for a nice, wide cockpit and its padded seat (complete with adjustable seat straps) adds to the kayak fisherman’s comfort – the padded foot rests help too! This portable kayak comes with its own carrying case (remember, not all of them do, so watch out), complete with shoulder strap. Transporting this kayak is very easy, it is truly “portable” in every sense of the word!
I was initially very hesitant to give the portable kayak a try. I had always heard horror stories about the quality of the designs and materials. There were so many personal accounts of people’s kayaks forming “wear lines” at the folding joints, and it appeared that these type of kayaks would need to be patched multiple times a year (if not scrapped altogether).
Despite my hesitations, my friend Lucio convinced me to give it a try. I quickly fell in love with the portability. It is so easy and convenient to avoid having to lug around a heavier, hard sided traditional model of fishing kayak. There was no messing with a Kayak Trailer, or any other logistical issue!
These type of kayaks are great for shorter duration kayak fishing outings where not much gear is required. We want to be clear, however, that if you are going to be encountering rougher water, you might be better off with a rigid kayak. That said, a portable kayak definitely has a part in any serious kayak fisherman’s kayak fishing gear collection! Try one out for yourself!
PORTABLE KAYAK: CONCLUSION
I hope this KFC post has assisted you in learning all about portable kayaks and helped you determine whether one could be right for you! The portability feature is tough to beat. Quality has improved in the last several years and is continuing to get better and getter. When you are done, just fold it up and store it somewhere convenient. Quit taking up valuable space in the corner of the garage or on the corner of your dock!
If you’ve made it to this point in our post and find that you still have questions about portable kayaks, we want to encourage you to post in the Comments section below. The Comments section of KFC is a fantastic resource for the sharing of tips, tricks and general information across the kayak fishing community!
Also, if you are looking for a portability solution without having to buy a portable kayak, check out our article about the top 3 kayak trolleys for kayak fishing – they are very easy way to move a heavier style kayak from location to location! Another handy piece of gear to go along with a portable kayak is a kayak outrigger for kayak fishing – these products will help the otherwise “light” kayak keep its balance in wild winds and waters!
Have you ever thought about participating in a kayak fishing tournament?
Have you ever tried to transport a traditional fishing kayak by hand? If so, you know how heavy and awkward of an experience it can be! Have you ever tried a portable kayak? Did yours fold up? How much did it weigh? What was your experience like? Would you like to share any tips or tricks that you picked up along the way? Did you find that our “how to” guide was helpful for walking you through the unfolding process? Be sure to share your story with this kayak fishing community by posting below! We love to hear from fellow kayak fishing enthusiasts!