While people tend to think of folding kayaks in monolithic terms, they are now coming in all shapes and sizes. The batch of eight folding kayaks in this review underscores this phenomenon.

The kayaks were picked for review because they are all relatively new models that have come out in the last few years. They vary widely in size, weight, and features. One model is a hybrid of a folding kayak, inflatable, and sit-on-top. Another very much resembles a canoe. One is a beefed-up version of a classic double that dates back many decades. Still another is the longest single folding kayak on the market, approaching the size of the longest hardshells. Among the models is the lightest commercially available kayak. This group of eight can claim another novelty: five come from countries outside the United States, with sources as unusual as China and New Zealand as well as models from Japan and Norway, places that have been making folding craft for decades but are only now entering the North American market.

There is growing interest among consumers for the versatility that a folding kayak allows in terms of travel and storage. Companies have responded to these needs with this variety of boats.

While folding kayaks can be broken down for storage and transportation, you can also leave them assembled and ready to go if you want to car-top them. Generally, folding kayaks are more stable than hardshells. Several factors account for this, including the indented channels created by water pressure on the hull between the chines, which tend to slow rollover. Added stability also makes them easier to get back into. As with any traditional skin boat, their flexible skins absorb the impact of chaotic seas and waves, while their frames provide enough rigidity for efficient movement through the water.

Durability is sometimes raised as an issue with folding kayaks. After all, they have soft sides. But folding kayaks have proved themselves in expeditions for nearly a century. Some models are used by special-operations forces from at least a dozen nations. If they weren’t up to combat demands, the military would not risk using them. The hulls hold up well to abuse. When they are damaged, folding kayaks are easier to repair in the field than hardshells.