Folding or hard shell kayak (transportation)

I am about to make decision which one is better for us. If we shoudl go for hard shell 10 to 12 feet long kayaks or folding kayaks.
The main concern is transportation. We have dodge caravan 2005 with factory racks. Because a lack of experiences we don’t know how complicated it could be.
We will travel for hundreds of kilometres, staying at the camp grounds. We are also pretty new in kayaking. So we would appreciate any advises about:
Are the folding kayaks worthy for beginners? (In compare of quality, paddling experience,safety in exchange for portability)
Can we easily transport 2 hardshell kayaks on a roof of the Dodge caravan 2005 just by using racks/foam and straps?
We want to spend up to 1000 dollars per kayak. Hard shell kayaks we would by on the market place and folding kayaks we probably would buy ORU kayaks.
We are going to paddle most of time on the lakes maybe some calm rivers once or twice a week

Thank you for advices

Oru is JUNK. Made of temporary sign material. Plenty of good used sea kayaks and transitional kayaks around for 8-900 dollars or less.

Traveling as much as you’re doing buy a decent rack set up from a major brand like Yakima. Then learn how to use it properly and tie down the kayaks. If you change vehicles you may just need different towers or feet for the rack system which is about 125 bucks. I’d look for 12’ and preferably 14’ kayaks.


We have hard shell kayaks we use the most, but also an Oru Coast and Pacboat Quest. We used to load the hardshells on a Ford Winner Van. I am 6 ft tall, my wife is 5 ft 6 inches. The van had factory roof racks, and we added J cradles.

My wife could barely lift high enough to get the kayaks on the roof of the van. She was on tip toe. for me it was fine.

The Oru kayak is the best conversation starter I have ever seen! Everyone is curious and wants to know more about it. But folded it is quite a large boxy package to stow. It is a passable kayak in the right conditions, but has a lot of drag compared to the other kayaks we have used.

The pakboat quest is a skin on frame type kayak. It takes a lot longer to set up than the Oru, but its performance is pretty close to a hardshell kayak. It also folds into an easier to manage package for travel.

I plan to sell the Oru and either live with just one folding kayak (the Quest) or get a second Quest if we want two folders.

Also consider sectional kayaks like the Mercury from Point 65 North and Pakayak.


Check out Kayak Racks and Loading on this page for some ideas.

In the price range you are looking at I’d avoid Oru. Look for a hard-shell kayak on the used market.


The Caravan could carry hard shell kayaks just fine.

The big thing is that with hard shell kayaks you just put them in the water, add gear and go.

Folding kayaks take at least an extra half an hour to hit the water, mostly more.

I have a friend who has used the same Oru kayak for almost 16 years, loves it, hugs it, and calls it George. It does what she wants it to do and doesn’t paddle badly. I borrowed it to try and they float and paddle better than some of the other crud out there.

Till it goes under or you try to self rescue.

I don’t think Oru Kayaks have been around for 16 years…maybe 9 or 10.

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So in October 2012 Gutierrez’s co-founder, Anton Willis, an avid kayaker with limited storage space, developed a solution: Oru Kayak. “Utilizing the magic of origami, our kayaks go from box to boat in under five minutes,” said Gutierrez.Feb 3, 2016

I share the same reservations that others have posted about Oru kayaks. I would lean towards a good inflatable over an Oru. But making sure that your transport system is easy to use is crucially important or you won’t use your kayaks. It doesn’t matter if you’re transporting on the roof, in the vehicle or on a trailer; all have their advantages and disadvantages for each unique combination of boats, people, cars, launch sites and storage. My general recommendation (and this is from 7+ years of selling kayaks and installing roof racks) is usually to get the longest kayak that you can store and transport. Getting a hard shell boat on a car can be quite easy - but to transport two you would likely want an aftermaket roof rack system with longer bars than your factory crossbars. This gives you a lot of loading and carrying options but costs more. Putting your kayaks in the car can be easy, but does take time as others have mentioned, plus you are putting a wet and potentially sandy and salty thing in your car.

Do you have a good specialty paddlesports shop nearby? If you do it would likely be worth picking their brain(s). There are an overwhelming amount of choices with roof racks/storage/transport and that’s before you even get to choosing a kayak!


The lower end Oru kayaks are not like real sea kayaks at all. They have big open cockpits that can’t accommodate a spray skirt, no deck lines, and no floatation. They are very susceptible to the effects of the wind and have no skeg or rudder, which they desperately need. They are not suited to self or assisted rescues.

We allowed one on a day trip and ended up having to tow the person back to the launch.

They are not designed for open water and should be confined to small protected lakes and streams.

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There was an article on Kayaking and small living places (similar issues to what you have) on California Kayaker Magazine Can be read online at California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information. Issue #9. Another good intro article for newer paddlers is the basic types of kayaks in issue #10.

If your description of lakes and calm rivers means small lakes, then any kayak likely would be fine. If larger lakes, then recreational class kayaks should be avoided, especially far from shore.

Your car would do just fine with factory rack carrying 2 kayaks. Rather than just foam on the bars, I would get some sort of “stacker” device to tie them on their sides. If you go toward a recreational class kayak (super wide), you’ll need that or J-racks, as they would probably be be too wide to put 2 side by side. Definitely use at least bow lines (preferably bow and stern lines) along with the straps used to tie to the rack. An aftermarket rack system from Yakima or Thule could also be good as they are generally rated to handle more weight, but pricey.

We have a lot of Orus in this area. I’ve even worked with a few owners on rescues in a class format. I disagree with early talk about them being temporary sign material - the material does appear to hold up to years of use. Is flexy, but that is a trade off to make it folding and light (more flexy than other high-end folding kayaks, as those generally use metal frames).

But there are serious safety concerns with Orus related to what you can and can’t do if you flip over. Only the Bay or Coast models have a decent chance of being rescued in deep water (and that is much more difficult than with a hard shell kayak with flotation). If you do go this route, definitely get and use the Oru float bags (or better yet, larger aftermarket ones). The other Oru models need to be treated like recreational class kayaks - ones that you would swim to shore to rescue yourself after flipping (and stick to paddling within swimming distance of shore).

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A little off topic, but what exactly is a “recreational class kayak”? We talk about them in various contexts on this forum and we all seem to know what they are, but I’m not at all sure I could come up with a definition that would be useful to others - - - one based more on objective measures rather than personal experience/opinion. Is a consensus definition out there somewhere?

Check out the article on types of kayaks in issue #10 in California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information

In general, sit inside kayaks that are short and wide with very large cockpit openings

I see that that’s another sea kayaking publication that is no longer putting out issues . . . sad.

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As the class names (recreation, whitewater, touring, etc) describe their intended use, maybe further definition isn’t important. As the article says, there are plenty of exceptions to any generalizations about boat designs.
Just for fun, I asked ChatGPT the following:
“In 120 words or less, what is a recreational kayak?” Here is the response:
“A recreational kayak is a type of kayak designed for casual paddlers in calm and slow-moving waters. They are typically shorter and wider than other kayaks, providing stability and maneuverability. Recreational kayaks are comfortable and often have features such as padded seats, backrests, and storage compartments for gear. They come in a variety of materials, sizes, and shapes, depending on the paddler’s needs and preferences. Recreational kayaks are perfect for beginners and those who want to enjoy a relaxing day on the water without the need for extensive paddling experience or specialized equipment.”
Cue Twilight Zone theme music…

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I definitely recommend using a quality rack system rather than foam blocks or pool noodles directly on the roof for a long term solution. Kayaks carried directly on the roof will tend to shift slightly, even if well secured. If there is any dirt or grit on the roof you will eventually scour the paint off the roof.

J-racks will often allow you to carry more than one boat on a car with a narrow roof. Another option is the use of add-on crossbars rather than factory crossbars. Most add-on crossbars are available in various lengths and you can get ones that are longer than the width of your roof.

Always use bow and stern tiedowns. They generally come with saddles, rollers, J-bars, etc. For most rack manufacturers bow and stern tiedowns are required for warranty coverage if a rack component fails. The better ones, in addition to the rack, will cover damage to your boat, car, and possibly anyone or anything that is injured or damaged because of a rack failure.

Tiedowns, in addition to the main straps, will usually at least keep everything with your car as opposed to becoming an unguided projectile on the road.

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I agree with purchasing used kayaks. There are lots out there and you can save a bunch.

But plastic kayaks are heavy and your van is tall. You may have to get imaginative. Maybe pass one end of the kayak to your wife, then put the other end up, then go back for her end and put it up.

Bow and stern straps are essential, and they should NOT use the old bumper hooks. Instead, you need straps inserted in the hood and rear hatch. The straps can be attached to bolts, or wrap around a gas strut, or attach to a piece of dowel too big to escape when the hatch is closed. You can get away with foam blocks instead of a roof rack if you are conscientious about the straps.

Bumper hooks are no good because the undersides of cars are all plastic now. I had a hook come loose, the rope went under a wheel, and my canoe was damaged when the rope yanked tight. Fortunately, it was fixable.

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No rack company is covering anything but the racks themselves. They’d be open to way to many claims. If you have anything in writing by a rack manufacturer I’d love to see it. Thanks.

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A Pakayak will fulfill all of your needs. It is a 14ft hardshell touring kayak that comes apart into 6 pieces that nest together in its own 4 ft. bag with wheels. I have been taking mine between Ohio and Florida without a rack for 5 years. Check it out at