Packable boats for all kinds of summer excursions

The first lakeside camping trip of the season always immerses me in nature — and FOMO on boat toys.

A mellow boating spot: O’Haver Lake near Salida, Colorado. Photo: Julie Kailus

This year a gorgeous long weekend at O'Haver Lake, outside of Salida, Colorado, exposed me to all kinds of packable non-motorized boats that I didn't own, but would like to.

I brought my only current portable float: a Sevylor SUP, which unfolded instantly and inflated seamlessly (after my 9-year-old showed me how to re-grease the pump).

Of course, the ubiquitous SUP is one of the easiest “boats” to pack. Photo: Julie Kailus

Since the engineering gene skipped a generation, that's the kind of easy I need when it comes to transportable boats. With simplicity in mind, we've rounded up some of the best picks in collapsible watercraft for those who aren’t mechanically minded.

More and more packable kayaks are coming online, as these adventurous boats can handle a little bit of everything: flatwater, whitewater, surf and sea — even a leisurely day of fishing.

The folding Oru kayak goes wherever you want to. Photo: Courtesy of Oru

The high-performance Oru kayak has captured a lot of attention for its packability and stability. Despite its 28-inch width, the whole collapsible boat fits in a closet, not to mention on your back when you cart it to the nearest watering hole. There are three diverse models starting at $1,299.

Innova’s Swing inflatable kayak is up for adventure. Photo: Courtesy of Innova

Innova inflatable kayaks start in a one-person model ($399) and go all the way up to a badass boat that handles "wild" water like a hard shell. Plus, they all fit in an overhead compartment for the long haul.

If you live near the ocean, Trak is the mac daddy of sea kayaks. These sleek, portable folding machines are made of military-grade polyurethane and come in three cool color combos, all retailing at $1,500. Plus, the wheeled Trak Pack makes it even easier to transport the boat for adventures involving a flight.

In the canoe category, the new My Canoe, a small company out of Knoxville, Tennessee, is intriguing. This lightweight, single-design 14-foot canoe purportedly unfolds in 10 minutes and takes less than five to get back in its carrying case. While it’s currently sold out, when it’s back in stock My Canoe comes in at $1,290.

For those multi-day boat treks on the river, Colorado's Alpacka rafts are handmade in the USA and tested by pros to hold up to the elements. There are currently seven packrafting models, with the lightest (just 2.5 pounds) and cheapest — the Scout — retailing for $595.

The Scout is designed for fastpacking, river crossing, canyoneering and mountain lake fishing, but there are others for more serious endeavors, like the bombproof and classic Alpacka Raft.

Wherever your water adventures take you this summer, having a boat you can shoulder or bring along for the ride affords the freedom to explore more.

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