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Updated May 15, 2023 2:59 PM
Jumping into an origami boat like the Oru Kayak is not my first choice when I head out on the water. In fact, during the first day of testing, I think my friend may have taken a short video, and my exact words were, “I am afraid this isn’t going to float!” The lightweight design and semi-translucent materials made me a skeptic the moment I took it out of the box, but after a few rounds of paddling, I have come around to see the allure of these portable, easy-to-use kayaks.
While the Oru Kayaks are still not necessarily the favorite kayaks I’ve ever tried, they have their place in the boating world and open up the world of kayaking to a variety of individuals, primarily those living in urban spaces. I only had the pleasure of trying out two of the Oru Kayak models. Still, after a few rounds of assembly, paddling, and hiking with the kayaks, I appreciate the thoughtful product designs and attention to detail put into manufacturing a variety of portable kayak options to fit the needs of beginners to expeditionists.
How We Tested Oru Kayaks
Rather than reviewing the entire selection of Oru kayaks, we tested their two most popular models: the Lake and Inlet.
We chose these due to their popularity, size, functionality, and ample space for fishing equipment. We tested both kayaks strictly on calm waters since that is their intended purpose. I chose an area with a hike-in approach that reduced the likelihood of seeing many other paddlers, but I aimed to avoid motorized watercraft. The hike-in also gave me a chance to truly gauge the portability.
My primary testing location is a reservoir that I frequent with my dogs just outside of Wenatchee, WA. It gets minimal traffic in the Spring when I tested but is a popular fishing spot during the summer months. I have more experience with the Oru Inlet, but for testing the Oru Lake kayak, I strictly tested it on the reservoir a handful of times. There are several other lakes in Washington the Inlet has been used along with the Columbia River that flows through the town of Wenatchee.
What Are Oru Kayaks?
Oru Kayak began from a Kickstarter campaign in December 2012 and quickly became well-known for its folding kayaks, which are designed to be lightweight, portable, and user-friendly. The primary benefits of Oru kayaks compared to hard-sided kayaks is that they take up less space and are easier to store and transport. A dream for apartment dwellers, RVers, or homeowners short on space, Oru offers access to paddling for folks that otherwise don’t have the space or vehicle to carry a traditional kayak but want a similar level of durability. The easy-to-carry kayaks are also ideal for paddlers who hike longer distances into remote areas.
The heaviest Oru kayak—even with the carrying case—only weighs around 30 pounds. The lightest weighs just 18 pounds. Each Oru kayak has a specific purpose, and there are kayaks for beginners to advanced paddlers.
What Are Oru Kayaks Made Of?
Regardless of the Oru Kayak you’re using, they’re constructed using one sheet of corrugated polypropylene plastic. The company calls its specific material design Oruplast, which is custom to its specifications. All of their kayaks are UV treated to enhance their durability and improve their lifespan with extended exposure to the sun. It is a light, durable plastic that can fold at least 20,000 times, if not more, before weakening. The foldable design adopts an origami approach without strictly sharp edges because to flow through the water, they needed a kayak that had some soft edges. The sharper edges that do exist are placed in such a way as to improve tracking, not to inhibit the overall performance. Because of the folding design, the edging that is integrated into the kayak provides better tracking and maneuverability than that of an inflatable kayak.
Each Oru Kayak design has variations in setup, structure, and materials to help them perform within their intended paddling discipline. While the kayaks and accessories can be purchased independently, Oru also offers up to three bundles per kayak model that include accessories.
How To Fold Oru Kayaks
Oru kayaks come packaged in what appears to be a large briefcase or box, depending on the model. The Lake and Inlet Kayaks are of a similar size and weight so you can easily carry them by the built-in handle or with the addition of the Oru carrying case.
The Lake and Inlet open up similarly by unbuckling the straps and unfolding it until it is an open sheet. From there, the assembly truly begins. It is easy enough to set up and take the shape of a kayak by pushing on the designated and labeled lines on each end of the boat. Where you place the seat panel differs by model, but both the Lake and Inlet have two buckles on the front and back of the kayak that secures the shape. After completing the rest of the setup designated for the particular model, you are ready to paddle.
Oru Lake Kayak Overview
- Weight: Lake 17 Lbs (7.7 Kg), Lake+ 18 Lbs (8.2 Kg)
- Length: 9’ 0” (274 cm)
- Width: 32″ (81 Cm)
- Cockpit: 66″ x 24″ (168 x 61 cm )
- Max paddler height: 6’4″ (193 cm)
- Weight capacity: 250 Lbs (113 Kg)
- Kayak box: 42″ x 10″ x 18″ (107 x 25 x 46 cm)
- Set-up time: 1-3 minutes
The Oru Lake Kayak is the smallest and lightest kayak option in the Oru lineup. Its design is ideal for calm, flat water paddling and has a roomy, open cockpit. The affordability of this kayak is one of the main selling points, and we highly recommend it for beginners or casual paddlers. The Lake+ is slightly more expensive than the original Lake kayak, but it offers additional trim on the front of the floorboard and an adjustable backrest.
According to Oru’s website and instructional guidelines, you should be able to assemble the simple Lake design in under one minute. It’s reliable, stable, and is a good option for all ages and skill levels. Despite the smaller size and lighter weight, it is still constructed using the same materials as the Oru expedition kayaks and provides the same level of durability.
|Oru Lake Pros||Oru Lake Cons|
|– Most affordable Oru kayak
– Lightweight and easy to carry
– Roomy cockpit
– Enough space for a dog or gear
– Glides through water easily
– Simple setup with practice
|– Not intuitive to assemble
(Read instructions or watch video)
– Wide cockpit makes it difficult to paddle
– Doesn’t track well
– Seat isn’t very comfortable
– Too open for waves of any kind
What I Like About the Oru Lake Kayak
Overall, I enjoyed using the Oru Lake Kayak. It’s a good size for most paddlers, and since I often paddle with one of my dogs, I loved the large cockpit area so he could comfortably lie down and change position without trouble. As for portability, there’s a carrying handle to provide an easy carry option. This sufficed for the length of my approach, but for longer hikes, I could see why having a shoulder strap or carrying pack would be better.
The assembly isn’t necessarily intuitive, and I recommend referencing the directions or watching one of Oru’s instructional videos before setting it up. Once you get the hang of it, though, it’s pretty easy to set up and break down and can be done in a matter of minutes. There aren’t any unnecessary steps, providing a cleaner design and faster assembly.
The light weight of the kayak makes it easy to carry to a put-in location, and the large cockpit makes it easy to get in and out of the kayak. The large opening in front and behind me allowed my dog to jump in and out when needed. I used the Oru paddle during testing, which is also very user-friendly and has a high level of adjustability to accommodate paddlers of different sizes.
While paddling, the wide and open cockpit area was very comfortable, and the boat was stable enough to access gear without moving the kayak too much. I could even sit cross-legged while resting. It is easy to propel the kayak forward and glide smoothly through the water.
The disassembly of the Oru Lake Kayak is even easier than the assembly. You can hop out of the boat, bring it up to shore, and have it disassembled, ready to hike in under five minutes.
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What I Didn’t Like About the Oru Lake Kayak
With the price, size, and weight of the Oru Lake Kayak, there isn’t too much to dislike. However, I noticed a few things while using the kayak that I feel could be improved. First, since this kayak appears to be targeted towards beginners and intends to be highly user-friendly, printing assembly instructions onto the boat (especially for seat installation) would be ideal. That way, users don’t have to carry out their paper instructions if needed.
Although the cockpit is roomy and comfortable, the wide boat design made paddling somewhat awkward. This may be because I am more accustomed to paddling in narrower kayaks, but I found myself bumping my kayak paddle and my hands onto the side from time to time because of the width compared to my height. With such a large opening, it is also easy to splash water into the kayak, and with any waves or wind, it isn’t very easy to prevent.
Paddling felt smooth in the kayak, but the tracking was subpar. When stopped, the boat spun around frequently, and when paddling, it took more effort than usual to stay on course. The wide, flat bottom of the kayak may be influencing the tracking abilities, and it wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t great.
Lastly, the seat setup isn’t all that comfortable. There is minimal padding, and the original Lake design lacks adjustability. Oru remedies this in the Lake+, but regardless, if you’re paddling for an extended time, the seat isn’t the best.
Oru Kayak Inlet Overview
- Weight: 20 Lbs (9 Kg)
- Length: 9’8″ (295 Cm)
- Width: 31″ (79 Cm)
- Cockpit: 23″ x 44″ (111 x 58 cm)
- Max paddler height: 6’2″ (188 Cm)
- Weight capacity: 275 Lbs (125 Kg)
- Kayak box: 42″ x 10″ x 18″ (107 x 25 x 46 Cm)
- Set-up time: 3-5 minutes
The Oru Inlet Kayak was the brand’s lightest model until the Lake debuted. Still, the Inlet is exceptionally lightweight (only 20 lbs) and the easiest to assemble. The Inlet is intended for flat water, and the shape and edges of the kayak provide superior tracking to that of inflatable alternatives. It offers a large cockpit and features like an adjustable seat and footrest.
If you enjoy paddling on lakes or calm rivers and streams, the Inlet is the perfect portable kayak option. All their kayaks, including the Inlet, are constructed using a 5mm double-layered custom polypropylene material with a 10-year UV treatment. So, even the lightest models are equally as strong as any other Oru kayak and can withstand being folded up tens of thousands of times.
|Oru Inlet Pros||Oru Inlet Cons|
– Tracks well
– Assembly instructions printed on
– Fast assembly and disassembly
– Adjustable seat and footrest
– Easy to paddle and maneuver
– Large cockpit
– Durable yet flexible materials
|– A bit wobbly if used for fishing
– The seat isn’t comfortable for long
– More expensive than the Oru Lake
– Open cockpit isn’t suitable for waves
What I Like About the Oru Kayak Inlet
The Oru Inlet Kayak only weighs 20 lbs, making it easy to load up and carry to the paddling destination. It also has a shoulder strap so it’s even more comfortable to carry. Since the kayak has two D-rings on the top, you can attach the Oru strap accessory or save some money and take a strap off a duffle bag to use as needed.
Overall it has an easy and intuitive setup. Although I recommend reading the instructions and checking out Oru’s instructional video on how to set the Inlet up correctly, this particular Oru model has the instructions printed onto the kayak. I found this ideal, especially if you’re in an area that doesn’t have cell phone service and forgot the instructions at home.
It took around five minutes to assemble the Inlet, even with the extra features like the braces and footrest. The length of the kayak is excellent for flatwater paddling, and when in the water, it tracks well. I liked that the cockpit offered ample space for a dog and gear but wasn’t too wide to inhibit paddling. Both the seat and the footrest are adjustable, making paddling more manageable and natural.
For the most part, the kayak is relatively stable on the water and is highly maneuverable. It is easy to make sharp turns and change directions quickly. I was nervous that the lightweight design wouldn’t be quite as durable, but there were no issues when we had to cut through a bit of ice or when a few rocks scraped the bottom, especially with the reinforced bow and stern. Since the materials are tough yet flexible, it may decrease the likelihood of a puncture or damage when colliding or scraping against any debris or rocks in the water. You should still take extra care to avoid damaging the kayak, which is true for any vessel.
Disassembling the Inlet is just as quick and easy as the assembly. There are several pieces to keep track of, but all have a specific use and enhance the paddling experience. For a casual calm water paddle, the Oru Inlet Kayak is going to be a hard one to beat.
What I Don’t Like About the Oru Kayak Inlet
The Oru Inlet Kayak is a dream, and there isn’t much to complain about if you’re using it for the intended purpose. The assembly does take a little bit longer because of the accessories and pieces required to make it fully functional. It could be easy to lose some parts since they only slide inside the kayak when folded up instead of fastening in place onto anything.
If you intend to use this as a fishing kayak, there is plenty of space inside the cockpit, but when moving around to gather equipment or reel in a fish, the kayak is quite wobbly. It may take some getting used to prevent a bit of the wobble, but it seems inevitable with an activity like fishing. Of all of the Oru kayak designs, the Inlet is likely the best option for fishing, but there may be a learning curve if you’re used to using a more traditional kayak design.
The seat adjustability enhances comfort, but the seat itself isn’t that comfortable for long paddling adventures. It would be nice if a shoulder strap came standard with the kayak instead of being an add-on since the build of the handle is small and not the best for carrying long distances. The open design of the cockpit is excellent for the most part but allows excess water to spray into the kayak, preventing you from paddling in areas with waves or high winds. With a kayak as light as this, I wouldn’t want to paddle in windy conditions anyway.
Oru Lake vs. Oru Inlet: How Do They Compare?
While both the Lake and Inlet kayaks have their pros and cons, in the end, I prefer the Inlet for several reasons. First, it has way better tracking than the Lake kayak, and the boat shape generally feels more natural moving through the water. While they seem like small additions, the adjustable footrest and seat, stabilizing bars, built-in baseboard, printed-on instructions, and reinforced ends provide a better user experience and a seemingly more durable kayak.
The Lake Kayak allows you to add a footrest, and the Lake+ has more adjustability, so I can’t say that those things alone are what swayed my decision. The shape of the Lake Kayak and its wide body, while comfortable to sit in, is somewhat awkward while paddling.
Either kayak is a stellar purchase for beginners and casual paddlers. They’re both lightweight, but if you want the most bang for your buck, the Inlet offers a higher level of performance and versatility. The Lake Kayak still provides an excellent user experience if you’re on a budget. Buying the Lake Kayak allows you to save a couple of hundred dollars, so in the end, which is best for you depends on your individual needs and budget.
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Q: Can you fish from an Oru Kayak?
Yes, you can fish from an Oru Kayak. The Lake and Inlet models have plenty of room in front and behind the paddler to accommodate fishing equipment. Since the Oru Lake Kayak is designed for flat water, this is a good option if you primarily fish on lakes and ponds. If you want more control, comfort, and space, we recommend the Oru Inlet Kayak for fishing.
Q: How long do Oru kayaks last?
Oru Kayaks claims their kayaks are rated for up to 20,000 folds without weakening, which equates to over 20,000 uses. If you use the kayak often, you may begin to notice some wear but overall, Oru Kayaks are built to last several years of use if well cared for and used appropriately.
Q: Do Oru Kayaks have footrests?
Not all Oru Kayaks come stock with footrests, but the Lake and Inlet have a footrest accessory that can be purchased separately. The footrest is an excellent addition to either kayak model, as it can enhance the comfort and control of the paddler.
Q: Can you check an Oru Kayak on a plane?
Yes, you can check an Oru Kayak on a plane. Airline policies and the size of the kayak may influence the price of the checked kayak. Some airlines charge for oversized luggage, while others have a flat fee based on weight.
Q: Can an Oru Kayak sink?
Oru Kayaks are designed to be naturally buoyant to avoid sinking even when submerged. You can keep float bags in the bow and stern compartments for additional safety. Float bags include a flexible valve stem for easy inflation and can make the kayak more manageable and maneuverable if you capsize or take on water.
Q: Are Oru Kayaks worth it?
For some paddlers, they are well worth the price, but they may not be the right fit for others. The intended purpose of a foldable kayak is to provide more accessibility to paddlers that don’t have the space to store or transport a kayak or want a lighter option to carry into more remote areas. If you regularly rent a kayak, an Oru Kayak can save that hassle as well.
Final Thoughts on Oru Kayaks
Oru Kayaks are in a league of their own and are difficult to compare to the traditional rigid or inflatable kayak designs. While they’re more comparable to inflatables in terms of storage size, they are far more portable and higher performing on the water. Both the Lake and Inlet Kayaks are incredibly lightweight without compromising their durability. Each option works well for beginners and flat water paddlers that need something light, portable, and easy to store. Ultimately, the Oru Kayaks are not for everyone, and more intent or experienced kayakers will likely favor a more traditional kayak option. If you live in an urban setting, pack into alpine lakes, or want a boat that fits in the trunk of a car, both the Inlet and Lake Oru Kayaks are affordable and user-friendly purchases.
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