Oru Kayak Bay+

C&K reviews the new-generation origami kayak

Testing the Oru in lively conditions. Photo by Aaron Schmidt
Testing the Oru in lively conditions. Photo by Aaron Schmidt

L: 12'; W: 25"; 28 lbs., 300-lb. capacity; Packable size: 32 x 28 x 13 inches.
($1,495, orukayak.com)

Oru Kayaks redefined "folding boats" with its origami-inspired design. Rather than a stack of frame components and a separate skin, the Oru is one artfully folded piece of corrugated polypropylene–the stuff postal tote bins are made of. The whole boat packs George Jetson-style to the size of an artist's portfolio.

It was an idea whose time had come. The company's 2012 Kickstarter campaign raised $444,000, and a 2013 appearance on ABC's Shark Talk led to another investment that streamlined Oru's California manufacturing base.

The man method—straight out of the box, ignoring all instructions—yielded a first assembly time of 20 minutes. Not bad.

While the story of Oru's viral start has been told many times, little has been written about its performance on the water. We got our hands on the Bay+, Oru's latest version, which offers a few notable next-gen upgrades to the original Bay's innovative platform, including an adjustable seat, screw-off day hatch, stainless-steel ratcheting buckles and extra deck-rigging. The first test of any folding boat is assembly. The man method—straight out of the box, ignoring all instructions—yielded a first assembly time of 20 minutes. Not bad. The next setup, with instructions and practice, took 10 minutes.

Despite the lack of rocker and a flat hull profile under the seat, the 12-foot Bay+ tracks well and responds to engaged-edge turns with the surprising ease of a longer traditional touring kayak. (Not that you need to drop an edge; the craft's feather-weight makes tight turns and instant acceleration a cinch.) Though the cockpit is snugger and the deck much lower than typical flat-water cruising kayaks, the Oru delivers unexpected comfort with its supportive high-back seat and knees nested on the edges of the padded seat platform. The single foot bar, though adjustable from the cockpit, is about the only integrated outfitting feature that suffers from minimalism, leaving you wanting more.

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The other slight drawback to the hull's clever single-piece design is the bow-to-stern seam where the ends meet on the top deck. Eight ratchet points ensure that the edges nest firmly into a line of plastic runners, though not without slight gaps—the seal isn't watertight, though it's more than capable of shedding splashes over the bow. An advantage of that long seam is the ease of loading gear into the wide-open bow and stern sections, both divided by bulkhead plates to aid rigidity (also not watertight). While packing regular kayak hatches often feels like trying to stuff your lunch into a birdhouse, loading the Oru is more like sliding a sandwich into a ziplock bag.

And it is a solid ride, where, once the gee-whiz novelty of assembly wears off, you're left with a fun, nimble and versatile light-touring option that tops the charts when you factor storage and transport.
—Dave Shively

Read about THE NEW 16-FOOT ORU COAST here.

Read AN INTERVIEW WITH ORU FOUNDER ANTON WILLIS here.