Inflatable and folding kayaks have only grown in popularity in recent years and it’s easy to see why. Traditional kayaks can be cumbersome, heavy and difficult to transport to and from your nearest waterway, as well as hard to store in your home or garage - especially if you’re limited on space.
But with an inflatable and folding kayak you can leave them in the back of your car when you’re not using them. Plus, they get rid of the need to install a roof rack onto the top of your car!
Origami kayaks are basically another name for folding kayaks, and are relative newcomers to the kayak world.
In this review we’ll take a look at one of the most popular brands of origami kayak - the Oru Kayak - and talk about a couple of their models. We’ll also find out how origami kayaks are made and their advantages and disadvantages.
How are origami kayaks made?
All Oru Kayak’s models are built with a double-layered, custom-extruded polypropylene material that is 5mm thick and covers the entire body of the kayak. It’s finished with a 10-year UV treatment that protects the kayak from sun exposure and prevents degradation.
All of their kayaks fold into a compact box complete with a carry handle that makes it extremely portable and easy to store. They also come with a seat back and pad, and some models even come with bulkhead separators to make the kayak more buoyant.
The kayaks also feature strategically placed buckles which makes assembling and disassembling them easy. The buckles are also attached to straps which can be tightened to ensure watertight assembly. This easy assembly is thanks to the fact that every Oru kayak is just a single piece of polypropylene that is pre-folded in a set pattern.
However, when you first assemble an origami kayak you may notice that some of the flaps are stiffer than others. But this is normal and you just need to bend them back and forth a few times to make assembly easier.
OUR TOP PICK
Cockpit dimensions: 23” by 44”
Weight capacity: 275lbs
Folded dimensions: 42” by 10” by 18”
The smallest Oru kayak, you can set the Inlet up in 3-5 minutes and it’s mainly used on calm lakes and slow-moving streams or rivers.
It also has an open-cockpit design which makes it ideal for excursions with your kids or even your dog! It’s also a good kayak for beginners who want to learn and test out new skills.
Due to the lack of storage capacity, we also recommend the Inlet for casual, recreational paddles of about 2-3 hours.
Cockpit dimensions: 24” by 69”
Weight capacity: 300lbs
Folded dimensions: 33” by 12” by 29”
The Beach LT takes about 5-10 minutes to set up and is designed for paddlers no taller than 6’6.” For those who like longer paddles, we recommend this over the Inlet due to its 140 liters of storage volume.
However, its large, open cockpit makes it great for days out with the family, as you can bring small children and dogs into the kayak with you. Or, if you rather you can bring a kayak cooler with you instead!
It even has enough interior storage space for fishing equipment. So if you’re a kayak angler then this is the perfect kayak for you!
While we would still recommend the Beach LT to beginners, we do think that intermediate and experienced paddlers would appreciate it more.
It is at its best on calm lakes, rivers, and streams but its size and generous amount of storage space also make it ideal for experienced paddlers who enjoy an overnight paddle.
Cockpit dimensions: 16” by 30”
Weight capacity: 300lbs
Folded dimensions: 33” by 14” by 29”
A general rule with Oru kayaks is that their larger models take a bit longer to set up. The Bay ST can be set up in 10-15 minutes and is best suited for paddlers 6’3” and under.
The Bay ST has a closed cockpit design that provides a drier paddling experience in rougher weather conditions. However, the Bay ST still boasts up to 90 liters of storage volume for any overnight camping gear or extra kayaking accessories you wish to bring.
Oru markets this as their most versatile option for paddlers that like the challenge of kayaking in varied waterways. The Bay ST can handle calm lakes to ocean surf, and if you’re interested in ocean paddling it can be easily equipped with a spray skirt.
We could recommend the Bay ST for more experienced paddlers, as Oru has designed it for intermediate to expert paddlers. Its agility and speed make it a great lightweight option when compared to other touring kayaks.
Advantages Of an origami kayak
If you’re interested in trying out paddling a kayak the only way to know if you’ll like it is to actually give it a try!
If you don’t want to buy an origami kayak for this purpose (and we understand why - they don’t come cheap!), then it’s best to ask somebody you know who already owns an origami kayak if you can give their kayak a whirl.
If you don’t know somebody who owns one of these kayaks however, it may be possible to contact a local guiding or rental company to see if they have an origami kayak you can try out. This is probably the best way to test out an origami kayak before you commit to actually buying one.
But before you hit the water, you might be wondering what the plus sides and drawbacks are of an origami kayak. That’s what we’ll be exploring below, and we hope these points can help you decide if an origami kayak is for you, or if you would prefer an inflatable or traditional kayak instead.
Portability: The lightweight design and portability of an origami kayak is probably its best feature. Most origami kayaks weigh less than half of what a rigid kayak of the same size weighs.
This means no need to purchase other kayaking accessories like a rolling cart, and the fact you can pack the entire kayak up into a compact box with a carry handle when you’re not on the water makes it extremely portable and appealing.
Storage: When it comes to storage space, there isn’t much difference between an origami kayak and an inflatable kayak. If you live in an apartment or a smaller house but love kayaking, an origami kayak may be perfect for you!
But they’re also ideal for people living in larger homes, as you don’t have to worry about making space in your garage or shed. With an origami kayak you can just fold it down into its compact box and put it wherever you have room in your house. Simple!
Disadvantages of an origami kayak
Assembly and disassembly: While origami kayaks can be quicker to set up than inflatable kayaks this is only after you’ve had some experience in assembling and disassembling it. Some customers have said that initial setup can be quite difficult, but gets easier the more you do it.
These models can take up to 5 to 20 minutes longer to set up than rigid kayaks when you reach your paddling location.
Performance: Even though there have been advances in the industry, even the best origami kayaks don’t perform as well as the best rigid kayaks on the market. But we hope that won’t be the case someday!
Origami kayaks are more prone to unexpected leaks and they’re not the best at handling rough water conditions. You are rather limited to gentler water conditions, which is kind of disappointing for those who like to challenge and push themselves.
Safety: As we’ve mentioned, origami kayaks are intended for calm waters - although some do boast the ability to handle waves and the open ocean. But while these kayaks may be stable in rough conditions, self-rescue is a lot harder in an origami kayak than a rigid one.
This is mainly due to the fact that the body of the kayak is thin and is more likely to cave in when you are trying to climb back in. Plus, lightweight kayaks like origami ones don’t hold up to heavy winds like rigid kayaks do.
If you live in a smaller home or apartment with limited space, or you hate the hassle of transporting your kayak to a waterway, origami kayaks may be for you.
Origami kayaks may be especially useful for those who travel a lot, and we’re sure avid campers, long-distance road trippers or those who travel internationally will really appreciate an origami kayak.
However, if you’re somebody who likes heading out to the open ocean, or hitting more challenging waters, we recommend a rigid kayak. Not only are they sturdier than a lightweight origami kayak, but safer too.