The Foldable Kayak That You Really Can Take Anywhere

Don’t buy an Oru Kayak if you’re the shy, retiring type, because you’re going to get in a lot of conversations.

The Foldable Kayak That You Really Can Take Anywhere

Oru Kayak’s Haven model can switch from a single to a tandem in seconds.

Courtesy of Oru Kayak

Welcome to AFAR Approved: a deep dive into the travel items that we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about.

Every time I take an Oru Kayak out, I’m guaranteed to have someone call across the water:

“Does that thing fold up?”

“What is that?”

“How much is that? How heavy is it? Who makes it?”

“Look, Brian, it’s made of that stuff that folds!”

Every. Time. But that’s fine. I’m happy to chat, because I love these boats. I’ll be their marina-based salesperson. I originally borrowed Oru’s Haven, a tandem kayak that converts to a large solo boat with a couple small adjustments, but I had so much fun with it I ended up buying the Beach LT—the company’s original single kayak—for myself. (It also just launched the Inlet, its smallest and lightest boat yet and offers two sportier performance models, the Bay ST and the Coast XT.)

So what’s so good about Oru Kayaks? Well, to answer the onlookers’ questions, they’re extremely light (the Beach LT is just 26 pounds and the tandem Haven is 40 pounds), they fold and unfold in around 5 to 10 minutes, and they’re fairly competitively priced starting at $899 for the Inlet. (Oru Kayak also offers 0 percent financing through Affirm, which, ahem, I can vouch for.)

The kayaks are made of foldable polypropylene with nylon and neoprene rubber fairings.

The kayaks are made of foldable polypropylene with nylon and neoprene rubber fairings.

Courtesy of Oru Kayak

The design is seriously smart and pretty user friendly after a couple of goes. You unfold the entire sheet of plastic (actually 5 mm double-layered polypropylene) and turn it into a hull. Then you fasten four straps at the front, a couple at the back, pop in bulkheads, footplates, a seat or two, and a supporting crossbar, and you’re essentially ready to go. Footrests and backrests are all adjusted with straps, which also serve to keep the whole thing together when folded.

My five-year-old son and I took the tandem Haven out onto the calm waters of Morro Bay on California’s central coast, and I had it launched in minutes, even with him “helping.” It was comfortable, smooth, stable, fast in the water, and so much more convenient than a hard shell or even an inflatable kayak. After a couple hours of paddling and exploring deserted beaches, we had it packed back into the trunk of the car while our parking lot neighbors were still deflating their blow-up equivalent.

The Beach LT is perfect for calm harbors like Morro Bay.

The Beach LT is perfect for calm harbors like Morro Bay.

Photo by Tim Chester

I just love how portable it is; it really encapsulates the carefree spirit of kayaking. We’ve also pootled around Marina del Ray in Los Angeles, and I plan to take the Beach LT to San Diego’s Mission Bay and Big Bear Lake and, well, wherever I want really.

The Beach LT can take a paddler up to six-foot-six and 300 pounds, and it packs down to 33 x 12 x 29 inches, so it easily fits in my car’s trunk. I can sling it over my shoulder with the carry strap and take it down long paths or over rocky terrain. (There’s also a backpack-style pack, sold separately.)

Oru made some design tweaks to the Beach in 2021, with new models from March 1 benefitting from a new strap system instead of a reinforcing rod, a more comfortable seat and footrest, and a redesigned floorboard system. On the tandem Haven, the company added a stabilizing crossbar that’s compatible with fishing kits and cupholders, upgraded some of the hooks to buckles, and switched to the new floorboard.

I may even fly with my kayak when that’s back on. One Oru owner has taken his to California, Hawaii, Texas, Florida, and Wyoming and says that American, Southwest, and United all considered it a standard piece of checked luggage (although Delta did charge $200).

The company says the kayaks can be unfolded 20,000 times. Given my experience with them so far this summer, I’m looking forward to thousands of adventures wherever there’s a body of water.

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This article was originally published in September 2020; it was updated on November 23, 2020, and February 19, 2021, to reflect current pricing information, and on March 21, 2021, to include design updates. Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.

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Tim Chester is a deputy editor at AFAR, focusing primarily on destination inspiration and sustainable travel. He lives near L.A. and likes spending time in the waves, on the mountains, or on wheels.
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