Oru Kayak

Oru Kayak

In our never-ending quest to find the gear that makes life more livable, even in straitened circumstances, we've been eagerly awaiting the launch of the Oru Kayak. The young California-based company recently debuted a revolutionary foldable, tough-hulled kayak just in time for summer's waterways.

Oru founder Anton Willis, a native of the lakes and rivers of Northern California's Mendocino County, had to put his fiberglass kayak into storage after moving to space-crunched San Francisco. At the same time, he happened to read an article about advances in the science of origami. Willis embarked on a four-year process to create a compactable 12-foot-long, 25-pound kayak out of durable, double-layered polyethylene, corrugated for even more structural strength. Remarkably, the kayak becomes its own carrying case, which can also fit breakdown paddles, a life vest, and other necessities – making Oru's model ideal for planes, the Zipcar, or backcountry expeditions.

Despite its portability, the Oru can compete with standard kayaks in terms of comfort and handling. Features include a rigid floorboard, a reinforced cockpit with padded seat and backrest, and an adjustable footrest. It can execute rolls, fits most spray skirts, and is roomy enough for a float bag; a touring model with more storage capacity is in the works. And you can push off from shore knowing that this kayak was field-tested in a range of challenging scenarios (traveling to all of its test waters by public transit or bicycle, naturally), with a mounted GoPro video camera to record performance and pinpoint any areas for improvement.

The final result is pretty impressive. Manufacturer-rated for 20,000 "fold cycles," the Oru has a lot of life in its origami-inspired bones and assembles in five minutes – even if you're the type that can't fold a dress shirt, let alone an origami crane. [$850, orukayak.com]