Field Tested: Oru Kayak’s New Inlet, the World’s Most Packable Folding Boat

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A fleet of foldable boats out near the Grand Tetons.Photo: Katie Rodriguez

For those who have never paddled an Oru Kayak before, here’s the brief: This California brand has artfully utilized the principles and precision of origami into a fleet of fully functioning kayaks that can conveniently clip apart and fold up into delightfully portable packages. Simple storage is a perfect solution for those living in tight quarters—whether apartment, van, or tiny home—who lack the space to house a full-size touring kayak.

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Since 2013, Oru has turned heads, winning multiple ISPO awards an Edison Award, and most recently, Outdoor Retailer’s “Gear of the Show” Award. The innovative designs coupled with lightweight, foldable corrugated plastic hulls have offered a game-changing advance, enabling paddlers and outdoor enthusiasts to quickly transport boats to water and get right to paddling—compared to other options like inflating, assembling or piecing together a skin-on-frame packable craft.

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Off the beaten path lakes and rivers are made accessible when you can pack up your kayak and carry it on your back. Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Glen

At least, that was the hope. On earlier Oru Kayak models, boat assembly came with a shortlist of frustrations for those itching to get on the water ASAP. It required serious focus on step progression (and often trial and error) to learn how to assemble the boats efficiently. To make it simple, you needed practice. It was not intuitive; setup and breakdown took multiple attempts to feel confident enough for a solo build in the field without cell service for video tutorial fallbacks. In a time crunch to catch that sunset, this hindrance was cumbersome; for some users, a deterrent.

Price point was the other dealbreaker, with MSRP ranging anywhere from $1,300 to $2,200.

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From forty-two inches long to ten feet – the world’s most packable kayak yet. Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Glen

But alas, Oru addressed the ease-of-build issues with its new shorter and lighter Inlet model. It touted assembly as simple as opening, snapping a couple of clips, and slipping into the seat. Three minutes, tops. I had heard Oru’s claims before and approached with caution and few degrees of healthy skepticism. This fall however, I had the chance to give the Inlet a first-hand shakedown run at the foot of the Tetons. It more than addressed all my pressing questions (and doubts), outlined as follows.

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1. Is the three-minute setup for real? Yes. Oru hit the nail on the head by simplifying the fold geometry (think clamshell). Total time spent on assembly/breakdown can approach four to five minutes without attempting anything near a personal record. I timed (and recorded) myself just to show you what that looks like (below).

 

 

2. How does the Inlet compare to previous Oru models? The Inlet is as easy to paddle as it is to set up. Chalk that up to light weight (a mere 20 pounds). At 10 feet long, it’s the shortest Oru, with the widest cockpit, easy for getting in and out of and incredibly stable, but challenging in rougher waters. This boat is designed for quick trips—and leaving most other overnight or extended-day accessories at home or camp. For those looking to tackle longer paddles in turbulent waters, the Bay ST would be a better fit.

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Straight off the plane and off to the Tetons. Photo: Courtesy of Taylor Glen

3. What’s the price? Significantly lower than the rest of the fleet at $899.

4. Who is the ideal user? The Inlet is intended for paddlers looking to save some space and reduce barriers to quick and mellow on-water excursions. No roof racks or truck required. The cockpit is big enough to throw in a few drinks, a small waterproof drybag, some fishing gear or an extra layer or two (although, without the promise that it won’t get wet in the largely open cockpit). Any outdoor regular can make use of one of the Inlet, and given the reasonable price, offers a great alternative option—without the added bulk.

5. When are Inlets available for purchase? They start shipping in June 2020. Find them on pre-sale on Oru Kayak’s website.

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