Oru Kayak the Beach LT: $1,119, orukayak.comOru Kayak the Inlet: $899, orukayak.com Oru Kayak the Haven (tandem): $1,999, orukayak.comOru Kayak the Lake: $499 orukayak.com
Spring sale: Oru is offering 15 percent off everything on the site until April 2 with the code ORUSPRING and also throwing in a free paddle with orders until March 26 with the code SPRINGPADDLE.
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.
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 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.
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.)
I may even fly with my kayak one day. 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, I’m looking forward to thousands of adventures wherever there’s a body of water.
An expanding line of Oru products
Since I first tried an Oru kayak in 2020, the range has been updated and expanded. Oru made some design tweaks to the Beach in 2021, with new models benefiting 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 cup holders, upgraded some of the hooks to buckles, and switched to the new floorboard.
Oru also launched the Inlet, a smaller and lighter boat, as well as two sportier performance models, the Bay ST and the Coast XT. In spring 2023, it unveiled the black Beach LT Sport, which weighs only 28 pounds.
In January 2023, I got to test the new Lake—the company’s cheapest, lightest, and easiest kayak yet. At just 17 pounds and with only two parts, it’s even more portable and easy to assemble than the others. It also comes at a more affordable price ($499).
I took it out into Ventura Harbor, unfolding and assembling it in less than five minutes. While it doesn’t have all the features of some of the other kayaks (such as a footrest), it was perfectly comfortable for an hour of paddling. I went past the breakwater and a few hardy surfers into the open ocean, and it was stable during a mild swell. For beginners, it’s a great choice.
This article was originally published in 2020; it’s been updated several times to reflect new products, most recently in March 2023.
Tim Chester 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.