The modern capabilities of material science is changing how we’re able to live and — more importantly — how we recreate. For example, in decades passed, kayaking — or transporting a kayak — would mean tying the little canoe to the roof of a vehicle, attaching a boat trailer or recruiting a friend to help you lug the boat to water. Come 2021, you can heft your kayak over your shoulder like some oversized purse.
The folks at ORU designed a series of foldable kayaks — essentially origami cranes that float as well as any one-piece boats of similar size. Made of resilient, watertight corrugated plastic sections that fold and unfold from crate size to full watercraft, every design is meant for its own type of waterscape. We tried out the ORU Beach LT on the very tranquil weekend water of the Milwaukee River.
After a crash course in unfolding and assembling the Beach LT, we confirmed the ORU design was seaworthy, practical and durable through the simple process of getting into the water, paddling around with fellow enthusiasts, getting out of the water and wrestling the design back into its portable crate. Mission accomplished.
What We Liked about the ORU Beach LT Kayak:
The ORU engineers and designers managed to create a design that is substantial enough to keep you upright on the water without being so heavy it’s impossible to carry it over your shoulder or throw its folded form into the backseat of your car. The corrugated material alternates folds of hard plastic with air channels to create panels that hold as well as wood or metal at a fraction of the weight.
Meanwhile, the simple aesthetics of the ORU make certain all foldable kayak models don’t look significantly different from any other solid-body kayak you’ll find on the water.
Most Unique Feature: Portability
We’re not exactly sending ourselves upstream without a paddle here by saying the Beach LT’s portability is what sets it apart from other kayak brands. The entire point of an ORU is its ability to go with you anywhere without the need for ropes, trailers or multiple bearers. You can easily carry your craft to the water and make it float without exertion, saving your energy for paddling.
What We Didn’t Like about the ORU Beach LT Kayak:
It’s not that easy to fold and unfold initially. The ORO folk claim it’s a 10-minute process. It’s not — at least not until you’ve worked through the steps a few times and mastered it. We can’t say if that process becomes easier after the kayak goes through a bunch of deployment and repacking runs, or if the plastic learns to bend around itself more easily. Regardless, the first few setups and takedowns are better handled with a friend to support the effort.
The Verdict: Figure out the fold and float.
If you take your time and practice unfolding and packing up your ORU Beach LT, and become comfortable with both processes, this is a wonderful addition to a kayak enthusiast’s collection. In fact, the ability to own a full-size craft that fits into such a small space should open the world of kayaking to more people who never thought they had space to own a boat.