I’ve long lusted after Oru Kayaks—those magical kayaks that somehow fold into their own portable box. Why so much lust? Well, one, their Instagram feed is on point when it comes to gorgeous paddling photos. And, two, I live in a basement studio apartment in Washington, D.C. without a car. The thought of having a kayak that I can both store in my closet and easily throw in an Uber or bring with me on the Metro to go explore local waterways is of great appeal.

This past October, I joined my boyfriend for a stretch of his 3,800-mile source-to-sea descent of the Missouri River system. He was completing the journey in a canoe, so I had my seat set. However, my friend, Jamie, was going to be coming along too, so we found ourselves one seat short for the adventure. Jamie and I were both traveling all the way from Washington, D.C. to Natchez, Mississippi for a one-way river trip of over 100 miles that would cross state lines and leave us in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Between kayak rental costs, shuttle costs, rural boat ramps, and general travel struggs, getting Jamie a kayak to use for the trip seemed like an expensive, logistical nightmare.

20161011_132928It was clear to me that Oru Kayak could be our only saving grace. So, I reached out to the company with our dilemma. They were wonderfully understanding given that, you know, solving kayaking woes to make getting on the water easier is pretty much their jam. They agreed to let us test their Coast Kayak model, which includes the following specs:

  • Weight: 31 lbs.
  • Length: 16’
  • Width: 25”
  • Kayak Boxed Size: 33” x 13” x 29”
  • Maximum Load: 400 lbs.
  • Storage: 180 liters
  • Max Paddler Height: 6’ 6”
  • Retail Price: $1,975

We chose this model because it was described as, “fast, stable, and safe in the water,” as well as best for overnight touring. We’d be paddling in a mighty river, navigating both currents and commercial barge traffic, so we needed a sturdy vessel. We’d also be out for five days, so required some storage space beyond what we could pack in the canoe.20161012_073637After five days paddling and camping along the wily Mississippi River, here’s some of what we thought about the Coast:

  1. It is a conversation starter! Everywhere I went with the Oru Kayak, conversation was sure to follow—“Are you a masseuse?” No, it’s actually a kayak. It unfolds. “Wait, that’s a kayak?” —Whether at the airport ticket counter, getting into my Uber, boarding my Greyhound bus, setting up the kayak on the boat ramp, or checking into our bed and breakfast at the end of the adventure, it was pretty fun to encounter people while lugging around the Oru Kayak. It was a great way to forge good human connection when it often feels like there’s such a daily dearth of it.20161010_174127
  2. It’s stylish and cleverly designed. The Oru Kayak looks beautiful on the water. It has a great aesthetic, and it was also fun to see the ways the company carefully thought through how to sneak in all the things one would love about a traditional kayak—from adjustable footrests to deck rigging.
  3. Setup and takedown are actually pretty easy! I was a little worried about being completely lost in setting this thing up. However, it turns out it’s not that bad, and definitely something that gets easier over time. It’s also nice that any loose parts can be packed right into the box the kayak forms for easy storage.
  4. For anything longer than a day paddle, I’d go with the Coast+ model instead. Why? Well, the kayak was pretty uncomfortable over time. It felt cramped, was hard to store easily accessible gear in, has a thin seat that wears on the bum, and was a struggle to figure out the best leg positioning in. The Coast+ model adds thigh braces, an adjustable backrest, and a day hatch, all of which I can only imagine bring much needed comfort come mile 20, 50, or 100.
  5. The price point seems high. Oru Kayaks run between $1,175 and $2,475, depending on the model. For those prices, you could buy a pretty nice traditional kayak that, in my opinion, will likely have greater comfort, durability, and movement on the water. However, for those planning a lot of paddling trips that require long travel—Great Barrier Reef, anyone?—it’s probably worth it given the expense of kayak rentals and shuttles and the like over time.
  6. It makes adventure accessible and builds a community around paddling. It can’t be denied that the Oru Kayak is a dream come true for people living in cities without the means to store and transport a traditional kayak. I applaud this product for thinking innovatively and finding ways to fold (pun intended!) more people into a vibrant community of paddlers.20161012_073425
  7. The company is groovy. It found its beginnings on Kickstarter with a dream to change how people connect with the water. Successfully funded, it now cultivates an industry full of camaraderie, creativity, innovation, and mindfulness where each boat is made by hand in the USA. It’s a company you can feel good about supporting.

And now, the Verdict for Oru Kayak’s Coast Model…

Awesomeness: 100 stars out of 5.

Comfort: 2 stars out of 5.

Ease on water: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Jamie and Kris celebrate a successful setupOverall, the great value of an Oru Kayak is clear. Yes, it’s not a traditional kayak, and you’ll likely be able to feel some of the shortcomings of that, but it opens up doors that a traditional kayak simply can’t. For those traveling to far-off waters for paddle trips, or for my kindred spirits living in urban basement apartments, but dreaming of rivers and lakes, I’d absolutely recommend looking into an Oru Kayak.