Oru Kayak Review: This Foldable Kayak Feels Like Forest Bathing in a Lake

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From afar, kayaking often looks like a calm, wellness-inducing activity—dipping your paddle in sparkling water, gently gliding toward the horizon. Peaceful as it looks, though, the sport turns into a major headache when you’re dealing with the kayak off the water. The frustration of trying to tie a 10-foot kayak to the roof of your car and find a place to store it at home can zap any zen you might have felt on the water. 

That changes when you have an Oru Kayak, though. The brand offers foldable, lightweight kayaks that can be taken to a lake in the backseat of your car, assembled in mere minutes, and stored in small spaces, like a broom closet. (Or your trunk.) In other words, it delivers all the bliss of paddling, sans the aggravation of dealing with a big, clunky kayak. 

But just how well does the Oru Kayak hold up on the water? I received an Oru Lake Kayak from my dad for Christmas, and after finally testing it out on the water, I’m convinced that every apartment-dweller should invest in one of these foldable kayaks. Here’s my take on the Oru Kayak and why I feel it should become part of your wellness routine.

Oru Lake Kayak

  • Oru’s lightest, most portable folding kayak
  • Beginner-friendly kayak designed for calm waters
  • Holds up to 250 pounds
  • Weighs 17 pounds
  • 9 feet long and 32 inches wide
$499 at Oru Check Price on Amazon
oru lake kayak
  • Easy to carry and store
  • Feels durable and spacious
  • Impressively portable
  • Quick assembly
  • Three-year warranty 
  • Doesn’t come with paddle
  • Tricky setup
  • Uncomfortable for many hours of use

Is Kayaking Good for You?

woman using an oru kayak on lake
Joni Sweet for The Nessie

Kayaking is undoubtedly good exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a 150-pound adult can burn an estimated 340 calories in an hour of kayaking. The fluid paddling motion can help you build upper-body strength and increase your flexibility. It’s also a low-impact form of aerobic exercise, which can be gentler on your joints than other types of physical activity. 

But that’s just the beginning of why kayaking is good for you. From a holistic standpoint, it can support your overall wellness. Kayaking gets you to spend time in the great outdoors, which has been shown to reduce the risk of depression, elevate our moods, boost our energy levels, improve our sleep, and promote greater happiness, per a 2021 study icon-trusted-source Journal of Affective Disorders “Time spent in outdoor light is associated with mood, sleep, and circadian rhythm-related outcomes: A cross-sectional and longitudinal study in over 400,000 UK Biobank participants ” View Source that analyzed data on more than 400,000 people.

Just being near water brings its own health benefits, as well. Research conducted across 18 countries found that people who lived near “blue spaces,” like coasts, lakes, and rivers, and visited them frequently generally felt healthier and reported high wellbeing. Scientists say that water has a calming effect icon-trusted-source Health Promotion International “Blue care: a systematic review of blue space interventions for health and wellbeing ” View Source —hence why you can feel pretty blissed out when you’re out in a kayak.

There’s also something to be said for kayaking as a mindfulness activity. The rhythm of paddling and the flow of the water feel meditative. Kayaking keeps you rooted in the present moment, which can bolster your resilience to daily stress icon-trusted-source International Society for the Study of Individual Differences “Thinking ahead and staying in the present: Implications for reactivity to daily stressors” View Source .

Plus, it’s just plain fun. Take it from me: Even the most challenging work week feels manageable when I have a Saturday blocked off for kayaking coming up on the calendar. But in order to get into this hobby, you’ll need a kayak you can actually store and transport—and that’s where Oru Kayak comes in.

What Is the Oru Kayak?

oru kayak folded up on beach in front of a sparkling lake

If you’ve ever tried origami, you already have a sense of what the Oru Kayak is all about. It’s a brand of foldable kayaks made from a large sheet of 5mm double-layered polypropylene (a type of plastic) imprinted with creases that can be bent (origami-style!) to create a hull. Oru Kayaks are known for being lightweight, ultra-portable, and easy to store in tight spaces. You may have seen these cool kayaks on season 5 of Shark Tank, where the brand’s founders received an investment offer from Robert Herjavec. 

How I Tested the Oru Kayak

Oru offers six types of kayaks for different adventures, skill levels, and types of water. I tested the Lake ($499), which is the brand’s “lightest, most portable, and easiest to assemble folding kayak yet.” Before heading on the water, I set it up and disassembled it at home twice. 

Once the weather warmed up, my partner and I brought our Oru Lake Kayaks to Lake Taghkanic State Park in the Hudson Valley to test them out on the water. We built both kayaks on the sandy beach, paddled around for nearly three hours, then disassembled them for the ride home. Along the way, we noted the things we loved and the hiccups we encountered during the experience.

How Does the Oru Kayak Work?

woman folding an oru kayak
Joni Sweet for The Nessie

Each Oru Kayak works a little bit differently, but overall, they all follow the same concept: fold the plastic at predetermined points, clip the sides together to make a hull, snap in the seat, and you’re good to go.

The Oru Lake Kayak that I tested works by pressing firmly along four creases in the polypropylene to create a hull. Then, you clip a pair of buckles on both the bow and stern to cinch the kayak together. The kayak also includes a seat that secures to the cockpit with three simple clips, which provide a bit of back support. 

Oru Kayak says the assembly of its Lake kayak should take just a minute. (It took me a little longer, which I’ll get into later.) Once the kayak is put together, you can hop in and start paddling in calm waters. 

After you’re done on the water, you can dry off the kayak, disassemble it, fold it into a suitcase-style shape, and carry it away using the attached handle.

What I Love About the Oru Kayak

two oru kayaks sitting on a beach
Joni Sweet for The Nessie

It’s seriously compact

The best thing about the Oru Kayak is its compact design. As a longtime apartment dweller, I don’t have a garage or other storage space you’d need to store a conventional kayak, so paddling felt completely inaccessible to me until I saw Oru Kayak show off its compact vessels on Shark Tank. The Oru Lake Kayak barely takes up more space than a large suitcase. It can slip under a bed, in a closet, or (in my case) a quirky, lofted nook near my kitchen for storage between uses. I don’t even notice it’s there. 

Not only is the Oru Lake Kayak easy to store, it’s also a piece of cake to transport. It clocks in at just 17 pounds and can be carried like a briefcase, thanks to the handle attached to the top. Plus, you don’t need a truck or a car with roof racks to bring this baby to your favorite lake. I squeezed not just one, but two Oru Lake Kayaks in the back of my Mazda CX-3—a subcompact SUV with stingy cargo room—and still had space for life jackets, paddles, and other gear. I was able to pack up the car in under five minutes, giving me a relaxed start to a day at the lake.

It’s simple to put together

Assembling the kayak requires practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple. I was able to set it up in about 15 minutes when I took it to the lake. Admittedly, that’s a lot longer than Oru Kayak says it should take (the brand even has a video showing that the Lake kayak can be set up in under a minute), but I was still impressed that I could go from land to lake as quickly as I did. And once I have more practice and the kayak’s creases are broken in a bit more, I am confident I’ll be able to set it up in about five minutes. The process didn’t wear me out the way dragging a conventional kayak to the shore has done in the past when I’ve tried paddling on my travels. I felt energized and ready to go when I pushed the Oru Lake Kayak into the water.

It glides along the water

The other thing I loved about the Oru Lake Kayak was how smooth it felt on a lake. It started to float the moment it touched the water. Stepping into the kayak and taking a seat was a breeze. I felt stable right away. The kayak was extremely maneuverable—I could paddle around in relatively tight circles and pick up speed quickly with just a few dips of my paddle. It tracked exactly where I wanted to go on the calm lake I tested it on, although I can’t say how it would handle on choppier waters. The ease of the experience allowed me to slip into the meditative qualities of paddling and soak up the beauty of the scenery. 

Another cool feature was how low the kayak sits in the lake. The kayak’s semi-translucent body allowed me to see into the water, which made it an even more immersive experience. It felt like the lake version of forest bathing.

It’s surprisingly sturdy

Even with a dry bag of gear and some slight movement as I reapplied sunscreen, this kayak never felt like it would tip over. For a beginner paddler like me, this lightweight, easy-to-use kayak felt like the ideal way to get out on the water. I ended my first day with the Oru Lake Kayak feeling relaxed, joyful, and present in my body.

What I Don’t Love About the Oru Kayak

There’s not much I dislike about the Oru Lake Kayak. It’s worth noting that setting it up and breaking it down can be tricky at first. I recommend practicing at home once or twice before taking it to the water. It can also be helpful to have the assembly guide video downloaded on your phone, just in case you get stuck during the process.

The seat of the Oru Lake Kayak is fairly bare bones. Even though it has straps that attach to the kayak to offer some back support, this seat would probably not offer enough cushioning for long days of paddling. The floorboard attached to the seat also has a rough edge that dug into my calves slightly. I think I’d start to feel achy after about four hours on the water—which is probably when I’d be ready to get back on land anyway—but if you’re looking to spend many hours in your kayak, you might want to shop around for something with a more comfortable seat.

The other major downside of the Oru Kayak is that no accessories are included. I had to order my paddle and life jacket separately. On the one hand, that means you’re free to choose gear that meets your exact preferences, rather than using whatever comes in the kit. But for me—a beginner kayaker who felt that any paddle would do—it just made an already expensive kayak even pricier. For what it’s worth, the Oru Paddle and Oru Personal Flotation Device served me well, but they definitely make the initial costs of becoming an Oru Kayaker a couple hundred dollars more than the price tag of the vessel itself.

Is the Oru Kayak Worth It?

oru kayak on lake
Joni Sweet for The Nessie

If you’re looking to reap the wellness benefits of kayaking—and you don’t have the space to store a large, heavy vessel—the Oru Lake Kayak is definitely your ticket to getting on the water. It’s so lightweight and portable, the kayak allows you to experience the serenity of paddling without enduring one of the hobby’s biggest stressors: lugging a 10-foot-long kayak from your home, to your car, to the lake, and back again. And when you’re done, you can transform it into a box that slides into small storage areas—no garage required. It turns kayaking into a grab-and-go sport. 

Ultimately, Oru Kayak alleviates the aggravation of dealing with a conventional kayak, allowing you to focus on what really matters: Spending a day on the water and calming your mind through paddling. That makes it well worth the investment. 

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