If you live in an apartment, I highly doubt a kayak or canoe is number one on your list of things to stuff it with. The last thing anyone wants is to clutter up space, especially when there’s so little of it in the first place. City dwelling calls for things like under-the-bed storage and foldaway furniture, not clunky, once-in-a-while pieces of recreation gear that you can’t shove into a closet or under your desk.
But what if you could? Imagine if you could spend the evening exploring the New York harbor or Boston’s Charles River on something you could literally throw into your coat closet, amongst rain boots and jackets, when you’d finish with it. Because that’s exactly what you can do with the Oru Lake ($599), a folding kayak reminiscent of a piece of origami that’s perfect for water-lusting city dwellers. At just 18 pounds, it’s the brand’s lightest, most portable product yet, designed to get you from couch to canal (or inlet, or lake) in mere minutes.
If you’re unfamiliar with Oru, the brand is known for its folding kayaks inspired by the Japanese art of paper folding. Traditional wooden or fiberglass boats are heavy, clunky, and rarely suitable for apartment living, while inflatable kayaks can often be just as cumbersome. Orus aren’t either—its pliable kayaks are designed specifically for urbanites who are short on space but are passionate about the outdoors. And the Lake is its lightest, easiest to use yet.
Why we love the Oru Lake
Its hero feature is the fact that it packs down into what is, essentially, a briefcase. I unboxed my Oru Lake to find a finely folded plastic package with handles that looked like something a 1950s cartoon businessman would carry to work. With a few unsnaps and unbuckles, I quickly realized it was the actual kayak. Besides a fold-up seat, there were no spare parts or miscellaneous tools to put it together. All I had to do was pop out some seams, buckle some more snaps, and lock in the seat/floorboard combo—all of which took three minutes flat—and away I paddled.
Considering how minimalist this kayak was, I was skeptical as to how well it would function. In fact, I literally texted my friend that I was taking the kayak out for a spin (with a flotation vest, of course) and I joked that there was a “likely chance it would sink.” Except it didn’t! The little Lake paddled like a breeze! Its lightweight frame is perfect for calm freshwater like the lake I had it in, gliding easily across the surface and without wobbling or rocking. Success!
But the pièce de résistance is that folding feature that makes touting it to and from the marina so easy. Folding it up is just as simple as unfolding it—just as long as you do so when it’s completely dry. From there, you can store it anywhere. I have a house with a spacious garage, but even a studio apartment or city loft is more than enough room to keep the Oru Lake. Toss it in the trunk, the coat closet, under your bed, next to your desk, on overhead storage—you don’t need much space to stow it, which is what makes it so great.
Getting on the water when you live in the city is no easy feat. Unless you want to pay for rental equipment and lug it around, or are fortunate enough to have a boat anchored nearby, it’s not simple. Which is why we’re so impressed with this badass lil’ boat. It’s the ideal beginner kayak that’s light enough for you to pick up and bring wherever you want—and won’t suck up space when it’s not in use.
Now, it’s not perfect. I will say the seat is a little uncomfortable. It’s just an unpadded piece of plastic, so if you’re looking to paddle for hours without aches or soreness, invest in the Lake+ ($749), which features a footrest, plus a cushion-compatible seat. It’s also definitely not suitable for any water other than a glass-calm lake. If you’re planning on paddling saltwater or anything with tide and wind, consider leveling up with either the slightly hardier Inlet ($899) or the sportier Bay ST ($1499).
But if you’re a beginner adventurer who’s longing to trade in concrete jungle for some time on the water, the Lake is a landlubber’s dream. Get your sea legs here.
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