A young woman unfolded her Oru kayak like origami at the River Park launch in July while I was working on a column about River Lab. I wondered how the hell something like that would float.
Later, as Matt Renfree and I paddled the river, a shower forced us to shelter under a bridge, giving me a chance to talk with the young woman. She loved the Oru, because of the way it folded and fit in her apartment. My interest in it was for something I could easily fold and transport in our compact cars.
As serendipity had it, I was offered a test of the Oru Inlet, the basic model.
Now I have a decision.
On a hot late August afternoon, our youngest son, to my great pleasure, agreed to come along to test it. Mostly I wanted to share time with him, but I also needed his technical and mechanical skills.
The one fault that my wife finds with me, well, there are others, too, is that I’m not mechanical.
As Sam and I drove to Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area, he found a YouTube video on the kayak, then said, “It’s usually easy to do, if you can find a YouTube video.”
He’s of his generation.
The basic Inlet, billed as “the world’s lightest, most compact foldable kayak,” lists for $899. At 20 pounds and foldable, it’s good for beginners or the space challenged. It’s designed for flat water, one reason we tested it at Mazonia.
When we pulled it out of the trunk, it took a bit to figure how to pack it in the backpack (an added option), but we got it. I like that backpacking aspect as much as I do fitting it in the trunk.
Using the video at the launch, Sam unfolded and set up the Oru in less than 10 minutes. Set up, it’s 9 feet, 8 inches long and 31 inches wide. It can handle 275 pounds and paddlers to 6-2.
I gave him honors to go first. He gave it a quick test near the launch, then I did the same. I next fished from it. Casting forward, I felt very comfortable and stable and had a fish within three casts.
Then he said, “I want to go out farther.”
After I came back, he disappeared around the far corner and freaked me out. I freaked, in part, because the kayak rides surprisingly high in the water and it can catch the wind and we didn’t know how it would handle conditions.
Soon enough he eased my fears and paddled back to the launch. While waiting, I caught half a dozen fish, mostly big bluegill and some small largemouth bass fancasting a spinner.
We both got into and out of the Inlet several times with relative ease, easier than I do in most kayaks.
It took Sam finding a second YouTube video to properly fold the Inlet back into its case.
As we finished, a guy pulled a fully tricked-out fishing kayak from the bed of a pickup, then launched beside us.
Life has options.
The Inlet is perfect for the space-challenged kayaker who paddles calmer places such as Mazonia, local lakes or the Chicago River. It is not for the faster water of the Kankakee or either Vermilion rivers, or the big water of Lake Michigan or even Fox Lake.
The bottom line, which I haven’t decided yet, is whether the ease of folding and the compactness for easy storage and transporting is worth $899 for somebody who only paddles several times a year.
Details/options are at orukayak.com/products/oru-kayak-portable-folding-lightweight-recreational-kayak-for-beginners.