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The origami kayak is back, and it’s lighter (and cheaper) than ever

But at $699, it’s still not cheap.

The Earth’s waters are rising. Since 1880, global warming has increased the world’s sea level by eight inches, and climate scientists report that the rate of this rise will only accelerate (to the tune of two to seven more feet overall in the next century). This is, of course, most concerning for people who live in coastal cities; roughly five million Americans live a mere four feet above high tide.

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Cities are scrambling to respond, but they may not be able to move fast enough. In the meantime, coastal residents might want to invest in some new transportation.

Oru Kayak, a company known for its innovative folding boats, has just announced the “Inlet kayak.” This kayak folds up and out like a piece of origami, should you need to get around in a flood (or simply want an easy-to-transport boat for recreational use).

[Photo: courtesy Oru]

It’s not the company’s first origami boat. In 2016, Oru released the Onak canoe, which could be disassembled into the size of a suitcase in mere minutes. The Inlet kayak, however, comes in a compact box no larger than a guitar case before assembly and unfolds into a 10-foot-by-31-inch form of recyclable transportation thereafter. At 20 pounds, the new kayak is 36% lighter than Oru’s current lightest boat, The Bay ST, and it’s 34% smaller than The Bay ST—both when boxed and fully unfurled. Oru calls it “the most portable origami kayak ever.”

But the Inlet’s compact size doesn’t preclude it from handling the same amount of cargo as The Bay ST does. Both of these Oru boats are intended for single paddlers and have a load capacity of 300 pounds. The company claims the Inlet kayak only takes three minutes to assemble.

[Photo: courtesy Oru]

The Inlet kayak is different from its predecessors, not just in size and weight but in design, too. For this product’s debut, Oru engineered a new folding pattern—the first significant redesign in the company’s seven-year history. “The new pattern was designed from the bottom to be easy to assemble and more compact than our other models,” says Anton Willis, chief design officer at Oru Kayak. “This meant optimizing every crease line to minimize wasted space. If you were to slice open the folded up box, you’d see that all of the fold angles are such that everything nests very tightly.”

The updated structure ensures that the kayak’s final form glides more cleanly through the water. “This has been quite an interesting design challenge,” says Willis. “The nature of origami is that any fold line change has rippling effects across the whole form, so there has been a lot of iteration to make sure everything works together.”

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While there are other collapsible kayaks on the market, Oru’s kayaks are the only ones to use origami-like folds (which the company pioneered in 2012). More commonly, collapsible kayaks are either inflatable, or they’re manufactured like a camping tent with fabric clinging to a frame. Perhaps unsurprisingly, inflatable kayaks don’t always work terribly well in the water, and “skin on frame” kayaks are notoriously tough to unfold. Oru’s origami technology ensures that the kayaks perform well in water and are designed for simple assembly. “The Inlet is our first foray into the recreational market, taking our performance-tested technology to a more beginner-friendly, mass audience,” says Willis.

That’s not to say it comes cheap. Available through Kickstarter, the Inlet kayak costs $699, making it more affordable than the company’s other offerings—it’s the only Oru boat available for under $1,000—but still pricey compared to many (decidedly less portable) kayaks on the market.

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