The Oyu is a Kayak that folds up like a big, plastic mail envelope.

But deployed, it’s rugged enough that not a single boat has broken during testing.

The folding shape was designed by hand--that means 20 prototypes, and over a hundred practice models.

Not bad for 25 pounds of foldable plastic.

Not bad for 25 pounds of foldable plastic.

Not bad for 25 pounds of foldable plastic.

Not bad for 25 pounds of foldable plastic.

Not bad for 25 pounds of foldable plastic.

Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Kickstarting: An Ingenious Origami Kayak That Folds Flat

And at just 25 pounds, it won’t even break the weight limit in a checked bag.

It’s tough being a weekend warrior. The premise is fine—stay in shape and buy some equipment, then sneak away for adventures at will—so long as you only have one interest. Because specialized equipment fills the garage fast. Snowboards. Boots. Backpacks. Camelbacks. A huge freaking boat. Our activities are burdened by their toys, and our homes are flooded by our hobbies.

In this regard, the Oru Kayak is a pretty amazing piece of equipment. It’s a flat-pack kayak that folds out only when you need it, weighing just 25 pounds and assembling in a mere five minutes. So what makes that convenience possible? Advanced alloys? Computer folding algorithms? Nope. It’s just a polypropylene sheet—a durable plastic you’ll spot in postal and legal totes—folded and modeled again and again until designers got it right.

"The biggest design challenge was perhaps the most obvious: making a streamlined form out of origami that could also collapse into a box," Oru founder Anton Willis tells Co.Design. "We were unable to find software that could accommodate all of the folding geometries. While other aspects of the design and prototyping relied heavily on digital fabrication, the basic design process was very analog."

The team developed the shape through hundreds of tests that led to 25 prototypes, which were tested on the water. As disposable as the design may sound, it’s actually quite robust: Willis explains that polypropylene can be folded "almost infinitely" without losing strength.

"We’ve done extensive user testing, including with pro-level kayakers in extreme conditions. Despite trying hard, we’ve never been able to break one in use," Willis says. "Expert users have been very impressed by the performance—it feels much like any other kayak, only it’s faster and more responsive due to the light weight."

Almost immediately following it’s launch on Kickstarter, the Oru had already topped its $80,000 fundraising goal. You can’t help but wonder if Hurricane Sandy made the difference—that maybe the Oru isn’t just a convenient way to have fun on the weekend, but a viable, stowable boat ready for whenever the floods might come. If you’re interested for either purpose, the Oru ships in early 2013, starting at $800.

Order it here.

Add New Comment


  • Geodeaholic

    how clever, i love to see ingenious creative products & solutions like this

  • OnWater

    anyone checked out The Folding Boat Company? They have a collapsible boat/kayak
    that weighs only 18 pounds, assembles easily in 4-5 minutes, and comes in a
    backpack that is actually smaller than the Oru. It's touted as being very
    comfortable, very durable, spacious, and has a 300 pound displacement capable
    of Class III rapids. Supposed to be available the first of next year! They have
    some interesting videos on YouTube, just search Kpak3.

  • Gregory Watson

    Lisao, the skeg is a relatively recent invention in kayak history.  Historically, kayaks have used the shallow v-bottom, that this and pretty much every traditional design has, to help in tracking.  Skegs aren't for tracking, they're for helping to keep the boat from weather-cocking, that is, the inclination of a kayak to turn into the wind in breezy conditions due to there being more sail area towards the rea of the boat, particularly the paddler.  For years, though, proper paddling technique has been used to overcome that.  And the price puts it right about at a rotomolded entry-level boat that doesn't fold (nor has a skeg).

  • Lisaos

    kayak has to track, period.  make sure you design some kind of skeg. don't think people are stupid and not gonna know the difference. the video shows ZERO tracking. colors, make it red, yellow, whatever. price, unless it is $250,00 you gonna have big failure on your hands. trust your guts not focus groups.

  • Darren Bush a kayaker and retailer of kayaks, it all depends if it's light, easy to use and comfortable.  It doesn't have to track that well for the recreational paddler.  If you look at it as a really nice beach toy, not a kayak, they've hit it.  

  • barred

    How can you say it's a failure unless it's $250, when apparently they met their goal first day at $800? Obviously the price is right. Your guts are wrong.