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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.

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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.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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