You may be wondering how a non-inflatable kayak can win our coveted Editors' Choice Award in the inflatable kayak category. Well, we are happy to tell you why! We have not one but TWO Editors' Choice winners for best inflatable kayaks! Though the Oru Beach LT isn't inflatable, its unique construction and usage solidly put it in the same class as similarly portable kayaks, and it shone brightly among the competition! For a kayak that packs down into a suitcase-shaped package, we don't think you can find better than this polypropylene, origami-style boat. Not only does it handle like a champ, but it's also stable, tracks well, is surprisingly lightweight, intensely durable, and doesn't require you to carry a pump! Plus, all your friends will be impressed watching you turn that suitcase into an astonishingly cool yak. The only uncool part is the hefty chunk of change you'll put down to own this bad boy.
Oru Beach LT Review
Cons: Expensive, seat cushion thin, rigid pack makes for an awkward carry
Manufacturer: Oru Kayak
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Oru Beach is a single person foldable kayak with a 300 lb capacity. It weighs 26.1 lb and is made of double-layered polypropylene. The Oru features an adjustable seat back and footrests, bulkheads, and bow and stern carry handles.
The Oru Beach LT handles incredibly well for being a portable model. At 12'3" long, it's among the longest single-occupant boats we tested. Despite having no skegs, the added length translates into great tracking and the ability to cut through waves like a pro. It also rides low in the water and feels impressively stable. Within the Girl Scout troop that took these boats out for a spin, the girl who was least comfortable in a boat felt secure riding in the Oru and was able to have a great time on the water with her friends.
Due to its construction, relatively low weight, and the level at which it rides in the water, this boat is both surprisingly maneuverable and extraordinarily fast. It's also a relatively thin boat, in terms of height, which helps it to catch less wind, meaning that those gusts are less likely to blow you off course. Additionally, the double-layered polypropylene gives a lot of confidence in taking the Oru over submerged objects like sticks, logs, plants, rocks and in its ability to land on a rocky shore and survive a short drag across the sandy beach.
We love how the Beach LT handles in flat water, but the large cockpit isn't the best suited to keeping out large waves. The overall shape of the boat cuts through said waves, but once they breach the hull of the boat, the overly large cockpit willingly accepts all water, and you'll be sitting in a puddle in no time, with no scupper hole to drain it back out. Oru does sell two other models of kayak though that both have smaller cockpits and can be fitted with a spray skirt if you plan to do a lot of paddling in choppy waters. And on flatwater we appreciate the openness of the cockpit for comfort reasons.
Though not quite as comfortable as some of the squishier, inflatable competition, the Oru is still a pretty cushy boat to ride in. As a low-riding, narrow boat, it's pretty easy to get in and out of with good stability. Its seat is a real cushion (not inflatable), though it's not particularly thick. The Oru seatback is also fully adjustable so you can change your posture as you need to adjust your stroke or to sit back and relax for a few. We also appreciate the presence and adjustability of the foot brace, which helps to find the perfect place to paddle in relative comfort no matter how hard (or not) your arms are working. The Beach is one of very few we tested with a foot brace.
The overly large cockpit of the Oru Beach is also great for bringing along additional items without having to jam things into nooks and crannies. Though dry bags are necessary to keep everything from getting wet, there is plenty of space and 300 lbs worth of capacity for additional items. One tester's 80lb dog also gave this extra-large cockpit her stamp of approval as she surveyed the scene sprawled out in front, sometimes with her head resting happily on the hull of the yak.
Aside from the slightly thinner seat and the whole sitting in water thing, the Oru is a pretty comfortable kayak to spend the whole day, or even weekend, out paddling in. The only real struggle we had was with the design of the seatback attachment point. The bottom support post connects to the orange floor of the kayak with ease, and then the back of the seat has a post that goes into sockets on the gunnels. It slides back into place, creating a tight fit for the back of the seat, so the adjustable straps going forward can be used to adjust the tilt of your seat. However, since that support post snaps backward into place, and you adjust the seat by pulling it forward, we noticed that the adjustments we made in the position of the seat frequently pulled that support bar right out of its sockets. However, it didn't happen every time, and the adjustable straps on the front are the part that matters most for your comfort.
Ease of Set Up
Another category in which the Oru Beach excels! After all, if you're purchasing a kayak that you have to set up and take apart every time, it's nice to find one that isn't a pain to do so. Though the first time setting it up is a bit of a mystery ("How does this little box become this giant kayak and not take on water??"), it is incredibly easy to get the hang of and we were soon consistently setting it up in under five minutes! The only piece from the box-looking package that you carry to the beach that doesn't become part of the kayak is the black carry strap itself, which takes no effort at all to toss in the cockpit and bring it on the water with you. And with no pump, there's another piece you don't have to worry about carrying, weighing, or storing!
When you've had enough water time, the Oru is also impressively easy to put away. There's no waiting for fabric to dry, or tilting this boat in every possible direction to get the water out. Simply unclip and flip! Even if the Oru gets covered in sand (which it frequently did during testing), the hard surface of polypropylene is a cinch to wipe off with a cloth or even just your hand. The carry strap is not only easy to put on correctly the first time, every time, but it also has nice metal brackets on the bottom corners. Those brackets facilitate the ease of reattaching the carrying strap and protect the bottom of the strap and corners of the boat from potential harm when you accidentally bash the kayak against a protruding rock or scrape it climbing stairs.
Honestly, after the first time or two setting up the Oru Beach, we had no problems or complaints with the process. It's shockingly simple and quick and became a fast favorite for our testers to assemble and disassemble. By far the easiest of all the kayaks in our review.
The only category where the Oru didn't wow our testers was in portability. It isn't a horribly unportable kayak, it just didn't blow us away compared to other models reviewed. On the plus side, the Oru Beach is one of the lightest kayaks we reviewed, weighing barely over 26lbs. Considering you don't also have to cart along a pump, we thought this weight is pretty reasonable! The messenger style carry is a step up from the awkward duffle carry of many of the inflatable boats. The rigid structure of the Oru also lends itself well to being stacked or lined up cleanly against the wall of the storage shed for those who appreciate tidy organization.
With easy-to-grab bow and stern handles, the Oru is also no sweat to carry when set up, assuming you've got a friend to grab the other end. One feature we love about the Oru is the presence of handles inside the gunnels on either side of the cockpit. They make it a piece of cake to grab your set up Oru in one hand, your paddle, life jacket, and water bottle in the other, and make short work of that walk down to the water's edge. No other kayak that we tested has such convenient single-person, assembled carry options.
As a rigid construction kayak, we had a few challenges and discomforts while carrying the Oru between our car and launch points. Shorter testers mentioned that they frequently hit the backs of their heels and Achilles tendon on the bottom of the Oru as it rested behind them while they walked, despite having the messenger strap as short as it would go. We also noticed that the Beach LT tends to rub uncomfortably against bare skin - as in when it is carried by folks wearing shorts, bathing suits, or who are shirtless. Additionally, though this rigidity is greatly appreciated in many other aspects of usage, it does make it harder to stuff the Oru into small spaces like a narrow car trunk or small sedan door. Overall though, it isn't a terrible kayak to cart around.
Constructed of double-layered polypropylene, we had little reason to doubt the durability of the Oru to take a beating. However, our burning question was, of course, how many times can you fold/unfold this thing before it rips into pieces or at the very least tears a hole and is no longer waterproof? According to the manufacturer, their boats are guaranteed for 20,000 folds!! We don't think we could assemble the Beach LT that many times in our lives regardless of how much we love kayaking. If you used this boat every single day of the year, 20,000 folds would last you almost 55 years! With that kind of backing, we feel pretty confident that the Oru will last a good long time.
We certainly have no complaints about the performance of this impressively tough vessel despite taking it over rocks, sticks, and sand, both in the water and out. The metal plates of the carrying strap that go on the bottom of the Oru also facilitate a long life for the strap (and bottom corners of the boat!), as carrying the Beach LT without that strap would be nearly impossible. Oru also includes an extra clip and grommet for other repairs that may need to take place over the lifespan of your yak. Additionally, they claim the polypropylene has been given a ten-year UV treatment to help protect it from the damaging rays of the sun - an excellent feature, as we're sure you'll love this boat so much you'll want to paddle it all the time!
We have but one extremely minor concern with the construction of the Beach LT. The orange floor has a cut-out to secure the bottom of the seat back, exposing the interior corrugation of the double-layer polypropylene. While we don't find this particularly off-putting in terms of longevity, it does allow water to collect inside the orange piece while we're paddling. In such little channels, it is a struggle to dump all the water out of that orange piece, which we could see creating a bit of a funky odor down the line, especially if you like to paddle in some less-than-pristine waters. But aside from this minor complaint, we feel quite confident that the Oru Beach is an incredibly well-constructed craft that will last a long time.
Costing over a grand, the Oru Beach is very expensive compared to the other models tested for this review. While we appreciate its top-notch performance and superb construction, spending that much on a kayak may not be the easiest choice for everyone - especially when you can walk down to a big name sports store and get an (albeit less compact) hardshell kayak for just a few hundred bucks. If all you're looking for is a kayak to get out on the water, the origami folding features of the Oru probably aren't worth the extra money.
The Oru Beach LT is an excellent performing kayak. Shockingly easy to set up and clean up, unlike many other portable yaks, we think you'll have no reason not to paddle all the time in the Oru. Though it comes at a high price and isn't our favorite to carry around, we found the exceptional performance and longevity to be unmatched by any other kayak in its category. One of two Editor's Choice winners in this review, the Oru Beach is the top-scorer and our all-around favorite portable yak.
— Maggie Brandenburg