After much research, I finally settled on the Oru Kayak Inlet this summer. The main reasons were weight and portability, with a toddler. At just 20 pounds, this foldable kayak is ridiculously easy to toss in the back of the car and just go. So here’s my Oru Kayak review and why I chose this one over a traditional kayak for kayaking with my toddler.
Easy to Use & [More] Spontaneous Adventures
Sometimes in parenthood, your window of opportunity for things (many things: adventure, a break, food, using the restroom etc) is tiny. So it’s awesome to be able to put a folding kayak in the back of your car and have no pressure – but still the opportunity – to use it that day. Having a traditional hard kayak (especially since we don’t have a garage), would entail getting it out of our basement, carrying to the car, setting up the kayak rack, tying it down, securing it for theft, and then loading up in the car. At this point, if that kayak doesn’t get some serious use, I’m going to feel like “wow, really glad I spent all that time getting the kayak out this morning”. And repeat all that for coming home.
I also really like that I don’t have to worry about there being a spendy kayak on my vehicle roof if we’re doing anything else outdoorsy that day or stopping at a restaurant etc. Instead the kayak is tucked in the back and not visible.
Which Oru Kayak to get?
Even if I wasn’t kayaking with a kiddo, I would have picked the Inlet. First, the Inlet is the lowest priced Oru by $300. Since it is the most “recreational” from Oru, it’s also the lightest kayak they offer by 6 pounds. 6 pounds is a lot when you think about why you’re even getting a foldable kayak in the first place. It’s also the shortest (9’6″) and widest (30″) kayak that Oru offers. This makes it really stable. This also means that the packed down “suitcase” size is the smallest. All packed up it measures: 42″ x 18″ x 10″ (their next smallest is 33″ x 29 x 12″), and still has a 275 pound weight capacity. You can compare all the Oru folding kayaks here:
Inlet’s Handling on Lakes and Rivers
The Oru Inlet is perfect for lakes or calmer rivers. That’s what it’s built for. I’ve taken it on the Willamette River here in Portland and it handled great. While I did decide to turn into the waves when a speed boat buzzed by me. It felt stable and safe. I also bought the floats to add on when I’m going on rivers versus lakes. Having a kid on board, I felt that it was worth the peace of mind to know that if anything went wrong, we would still be afloat while waiting for help. And yes, I of course also have a life jacket for him.
Since the Oru is so lightweight, you can definitely feel it cruising with the wind and breeze. So it feels fast and tracks well most of the time. In pretty heavy headwind that we had on Suttle Lake one evening, it was more of a challenge to paddle back to camp. I never felt unsafe, but I could definitely feel myself being pushed with the wind, more than if I had been in a heavier kayak.
Kayaking with Kids (or Dogs)
Your kayak options for kayaking with kids and dogs is to either get a tandem kayak, find a single kayak with a large enough cockpit area or a sit-on-top type/SUP. At around 5 or 6 years old, it sounds like many kids are interested and capable of paddling a child size kayak on their own, in calm waters. So we have a good three years before then.
I could probably write a whole post about kayaking with toddlers and how we’ve done so far. But a quick overview: I calmly, but seriously outline my expectations before getting on the water. He’s old enough to understand. I keep it short, but serious, but not so serious that I scare him out of going. For example: “We’re going out on a bigger river today. There might be some waves that are bigger than on the lake. I need you to listen when we’re out there. And if I say, it’s my turn to paddle, no touching the paddle. And if I say hold on to my legs, hold on. Alright, we’re going to have fun!” etc.
A Quick Recent Trip
Here’s what a recent kayaking experience looked like. We were camping at Suttle Lake and had decided to bring the kayak on our trip. The first day, we spent kayaking at the lake. The next morning, before packing up camp, we decided to drive to nearby Scout Lake. The kayak was already folded up in the back of the car. After parking at the Scout Lake trailhead, I grabbed the kayak in one hand, threw my tote bag (with pfds and paddle) over my shoulder, put my kiddo backpack on, and held my toddlers hand with the other hand and walked down to the lake. If this had been a traditional kayak. I would have had to do a lot of back and forth transport. I was out on the water within about 5 minutes of parking the car.
One funny thing about getting this kayak is how many conversations with strangers you’ll have. Forget having a dog or cute kid, this thing is a people magnet! And all eyes on you as you unfold and fold it back up anywhere, lol. No pressure!
Oru Kayak Review Unboxing
I made the following video of me unboxing and setting up the Inlet, in my living room. Ha! So it’s not pro video or anything. But before I bought the Oru, I really wanted to see what it looked like to set up and not just watching Oru’s promo videos. So if you find that helpful, here it is.
- Weight: This kayak is 20 pounds
- Size folded: this kayak folds down to: 42″ x 18″ x 10″. It fits nicely in the back of the car. It’s also easy to carry in one hand without it hitting the ground or really having to hold it up high. This is especially handy if you’re petite or have a kid that you’re also trying to wrangle. And it makes it easier to store while not in use. Especially if you’re in an apartment, small house, or don’t have a garage etc.
- Width of kayak and cockpit size: The width of this kayak really helps for stability with kids (and also if you had a dog). It’s their widest kayak (by 2 inches) and their shortest in length (by about two feet). The large cockpit size also makes it ideal for kids. It’s not going to be as fast as the touring style. But if you’re looking for a recreational kayak, this is it.
- Setup ease: Oru lists this one as a 3 minute setup, and their next easiest as a 5 minute. When you have a toddler running around at the same time, I’ll take all the extra minutes I can get. :P
- Sand, dirt, mud getting in the creases where you need to fold. This isn’t a huge issue yet, but there have been a few times that the kayak got pretty dirty and it feels like there’s some “give” there when folding it up. Spraying it out didn’t work, so I tried the vacuum which I’ll probably do again. It just makes me nervous for long-term durability, and I hope the dirt residue within the creases doesn’t break down the material etc.
- Cleaning and drying the layered space under the seat. So most of the kayak is one solid piece of material. But there is a rectangle of different material to reinforce the main seating area (the orange area). What I don’t like is that water and sand or whatever can get between the two layers. There’s not a super easy way to clean this part of the folding kayak, especially on the go. I’ve used a hose in the backyard while setting the kayak up on the side to spray out and then tried to let dry before folding back up.
- Shipping time and communication from Oru. While I bought my kayak at REI, I got the paddle and float bags from Oru. The items weren’t backordered, but it still took about three weeks to arrive. So I imagine if you’re buying a kayak from them that is backordered, then your wait is going to be long. Or if you were planning to take your kayak on a trip, I wouldn’t count on time estimates or at least have a backup plan!
Price per Use:
The Oru kayak is one of those outdoor purchases that I like to think of as price per use. I’m a recreational kayaker. Before buying the Oru, we rented regular kayaks 1-2 times a year or while traveling. We’ve paid $55-85 per time, depending on the location, kayak drop off at a lake, single vs tandem etc. In the first three weeks of owning this kayak, I’ve already gone out seven times. Yes, I bought a $900 kayak. That’s expensive for a recreational kayak. In typical non-COVID years, you can get a cheap kayak for $350. Brands like Pelican or Old Town. However, even “cheap kayaks” right now are sold out in-store. or charging an extra $150 to ship. And will require you to purchase more items. Like a roof rack depending on what kind of vehicle you have. So add $100-200 to that price.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how cheap the sporting goods you buy are if they just sit in your house un-used. And of course, after I bought the Oru, I found out they offer 10% off with a promo code. (um thanks, Oru?! Boo!) That post has more info about the promo code. So check out the Oru and my “friend” coupon code for 10% off: FBV. And just in case you’re forgetting what all you’ll need…
Here’s the “buying a kayak” gear list & what I got:
- The Kayak (Oru Kayak Inlet $899)
- The Paddle (Oru Paddle $79) (or this 230cm one is $70)
- A Car Rack/Tie Downs (not needed with Oru, comparable $100-200)
- PFD/Life Jacket (ONYX MoveVent $55), (Airhead GNAR kids vest $34)
So far my price per use for the Oru is: $99. I’ll update my price per use at the end of this summer season. Already, I’ve taken the Oru on five different lakes: (Coffenbury Lake, Suttle Lake, and Scout Lake, Fairview Lake, and Hagg Lake) and two rivers (Willamette and Tualatin).
As a family of three, will we buy another kayak?
There are definitely times it would be nice to all be out on the water at the same time! We have taken an Intex K2 inflatable kayak (was $85) out on a calm river at the same time as the Oru. And as our kiddo gets older, I’m guessing we’ll want to do more Point A to Point B type adventure. Since we decided to buy just one Oru kayak to start, I think our next purchase will be an inflatable stand up paddle board. This would make it so we have two options for getting out on the water, but still being pretty portable. We’ve loved being able to fit the Oru kayak in the car with all our camping gear, on our camping adventures this summer.
Overall, getting this kayak has been so freeing. So often, we visit lakes and rivers and play by the shore. But to be able to, on a whim almost, just get out there on the water is so much fun. And as a mama, it’s also really exciting to be able to share my love of nature, water, and adventure with my kiddo in smaller bite-size ways without heavy expectations of having the best time or the most epic adventure! Having an easy and portable kayak makes it simpler to have short doses of fun – more often. Without the pressure. And that’s just what I hope he comes to love about the outdoors. That nature is just a part of everyday life, that we get out and explore – when we can.
Oru Kayak did not sponsor this post of an Oru Kayak Review or provide any free products to me (lol, I wish, right?). Although you can click through this link to get 10% off using promo code: FBV and I’ll get a little kickback. I was searching before buying this kayak, and I hadn’t found any info on people who used this kayak with kids. So if that’s you, I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know if you have any questions about using the Oru kayak with kids!