Before the Oru Bay Kayak ST you had three options. Get a hardshell kayak and figure out how to transport/ store it. Get an inflatable kayak and pray that you do not get a leak. Or get a modular kayak and still have something that takes up a good amount of space.
Oru kayaks have successfully managed to take the best aspects of all three and put it to use in one kayak. The result is actually pretty impressive considering the hardships that you can get from the different types of kayaks.
In this article, this reviewer (Derek) has spent the past 26 hours dissecting the Oru Bay and its features. The Bay ST is certainly one of the better-looking vessels we had the chance to review. However, looks are only a teeny tiny part of our considerations. What we are more concerned with is how it performs and how close is it to a hardshell. Read on as we dissect our criteria on the Oru Bay ST in this in-depth review.
- Materials sometimes Leak
- Quality ones can start getting expensive
- Have to be taken care of IE not sit in the sun, have regular checks
- Are slower in general
- Take up a lot of storage room
- Need a roof rack or trailer to be transported
- Can be very heavy
- Are awkward to transport from vehicle to water
- Still take up a good amount of room
- Clips have to work
- Not suitable for expedition destinations
Table of Contents
About The Oru Kayaks Company
Oru’s main vision has been to blend the two worlds of Kayaking and Origami together. Let me explain, Oru Kayak is an entity that has designated itself to sell foldable kayaks that look sleek but can be stored easily in the trunk of a car. Their inspiration behind this was looking at the collapsible kayak industry and seeing a gap in affordability.
Oru is a relatively new innovative company that got its start through a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. In fact, it ended up raising $443,806 which blew its originally pledged $80,000 goal out of the water! They were not finished there. They ended up appearing on an episode of Shark Tank and getting a deal of 25% of the company for $500,000 with Robert! Episode Below:
Since then They have gone on to produce three different models! The Coast XT, Beach LT, and the Bay ST which will be the model I will be reviewing.
Who Should Own an Oru Bay ST?
The Oru Bay ST is definitely not the cheapest collapsible kayak to own. So at this point is it worth it to spend the extra $500 on an Oru as opposed to a decent inflatable kayak? We clear this up below in this review.
People who want Convenience of Storage
The Oru Bay provides a folding box with the size of 33” X 12” X 29”. Meaning you can paddle and throw your Oru kayak in the closest within an hour of each other. This unique benefit is great for people like..
Apartment Dwellers Unite
I can admit that one of the worst things about an apartment is the lack of versatility you can get with your water toys! Currently, I have two paddle boards and two hardshell kayaks. The hardshell kayaks I have to store at a relative’s garage (Thanks Nana!). With the Bay ST, you do not run into this problem. In Fact, it’s the packaging is actually smaller and thinner than my inflatable SUPs. It also weighs a remarkable 28 pounds with the box it comes in. In my post How to Store a Kayak, I partially joke about how it’s a bad idea to store a kayak in your apartment. Well with this neatly packaged yak you can ignore that advice and have a high-quality kayak to paddle.
A Great Camping Excursions Companion
It’s unrealistic to carry a 12 foot long kayak with you while knocking people off the trail accidentally in the process. While it is more doable to go on a road trip with your kayak and set up camp. It’s still a bit of a hassle, and oftentimes people underestimate how much space the accessories take up. With the Bay ST you have a foldable square backpack that you can take with you on hikes and camping trips.
Not only is the Bay ST a recreational kayak but it can be taken on kayaking excursions as well.
If you have an RV this is also the perfect complementary companion to go along with you on these excursions. The Oru kayak box can fit in most RV storage compartments which takes the hassle of climbing onto your RV and mounting a kayak rack to it!
There’s been a few articles on how the Bay has been paddled many miles and was more than up for the task. In fact if you go to Oru’s Website you will see that there are three different types of packages you can order. The last two are called the Overnighter and the Explorer package. Exploration is more than encouraged even from Oru itself.
Paddlers Who Want Something that reacts like a hardshell kayak
It’s no secret that alternatives to hardhsell kayak are either too bulky, not well made or simply do not get the job done performance-wise while in the water. In this section we will analyze how the Oru kayak paddles and how closely it resembles other hardshell makes.
How Well Does the Oru kayak Track?
Words can never do on water performance as much justice as actually seeing it in action. In the above video Ben Horne (Who was relatively new to kayaking) talks about its tracking ability. To summarize the tracking ability of the hull. It does get better as you start to paddle faster but I would not say it’s comparable to something like a sea kayak. For each stroke, you do need to slightly correct the hull with your abdomen. When you stop paddling the Oru kayak does tend to start to drift one way. This is due to its lightweight. Having said that the Oru Bay ST tracks better than recreational hardshell kayak models. It certainly tracks better than my recreational Pelican kayaks back home.
If tracking is a big item on your list consider the Oru Coast XT.
Is it Maneuverable enough?
In a short word yes. Maneuverability is a strong suit in this Oru kayak. But I wouldn’t take it through any rapids or anything like that. It’s lightweight hull design allows it to maneuver well enough in tighter areas. While not being too much of a burden on the kayak.
You can also lean and brace in Oru Bay ST thanks to its narrow design. It gives you the best of both worlds in terms of sea kayak bracing and edging paired with the maneuverability of recreational makes.
How Fast can the Oru Kayak Go?
If you continued watching Ben’s video you will notice that he mentions that the Bay ST clocks in at 5.5 miles per hour. I did a test for this with one of my Pelican recreational vessels and it clocked in at about 3.5 miles per hour. 5.5 miles is actually very handy for a folding kayak. In comparison, some paddlers have reported that their 16 foot sea kayak can paddle a speed of 6.1 mph.
The Oru Bay is a Great Kayak for Beginners and Intermediate Paddlers!
One of the best things about the Oru Bay st is the fact that it is a great kayak for most skill levels. Including those who are just getting into kayaking! Although, if you are brand new and you plan on just taking this kayak out for an hour or two every once and a while. It may be a bit over-kill to purchase The Bay ST is for folks interested in short day trips take a look at the Oru Beach and Oru kayak Inlet models. If, however, you want a kayak that you can progress in without being thrown too much of a learning curve, the Bay is perfect for that. It should be noted that the maximum paddler height is 6’2″.
Intermediate paddlers who do overnight adventure expeditions will not bore of the Oru kayak either. Lots of people have done expeditions in this kayak including Sean McCoy of Gear Junkie. They even took the Oru kayak into class I and II rapids which were surprising even to me!
I do mention that the Bay is great for all skill levels it does have a few limitations you should know about. Paddling this folding kayak in rough waters over class III is not a particularly great idea. This is because this kayak is lightweight. This means it can get bullied easier by currents and waves as opposed to something that is more built for that type of weather like a white water kayak. The Oru Bay is 12 feet long so it’s not the ideal shape to handle white water rapids as river kayaks can.
Paddlers Who Want to Level Up from Inflatables
I am nowhere close to an inflatable kayak hater, in fact, I love how inflatable makes are making paddling affordable for everyone to enjoy! There is a giant elephant in the room though. That’s their on-water paddling performance. Minus a few brands and models, most of the inflatable vessel cannot keep up with regular recreational kayaks. As a result, once you desire more tracking and speed you tend to upgrade what you already have.
With the Oru Bay there are no upgrades necessary. You will be able to keep up and even outpace many of your friends that have recreational kayaks. Minus Class III White Water and stormy sea conditions. The Oru Bay ST can handle just about anything thrown at it. It’s most at home with calm coastal bodies of water and big lakes.
Features and Benefits Analysis of the Oru Bay ST Kayak
In our Criteria we rated the Oru Bay based on Ease of Set up, Portability, Durability, On Water performance, gear storage space, and comfort. These are often the most common criteria looked at when people are looking for a new kayak.
The Setup of the Oru Bay can be a bit tricky. The first few times you do it it will take you over 20 minutes time just to figure out. This can be a bit of a hassle at first but this is the price you pay with foldable and inflatable kayaks. However, like anything in life the more you practice it the faster it will be. Some of the Oru demonstration people can assemble this folding kayak in 5 minutes!
To show you what you are in for when it comes to the setup, we included a video that details the steps below.
Box To Kayak
Step 1: Loosen and remove the shoulder strap from the side of the box and place them in a safe place. They are not necessary for kayaking but are essential for putting the foldable kayak back into box form.
Step 2: Unclip the two buckles from the sides of the box and Remove the Orange Cover. The Cover will be placed on the cockpit floor down the road as the floorboard.
Step 3: Dig inside the “Box” and remove the six Zipper mechanisms, stern bulkheads, backrest, and kayak seating pad. Next, unclip the center strap and unfold where the two orange stickers are, and lay everything flat.
Step 4: With the box transforming into a long sheet grab the female and male ends attached to the footrest and connect them.
Step 5: Close up the Bow and Stern by folding the crease and tightening the straps at each end. Next, you insert the Stern and Bow Bulkheads into the U channels on the floor of the foldable kayak. (On Either side)
Step 6: Do the Bow First!: Attach the Front Zipper Channel located at both ends of the cockpit. Attach combing latch and guide the six (3 on each side) Zipper channels onto the deck trim at the tip of the bow. Do not force it if it does not go, Oru provides lubricant that will help it glide along the channels gently.
Step 7: Fold the floor board into a U shape and place it on the floor of the cockpit. Next Flex the middle of the floorboard upwords to form a “W” shape and rotate the handle to lock into place. It will make a snapping noise once assembled properly.
Step 8: Slide Seating Column into the backrest plate on the floorboard and tilt it upwards to lock it into place. Buckle side of backrests into the sides of the combing.
Step 9: Repeat Set 6 but for the Stern: Push down, do not pull on the strap! Close Rear Combing latch behind the seats
Step 10: Locate Tension Strap located inside the hole underneath the bow combing latch fasten the hook onto strap loop and tighten. For maximum rigidity make sure the strap is tight. Using the foam block attached to the end straps, plug bow and stern and then stretch the neoprene fairings over the bow and stern and clip the buckles
Step 11: Stretch the bungee over the cockpit in a criss-cross motion and then simply place the foam seating pad on the cockpit floor! Adjust Footrests and seatback to your ideal position. Grab a life jacket and a paddle and you are off!
A lot of these instructions mean little unless you see the product so BAM, here’s the latest video!
Folding Kayak To Suitcase
Step 1: Unclip fairings and loosen Bow and Stern. Unlock Deck Web
Step 2: Loosen tension straps before removing the Zipper mechanisms.
Step 3: Unlatch Combing latches, remove zippers, Remove footrests and accessories from the kayak.
Step 4: The folding process begins! Fold the Ends inward and fold each end of the kayak like an accordion, use knee if necessary. Fold the two ends towards each other , push the orange and black arrows towards their targets. Compress into a box, connect the center straps, throw accesories into the box and place the floorboard on top, slide shoulder straps on and thats it!
I made the instructions so that it mostly coincides with the video so follow along!
Oru Bay ST Kayak Durability
After doing some research one of the most common comments about this folding kayak is the fact that it’s a durable little boat! The Oru Bay ST can take a bit of a beating thanks to its 10 year polypropylene UV treatment. The same type of material used in the automotive industry, luggage appliances, and furniture. As a result, the Oru kayak Bay can take a beating from what can be found below. Putting aside the on water performance, this would be the clear advantage the Bay ST would have over most inflatable kayaks. The material can also endure 10’s of thousands of fold cycles according to the main Oru website.
There are a few customers on paddling.com that do point out that the foldable kayak has had some past durability issues. We will go in more detail below.
Oru Kayak Portability
We touched on it a bit above but probably one of the main reasons why people get an Oru kayak is for the portability factor. While a lot of reviews you will read (Including Mine) will tell you that the Oru kayak Bay is easy to transport, can store in your apartment etc. I’ll go into more detail on some of the possibilities.
Oru Kayak Bay Storage Space and Transportation Possibilities:
- You can take an Uber or cab with this kayak
- It can easily fit in your car or truck for those camping expeditions
- You can walk to the beach with it
- You can transport it on your bike (if you have the backpack)
- The kayak can be stored in your closet
- Can be stored in the garage
- You can take it to your local slow-moving river
- You can take the Bay ST hiking with you
- Taking your kayak with you to a tropical destination
These are just a few of the possibilities I’ve imagined. Feel free to give us more suggestions in the comments!
On Water Performance of the Oru Kayak
The Bay ST features great primary and secondary stability. Primary stability being the feeling you get when you first get onto the water. You feel like you are fully in control of the kayak EI not tipping over. Secondary stability is done by experienced paddlers who like to lean their kayaks from one side to the other that adds a secondary dimension to steering. Lean to the right and the kayak will go left and vice versa. Sea kayaks typically have hulls that specialize with these leans. Below we describe how the Oru Bay handles different water conditions.
The Oru Bay ST was made to be the inbetweener of a high-quality recreational kayak and a touring kayak. So how does it handle coastal and open water? Looking at the video below quite well! Even in those more difficult wavey open water. Of course, I have to point out that if you are just starting kayaking or want to get used to. Something I want to try (and post one day) is taking the Oru Bay ST in tidal waters and seeing how they react to tidal waters as opposed to my Pelican recreational kayaks I currently have. My suspicion is that they will be able to cut through the water more efficiently because of their sharper design.
Lakes and Smaller Bodies of Water
If there were conditions that were best suited for this type of kayak it would be larger lakes. The folks at Oru had this kayak in mind as a hybrid for day and multi-day touring excursions. If you have a big lake (one I can think of is Shuswap lake) this kayak would be more than ideal for that. Especially since this kayak can more than handle swell generated from the lake and fellow boaters. The Bay ST is most at home with flatwater kayaking though.
While this kayak is fully transportable you can certainly tackle lakes and slow-moving rivers as well. Truth be told if you are just going to a local lake to paddle for an hour or 2 for just a few times a year this kayak may be overkill for that. Take a look at the Inlet and Oru Beach for these smaller, more recreational lake day trips.
Conditions the Oru Bay ST can tackle
We decided to do a little bulleted list of conditions that were meant for the Oru Bay below
- Semi-Wavy Coastal Conditions (if you are trained to handle them)
- Calm Coastal Waters and Bays
- Giant Lakes with wind
- Giant Lakes when its calm
- Larger calm rivers
- Class I rapids (although the kayak is not specifically built for such)
- Small to Medium Beach Surf
How Much Gear Can the Oru Handle?
The Oru Bay has a 300 lb maximum weight capacity. To find out exactly how much gear you can bring with you simply use your weight and subtract it from the 300 lb maximum capacity. Chances are it will be more than suitable for what you are using it for. If not you can always upgrade to the Oru Coast XT which has a 400 Lb Maximum Capacity.
Cargo you can Store in the Oru Bay Includes:
- Dry Bags
- Float Bags
- Toilet paper
- Small tents
- Sanitary equipment
- Fishing gear (although there are better kayaks for this)
- Additional clothing
- Water Bottles and Food rations
How Comfortable is a Folding Kayak?
One of the weaker areas of the Oru Bay ST was its comfort. While the seat is fine to sit in for the first few hours You will probably need a gel seat cushion to go on top of the seating. This is especially key for overnight trips and excursions. If inflatable kayaks were to be given the one up on the Oru, this would be the area that they would triumph.
In terms of the range of paddling motion, the Oru Bay has been said to be very comfortable to paddle and mimics the same design philosophy as sea kayaks.
Oru Bay Kayak Features
- Half Deck Rigging
- Floor Board
- Adjustable Footrests
- Bow and Stern Bulkheads
- Skirt Ready Concept
- Six Zipper Channels for Installation
- Back Rest and foam Seat Pad
- Oru Repair Kit
While some kayak packages include a paddle the Oru does not unless you choose the essentials package with features the pack and the paddle. The shaft is made of fiberglass while the blade is made of durable ABS plastic.
Oru also has a Carbon kayak paddle for those who want a lightweight option. These types of paddles are ideal for touring purposes and long distance paddling.
There are a lot of high quality PFD’s that you can choose from, this one is specially made by NRS. This type of PFD is modelled after the NRS Clearwater PFD. This PFD offers 16.5 pounds of flotation and gives you easy
Oru Pack Specifically For Oru Kayaks
Traveling to somewhere nice but you want a bag that can fit it? Look no further than the Oru Pack! It features padded shoulder straps and a hip belt for maximum support, two handles at the top and side for more grip. It also features heavy duty zippers, exterior mesh pockets for a two-piece paddle and compression straps for extra gear you may be bringing.
Oru Spray Skirt
A custom spray skirt to fit onto Bay and Coast models of Oru kayaks. Made from neoprene these spray skirts provide a comfortable fit with an adjustable waistband and suspender straps for those harder class I and II Rapids. It also features a Grab Loop for saftey reasons and stays strong in all conditions.
Oru Dry Bags
Made out of 500D PVC tarp material it keeps all of your valuables dry and is completely watertight when used properly. It is double stitched, seal seamed, and has a reinforced bottom to keep everything safe.
Customer Feedback on the Oru Bay vessel has been generally Positive. Read some experiences below
A common theme with the Oru Kayaks seems to be that Customers are usually generally impressed with its performance on the water. Many customers have raved about how it has exceeded expectations in that regard. Some have even gone on to say that they have owned many kayaks over the years and this one has been the best! Other Positive reviews about the Oru Bay Kayak has been:
“I have never once taken my boat out and not started a conversation with someone about the uniqueness of it. You are instantly the most interesting person on the water with your Oru 😉 This kayak is a must for any adventurer or outdoors person!”
-Christin Healey (Oru Site)
“I have gone out with my Mother, who is in her early 70’s, and we had a blast, as well as her husband’s grandson, who at 12 handled it like a pro, even though he had never been in a kayak before.”
-Donali Peter (Oru Site)
“I absolutely love my bay+! It’s perfect for my on-the-go lifestyle. It’s so easy to assemble, light weight, and a dream to kayak! It has definitely become an essential for me on all of my adventures. Thanks Oru!”
-Kelli (Oru Site)
“I’ve taken my ORU kayak around the world. It’s been dragged over rocks, handled by airline workers, filled with water a few times, and it’s managed to handle everything I’ve thrown at it. Paddling it around is a breeze. It glides through the water with minimal resistance and has taken me out to some amazing places to get the perfect shot. This is the kayak I recommend to all my family and friends!”
-Chris Bukard (Oru Site)
“I recommend this kayak to all enthusiasts. Main thing is that performance and stability is great, is as comfortable or more so than all other kayaks I have rented and has portability and storage benefits. Easily fits into my car backseat.”
Warnester – (Paddling.com)
With Positivity sometimes one finds negativity. Most of the negative reviews directed at this kayak had to do with direct orders. A lot of people gave this kayak a one star review based on the poor customer service from Oru. Which I believe is a bit unfair but that’s just me. Most of the comments had to do with how long the shipping process was and the fact that no customer service reps would update or respond to customers on how long the order would take or what its status was. To avoid this buy from an established online retailer ;).
Negative comments that did not have to do with orders included:
“Test paddled this kayak down here in Mexico on the Pacific. What a letdown! This kayak takes too long to assemble, does not track well at all, glide is minimal, and flexes way too much in rough water. The seat is the most uncomfortable I’ve ever sat in… who designed this?? Guaranteed to be a wet ride in waves of any sort. I tipped it to practice a reentry and its way too flexible. Glad I did the test paddle and now moving back to the Pakboat which gives a much better paddling experience in every way.”
“My biggest complaint is the seat and foot rest. I don’t find either comfortable. I did get an additional cushion and that did help some and I will consider upgrading the seat once the newer one becomes available as a separate item. But the foot rest, I don’t see any way that it will improve. I did buy some pipe insulation, cut them to the width of the kayak and then duct tape them together and put that under my knees. That did help but despite trying having the footrest at different positions I just don’t like it. Getting in and out is also challenging, granted being used to a canoe, that is a new learning curve for me but the size of the cockpit does also make it challenging.”
“I am about 195 lbs. and was able to paddle the Oru today. I am slightly underwhelmed. I was on flat water and the boat felt like what it is. Folded corrugated plastic. Tracking was okay and rigidity was sloppy. The boat went together as expected for the first try and with several engineering types in command. It does fold up nicely, but ….? It’s not enough boat for anything other than very flat conditions.”
Johnny p (Oru Site)
“Taking it out in the winter, it takes much longer because when it’s cold, the plastic is much more rigid and hard to bend for insertion of various assembly parts. The zipper channels are wearing down after 6 months of use. Placing the seat back in the cockpit is a real nightmare. The seat is very uncomfortable, but that is easily fixed by buying another seat pad to place on top of it.”
Guest Paddler (Paddling.com)
Our Bay Alternatives
Below are some alternatives for you to seek out should the Oru Bay not be the kayak you are looking for.
Oru Coast XT Kayak
- The Option Built for Exploration and Multi Day Adventures
- Better suited for tricky Ocean conditions
- More expensive price tag
- Can hold more gear than the Oru Bay ST
- Weighs about 8 pounds more
- For Intermediate to Advanced Kayakers
Advanced frame Elite
- Almost twice the weight as the Oru Bay
- The closest Oru equivalent for an inflatable kayak
- 150 pounds higher maximum capacity (450 lbs) than the Oru Bay ST
- The seat is more comfortable
- Rudder can be installed
- Assembly is more time consuming
Oru Beach LT
- More Open design Cockpit in the Beach LT
- Meant for more recreational style endeavors
- Easier for beginners to get accustomed to
- Easier to enter and exit out of
- Cheaper cost
- More susceptible to being bullied by waves
The Oru Bay Kayak is a great innovative kayak that has really taken off. Many people want to get into kayaking but they do not have space. Or they do not trust inflatable kayaks. If you sound like one of those people then chances are this kayak is for you!
The Oru Bay Kayak is an overall solid watercraft! It tracks well, maneuvers pretty easily and it also accelerates well thanks to its light 28 lb build! This kayak thrives in calmer waters but can for the most part hold its own in class I and II waterways as well as some surf. The durability of this kayak is pretty impressive although it is not completely scratch-proof.
Putting the kayak together can be a bit hard to figure out at first but once you get the hang of it it’s relatively straightforward. Be warned that the folded Oru kayak is bigger than your typical folding inflatable kayak and will therefore take up a bit more space. It can however still fit in a trunk or the back of a truck or even in a closet relatively easily though.
Overall this is a great kayak at what I believe to be at a pretty fair price when you compare it to other models both in the hard-shelled sea kayak category. Thumbs up from this review!
Customer Review Sources:
- Oru Website, https://www.orukayak.com/products/bay-st
- Paddling.com, https://paddling.com/gear/oru-kayak-bay-kayak