I grew up paddling the scenic waterways of New England. But a move to a cramped Santa Fe apartment forced my hand-me-down kayak into storage in my parents’ barn. And while the Land of Enchantment’s high desert wants for water, summers are hot enough that even the murky Rio Grande, which snakes its way south outside town, looks enticing.
This led me to Oru Kayak, whose famously foldable boats promised to change the game for space-strapped paddlers like myself. Early-2012 models weren't a slam-dunk—they lacked the sturdy responsiveness of fiberglass. So I’m thanking the water gods for the newly redesigned Bay ST, which lives up to the versatility legacy and adds a few tweaks for capability and ease of assembly. The asymmetrical, rockered design raises the bow, helping the 12-foot craft skim over glassy surfaces, while the back sits flatter, for improved tracking in chop.
My biggest hang-up with previous Orus were the buckles that held the boat together. They could be damned hard to close, and I pinched my fingers enough times during assembly to want to kick the thing downriver. The new Bay ST uses sliding connectors that run from the cockpit to the bow and stern, posing no threat to my digits. ($1,599)