#OptOutside - Please add your own OptOutside story

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About 6 months ago I took a job with REI as an Outdoor School Field Instructor and honestly I couldn't be happier. I get paid to introduce people the outdoors while instructing them in a number of different outdoor activities, my favorites being The Art of Fire and an Introduction to Photography class. Soon will be leading 2-3 kayak trips and I am so looking forward to that.

Anyways...………………………..

In 2015 REI started their #OptOutside initiative - OptOutside: REI is Closed on Black Friday - REI Co-op Journal

I got 6 hours of pay today for the purpose of going outside and enjoying the outdoors vs shopping on Black Friday. I could have just as easily spent the day at home (or shopping), but that is not me and I do spend every available minute I can outside. I thought about hitting up a number of my favorite photography places, but decided to try something else. I put out the word at my store that I would be paddling Armand Bayou and anyone that was interested could join me. Two of my coworkers took me up on that and we spent 4 hours and 40 minutes covering a total of 7.9 miles and had a great time. There were 3 others who said they would join us but they didn't for a variety of reasons. to bad for them because the weather was perfect.

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OptOutside 00 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Here are the kayaks just before launch. The left one is a fold up from Oru and it has really impressed me. We have a gear bank at work and this is the 2nd time my coworker has used the kayak and I am seriously considering buying one for a March trip to Lake Powell.

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OptOutside 01 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Here are a few shots of the guys paddling...….

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OptOutside 02 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

This series of three shots was after Thiago paddled close by what was the first wild gator he had ever seen. That gator was up on the bank in deep grass and I wasn't able to get a clear photograph of him.

A little while later we had just rounded a bend where the bank was about 3 feet high and poor Thiago was only 10ish feet from the bank. The problem was the 7 foot gator up on the bank who freaked because he didn't see or hear us coming and dove into the water and landed maybe 5 feet from Thiago. We were all looking at this huge turtle and when I turned and saw the gator all I said was "Don't freak out but there is a gator to your left". Thiago turned just in time to see the gator (which was at eye level) before it dove off the bank. Surprisingly he reacted very calm through it all and is willing to go out again in the kayak, sucker.

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OptOutside 03 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

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OptOutside 04 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

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OptOutside 05 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

A salute to #OptOutside

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OptOutside 06 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

I picked this location because I wanted to check the status of the Osprey that come here for the winter. Last winter there were 30-40 of them hanging out along this bayou and I wanted to check the numbers. We saw and heard what I believe was at least 10 different birds during the day, so they are starting to show up.

The hardest part for me was just doing drive by shots. None of these shots are my normal wildlife photographs, but today was more about enjoying the outdoors with friends than getting award winning photographs.

I saw more Anhinga today than I have ever seen in one day...………….

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OptOutside 07 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Typically I can never get close to turtles, they seem to jump off the logs when still 100 feet away. The turtles in this bayou seem to have to worry about a kayak and there were also a lot of large to very large ones around.

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OptOutside 08 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

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OptOutside 09 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

It was a coldish day with heavy cloud cover, so the gators were not really out. We did manage to see 5 of them, this bayou is known for the large number of gators it has. This first one (next two photos) is the largest gator I have seen in awhile. He was close to 14 feet long, was on the bank but got into the water when he saw us round the bend about 200 feet away. Not only was he long but he had some serious girth to him, bit old fatty he was. Really wish he had stayed on the bank because it was in the open and it would have made for some great shots.

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OptOutside 10 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

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OptOutside 11 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

This was a smallish gator (6ish feet) who didn't seem bothered as we paddled by him.

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OptOutside 14 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

Last but not least a couple of shots of the Osprey that I was there to check on.

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OptOutside 12 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

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OptOutside 13 by Phocal Art, on Flickr

There was a lot of wildlife activity and at first it was killing me to not just stop everything and concentrate on getting great photographs. But after the first hour I was in the social zone and had a great time on the water. I don't spend much time on the water with other people so it was a really nice change of pace to show two people one of my favorite places in the Houston area to paddle. It's also great to work for company that is willing to pay its employees to spend the day outside.

Hope you enjoyed your Black Friday and did something other than buy into the commercialism that has become the holiday season.

Phocal

I also only brought two lenses with me (one on each EM1) to help keep me from concentrating on wildlife. I picked the 300/4 because I wanted to make sure I had reach because I knew I wouldn't be able to actually spend time getting close. It did hurt to leave my beloved Little Tuna at home. I decided on the 14-54 because I knew it would make a good lens for group shots, of which I only really took two.
 

Indianpeaksjoe

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Great pics Phocal.

I went backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was sunny at my house a few minutes from the trailhead, but it was anything but that where I camped.

The way up was really nice.
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PB220098 by Joe, on Flickr

Thanksgiving dinner in a bag.
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PB220127 by Joe, on Flickr

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PB220153 by Joe, on Flickr

Almost a foot of fresh snow overnight, which was no big deal as it's mostly downhill to the car. Until my brand new snowshoe broke 5 miles out.
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PB230176 by Joe, on Flickr

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PB230188 by Joe, on Flickr

I took the EM1 and 7-14mm 2.8 .

-Joe
 
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Joined
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Great pics Phocal.

I went backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was sunny at my house a few minutes from the trailhead, but it was anything but that where I camped.

The way up was really nice.
View attachment 697578 PB220098 by Joe, on Flickr

Thanksgiving dinner in a bag.
View attachment 697579 PB220127 by Joe, on Flickr

View attachment 697580 PB220153 by Joe, on Flickr

Almost a foot of fresh snow overnight, which was no big deal as it's mostly downhill to the car. Until my brand new snowshoe broke 5 miles out.
View attachment 697581 PB230176 by Joe, on Flickr

View attachment 697582 PB230188 by Joe, on Flickr

I took the EM1 and 7-14mm 2.8 .

-Joe

Looks like an awesome trip, to bad about the snowshoe. Wish I could get away at Thanksgiving but mom would not be happy if I missed it.
 

DynaSport

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I am facing forced retirement in two years and hoping my finances allow me to actually retire and not start a second career. With that in mind I may go from almost no free time to a fair bit and I’ve been thinking about taking up kayaking. I’ve never done it, but I love the outdoors and being in nature and the exercise would be good for me. Keep the kayak photos coming. They are inspirational.
 

twigboy

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I went out for a few hours of deer hunting with my son, who doesn’t hunt. He just wanted to be out on a mountain, in the woods. I took him around to check if there were any likely trout streams. He stuck with me and did very well quietly walking, then we stopped for a bit. Soon after he announced he doesn’t like hunting because it is boring to him (no new incite there) and he is fidgety. He lay down in the woods and soon dreams of cutting firewood (so to speak) but wasn’t loud. I thought it would attract some wildlife.

(cellphone pic, ‘cause that’s what I brought.)
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We wen’t trout fishing for a bit later. A very enjoyable way to spend BF.
 
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tonyturley

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Nice stories. I spent Black Friday morning trying to find one of the most difficult to reach waterfalls in our area, Middle Falls of Fern Creek. Reaching it requires a trek of a bit over a mile, following the base of a cliff line known as The Endless Wall, a popular rock climber hangout. The trail:

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My view looking back from the base of the cliffs. It's 876 feet from that bridge to the river:

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It took me about 2 hours to reach Upper Fern Creek. The water level was down from last week, but there was still plenty of noise where the creek was jetting out from a crevice in the cliff face and coursing through piles of boulders:

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I've actually stood on top of the cliff where Fern Creek enters a curved channel in the cliff face with a rush. One can follow the creek into the crevice and climb down a pair of climber's ladders into a cavern right above where I took this image, but heights and I don't get along.

Fern Creek is surrounded by a seemingly endless tumble of boulders, many of them the size of a house. It flows over, around, and under the boulder piles, sometimes appearing to disappear entirely:

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It was tough going trying to make my way through that boulder field:

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In the end, I never found Middle Falls. I've seen photos of it, so I know there's a way to it, but I never found a safe way through the boulders. I tried for over an hour to find a passage into the big cavern, but I kept running into sudden precipitous drops from the huge boulders, or dead ends where boulders had piled up and created an insurmountable block. A member of our local waterfall enthusiast's group said I needed to go north until I was out of the boulder field, then go down the slope until I circled it from the bottom. By the time I gave up, I was tired, sore, and beginning to lose my stamina. I didn't think it was safe to continue. The climb out of the boulder field and back up the canyon slopes to the trail was exhausting.

One final hurdle. I had to cross the top of a waterfall going over a small cliff line to get back to my car. I believe I mentioned my intense fear of falling. I was so tired by that point, I was terrified as I slowly inched my way over the narrow path to safety on the other side. The waterfall and narrow passage over the cliff were just above me and to my right in this image:

P1020711a.JPG
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All in all, it was a memorable experience. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was sunny and chilly, and I really pushed myself to my limits. I've done many waterfall hunting hikes, and this one was my most challenging yet. It was actually a bit beyond my comfort zone, and I'm not likely to try this one again.
 
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Joined
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I am facing forced retirement in two years and hoping my finances allow me to actually retire and not start a second career. With that in mind I may go from almost no free time to a fair bit and I’ve been thinking about taking up kayaking. I’ve never done it, but I love the outdoors and being in nature and the exercise would be good for me. Keep the kayak photos coming. They are inspirational.

You should definitely look into getting a kayak, then again I am a bit biased. You will probably see a lot more post similar to this one from me. Now that I am working for REI I have met a lot of adventure seekers like myself. We are currently planning a few 2 day paddles on some of the local rivers as well as a week long kayak trip to Lake Powell this March. Now that I have had a chance to paddle the Oru kayak I am going to be getting their new tandem kayak that comes out next year. It will make the perfect photography platform. I may even pick up their 12 foot touring kayak for the times I just want to paddle and photography is secondary.
 
Joined
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I went out for a few hours of deer hunting with my son, who doesn’t hunt. He just wanted to be out on a mountain, in the woods. I took him around to check if there were any likely trout streams. He stuck with me and did very well quietly walking, then we stopped for a bit. Soon after he announced he doesn’t like hunting because it is boring to him (no new incite there) and he is fidgety. He lay down in the woods and soon dreams of cutting firewood (so to speak) but wasn’t loud. I thought it would attract some wildlife.

(cellphone pic, ‘cause that’s what I brought. Sorry, I don’t really know how to rotate it)
View attachment 697642
We wen’t trout fishing for a bit later. A very enjoyable way to spend BF.

glad you had a chance to get outside and enjoy the day
 
Joined
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Nice stories. I spent Black Friday morning trying to find one of the most difficult to reach waterfalls in our area, Middle Falls of Fern Creek. Reaching it requires a trek of a bit over a mile, following the base of a cliff line known as The Endless Wall, a popular rock climber hangout. The trail:

View attachment 697652
My view looking back from the base of the cliffs. It's 876 feet from that bridge to the river:

View attachment 697654

It took me about 2 hours to reach Upper Fern Creek. The water level was down from last week, but there was still plenty of noise where the creek was jetting out from a crevice in the cliff face and coursing through piles of boulders:

View attachment 697656
I've actually stood on top of the cliff where Fern Creek enters a curved channel in the cliff face with a rush. One can follow the creek into the crevice and climb down a pair of climber's ladders into a cavern right above where I took this image, but heights and I don't get along.

Fern Creek is surrounded by a seemingly endless tumble of boulders, many of them the size of a house. It flows over, around, and under the boulder piles, sometimes appearing to disappear entirely:

View attachment 697658
It was tough going trying to make my way through that boulder field:

View attachment 697659
In the end, I never found Middle Falls. I've seen photos of it, so I know there's a way to it, but I never found a safe way through the boulders. I tried for over an hour to find a passage into the big cavern, but I kept running into sudden precipitous drops from the huge boulders, or dead ends where boulders had piled up and created an insurmountable block. A member of our local waterfall enthusiast's group said I needed to go north until I was out of the boulder field, then go down the slope until I circled it from the bottom. By the time I gave up, I was tired, sore, and beginning to lose my stamina. I didn't think it was safe to continue. The climb out of the boulder field and back up the canyon slopes to the trail was exhausting.

One final hurdle. I had to cross the top of a waterfall going over a small cliff line to get back to my car. I believe I mentioned my intense fear of falling. I was so tired by that point, I was terrified as I slowly inched my way over the narrow path to safety on the other side. The waterfall and narrow passage over the cliff were just above me and to my right in this image:

View attachment 697661
All in all, it was a memorable experience. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was sunny and chilly, and I really pushed myself to my limits. I've done many waterfall hunting hikes, and this one was my most challenging yet. It was actually a bit beyond my comfort zone, and I'm not likely to try this one again.

great series of photos and story to go along with it. glad you made it to your destination, all the effort makes it even more satisfying. also great to see you spent the day in the outdoors and not indoors at some mall.
 

D7k1

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Nice stories. I spent Black Friday morning trying to find one of the most difficult to reach waterfalls in our area, Middle Falls of Fern Creek. Reaching it requires a trek of a bit over a mile, following the base of a cliff line known as The Endless Wall, a popular rock climber hangout.It was actually a bit beyond my comfort zone, and I'm not likely to try this one again.

As that great philosopher Harold Francis Callahan (AKA "Dirty Harry") once said, "A man's got to know his limitations":)
 

hias

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You should definitely look into getting a kayak, then again I am a bit biased. You will probably see a lot more post similar to this one from me. Now that I am working for REI I have met a lot of adventure seekers like myself. We are currently planning a few 2 day paddles on some of the local rivers as well as a week long kayak trip to Lake Powell this March. Now that I have had a chance to paddle the Oru kayak I am going to be getting their new tandem kayak that comes out next year. It will make the perfect photography platform. I may even pick up their 12 foot touring kayak for the times I just want to paddle and photography is secondary.

I'm seriously interested in those foldable kayaks. Using a trailer, or a roof rack is a little impractical... This I could just throw into my car and have fun. How's the durability? I'm a little concerned about kayak vs. rocks.
 

gnarlydog australia

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Here Downunder the marketing machine has just started to push "Black Friday" but the shopping frenzy like in US and A is not a thing, yet.
When I was a Master Tech at REI the stores remained opened and there was no crazy behavior; it's only in the last couple of years that people seem to have lost sight of reality?

I had last Friday off so I made it a long weekend to be spent in the stix before temperatures will become too hot (you know, Australia is heading into summer).
Very high winds were forecasted with possible dust storms; the air indeed looked rather bad driving to the National Park, I predicted interesting sunsets.
However the dust was more confined to the coast and my granite boulders location had perfectly clear skies.

46086749571_78476019ea_h.jpg
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among the giants by gnarlydog, on Flickr


I was schlepping all my gear on my back, water for during the day included (to be topped up at a creek in the evening). I travel light with no luxuries: I prefer to move fast and with less effort than trying to replicate "home away from home". It's one of the reason that Micro 4/3 works so well for me: camera and lenses are so much lighter smaller than the "I have big hands" cameras :whistling:
Two nights are usually enough to get me a feeling of adventure and remoteness. I traveled cross-country away from roads or paths, often pushing trough scrub, at times spiky. At least I didn't have to contend with poison oak! :eek:

Photo: Petra Ries_used with permission
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Through the bush by gnarlydog, on Flickr


I saw nobody for 3 days, just kangaroos, lyre birds, black cockatoos, a red-belly black snake (slightly poisonous) a few big lizards/goannas and other birds/critters.
Sleeping in a floor-less tepee made my girlfriend nervous but having to carry a light shelter was more important than the perceived safety of a fully enclosed tent.
Finding a campspot that would have a grand view and still be sheltered enough to be able to sleep was not easy. I generally want to camp on high exposed locations to take advantage of the scenery, instead of the "safety" of the dense forest.

32215135648_2e4927299b_h.jpg
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location location by gnarlydog, on Flickr


The harsh Australian sun is not friendly to middle-of-the-day photography. I mainly was active with my camera an hour before sunset up to darkness.
No tripods since the weight would have been prohibitive but thanks to IBIS even with adapted lenses and I could shoot in low light.

44269928780_c50e3374a4_h.jpg
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granite and mirror by gnarlydog, on Flickr
 
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gnarlydog australia

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I'm seriously interested in those foldable kayaks. Using a trailer, or a roof rack is a little impractical... This I could just throw into my car and have fun. How's the durability? I'm a little concerned about kayak vs. rocks.
Don't know ORU kayaks but I own a "folding" one, skin on frame.
Of the 6 kayaks I own the folding one got used only once, years ago.
For me a hard shell (composite) feels like the real deal while the wobbly one is weird somehow. When on the water I desire a craft that I can "seal" myself in so no waves can enter the cockpit and in the surf I can roll without having to bail. Of course not everybody has the same idea for paddling but the ability to just throw a ready-to-paddle kayak on my roofracks and then not care about assembly, cleaning and disassembly every time I go out, outweigh the perceived practicality (for me) of a folding one.

Why would using a roof rack be impractical for you?

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Vandreaming_1_c by gnarlydog, on Flickr
 
Joined
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Here Downunder the marketing machine has just started to push "Black Friday" but the shopping frenzy like in US and A is not a thing, yet.
When I was a Master Tech at REI the stores remained opened and there was no crazy behavior; it's only in the last couple of years that people seem to have lost sight of reality?

I had last Friday off so I made it a long weekend to be spent in the stix before temperatures will become too hot (you know, Australia is heading into summer).
Very high winds were forecasted with possible dust storms; the air indeed looked rather bad driving to the National Park, I predicted interesting sunsets.
However the dust was more confined to the coast and my granite boulders location had perfectly clear skies.

View attachment 698817 among the giants by gnarlydog, on Flickr

I was schlepping all my gear on my back, water for during the day included (to be topped up at a creek in the evening). I travel light with no luxuries: I prefer to move fast and with less effort than trying to replicate "home away from home". It's one of the reason that Micro 4/3 works so well for me: camera and lenses are so much lighter smaller than the "I have big hands" cameras :whistling:
Two nights are usually enough to get me a feeling of adventure and remoteness. I traveled cross-country away from roads or paths, often pushing trough scrub, at times spiky. At least I didn't have to contend with poison oak! :eek:
I saw nobody for 3 days, just kangaroos, lyre birds, black cockatoos, a red-belly black snake (slightly poisonous) a few big lizards/goannas and other birds/critters.
Sleeping in a floor-less tepee made my girlfriend nervous but having to carry a light shelter was more important than the perceived safety of a fully enclosed tent.
Finding a campspot that would have a grand view and still be sheltered enough to be able to sleep was not easy. I generally want to camp on high exposed locations to take advantage of the scenery, instead of the "safety" of the dense forest.

View attachment 698818 location location by gnarlydog, on Flickr

The harsh Australian sun is not friendly to middle-of-the-day photography. I mainly was active with my camera an hour before sunset up to darkness.
No tripods since the weight would have been prohibitive but thanks to IBIS even with adapted lenses and I could shoot in low light.

View attachment 698819 granite and mirror by gnarlydog, on Flickr

Looks like a great weekend
 
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Don't know ORU kayaks but I own a "folding" one, skin on frame.
Of the 6 kayaks I own the folding one got used only once, years ago.
For me a hard shell (composite) feels like the real deal while the wobbly one is weird somehow. When on the water I desire a craft that I can "seal" myself in so no waves can enter the cockpit and in the surf I can roll without having to bail. Of course not everybody has the same idea for paddling but the ability to just throw a ready-to-paddle kayak on my roofracks and then not care about assembly, cleaning and disassembly every time I go out, outweigh the perceived practicality (for me) of a folding one.

Why would using a roof rack be impractical for you?

View attachment 698820 Vandreaming_1_c by gnarlydog, on Flickr

The Oru is a bit different from the type of kayak you are talking about. They are made from a corrugated plastic and feel just about as rigid as my other kayaks. They also make two that are rollable and have skirts to seal you in, which I am not interested in. Very much different from the skin over a frame type kayak. The Oru can be unfolded or folded in under 5 minutes, I have seen videos of people doing it in around 3 minutes, but I don't have that much practice yet, and require no more or less clean up than my other kayaks. Actually they are easier to clean up than two of my kayaks that always tend to get water into the hull.

I am looking at the fold up for several reasons. The first is I lose about 4 miles to the gallon with a kayak on top of my Jeep. For short trips around here it's not much of a problem. For my up coming trip to Lake Powell it is a 1,300 mile drive (2,600 round trip). That is a difference of about 62 gallons of gas round trip, or about $186 (give or take $50 depending on current gas prices)...……...and that is just from one trip. I would be more likely to take my kayak on my monthly trips to Dallas, or any number of other trips I do if I wasn't losing so much in miles per gallon. I also have a few places I have been wanting to drop my kayak in but the problem is the closes I can get in my Jeep is 5 to 7 miles depending on the spot. I have thought a few times about pulling one of my kayaks to this one location (about a 5 mile hike) on a cart but it would take way to long if I wanted to be on the water at sunrise...………..not to mention the huge amount of effort. I can drop an Oru on one of my bike trailers and cover that distance in 30 minutes and still be able to bring all my photography and/or fishing gear. Even a short 1 - 2 mile hike would be easy with the one in the photos, it weighs in at 26lbs. You can also get a bag that can be carried like a back pack for longer walks, which I would get as well.

There are many reasons to have a highly portable kayak that you can take anywhere. I wouldn't want it as my only kayak. But I have 4 different kayaks and I use them all. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses, that is why I have 4 of them and looking at adding 2 more at least in the next year.
 

gnarlydog australia

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Damiano Visocnik
The Oru is a bit different from the type of kayak you are talking about. They are made from a corrugated plastic and feel just about as rigid as my other kayaks. They also make two that are rollable and have skirts to seal you in, which I am not interested in. Very much different from the skin over a frame type kayak. The Oru can be unfolded or folded in under 5 minutes, I have seen videos of people doing it in around 3 minutes, but I don't have that much practice yet, and require no more or less clean up than my other kayaks. Actually they are easier to clean up than two of my kayaks that always tend to get water into the hull.

I am looking at the fold up for several reasons. The first is I lose about 4 miles to the gallon with a kayak on top of my Jeep. For short trips around here it's not much of a problem. For my up coming trip to Lake Powell it is a 1,300 mile drive (2,600 round trip). That is a difference of about 62 gallons of gas round trip, or about $186 (give or take $50 depending on current gas prices)...……...and that is just from one trip. I would be more likely to take my kayak on my monthly trips to Dallas, or any number of other trips I do if I wasn't losing so much in miles per gallon. I also have a few places I have been wanting to drop my kayak in but the problem is the closes I can get in my Jeep is 5 to 7 miles depending on the spot. I have thought a few times about pulling one of my kayaks to this one location (about a 5 mile hike) on a cart but it would take way to long if I wanted to be on the water at sunrise...………..not to mention the huge amount of effort. I can drop an Oru on one of my bike trailers and cover that distance in 30 minutes and still be able to bring all my photography and/or fishing gear. Even a short 1 - 2 mile hike would be easy with the one in the photos, it weighs in at 26lbs. You can also get a bag that can be carried like a back pack for longer walks, which I would get as well.

There are many reasons to have a highly portable kayak that you can take anywhere. I wouldn't want it as my only kayak. But I have 4 different kayaks and I use them all. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses, that is why I have 4 of them and looking at adding 2 more at least in the next year.
if portability to the launch site is an issue, as you describe, the ORU would indeed be a winner over a hard shell.
I would be very interested to hear how you go on Lake Powell on a multi-day trip with the ORU. Despite the waters over there often not having much of wave I hear on occasions the wind can be a nuisance.
 

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