Until now, our experience with origami was limited to bar tricks and entertaining children -- and we’ll be damned if turning a napkin into a swan isn’t a crowd pleaser. But what if you could apply the principles of the Japanese art of paper folding to a piece of high-performance outdoor equipment that typically weighs upwards of 50 pounds and requires a roof rack to transport? You’d have the Oru Kayak, a foldable 12-foot boat made in the U.S.A. from a single sheet of double-layered plastic that folds down into a 33 x 29 x 10-inch case you can sling over your shoulder, toss in car trunk or check as luggage on a plane.
The Oru Kayak is several years in the making, the brainchild of San Francisco-based designer Anton Willis, who sketched and built more than 25 prototypes with his team leading up to the production model that hit the factory floor in mid-2013. To fund the project, Willis went to Kickstarter in 2012, where he raised more than $400,000 from 730 backers interested in seeing the origami boat become a reality. The final product is made from a single seamless sheet of corrugated plastic that unfolds into a kayak that's 12 feet long and weighs just 25 pounds. It assembles simply and intuitively with straps and buckles -- no tools required -- and includes all the features you’d expect from a kayak: an adjustable footrest, a foam seat, a rubber strap to hold accessories, skirt compatibility, and plenty of storage in the front and rear compartments for float bags and gear for an overnight trip. When assembled, the boat has one seam on top that closes with a watertight rubber gasket.
This would all just be a clever bar trick if the Oru Kayak didn’t perform -- but it does. It’s designed for flat water and mild waves, and in these conditions it’s swift, edges well and remains stable thanks to a hard chine hull design. The boat's polyethylene skin is puncture resistant and manufacturer rated for 20,000 folds, which should be plenty for even the most zealous day-tripper. What makes the Oru Kayak remarkable beyond its performance in the water is its smart solution to a storage dilemma that often hobbles urban-dwelling outdoor enthusiasts. And we thought our origami rose was impressive.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers