Losing your cameras on a trip would seem like a total disaster. How could there possibly be a silver lining to a cloud that dark and huge? Well, that happened to Otto Van De Steene on a photography trip to Norway, and he stumbled on a great product idea: a foldable canoe. Hang in there—we’ll explain.
Van De Steene, co‐founder and designer of the Onak canoe, says he was trying to put the loss of his cameras out of his head by sitting and folding little paper canoes. “That’s when it struck me: What if I could make real‐sized origami foldable canoes? Hundreds of paper canoes and dozens of prototypes later, I’m proud we persisted with our idea.”
The result of all that folding? Onak, a canoe that you can fold up, put in its case and throw in your car as easily as one, two, three. “By reducing a design to its simplest, most elegant and ergonomic form possible we got to a product more beautiful and easy to use and manufacture,” says Van De Steene.
Folding was the key to the canoe for Van de Steene and Onak co‐founder and engineer Thomas Weyn. They both love canoeing, and felt passionately that city dwellers should be able to enjoy relaxing on the water as much as country people with space to stow a boat.
Luckily, advances in materials technology came through for them, and they built the Onak canoe using a new material that allowed them to give up a weighty frame while not sacrificing stability and strength. The canoe is built with thermo‐formable honeycomb‐curv™ composite, a material that is 10 times stronger than normal polypropylene.
The designers say they tested the toughness by paddling it through an inch of ice, so you don’t need to. And they have posted videos on their website showing them putting their canoe through its paces in a variety of weather and water conditions.
When asked by a buyer what they should do if they got a hole in their Onak, the company replied, “If you got a hole, you probably were doing something badass. In all our travels, we couldn’t break or puncture our material.”
(Please don’t take this as a challenge…!) And even if you’re swamped by a freak wave, don’t be alarmed—the designers say the honeycomb air cells give the canoe extra buoyancy to keep you afloat.
Want the stats? The canoe is only 37 pounds, but in spite of its light weight, it can carry up to 550 pounds. (That’s you plus a lot of food and gear… or we guess you could invite someone you like to paddle with you.) It stows to a slim 47-by-16-by-10 inches, and you can assemble it in just 10 minutes. Not much planning ahead needed to get this baby on the water. The team say you’ll be able to pack it away in a mere five minutes. Pretty amazing.
We’re not the only ones impressed by this design. Onak blew past its crowdfunding goal and is now filling pre-orders.