Orikaso folding dishware

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When we first saw the Orikaso cup, dish and bowl at the 2004 Friedrichshafen OutDoor trade show in Germany, our reaction was much the same as everyone else -- whoa, that's cool!

Image dishware that, when not in use, folds completely flat and, therefore, takes up hardly any space. That is the Orikaso brilliance -- origami of a sort that creates useful works of art by scoring folds into the plastic sheeting. Made of polypropylene food-grade plastic, the dishware can hold both hot and cold products.

But what looks good on display might not be as good in actual use, so for the last year, our team of editors have been putting the Orikaso cups, bowls and dishes through the paces.

Logic seemed to imply that the more we folded and unfolded our dishware, the weaker the plastic along the folds would become. However, Orikaso asserts, as does some literature on plastics-industry websites, that polypropylene actually becomes stronger along the folds as it is flexed. The bottom line is none of our tested product is showing any tears or weaknesses, other then the nicks and slight cuts that occur from using bowls and dishes as cutting boards.

What we love most about the Orikaso system is that when flat, you can slide a complete set of dishes into the back of a pack, even if it is stuffed full, or into a cooler headed for the campground, or a kayak just behind the seat or next to the bulkhead. The weight is minimal -- a plastic bowl and dish weigh less than a titanium cup.

Our team did find that most, though not all, of the Orikaso product were worthy of glowing praise.

Cup: Our testers found this item a bit of a pain to use -- trying to remember how to fold the damn thing into shape after not using it for a while and without instructions is an exercise in trial and error. And, given the cup's diminutive size, we felt it was more like a novelty item and about as useful as the old collapsing plastic and metal cups of days gone by. One of our testers did point out that there is, perhaps, one plus to this item -- as a child distraction at the campsite. Give them the cups and, like a puzzle, they can be busy folding the cups into a useable form while mom and dad are busy cooking.

Bowl: Two thumbs up and a dancing chopsticks salute. Easy to fold and it's easy to remember how to reassemble as the assembly process is rather intuitive. With no snaps (the dish utilizes plastic snaps), the eating surface is very smooth which means clean up is as simple as unfolding the bowl and wiping or rinsing the flat surface clean. For the lightweight crowd, this one item is all you need -- as one bowl serves excellent duty as a bowl, cup, serving platter, cutting board, and, if your fanny is small enough, an adequate seat if the ground is damp.

Dish: As with the bowl, our testers raved -- although we have a slightly more tempered chopstick dance in celebration of design brilliance. First, the good. Like the bowl, the dish works superbly as a cutting board and, of course, a plate. It also performs double-duty as a serving platter, a deep bowl, a funnel, a semi-effective holder for a single-serving, paper coffee filter, and it offers a workable means to quickly pour water off the meal, leaving food behind. Now for the nit. Unlike the bowl, the dish does not clean as easily since the plastic snaps used in assembly do catch and hold food, meaning you can't just wipe this baby clean. We found that the dish snaps required a little water and a brush or rag to fully clean off food and grease.

SNEWS® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)

Suggested Retail: Bowl - $3; Cup - $4; Dish - $6; Picnic Set (contains 2 dishes, 2 cups, 2 bowls) - $24

For more information:www.flatworld.co.uk or www.axisoutdoor.com

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