Winter may not be the most enticing time to kayak the frigid waters of Canada and the northern United States, but southerners are still splashing around in their personal vessels. North of Tennessee and Arizona, the weather separates dedicated kayakers from the occasional participant. Anyway, a brisk ride on the river, especially one that is typically crowded in the summer, can be an utterly relaxing time, so long as you have the right equipment. For expert enthusiasts and novices alike, I recommend:
SealLine Map Case ($13.95-$23.95)
For ages, explorers of the world have relied on maps and your kayaking friend or family member surely is no different when taking a few days, or even just a few hours, to explore unfamiliar territory. GPS service can be spotty and it relies on a battery, but all you need to use a map is a light and something to keep it dry. SealLine’s map cases come in three different sizes, provide watertight protection, close with a wide-track zipper and the D-rings attach easily to any kayak, canoe, handlebars or backpack. Also, keep this item in mind for backpackers or bikers whose journey may get their maps sweaty or wet.
Topeak Phone Dry Bag ($29.95)
The Topeak Phone Dry Bag was actually made with cyclists in mind, but because it’s waterproof, it’s a great item for paddlers as well. The bag mounts to a bike’s handlebars, meaning it could probably mount to a paddle if necessary. It’s sealed with sonic-welded seams, but I still don’t recommend dunking it underwater. It’s compatible with the iPhone 4 and 4S, but any touchscreen smartphone should fit into its 7 cm by 12.5 cm frame. It’s made of TPU foam, making it weigh only 50 g or 1.76 ounces. At that weight it’s hardly a burden, considering it could save the life of your $400 phone.
It’s not exactly the sexiest of gifts, but your gift recipient’s bum will certainly thank you for it! It’s a seat cushion for those long hauls. Kayaks haven’t yet figured out a comfortable, water-repellent seat, but they are keeping cushion makers in business. The Boat Tushion from Extrasport pads your seat for the long hauls, or just for those with a boney butt. Added bonus: it’s buoyant and Type IV US Coast Guard approved as a flotation device. When not in danger, toss it overboard anyway and use it as a floaty to swim around in some warm waters.
Once you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new kayak, the second thing on your mind is how to ensure that piece of recreational luxury won’t be swiped. Every year there are reports of kayaks getting stolen when people are on vacation or even from their home. One measure you can take to prevent thieves from getting away with your relatively light and easy to carry vessel is by booby-trapping the area around it, but if that’s too much work, securing it with a lock is the next best thing. Lasso Security Cables makes a specially-designed cable kayak lock. The cable is 16 feet long with a 12-inch diameter loop on either end designed for recreational and touring kayaks with narrow hulls. It’s made of vinyl-coated galvanized steel cabling that is 3/8-inch in diameter. Thicker and longer cables are available. It’s easy to secure, but makes a kayak much harder to steal.
It’s always exciting when the biggest present in the room has your name on it and a paddle is the second biggest kayaking item right behind the kayak itself. The Whisper Recreational Kayak Paddle from Bending Branches is touted as a great entry-level paddle, but experts, especially on a touring trip, will have a few nice things to say about the paddle as well. At $60, it’s priced on the low end for a high-quality item. Numerous customer reviews mention that it enters the water silently thanks to its blade shape, while its lightweight design lets you paddle longer with less fatigue. It’s made of strong aluminum with two grip areas by either hand. It can adjust to 0 or 60 degrees and multiple lengths ranging from 210 cm to 240 cm are available for purchase. Its total weight is 37 ounces.
GoPro cameras are arguably the best filming devices on the market for outdoor enthusiasts. Make someone’s holiday an extreme joy by gifting them the GoPro HERO2 Surf Edition, which can be mounted to the front of a surfboard or kayak and is waterproof to withstand intense splashes from waves or rapids. The camera housing is waterproof to 197 feet (60m). There’s also a huge aftermarket for GoPro accessories.
If you’re in the market for the main attraction, I recommend giving the Elie Sound 120 Kayak a look. Designed for both beginner to intermediate kayakers, the Sound 120 has a large cockpit that makes it easy to get in and out of and the seat is soft-padded for the longer rides. A quick-lock hatch stores gear dry in a separate compartment. Inside, the Sound 120 features a bottle holder, reflective perimeter lines, bungee cord storage at the front and back, a drain plug and carry handles. For use on ponds, quiet lakes or slow, deep rivers. Weighs 47.8 pounds and can carry up to 325 pounds.
It sounds futuristic and it kind of is. Swedish company Thule made the Hullavator for easy kayak transportation, especially if you’re traveling alone. The Hullavator is a lift-assist carrier. In plain English, it means it’s a car roof rack that allows one person to load their kayak on the roof without climbing all over their car or straining under the weight of the vessel. The Hullavator loads and unloads kayaks at waist level, then allows the user to easily push the entire system onto the roof to secure for the journey. There may be up to two of these carriers per vehicle. Each Hullavator comes with all the necessary straps needed to tighten and secure the kayak for the ride. It accommodates kayaks up to 34 inches wide and 75 pounds heavy. View demonstration videos at www.thule.com.