Series 2: Correct Equipment for Women Paddlers – Part 3: Selecting a PFD

Last March, at Paddlesport in New Jersey, Jay and I had the occasion to do a little PFD shopping. We were looking for the best fitting PFDs for women. I am pleased to report that all of the major companies—Stohlquist, Kokatat, Astral, NRS, and MTI have great options.

The first hint that it’s a PFD for a woman, is how it looks.20150329_131220 Many of the companies have pretty flowers embroidered on the shoulder or back, or the colors are of a bright or pastel pallet, or there is some other fancy, aesthetic feature.

20150329_134034But, the most important feature that they all have in common, is accommodations on the inside of the jacket for breasts. These accommodations vary from slight indentations, to shelves, or a little of both, which should make finding one that fits our various shapes and sizes attainable. The only possible exception will be for those of you who are blessed with a very generous front end. If you are one the lucky ones, then some of the shelves and indentations may still be a bit of a squeeze.

Anyway, I tried all of them on, and by and large, they all fit me fine. (Full disclosure, I’m a 36 D.) What seemed to make the difference for me was whether the PFD was high profile (padding reaching to the neck area), or low profile (a more low-cut design). The low profile fit better.

High profile.

High profile.

This fit factor, high/low profile, was an important point for Jay, because not only does it relate to comfort while sitting in the kayak, it can also impact your rolling. To test the high/low profile style, she and I tried on a few and positioned ourselves on the floor in a rolling position. We found that the high profile PFDs tend to ride up. The low profile PFDs seemed to stay in place. Interesting to note, many of the low profile PFDs are white water jackets.

In addition to the PFD cut, the amount of padding, and whether they ride up in a rolling position, another consideration in PFD selection is entry. There are basically three entry options:

  1. Zip-front entry
  2. Side entry
  3. Over-the-head entry

I have always had a zip-front entry PFD, and actually really like them, but they do have their down side. When performing rescues, it’s possible for them to come unzipped if they catch on the boat or the swimmer. This only happened to me once, and it was because I had my whistle on the zipper (no more). While the zip-front is my favorite style, I did find that the fit in some of  them wasn’t that great. I really had to do major adjustments with the straps in order to get a snug fit, and to position the girls comfortably. Once adjusted, however it was all good.

The side entry PFDs, surprised me. At first they felt a bit awkward to put on, but once on, all of them fit me quite well.

Rolling position test.

Rolling position test.

The concern about zippers coming undone is not an issue. They didn’t ride up during the rolling position test. And, there was plenty of support and accommodation for the girls. Overall, I have to say, I really liked all the side entry PFDs I tried.

The overhead entry is another matter. I just don’t like them. I have no good reason why – too much struggle to pull over my head, messes up my hair, major situating of the girls before I get that good comfortable fit I like – who knows. It may be that I’m just not used to them, but I found them uncomfortable, and I didn’t like the way they fit across my chest. Every head entry PFD I tried, regardless of the company, seemed to fall in just the wrong spot.

Ultimately, after trying a bunch of many types on, I found a favorite. Now, it may be I was influenced by my friend, Laura, who is in the market for a PFD, and pointed out the importance of side protection. Or it could be the concern that a bunch of coaches shared with me over the apparent lack of protection in the back area of my current PFD. (I bought it deliberately for that reason—easier to roll without all that back padding.) Either way, the winner for me is the, Ronin Pro by Kokatat.20150329_131810

I absolutely love it! It has all the features I like – low profile, snug fit, no riding up in rolling position, comfortable accommodations for the girls, enough padding on the front and back without being bulky, plenty of pockets for whistles and safety gear, and new to me, an offset front-entry with side protection – perfect for rock gardening, surfing, river running, and every day touring.

Bottom line, the correct PFD for you, like a kayak or paddle, is in the fit. Please try a bunch on and do the rolling position test. It will really help you pick the right one.

Next in the series, Kayakers Kit.

— Kerry Pflugh

Essentials for False Cape

Essential kayak navigation tools

Part 3 of 3 in our series on journeying

With our, Paddle through Time, just weeks away, here’s are tips for planning and packing:

  • Health experts say that a person should drink 64 oz. of water a day. We will be on the water for two full days. We will also need water for cooking and cleaning. Our primitive camp site does not have potable water. With warm air temperatures, and the physical activity of paddling, expect to consume more water than you drink in a typical day – even if you don’t drink the daily recommendation.
  • Our Paddle Through Time will begin with a launch from False Cape State Park. We will paddle eight miles to our camp site. Along the way, we will practice navigation and kayaking skills. Remember to bring a hiking compass, grease pencil and NOAA chart 12207, along with knowledge of the tides and weather for the weekend. A VHF radio and GPS will also come in handy if you have them.
  • Only pack what you really need, but be prepared for all weather conditions. At a minimum you should pack a: tent; ground cloth; sleeping bag; camp pillow; mattress; camp chair; cooking and eating utensils; Swiss Army knife; rain gear; dry clothes and foot wear; any medical supplies you require; head lamp; food for two days, and a camp stove with fuel.
  • Expect to need your camp stove for breakfast and dinner. Lunch should be something easily stored and nonperishable. Power bars, apples, oranges, almonds, etc. are good choices. You want something high in protein with some carbs to give you back some of that energy you will be burning from paddling.
  • We will be exploring the abandoned community of Wash Woods, and its ancient graveyard. Bring your walking shoes, so we can safely hike around this old village. Waterfowl of many varieties are known to reside in False Cape. A pair of binoculars might come in handy. You never know what you might see to add to your life list.

For more information on A Paddle Through Time, click on the link: http://babeswithblades.info/kayak-skills-events/

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— Kerry Pflugh

5 Faves – Kerry’s Picks for Camping Gear

Jay shared her 5 Faves for Camping. Here are mine:

20150509_174734

1. Camp chair – My childhood friend, Shayne once said that having a good camp chair at the end of a long day of hiking or paddling is as important as a good tent. I agree. It took me a while to find it.  Thanks to fellow Babe, Stacy, who had the REI FlexLite camp chair at our first Babes retreat, I found my dream sit. Small enough to fit in my rear hatch, yet really sturdy and comfortable, the FlexLite travels everywhere with me. The FlexLite sells for about $72.50, but I got lucky, and got it for about $45, when REI had one of its frequent sales.

2. Camp shoes – Nothing feels better after a day on the water than putting my very damp feet into a warm, dry pair of  shoes. 20150509_175933I like mine soft, like a slipper, yet hard soled, so I can walk on rough terrain. These suede moccasins from Minnetonka fit the bill. Easily stored and very comfortable, you can find them in almost any shoe store. While I bought mine at a neighborhood shoe store, I see them all the time at Famous Footwear for about $45 or less.

 

 

3. Nano Puff Pullover – These are just awesome, and very pretty. Water and wind resistant, lightweight, but warm, these little Patagonia pullovers of many colors are the boss.20150509_175754 When not being worn to shake off the chill, they can double as a nice, fluffy, camp pillow. A little pricey at $165, I have successfully purchased all four of mine for vastly less. Just Google Nano Puff pullover, and hunt them down. It’s totally worth the search….

4. Fire Starter Kindling Kit– I’ve had mine since I was 22 years old. That’s more than 30 years. Thanks to a camping mentor of mine, Ernie Schmidt, I had the joy, of one time, starting a camp fire with flint and steel. I still have that steel in my kit, along with kindling, matches and a lighter. One never knows when one might need a warm fire to dry wet paddling gear. 20150509_174348

 

 

 

5. Stainless Steel Mini Cookware – I found this cute little mini set – pot and kettle from MSR Seagull – at a local outfitters in the Adirondacks last summer. Fantastic! The pot has a great attached handle that folds up nice and neat, which makes it easy to store in my day hatch. The kettle – well it’s just cute! I can’t remember what I paid for the pair, $40 comes to mind, but they are now all I take with me for cooking when I camp. 20150509_173907

So, these are my 5 Faves. What are yours? Kerry

— Kerry Pflugh

Series 2: Correct Equipment for Women – Paddlers Part 2: Selecting a Paddle

 

I think I was paddling for about three years, when one day, after a few hours on the water, I noticed my wrists were hurting – badly. I had had some ache before, but this time it was really noticeable. Over the next several months, the ache got worse. I started to think it was paddling, and that maybe this wasn’t the sport for me. Thankfully, later that same year, I attended a symposium where my friend and kayaking mentor, Danny Mongno literally took the paddle I was using from my hands, and handed me a Werner Cyprus. He said, “paddle with it for the week and let me know what you think.”  The rest shall we say is history.  I have had my Cyprus ever since.

But this post isn’t about how great my Cyprus is (even though I think it is). Nor is it intended to be an advertisement for Werner (even though I think they are the best paddles you can buy). It’s about how to pick the best paddle for you.

As in any sport, having the correct equipment is essential.  My experience with the wrong paddle taught me that there are four critical elements in selecting a paddle: length, shaft diameter, blade type and size, and the weight of the paddle.

Length
I’m not sure why it is, but it seems whenever you get a kayak “package deal” from a sports store or outfitter, the paddle they throw in is a length of 220 cm. It must be based on average height or something, but I have met more women my size – 5’3”  – using that length paddle and complaining that their shoulders hurt; they have trouble with their forward stroke, or it just feels wrong. Well, if you’re my height and in a kayak that’s about 22” wide, it wrong for you. It’s too long.

The general rule of thumb when selecting a paddle length best suited for you is – base it on your height and the width of your kayak. For me, with a height of 5’3” and a kayak width of 22”, the correct paddle length is 205 cm.
Of course just like selecting a kayak, you should paddle with a couple of different lengths to be sure it is comfortable. I have one friend who is my height and has the same boat width as mine. She paddles with a 210 cm and is very happy with it and has a beautiful forward stroke.

There are a lot of great paddles and paddle companies out there I expect, but for me, Werner Paddles is top of the line. One reason I love Werner, aside from the great quality of their product, is they have a great fit guide to assist you in selecting a paddle length. If you visit their website: www.wernerpaddles.com/fit-guide/ you will find their guide. Check it out. No matter how short or tall you may be or what the width of your kayak is, the system will help you find the paddle length for you. Try it out. It works.

Blade
I’m going out on a bit of a limb here when I say there are essentially two paddle blade types – a high angle blade and a low angle blade. Those who race will object, but we’re not talking about racing here. And our traditional paddlers might also want to weigh in and of course there is the white water paddler and paddles. But in this blog we are talking about Euro paddles to be used by sea kayakers.

A high angle paddle blade20150322_140055 tends to be shorter and wider than the low angle paddle blade20150322_140043 which is more elongated and thinner.

What’s the difference in terms of paddling?
A high angle paddle is designed to take a bigger bite out of the water. Your stroke originates at eyebrow level and the paddle is placed deeper in the water and very close to the kayak. A low angle paddle blade is longer and displaces water over the length of the blade. Execution of the forward stroke begins at the chin or shoulder level and tends to be less deep and wider than a high angle forward stroke. (But more on the forward stroke in another blog) A specific paddle or paddling style should not be viewed as better or worse than the other. The blade you select should be suitable to your boat, your body and your comfort in paddling. It’s important to try out the two styles of paddles (and paddling) and be sure you match the paddle with your stroke style. It will be very uncomfortable and not very efficient to be using a high angle paddle if you are a low angle paddler and vice versa.

One final point about paddle blades is that they come in different materials. Material type impacts both flexibility versus stiffness of the blade as well as weight. Some of the materials you will find are nylon – most flexible and heaviest but really durable; fiberglass more stiff, really sturdy and much lighter; carbon – very stiff and very light, and carbon foam filled – stiff and extremely light. You should also be aware that the lighter the material the more expensive the paddle.

Shaft
I never would have believed that the diameter of the paddle shaft could make such a difference in my paddling comfort and stamina, but it does. When I first started paddling I had a paddle with a standard diameter. I didn’t think anything of it. I just paddled. Over time, as I said, my wrists really hurt. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I started to wear gloves thinking that would help. It didn’t. It wasn’t until Danny handed me that Cyprus that I understood. Not only was it lighter and shorter but the shaft size was smaller. I have small hands, so that few centimeters of thickness between the standard shaft and the small shaft, really made a difference. In fact, it mattered so much, that when I had a custom Greenland paddle built for me, I measured the Werner shaft so the Greenland paddle had similar dimensions.

The other consideration when selecting a shaft is straight versus bent. 20150322_133716 The advantage of the bent shaft paddle is that you know the position and placement of your hands. The function of the bent shaft paddle is to keep your wrist better aligned with your forearm at the beginning of your forward stroke. Some also claim that a bent shaft is better for people who have had wrist injuries.

For me, it’s the straight small diameter shaft. I have had no wrist pain or injuries and I know where my hand placement should be. I also find the straight shaft less restrictive than the bent shaft. I like being able to move my hands on the shaft if I feel I need to for whatever reason.

The two other items you will find on a shaft are drip guards and the ferrule. The drip guards are there to help keep water of the shaft and make it less slippery. I tend to use them to remind me of my hand placement on the shaft. The ferrule 2015-03-22 14.03.04 is basically the attachment system of the paddle. Some paddles have big bulgy ferrules on them. They are not only ugly, but very distracting and heavy looking, as far as I am concerned. What I like about the Werner ferrule is that it is internal, and the shaft remains smooth, neat and attractive.

Material/Weight
I have an instructor friend who, whenever she is asked about paddles, the first thing she talks about is weight. She’s not wrong to start here. The weight of the paddle is very important. There are so many people using paddles that weigh way more than they should. I am convinced it’s also why people can’t last on long paddles, shoulders and wrist are injured and the sport is eventually abandoned. I also think it’s why so many people love Greenland paddles. It’s like a breath of fresh air when you hold one. But you can have the same experience when you hold the correct Euro paddle. The key is don’t buy anything that isn’t made of fiberglass, carbon fiber, or wood such as Cedar. It’s just not worth it. And for those on tight budgets, once you know your correct paddle length and blade, shop around for a good sale or buy used from a respectable kayaking club website. I’m telling you the lighter the weight of the paddle, the less pain and injury you will suffer.

Keep in mind, when we paddle, we are moving a lot of heavy water every time we stroke. Yes, good body position and proper stroke technique is key to preventing shoulder and wrist injuries, but so is paddle weight. Invest in a good light paddle and you will go far and fast and reduce the potential for injury.

Had I not learned how important it is to size a paddle to my body and kayak, and think about the weight of the paddle, I either would have damaged my wrists and possibly my shoulders, or I might have given up the sport altogether. Don’t wait (and suffer) as long as I did. In all sports, you need the correct equipment. Having the correct paddle for you matters to your paddling technique and to your health. kerry

— Kerry Pflugh

A Brief History of False Cape

Essential kayak navigation tools

Part 2 of 3 in our series on journeying

  • False Cape got its name from its resemblance to Cape Henry. When viewed from the ocean, ship captains mistook it for the real Cape Henry running aground many a ship in its shallow waters. As a consequence, False Cape is known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic“.
  • A community called Wash Woods, was established by some survivors of a shipwreck around the 16th or early 17th century.
  • In more recent history, False Cape became a popular location for a number of hunt clubs because of its plentiful waterfowl.
  • Now a state park, False Cape is a destination for kayakers navigating its remote and pristine shorelines.00040washwoodcemetery

For more False Cape history, join us on our navigation and primitive camping trip, A Paddle Through Time. Kerry

— Kerry Pflugh

Werner Paddles Sponsors Babes with Blades

We are pleased to announce that Werner Paddles is supporting Babes with Blades by donating five Tybee FG paddles, one each, to be awarded to one lucky Babe at each of our five retreats. tybee_fg_right_face_01The Tybee FG is a great spare paddle for expedition or coastal play paddling. Its fiberglass reinforced blades are impact and wear resistant and the shaft is constructed of Werner’s signature carbon material. This makes the Tybee FG lighter than your average paddle as well as durable.

 

The best part of the paddle award is that the lucky Babe who wins the Tybee FG will given a gift certificate that entitles you to a custom fit paddle.  This means that the length and paddle shaft diameter will be designed to fit you.  For more information on the Tybee FG and Werner Paddles, visit: http://wernerpaddles.com/paddles/touring/high-angle/tybee-fg.  Thank you Werner Paddles for your support of Babes with Blades!

 Kerry’s next blog post: How to Select a Paddle!

— Kerry Pflugh

5 Faves – Jay’s Picks for Camping Gear

5 Faves – Jay’s Picks for Camping Gear

Here are just a few quick notes on camping gear I’ve found that I really like. Everybody has a few items they love. Tell us what yours are in the comments.

 

Perfect gear at a low price

All the function at 1/3 the price.

Coleman headlamp
I have 2 headlamps: a $39 headlamp from Petzl and a $13 headlamp that I bought at Walmart when I forgot to bring my expensive one on a camping trip. I haven’t used the expensive one since. The Coleman works exactly the same, except that it runs on AAA batteries that I can get anywhere instead of harder-to-find coin batteries.

 

 

 

Roll it up and stick it in a hatch.

Packs small, sleeps comfortably

 

Air sleeping pad
This item packs down really well, is very cheap, and is comfortable. The link is to a larger size than I have and it costs more; I got mine for about $20. It has an interior pump based on, I don’t know, the laws of physics? You just press it a few dozen times and the pad fills up. It takes about 5 minutes.

 

 

 

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

Mesh bug suit
Oh, this thing is crazy. You’ll look like a serial killer, but you won’t get bitten. I have the Coghlan’s brand, which you can get at any outdoor store. This item is inexpensive, and saves you from having to saturate your flesh in sticky poison.

 

 

 

 

Hot chocolate on demand

Hot water in 60 seconds

 

Jetboil
This was *not* cheap, but it boils water in 60 seconds. When you want your hot chocolate, every second counts.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your head warm and dry

Be a hot head

This hat
Or a hat like this. It’s rain-proof and fleece-lined. You can tuck the neck covering up into the hat so you can control your body temperature. Plus, it stays on when paddling in the wind. With this hat, you won’t mind camping in the rain.

 

 

 

 

Bugs, rain, and sleeping on a tiny air pad–is this list getting you excited about camping? You know it is! What’s your most beloved piece of gear? Let us know in the comments. 

— Jay Gitomer

12 Tips to Pack for Kayak Camping

Many small dry bags are better than a few big ones.

You’ll want lots of these.

So much stuff… such small hatches.

The ice has melted and the daffodils have blossomed. It’s time to think about getting back outside. And getting outside means carrying around a lot of stuff. Here are a few quick tips on how to pack your boat for kayak camping.

#1
The heavy stuff goes near your body; otherwise, your bow or stern will sit too low and you’ll have trouble controlling your boat in wind or waves. Your water is probably your heaviest stuff. If you have dromedaries, tie one behind your seat, and if you need two of them, place the other in the front of your cockpit between your foot pegs and forward bulkhead. If there’s any more water or liquid, place it against the rear bulkhead so it’s as close to your body as possible. If you don’t have dromedaries and are taking plastic bottles, tuck them in around your gear as close to your body as possible.

#2
If you have a compass on your deck, remember that metal stuff should not be stored near it. Compasses have magnets in their pointers, so they can’t function properly if nearby metal attracts the pointer.

#3
The back and front hatches should be filled about equally. If one end of your boat is heavier than the other, the boat will weathercock or leecock. That means it will want to point upwind or downwind, and you’ll have to work a lot harder to control your direction. An easy way to figure out if your gear is divided into two equal loads is to place it in two Ikea bags and lift them to see if they weigh about the same. If not—reorganize.

#4
Then bring at least one of those Ikea bags with you (or, better yet, a big mesh bag), and make sure it’s the last thing that you pack. That way, when you get to your campsite, you can just stuff the big bag with your necessary gear and easily carry it to your site.

#5
A lot of new campers think that a few big dry bags will be easier to manage than a lot of small bags. Not so! It’s hard to fit big bags into small hatches and a lot of space is wasted because the crevices around the big bags are empty. It’s much better to place your stuff into a lot of small bags. That way, every crevice can be filled with stuff.

#6
If you’re an organized type or aspiring to become one, color-code your bags. Use the brightest bags to store the items you want to be able to find most easily. That might include contact lens stuff, toilet paper, or your wallet. Or do whatever works for you; red for first aid, green for wallet, etc.

#7
Not all dry bags are created equally. Choose thick ones. Sea to Summit has thick ones that have a woven texture; these are good. They have less expensive slick ones that are not so good. You can get inexpensive dry bags at West Marine; they carry a good store brand and a brand called Gill; both are waterproof. Dry bags come in plastic or treated cloth. Treated cloth is better; the plastic ones are hard to shove into small spaces because the plastic grips rather than slides.  West Marine’s store brand is plastic and Gill is treated cloth with a translucent plastic window.

#8
If you’re camping someplace buggy (and if there’s someplace to camp that isn’t buggy, please do share), be sure to pack your bug stuff (bug spray,

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

Bug suits beat bug spray every time. Cheap, effective, & easy to pack.

mesh suit, etc.) near the top of your hatches. You’ll also want your headlamp to be easily accessible. A night without a headlamp is difficult.

#9
If you’re carrying your phone or other items that absolutely cannot get wet, don’t trust one dry bag; double- or triple-bag it.

#10
If you paddle a smaller boat, as a lot of women do, consider an inflatable sleeping pad like this one. It’s manually inflated, so it takes up almost no room. It won’t last forever, but this brand is inexpensive enough to be worth replacing every year or two. And they have a worthy second life; keep a leaky one under your car seat and use it to stand one when changing clothes after your regular day paddles.

#11
Pack your tent frame, stakes, and other light cylindrical stuff way up alongside your skeg box. Otherwise, that’s wasted space.

#12
Don’t waste the space in the bow of your boat. Cram a small bag filled with stuff you have to have ‘just in case’ but probably won’t need. But before you shove it in there, tie a line to its handle and make sure the line stays within reach as you fill the rest of the hatch. That way, you’ll be able to retrieve the bag when you want it.

If you have any tips of your own for packing a kayak, please leave a comment!

— Jay Gitomer

Series 2:Correct Equipment for Women Paddlers – Part 1: Tips for Kayak Selection

Having the correct equipment can make or break your kayaking experience. There are so many things to consider-models, makes, and fit. This series will provide tips for women on how to select two of the most important pieces of equipment your Kayak and Paddle and most importantly how to ensure a good fit with both. We will also talk about the never ending challenge of putting your kayak on top of your car.
Part 1 Selecting a Kayak

Over the years I have had a lot of people ask me what kayak I would recommend to them, or whether I thought a particular kayak was a good one to buy. At first I would spend time talking about the latest in makes and models or the various features of the kayak they were interested in. But I quickly learned that the most important response to these questions is another question: “what kind of kayaking do you plan to do?” Quickly followed by, “Where do you plan to kayak?”
I usually get a sort of confused look. Then they kinda smile. Finally, when they realize I’m serious and actually waiting for a reply, I usually get, “well, you know around here.” or “what do you mean what kind of kayaking do I plan to do?” And then the conversation begins.

There are four important considerations when selecting a kayak: the type of paddling you will be doing; the material of the kayak – plastic or composite; fit (probably the most important frankly), and budget.

What type of paddling you plan to do
Before opening a catalog or visiting a website or stopping in at outfitter to look at kayaks, seriously think about the kind of kayaking you want to do — where are you most likely to spend your time paddling? what conditions are you likely to encounter on this waterway? And if you choose to venture beyond your home waters, what kind of water will you visit? Do you want to surf, race, tour, expedition, roll, rock garden, paddle on quiet lakes or the back bays of our estuaries? Or do it all?
The answer to these questions will begin to focus your search. For example, a great rolling kayak is a Tahe Marine Greenlander. FB_IMG_1423423354428-1 A great racing kayak is an Epic. A wonderful surf kayak is a Delphin, and a great expedition kayak is an NDK Explorer. Knowing the kind of kayaking you do or want to do leads you toward a specific type of kayak that is suitable to your needs.

Composite or Plastic
A plastic sea kayak (not those bathtubs they sell at Dick’s or Target) are a great alternative to a glass boat. While they may not be as fast and can be heavy, they are durable, resist cracking and punctures and depending on length, have enough room for camping. Some are even designed for surfing like the Delphin. I have a Current Design Squamish RM Squamish (1)that I love for rock gardening and river running.
The best part about a plastic kayak is that you don’t need to treat it like an orchard. Having said that, it’s best not to keep them in the sun when not in use or tightly strapped down on a rack for an extended period. I have friends who have done this and unfortunately, serious depressions occurred in the plastic. While there are techniques to remove these “holes”, in reality it’s pretty difficult to reshape the plastic once the damage has been done.

My first kayak was made of Kevlar. It was an Impex Mystic. I bought the boat largely because it was light and I wanted to lift and carry the boat unassisted. If you can afford Kevlar, it’s a dream from a weight perspective and boy do they glide across the water. But I wouldn’t recommend a Kevlar boat for rocky or rough landings or launch sites. Damage to kevlar is difficult and costly to repair.

Most of the people I paddle with have fiberglass boats. Me too. Fiberglass seems to me the best of all worlds. While it isn’t as durable as plastic or light as Kevlar or carbon, it is easily repaired for the most part; its smooth surface allows it to glide across the water much like Kevlar and carbon, and it’s fast. I have an NDK Pilgrim Expedition. IMG_1944 It’s fiberglass boat and I use it in all water types—surf, flat water, rocky shores, rock gardening, touring and camping. It’s my go to boat and I love it. But I have learned (the hard way) it’s best to go plastic when I rock garden.

Fit
I compare the fit of a kayak to be much like the fit of a good pair of jeans. You want it to fit your shape and size, respond to your every move, feel comfortable and look awesome. To ensure such a fit, there are three points of contact that a paddler must have in their kayak – feet to the foot pegs or bulk head; thighs at the thigh braces, and back in contact with the back rest. It is important that each of these three points are a snug fit without being too tight. A snug fit will give you control over your boat and you will be able to execute a strong and efficient forward stroke, roll easily and manage your kayak in wind and other conditions. If it is too tight a fit you will be miserable and all your skills will go out the window. If the fit is loose, the kayak will control you and you will have trouble with your strokes, managing the wind and forget about rolling. One additional critical point about fit is to check the manufacturer’s weight range for a particular boat. If you are above or below the range, that kayak is not best suited for you.

Budget
Buying a new kayak can be a huge investment, so if new is what you want, start saving your pennies. A new fiberglass sea kayak usually runs between $3,000 – $4,000. Sticker shock usually directs most people to a plastic kayak of some type. But even a good new plastic sea kayak can cost between $1,000-$2,000.
You can find really great used fiberglass and plastic kayaks for much less on Craig’s list or better yet on many kayak club websites. Paddling.net also has some great deals on used kayaks. However, no matter what your budget is or whether you decide to go new or used, never buy a kayak until you have figured out what make and model fits you best. Sit in it and better yet paddle it. Remember, like a good fitting pair of jeans, you need to try it on before you know if it’s right for you.

— Kerry Pflugh

Keeping Warm, Pt. 10: Kayak shoes!

Keeping Warm, Pt. 10: Kayak shoes!

Why is it that shoes are so exciting? I think it’s because our feet don’t get fat. We may not fit into our favorite jeans from high school anymore, but we can still wear our buffalo platforms (remember them? We wore them with Brittania jeans with leather pocket details).

Returning to the 21st century, let’s talk about kayak shoes.

Tevas & similar sandals

Teva sandals, popular with kayakers

The popular kayaker sandal by Teva

Most people wear sandals, like Tevas. I don’t have a pair of these so I can’t speak from personal experience, but judging on the number of paddlers who do wear them, I guess they’re good. They’re certainly quick-drying and cool. Some people worry about the straps getting caught on a foot peg in the case of a capsize, but I think the actuality of that happening depends a lot on the type of paddling a person does.

Crocs

What is not to love? You don’t have to look at them–they’re under your deck. Personally, I sort of adore these shoes, but I also love Uggs. So, yeah, I have questionable taste. It’s not a secret, the world has eyes.

Here’s what is good about Crocs: They are easy to keep clean and fresh, knock-offs are very cheap, they float, they come in great colors, and they last until the strap breaks. I like the somewhat stiff and cushiony sole because I push hard against the foot pegs and these keep my feet from hurting. This, however, is my favorite thing

Paddling shoes you love to hate

Comfy, hygienic, great colors, and you can wash them in the dishwasher!

about Crocs: they can be washed in the dishwasher. A shoe that can be washed in the dishwasher is awesome.

Here’s what’s bad about them: For me, at least, the strap around the back of the ankle can be uncomfortable on long journeys. However, the dishwasher factor outweighs the strap irritation.

 

Five Fingers

I love these shoes. You may be sensing a theme. I really like ugly

Vibram Five Fingers, kayak-friendly & stylish

Coolest shoes ever? Why, yes, they are!

shoes. I want to look like a cartoon from the ankles down. Anyway, these shoes have many benefits. First, they’re hilarious. Second, perfect strangers will point and laugh at you on the street (this has actually happened to me). Third, they’re really comfortable once you get used to them. Fourth, they dry quickly. Fifth, they can go in the clothes washer (not the dishwasher). Sixth, they last pretty long. I’ve had mine for about 4 years and they’re only just beginning to come apart. If you do Crossfit or lift weights, they’ll do double-duty in your sports gear footwear wardrobe. The only downside of them is that not everyone wants to be pointed and laughed at on the street. Plus, they’re not cheap at about $80. Also, you can’t really buy them online. You have to try them on in person. I had to buy them to fit the length of my toes, not the size of my feet.

Actual kayak shoes & scuba booties

Can’t complain about these. They were the first kayak shoes I

NRS paddler shoes

Reliable, affordable, & easy on the eyes

bought and my first pair is still holding up after 5+ years of heavy use. They’re affordable, sturdy, and not too ugly (that’s their main downside). I’d like the sole to be a little stiffer. They let my feet hurt on a long journey, but for most trips, they’re good shoes.

 

Kayak boots on steroids

NRS kayak boots

These bomb-proof boots are suitable or the apocalypse.

I love these NRS boots. There’s a more expensive version that’s used by British SAS and Navy Seals, but these do the job. I like them because the sole is stiff and they’re great for long journeys and also for short hikes and climbing over slippery rocks. The inset strap is adjustable, so you can make them fit comfortably. They’re sturdy and they look fine. So I recommend these without reservation.

Tall boots

I really like the way these types of boots look. I feel like a superhero

NRS neoprene boots

Best for canoeing

in my Chota Mukluks. However, they do fill up with water if you swim. They’re good for days when the chances of a capsize are low and you have to step into cold water to get into your kayak. As long as the water is lower than the top of the boot, these really are waterproof. I tend to wear mine mostly for canoeing, & I recommend them highly for that.

And that’s the scoop on footwear for paddlers. I’ve missed a bunch of types, I’m sure. What do you recommend and why?

— Jay Gitomer

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