Reader Request: Our Favorite Kayaking Gear

I sure can tell kayaking season has arrived. Lately, I have gotten a few emails asking what some of our favorite kayaking gear items are or what I would recommend. So I thought I would write about what we use and what we have found works for us during our paddling trips.

Keep in mind, we paddle mostly rivers with some whitewater involved. We have paddled lakes, although very seldom and when we do we use our recreational kayaks.

Let me also remind you that not everything listed you will find to your liking as much as we have. We have paddled now for years and have changed up our gear from time to time to adjust to our comfort while on the river.

Kayaks: We all own Jackson Kayaks. Our son has a Karma and both my husband and I own Villains. As for our reasoning to why we choose the type we did, well, honestly, we all have different likes and dislikes. I will give you my opinion and my opinion only. Safety and comfort were the big sellers for me. I LOVE the happy seat and the size of my kayak. I feel that if needed I can wet exit without any doubt, which was huge for me. (I had a little accident when we first started paddling in another kayak and will NEVER forget the feeling of being trapped underwater in a boat)

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PFD’s: We have gone through a few until finally finding our happy PFD’s. When you spend 4-6 hours in this safety device you really want to be comfortable. For us we all agreed that the Astral brand is for us. My husband and son have the same style and I wear the female version. Yes, believe it or not they make a female version that allows room for the “girls” to be comfortable also. Many of the other PFD companies have this feature also, so again, to each there own comfort. My advice to you is try them on, sit on the floor, and move your arms as you would while paddling. If you have rub zones anywhere hang it back up and try another PFD.

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Dry Bag: We have a few dry bags but the one that we like the most is from Sea Line (5L). This is the bag we take and load it up with a snack for up to 6 people, bug spray, travel size sunscreen, and my camera for every trip. It has always kept our items dry and is clear which means when we do need to open it we don’t need to rummage through everything to find what we are searching for which is very nice. It has held up for years and is still in great shape.

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Helmets: We all wear the same brand but a little different style. They are made by ProTec and were purchased through NRS. As you can see, my husbands is pretty beat up and has served it’s purpose a few times already. They are as comfortable as a helmet can be in my opinion as I am not a big fan of any helmet.

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Shoes: This is the item that we have replaced most often in the years we have been paddling. However, not due to damage, mainly due to style, and once forgetting them at the rivers edge…arggggg!  All our shoes were also purchased from NRS and for personal comfort reasons.

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Water bottles: Without a doubt I would suggest Nalgene bottles. Hook a carabiner to them and clip them behind your seat and you will have nothing to worry about. Ours have been thrown across rocks, down waterfalls, and on pavement and have never cracked yet.

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Safety Knife: My husband is the one that carries our safety knife on his PFD. Again, there are so many to choose from but we felt this knife would serve all our needs in any event where we would need to use one. Thankfully, we have never had to cut PFD straps or ropes from anyone or anything. The only thing it has cut so far is food wrappers at lunch time on the side of the river. Let’s hope it stays this way.

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Paddles: This is way to personal an item to suggest. There are so many variables to paddles that it is too hard to suggest a certain paddle to you. We all own different paddles and each of us dislikes the others for one reason or another.

That pretty much sums up what we use while on our rivers. We do carry a throw rope which can be purchased anywhere kayak supplies are sold and spray skirts are basically which ever company carries the proper size for the kayak you own. We have been very happy with the company called NRS and their customer service is beyond wonderful. I would highly suggest checking them out.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to any of these companies and I receive no compensation to mention or recommend them and their products to all of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Look Back At May And What’s To Come For June

Here is a little recap of the month of May 2015.

Our first camping trip of 2015 IMG_0930

 Everything is blooming and coming out of hiding from winterIMG_0871

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Fishing in the boat for the first time in 2015

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Our first big hike of 2015

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Finally getting my lifestyle back after an injury

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Our first kayaking trip of 2015

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It’s been quite a whirlwind month for us. As for June, it’s even crazier. With a visit to a friends cabin, a weekend garage sale to clear out the growing pile in our basement of things we no longer need/want, kayaking, hopefully standup paddling depending on my ankle, and to the beginning of our training plan for our up coming vacation. Life is looking somewhat overwhelming although, it’s exactly how I like it to be.

Do you fill your summertime calendar with busy, fun activities?

Or are you one to leave the weekends for rest and relaxation?

 

Supplies To Have On Hand For Stress Free Fun In The Outdoors

Every year I stock up about this time on the supplies we use most during the next few months. This makes it so much easier to pick up and go rather than make time to run to the store every time we get the urge for fun. I keep a big rubbermaid type box and gradually it becomes full as I see things we use often during our kayaking,camping, and hiking trips.

You may be thinking…..it’s only March and they live in Wisconsin how can they go kayaking? Well, we have been on the river as early as March dodging ice chunks. Are we crazy? Absolutely! Is it fun? Honestly, it feels great to paddle again after so many months, but it is not fun, it’s COLD!

Anyhow, here are a few of our favorite snacks that can survive the roughest kayaking trip, last minute camping trip, or the hottest trail hike.

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Clif Bars

Luna Bars

Almonds/Nuts

Candy

Vitalyte Electrolyte Replacement Powder

Granola bars

Jerky

Fruit pouches

Dried fruit

Mountain House Meals

I am still missing a few favorites but you at least get the idea. With a few bottles of water, dry bag/backpack, and the right foot wear for the activity, we can literally be out the door and on our way to adventure in under 30 minutes. Now that is what I call stress free fun!

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Dinner Planning

A while back I was asked how I plan and accomplish getting dinner on the table every night while caring for children and exercising as often as I do. I thought now would be a great time to touch on this topic since everyone has probably started their resolution of adding exercise to their daily life all while trying to juggle everything else that life throws their way.

First let me say, I always have a plan but do not beat myself up if that plan does not always happen. However, there are many factors that play into our weekly meal plan. Things like appointments, # of people eating that night, schedules, seasons, moods, weather, workout plans, coupons, etc.

Typically, I make my menu plan on Friday’s so I can take stock of the pantry and grocery shop for the needed supplies over the weekend. I always give myself Saturday off, where I prepare no meals at all for my family. This is the day I only cook for myself, someone cooks for me, or in the summer time you will usually find us sharing a meal on the tailgate of our truck after hours of kayaking,

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a meal on top of a bluff,

IMG_0382 or it could even be a meal on the top of a kayak. Regardless of where Saturdays meal may be you will not be served by me on this day of the week:)

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There is no magic trick to getting a decent dinner on the table most nights. I use my time wisely, I prepare anything I possibly can ahead of time, we have many cooking projects that the kids I care for can help with, I use kitchen tools when time is tight (love the crock pot), and always clean and cut up veggies right after I buy them. That is one step I don’t need to worry about getting done during the week.

A normal week looks somewhat like:

Sunday: nice dinner could take anywhere from 30-45 minutes to prepare (workout day)

Monday: 30minute meal (workout night)

Tuesday: 30 minute meal ( workout night)

Wednesday: crock pot or casserole meal (playdate on Wednesday’s means something to set and forget or a casserole I premade in the morning is ideal) (workout night)

Thursday: 30 minute meal ( workout night)

Friday: easy fast 15 minute meal (who feels like cooking on Friday’s) (off no workout)

Saturday: off (workout, kayaking, hiking, tennis, etc)

I will start posting our weekly menu plan on Sunday’s so you can get a little look into how I manage meals, exercise, working, and life. Maybe this will help those of you who struggle to find balance when it comes to feeding your family and still finding time for you.

Here is this weeks plan:

Sunday: no boil lasagna and side salad

Monday: pork stir fry over rice medley

Tuesday: crunchy ground turkey hoisin pockets and roasted broccoli

Wednesday: roasted whole chicken in the crock pot, stuffing, and zucchini

Thursday:  sushi and side salads

Friday: tuna casserole

Saturday: make it yourself or starve:)

If you see something that sounds good and  you would like the recipe, comment or email me at rednatural1973@gmail.com and I will be happy to share it with you.

 

 

The New Addition

Our son finally made up his mind and decided to purchase his new kayak. With his collarbone almost 100% healed and a few more weekends of nice weather ahead, he is not going to waste any time getting back into the swing of things and start paddling again.

Saturday morning we traveled to Wausau, WI to a fairly new paddling outfitter. The specific kayak our son has had his eye on for over the past year was available at this store, in the color he wanted, and at a very nice discounted price for a new, never seen a rock in the river, kayak. The owner really wanted to lesson his stock before winter arrives so I made the deal over the phone and all that was left to do was the “test drive” one last time to make sure it was what he really wanted. Upon arriving, they fitted him into the kayak on the store floor.(Wouldn’t you love a job that you could do bare feet like this sales associate?)

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Then it was outside to the rivers edge to take it for a paddle. Dad also tried a demo model they had for sale but he was not so thrilled with this kayak. (This is not a case of like father, like son. They have always had different likes when it comes to kayak models)

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He did not take long to make up his mind. He loved it immediately. Dad, on the other hand, tried really hard to like his but in the end he just was not comfortable and decided to stick with what he has for now.

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After some paddling, we made the deal final, paid, and loaded up the new addition to our fleet. Our son is now the proud owner of a Jackson Karma.

*****If you are considering purchasing a kayak for your own personal use I would highly suggest finding  an outfitter that allows you to “test drive” your purchase first. We have always had this opportunity and have learned from experience that what is comfortable and seems nice on the showroom floor is COMPLETELY different floating in water.

 

DIY First Aid Kit For Kayaking

With the coming of a new paddling season I thought we could touch on a subject that I feel pretty strongly about. That would be carrying first aid on the river.

I cannot tell you how many other paddlers have stopped us asking for first aid supplies or how many times we have used it ourselves. Numerous times for various issues.

After researching many prepackaged first aid kits, I finally decided it would be more economical to make my own. I was well aware of the things that are most likely to happen and after looking into what prepackaged kits had in them, I was not confident they would serve the purpose in a water situation.

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Here is what we have in our kit and why we carry it:

Dry Bag: this holds our first aid supplies

Duck Tape: nothing seals better than duck tape in water. It can be used for boat repair, blisters on your hands, to cover a bandage, to even tape a paddle back together to finish a river (yes, I know this for a fact).

Clean Towel: numerous obvious reasons

1 Roll Of Gauze: to wrap an open wound

1 Stretch Self Sealing Bandage: to cover an open wound and apply pressure. Even though the self sealing part of the bandage will not work well in the water, that’s another use for the duck tape.

Rubber Gloves: you never know if it’s your group or another group you will be assisting with first aid. Protect yourself first!

Folding Scissors: to cut bandages/tape.

Clippers: to cut broken toe nails that occur during portages, to remove a sliver, to cut bandages/tape etc.

Bandaids: Heavy duty bandages are the best for water activity. Again, covered with duct tape.

Antibiotic Spray: nothing will turn your guts more than getting a cut, scrape or broken toenail a mile back on the river and a little further down river finding a dead deer rotting laying half in the river. I know, gross, but again, I’ve been there.

Hydrocortisone Spray: Just in case you rub up against something during a portage or potty break and you start to itch.

Cleansing Wipes: to prepare a wound for bandaging

Ibuprofen: pain, swelling, headache etc.

Clean Empty Ziplocks: for garbage, to protect bloodied bandages until you can dispose of them.

Even though this would not be enough to apply first aid to every member in our group at one time, this is the basics that I believe we could make do with.

I think it is irresponsible to do something like whitewater kayaking without the proper gear. It does not take much to make a first aid kit. And regardless of what you think, it will not take up much room in your kayak. My son has the smallest boat of all three of us and he could fit this in his, so there really is no excuse not to carry first aid.

Thankfully in all our years of kayaking we have never had a serious kayaking accident that required first aid. We have truthfully had more accidents happen during portages or falls on slippery rocks rather than actual paddling. Either way, we are prepared and that is what is important.

Paddle safe and have a great season.

 

 

Kayaking With A Newbie- A Guide’s Checklist

It’s almost time to start thinking about dusting off our kayaks and going for a paddle. I thought I would give you all some good information we have learned over the years about taking a newbie kayaking with you. I remember clearly all my fears as a newbie and think this could benefit many others.

I will never forget the first time my husband begged me to try kayaking with a friend of his. I was not willing and said I never would be. So he took our son and the three of them went. Our son tipped over the first paddle stroke he took and they arrived home raving about the experience. I just shook my head in mom fashion and said I was glad they had a good time. End of discussion!

However, that was not the end of my husband trying to get me to go. It’s all I heard about, everyday, for days on end. Then one night he arrived home from work and waited patiently for my last child to be picked up and my work day to be over. He told me to go change, and get in the truck, we were going kayaking with his friend and he was not taking no for an answer. I spoke my mind, said I was not going and that was that. Well, about 20 minutes later I found myself in the truck, not speaking to my husband and very unhappy. I finally just gave in, because I figured it would just be easier. I assumed I would hate it and I would never have to hear about it again. Little did I know how wrong I was.

We bought our first two recreational kayaks that next weekend. One more a few weeks after that. One year after having those, we bought our first two whitewater kayaks and a year after that I purchased my whitewater kayak. Which left us with two recreational kayaks for friends to join us. And we sold the third recreational kayak to my brother.

We wasted no time learning the ropes of this sport. We took a rescue class in a pool setting during winter one year, we purchased all the proper gear and also made sure to read up on the rivers we wanted to kayak. We knew this would all be very important if we ever wanted to have friends join us. A great book we find very useful for our area is:

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Since then, we have taken friends and family along for some paddling fun. Many really have no idea what to expect and others are into trying everything the first time in a kayak. When you are the one guiding the trip of the day,  there are a few important rules you should follow. Like everything in life, their first time in a kayak can be whatever they wish it to be. It can be an adventure, a wild ride, a relaxing paddle, a way to connect to nature or quite the workout. However, it can also be a terrible, dangerous, miserable experience if they are not prepared for what could happen on a river in a kayak. That is where you, as the “guide” comes into play. A good guide can really make or break any trip. Here are some important pointers as a guide of a newbie:

#1 Check that everyone has the proper gear before leaving home. Examples:PFD, helmet, spare keys, water, sunscreen, portage shoes, snacks etc. Also, make sure their PFD fits them.

#2 Let someone (neighbor, friend, parent) know what river you are doing, from what point to what point and when you expect to return home. Just in case!

#3 Get the current weather forecast. If possible, try and take a newbie on a nice day. It’s not so cold and miserable when they decided to swim instead of paddle:)

#4 Give details of the river they will be paddling. Some of the most common questions for us when we are guiding a trip is: How do we portage? How many portages are there? Do I have to portage? Is there a place to change? What should I wear? (These last two are normally asked by females) Letting them know what to expect always seems to help.

#5 Stress proper hydration/nutrition throughout the day. Tell them to bring water and somehow secure it into their kayak. Remind them throughout the day to drink. You would be surprised how many people forget to drink. Also, ask them often how they feel. Would they like to stop for a snack? Are they comfortable?

#6 Assist them on paddle strokes and the feel of the kayak upon entering the water. Before you even start paddling, make sure they understand how to hold the paddle, what strokes do what, make sure their seat is adjusted correctly, and they are comfortable with their kayak. Making adjustments mid river is not always easy or possible for that matter.

#7Make sure you take them to a river you are familiar with. I cannot stress this enough!!! They are depending on you to know what is coming next. Especially with a river that has rapids. If they change their minds when they start to hear the rapid around the corner, you know where and how much time you have to get them out to portage before they are committed. Be a knowledgeable guide about the river you are on.

#8 Don’t push them too hard. Ask if they are tired and would like a break. Remember you paddle often, they do not. If they want to try something new, let them. On the other hand, if they need to think about it for awhile or watch someone else first, let them do so.

#9 Stress what to do in a roll over. This is usually the scariest thing for newbies, but let’s face it, it sometime happens. Tell them exactly what to do. Tell them in what position to float downriver, never to get between their overturned kayak and a rock and to swim to the rivers edge when possible. Explain to them how to wet exit their overturned kayak.  Remember it’s all about priorities. Rescue order should be people, boats, equipment.

#10 Bring First Aid. This is what dry bags are for. Accidents happen. You don’t need much, but when you need it, you will be glad you had it. We have used our first aid a couple times. From simple bandaids to gauze wrapped with duct tape. (Yes, duct tape! Holds great in water)

These are the basics for taking a newbie kayaking. Just keep in mind, a great guide can really make a great trip. If you want your family and friends to join you, show them you can be fun and knowledgeable all at the same time.

Safe and Happy Paddling Everyone!