The Microship Gear Shop - Paddling Dept.

Kayak Gear, Paddle Bags, Dry Bags, Boat Stuff...


Dry Bags

Dry bags on Bubba

  (REI has changed affiliate networks and some of their product links are still not working; you can search for Dry Bags by starting here:  Kayaking & Canoeing)

Every kayaker, sooner or later, ends up with a collection of dry bags of various sizes... they are essential tools in the paddling life.  Most of mine are of the SealLine flavor developed by Cascade Designs, but it's a competitive field and there are some excellent others that I haven't yet tried... so the link at left will take you to REI's whole dry bags collection (26 products at this writing). 

What is important is that you get some, since an old wag once correctly observed:  Water corrodes. Salt water corrodes absolutely.  Roll-top bags are always a bit of a nuisance, but they DO work extremely well... something you'll appreciate when you've had a cold, sloppy crossing and crawl into a warm, dry sleeping bag by your campfire.  And the new breed of "deck bags" will greatly expand the stowage space (and convenience) of a hard-shell kayak.

As tempting as it is to analyze all your gear and buy precisely the suite of bags to match, what really happens in practice is that a few large items get married to bags of specific dimensions (tent, sleeping bag, mattress); a few other bags get known as "cooking stuff," "camping miscellaneous." "foulies," and the like; and random left-over smaller ones get pressed into service for day trips and gear categories you didn't even know you had.  In other words, don't worry too much about buying more than you think you'll need... you'll need them.  Or your friends will.

Foam-Core Paddle Bag

 TD Paddlebag

(click image to order from Technomadic Designs - $35)

OK, we might be lacking our usual objectivity on this one, since we designed it and sell it.  The problem was that quality kayak paddles can now cost more than the boats themselves.   It is not uncommon to spend $350-400 for an ultralight carbon-fiber foam-core bent-shaft featherable model... yet if you're like most paddlers, this precision instrument ends up banging around in the back of your car, clattering against rocks as you make your way to a put-in, and ending up at the bottom of a pile of clutter during off-season.  We took a look at the paddle bags on the market and weren't too impressed... why not pamper this critical tool?

This bag is made with thin but dense closed-cell foam between layers of ripstop... with a stainless snap closure, two separate compartments, and a tethered end cap to protect the fragile ferrules of your take-apart paddle.  The foam does not soak up water, and also provides a little bit of butt-padding when you use it around camp... and it floats, no matter how wet it gets.  The end is reinforced internally to minimize the chances of the paddle wearing through, and although a little bulky, it can be stored flat under a pile of gear or loosely rolled around a dry bag to minimize stowage space.

A unique feature is the carry strap:  most existing paddle bags don't give you a positioning choice, so it's easy to fling it over your shoulder and then have the exposed ends whacking you in the chin during a portage.  Our strap has a swivel hook to prevent twisting, and can be moved from the open to the closed end to suit different carrying preferences... over your shoulder, across your back, or even suitcase-style.  One of these bags is with us on every trip.

Inflatable Kayaks

Advanced Elements Inflatables

(REI has changed affiliate networks and some of their product links are still not working; you can search for Inflatables by starting here:  Kayaking & Canoeing)

The kayaking subculture, like most that involve a lot of high-tech gear, is one of strong opinions... and many hardshell paddlers look down their noses at inflatables.  This reputation, alas, has been earned:  there have been a few unfortunate boats over the years that might be better described as "pool toys," and most inflatables are slower than rigid craft of the same general dimensions.

Having said that, however, I love them.  Why?  They roll up and go away when you want to carry them (simplifying portage and security... no racks on your car!), and they are much easier to store.  Inflatables are generally much more comfortable than hardshells (I can lie down in mine, though it is an extreme case), and stability is excellent (I can stand up, walk around, or sit on the gunwale without capsizing).  They cover a very wide performance range, with some (like the Feathercraft Airline series) being very nearly as fast as hardshells and others being liesurely but safe, ideal for beginners.

My own kayak of choice is the Aire Sea Tiger, naturally rather geeked out with lots of electronics.  But a few folks in our local paddling group have these Advanced Elements boats, which are only $339 from REI.  They perform well, are easy to set up, and have yielded hundreds of miles of adventure on a shoestring budget without any problems. Click the photo at left (taken inside the Chittenden Lock in Seattle) to learn more.  The Innova boats are more expensive but excellent; another friend swears by them.


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