Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
Gearlab Deck Pod carries paddling essentials organized on deck and close to hand for your kayak trips. It holds hydration, snacks, gadgets, and most
importantly, designated snag-free slots for bilge pump and paddle float. This
Pod provides direct access to safety equipment when needed.
450D DWR Hydrolysis Resistant Fabric
A 5 stars accessory: Deck Pod, the new Gearlab product for paddlers.
I think is just what we need to organise our kayaking essentials in an easy and fast way to get it while paddling, without stopping to open any storage compartment (forget twisting to get something from it).
I use to carry hydration bladder (no more bottles exposed outside or turning inside the kayak), pump (so easy to free it from de Deck pod), paddle float, river knife, lip stick sun protection, sun cream, nose clip, some food (like dry fruit snacks or energy sticks), even the camera or other gadgets.
I highly recommend it. Another advantage is that avoid water if necessary, so you don’t have to worry about.
I’m in love with the design that fits my kayak, Gearlab takes care of every detail and the finish is fantastic, the materials they use are high quality and that makes the item an essential for kayaking comfortably. I like the easy way you can fix it in and release it from the Kayak’s deck with buckles.
For me, I just see advantages on it.
It’s not the only Gearlab product I use, I’m so happy with all of them, but it seems that they improve in every new accessory they design. Recently it’s been awarded with best paddling transport/storage/launching from Paddling Magazine Industry Awards, which is another recognition to the accessory.
It’s a very good investment for kayakers, I truly recommend Deck Pod from Gearlab.
It appears that Gearlab’s Deck Pod is a deck bag designed with considerable thought to the needs of sea kayakers.
Gearlab sent me the Deck Pod at no charge which I have agreed to on the proviso that any opinions (positive or negative) are mine to express. The below is an initial impression, with longer term outcomes to follow in time.
I don’t see that many deck bags of any brand about on the decks of sea kayaks around this part of the world. Most people stuff a number of items under the front bungee cords for easy access, and keep other items in their PFD, below deck in the cockpit or in the day hatch (if the boat has one). My approach has to date been the same (no deck bag).
So I feel it is important to first reflect on why a sea kayak would bother using a deck bag: • Neaten up the existing items one may store in the front bungees, PFD and cockpit. • Provide additional storage volume for longer trips. • Provide quick and easy access to essential items. This is especially the case on rough seas, where getting to items in a day hatch and especially below deck can be difficult to dangerous. The location of a deck bag means it is the easiest and most stable location to access out on the ocean. This is not only a convenience factor, it can be a safety factor.
Whilst I haven’t used a deck bag for specifically for gear previously I often fish from my sea kayak and so I have had a procession of insulated deck bags for storing my catch. This has given me some insight into a few issues with the designs. Some of the common issues I have seen with deck bags (and my insulated fish deck bags): • Poor attachments to the deck lines – leaving the bag too loose and subject to move about. • Components that fail too quickly. The deck bag needs to survive constant UV and salt exposure. They need to be tough. • Bags that impede efficient paddling or rolling. • Bags that catch the wind. • Bags that are fiddly or difficult to access on the water, negating one of the points of moving the gear on to the deck in the first place.
After spending some time picking over Gearlab’s Deck Pod it is apparent how they have considered and tried to address all of the above (and probably a few other things that I haven’t thought of). Let me try to explain the bag in a series of dot points: • The bag is not large – maybe totalling close to 10 litres if the internal and external storage was all tallied up. It is also shaped like a limpet (or more accurately a slug) with a broad, concave underside and then all sides tapering up and in from the deck. This means it is relatively low profile on the front deck and does not impede any paddle strokes or rolls. • There are two adjustable ports on either side of the bag. The two most common items sea kayakers want easy access to when things get hairy out on the water are a bilge pump and paddle float. The two ports are designed to fit these items (or similar sized roughly cylindrical gear). On closer examination the attention Gearlab have put into designing these ports is impressive. The back port is padded, with both hook and loop fastener to adjust to the approximate size for your pump and also a webbing and buckle cinch to tighten a little further to hold the item tight. The front port is simply a loop of webbing and clip buckle so that the clip can be quickly released on the water to take out the item. However there is more to its design. Gearlab has used polyacetal buckles made by YKK of Japan for the various buckles and zip on the bag. However for the front gear ports they use buckles from another Japanese manufacturer – Nifco – also in polyacetal. This buckle has a little ‘lip’ under the clip where the webbing doubles back to tighten. Hard to describe without pictures, but the result is that the webbing loop cannot be tightened, or more importantly loosened, unless the buckle is unclipped. Meaning that even in the craziest surf wipe-out, your paddle float secured to your deck bag is not going to come loose. No doubt it would have been easier for Gearlab to specify another YKK buckle for this clip and pretty much no-one would have noticed. But I guess they wanted to be sure that webbing wouldn’t come loose under hard use. I am impressed, it is this sort of commitment to detail that separates the good brands from the pretenders. • The Deck Pod is in no way waterproof, indeed it has mesh drainage ports so water can get out of (but also into) the bag quickly. This is a good thing. Waterproof zips don’t stay waterproof for long, especially under constant sun and salt, and seize up too easily with sand and salt. Roll top dry bags work great, but have you ever tried to roll one up nice and tight – one, two, three – on the front deck in a big sea? Easy enough on a flat lake, but a rough ocean is when deck bags get wet. If you have a few items that need to be waterproofed, much better to store them in a small dry bag and put that into the Deck Pod. Most of the stuff you will want in there (water, safety gear, some snacks) can, and will, get wet. • The Deck Pod attaches via four webbing straps that can be tensioned through buckle clips. The webbing has loops sewn at each end with a half twist (to make it easier to thread). You choke the webbing on to your deck lines, clip the bag on and tension the webbing. As the buckles sit flat on the deck they don’t loosen. I have used a few other types of attachments for deck bags. The worst are those plastic clips or carabiners. They never sit flush, are hard to tension right and seem to break too easily. Better is two sided Velcro tape. A bit more fiddly and not as tight but durable and secure. The Gearlab solution is better again and the easiest and tightest attachment method I have tried. For a very narrow deck kayak they may not be able to be tightened enough with the above approach. But if you choke the webbing to each other instead of the deck lines and run a continuous loop under the deck lines it could be made tight enough. • Gearlab have added a carry handle to make the bag just that bit more ergonomic to lug around. Cleverly, the carry handle is stitched so that it always tucks up under the bag on the deck, and won’t get snagged on the water or confused with the grab loop on your spray skirt. • The bag opens via one non-waterproof zipper running lengthways across one side of the top of the bag. Internally, there is basically one big cavity, with a mesh pocket to one side and an opening towards the front where you can route a hydration tube or even wedge a GPS or other device from the outside. I could see myself slipping a wrapper into through this hole after a snack, instead of undoing the zipper. Internally there is a plastic hook clip for securing a lanyard to any items that are critical to not getting dropped over the side (e.g. mobile phone case). The plastic hook clip looks well made, though I have had plenty break in backpacks after a few years and only time will tell. Pretty easy to replace it with a small carabiner if it does eventually break as the fabric tape loop is exposed within the bag. • There is a long mesh pocket on top of the bag. This would a good spot for stuffing in a map or a couple of snack bars if conditions weren’t really rough. In really rough conditions I could imagine items could be lost from this area. • The bag is lightly padded (feels like maybe 3mm closed cell foam is used throughout the bags construction). I guess that is to reduce the impact from any hard objects rattling around in the bag from damaging the deck of your kayak. It also means that the bag floats, at least when empty. • Gearlab calls the fabric ‘450D DWR Hydrolysis Resistant Fabric’. I am assuming that means that the fabric is not nylon (which is subject to hydrolysis) and probably polyester. Polyester would be preferable also in being relatively resistant to UV breakdown.
Of course, the above counts for nothing unless the gear performs out on the water. An initial test has revealed nothing or concern or different to that noted above. The deck bags low profile means it doesn’t cause any issues either paddling or rolling. I added a couple of 500ml water bottles to the bag to see how they rattled about during rolling but didn’t even notice them. Pricing for the Deck Pod is pretty competitive with other deck bags on the market. Most, but not all of Gearlab’s products (for example I love the design of their dry bag, but it is too expensive compared to the alternatives) are competitively priced.
The Sea-to-Summit one is another reasonable deck bag, but the Gearlab bag is better designed for its purpose. For example the bungee cord webbing on the Sea-to-Summit is not going to hold items well enough in a combat roll situation. I’ve had a good look over the internet at other sea kayak deck bags as well – not the ideal research method – but I can pretty quickly see flaws in most of the other designs if they are to be used for serious sea kayaking.
I do like to get a lot more use on gear before I conclude an opinion and will post a second follow up review when that is complete. Some issues only become apparent over time. However at this stage, I do feel that Gearlab have produced a deck bag that is better designed than most for ocean sea kayaking.
As an instructor/guide, the Deck Pod allows me to easily keep my basic instructor kit in hand as I switch seamlessly between my different boats. I'm able to fit my paddle float, bilge pump, VHF radio, sunscreen, first aid kit, repair kit, spare whistle, and sponge in my Deck Pod. Durability is important to me, as it has proven to be for Gearlab as well. I haven't used it for a long period of time, but the design seems as though it will hold up to the rigor of daily paddling. I've used quite a few different designs of deck bags over the years, and the Deck Pod's layout suites me best. I can easily replace a paddle float with a water bottle and still be assured it stays in while paddling. I've put the Deck Pod through two days of surf kayaking without any worry of losing any piece of gear. Two things of note: the top mesh compartment doesn't fit my VHF (Standard Horizon HX870) so I choose to keep this on my person when I anticipate using it, thus assuring quick and ready access to it rather than zipped up in the Pod. I also look forward to seeing additional/extra tie-down clips for sale on the website; I'd like to put them on the perimeter lines of all my boats, allowing a more rapid switch between kayaks. All in all, the new Gearlab Deck Pod is a sturdy, well-designed deck bag, ideal for gear storage for recreational and professional use alike. I will definitely be picking up more Deck Pods for my instructors and look forward to putting more use on it!