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Name: richardpinney

Most Recent Reviews

The Icom IC-M88 handheld VHF marine radio is a good choice for use in a canoe or kayak. It is very small, small enough to fit in most pockets, quite light, has excellent battery life, is ruggedly constructed, and is completely waterproof. It has the standard 5 / 1 watt power options, and an extensive feature set, including multiple scan modes, weather alert function, and self checking function. However, the small size and substantial Li-Ion battery combine to create one of the radios drawbacks: It does not float if dropped overboard. I use the wrist strap to tether the radio to a small D-ring located inside the radio pocket of my PFD. This keeps it secure while still allowing convenient use of the radio, and keeps it with me should I become separated from my kayak.

The other drawback, at least for me, is the lack of a dedicated squelch knob. Instead it has a two-button operated squelch, with 11 possible settings ("open" and 10 "squelch" levels). In fairness, this setup is quite common among currently available waterproof handhelds. Very few have the traditional squelch knob anymore.

Finally, this radio is a bit pricier than most other waterproof handheld marine VHF radios. Whether this extra cost is justified or not, I can't say, since I have only limited experience with other similar radios. But I can say that my IC-M88 has seen much use, and some occasional accidental abuse, over the 5+ years I have owned it, and still looks and operates just like it did the day I bought it.

I have had my Old Town Pack for about 20 years, and it has served me well. The light weight (~33#) means I can carry it on one shoulder, with paddle, life jacket, and a few odds and ends, to the water in one trip by myself, a definite plus for a small solo canoe. The Royalex construction is nearly indestructible, and essentially impervious to UV. My Pack once spent a couple of years continuously on the top of my truck with no apparent adverse effects. After about 18 years of use, and abuse, the cane seat finally gave out, and I purchased a replacement with artificial fiber webbing. I kept the frame of the cane seat, in case I can have it re-caned some day. The canoe did sustain a slight dent in the bow, but only because I hit a rock "hard", and square-on, in some light white water. This canoe will swamp, and it just barely floats when full of water, but it is not really a white water boat anyway, particularly considering the slight keel. It paddles well while sitting, and extra stability can be had by using a "kneeling from the seat" position. I have not taken this canoe camping, but it does just fine with enough gear for fishing and day trips.

I have had my Current Designs Solstice GT kayak for a little over a year now, and in the often windy Florida Keys, it is easily my new favorite paddle craft! It is the Kevlar version, and at <50# is light enough for me to carry on one shoulder. Like most efficient kayaks (as opposed to "personal barges"), it can be a bit tricky when entering and exiting, but once you are installed in it, it is incredibly stable and sea worthy! It has closed cell foam knee pads under the cockpit rim, and with the seat back and rudder peddles properly adjusted you just become one with the boat! The seat is much more comfortable than it appears, and has never been a limiting factor in how long I can stay in the kayak. I have done several trips in the 5 -6 hour, and 10 – 12 mile range, and was impressed each time with the fun and comfort of this kayak. I weigh about 160#, and have not yet paddled it with loads in the sealed bow and stern compartments, but even lightly loaded with just day trip gear it tracks quite well, with or without the rudder deployed. The low profile hatches on the bow and stern compartments look sleek, seal well, and add zero adverse windage. Everything about this kayak is well designed, well made, and of the highest quality. The hatches, bungee system, side grab lines, carry handles, seat, cockpit design, and steering gear all indicate a manufacturer with extensive experience and a commitment to producing excellent kayaks!

The Camelbak Cortez is a must-have accessory for all but the shortest kayak adventures! Once you try it, you will never leave the dock without it! It holds 3 liters, and when first filled with ice, and then with cold water, it will keep its cool for several hours, even under continuous summer Florida Keys sun! The silver-ish container color seems to do a good job reflecting most of the sunlight, but not so much that there is a glare in the eyes. The orange tube insulation seems more decorative than functional, as any water in the tube will get warm between drinks. I find it best to blow the water in the tube back into the container after drinking.

It has its own little criss-cross bungees to make up for the bungee space it takes up on the forward deck of your kayak. There is even a little zipper at the bottom where you can store lip wax or other small items. It has a non-skid bottom surface to help it stay put on the kayak deck. It even comes with a handy whistle clipped to the drinking tube, and of course has all of the standard hydration pack features one expects from Camelbak, like interior webbed reservoir, large filling opening, quick detach tube, bite valve cover, etc. There are definitely reasons why Camelbak is a leader in the active outdoor activities hydration business.

When I first got this water pack, It seemed to me that the hooks for attaching it to the kayak bungees might be a bit small, and the gates on them might possibly be susceptible to damage with repeated use. However, after over a year of use, they all still work just fine. Not counting required gear like a paddle and PFD, this is definitely the best, and most used, kayak accessory that I have, and I highly recommend it!

The Kokatat Bahia Tour PFD is clearly designed with the active kayak paddler in mind. The thin lower back portion works well with kayak seat backs, and the overall shape allows unrestricted arm movement while paddling. It is extremely adjustable, and has mesh panels wherever possible. This adds up to a PFD that is as comfortable and cool as a PFD can be, which means it is more likely to be worn, where it will do its job, rather than being stowed under a deck bungee, where it may well be useless when needed. It has two large, pleated, zippered, tight-mesh pockets, one on each side, into each of which an impressive amount of stuff can be stowed. A third pocket has a buckle down flap closure, and is an ideal size for a small handheld VHF radio.

As I mostly paddle solo in somewhat remote areas of the Florida Keys, safety is always a concern. With this PFD, if for whatever reason I should ever get separated from my kayak, I can still have some basic safety gear with me, like a VHF radio, signal mirror, whistle, flashlight, knife, camera (with flash that can be used as a manual "strobe" light), small tube of sunscreen, etc. The Bahia Tour also has two strap attachment points, one front and one rear, for anything else that you might want to have connected to you.

The Granite Gear Large Wedge Thwart Bag Provides a considerable amount of storage for the stern paddler in a canoe, with more than enough room to store just about anything you might want to access quickly like sunscreen, sunglasses, lip wax, a chart, a camera, some snacks, small fishing gear, or whatever else you can think of. It has an outer flat pocket which is ideal for a folded chart. The rigid plastic interior bottom piece helps the bag keep its shape and maintain accessibility. It is well made of very durable 210 Denier Cordura, with good zippers and attachment straps and buckles. While it is not a purpose built dry bag, it does have a waterproof interior coating, and a generous buckle down flap over both zippers that will keep out the inevitable paddle drips, and the occasional light rain, as well.

The Epic Relaxed Touring paddle weighs just 22 ounces in carbon fiber, and is amazingly stiff! It makes most other paddles feel like glorified 2x4's by comparison. The locking ferrule is adjustable for length, and feather, and doesn't exhibit the slightest flex or slip. I carry another brand of paddle as a spare with a carbon fiber shaft, polymer blades, and a simple push-button ferrule lock, and while it is still an excellent and lightweight paddle, it feels positively rubbery compared to the Epic. An extremely lightweight paddle may not provide as much exercise as a heavier one, but it definitely keeps the paddling fun, instead of work! And for me, that's what paddling should be all about. It allows me to go farther, with less effort, and probably get more of a workout in total, but without "feeling" like I am working out. And when I get back to the dock, my arms aren't too tired to carry my gear back to the house.

The Granite Gear Under Seat Bag provides a fairly large storage space within easy reach of the paddler. While not as easily accessible as a bow bag or thwart bag, the under seat bag is larger, with enough room for rain gear, lunch, and maybe even a light change of clothes. The rigid plastic interior bottom piece helps the bag keep its shape and maintain accessibility. It is well made of very durable 210 Denier Cordura, with good zippers and attachment straps and buckles. While it is not a purpose built dry bag, it does have a waterproof interior coating, and a flap over the zipper that will keep out any splashes, and the occasional light rain, as well. Also, given its location under the seat, it is inherently protected from the elements.