Name: Rookie

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Decided this spring to try a different hydration option for shorter outings. Normally my hydration pack is carried behind my seat with the tube running under my sprayskirt, attached to my PFD shoulder strap. Not a fan of round water bottles because when carried on the forward deck, they create windage.

This spring I picked up a Platypus soft water bottle that stores flat when empty, has a dual locking lid and a nifty wire gate clip which doubles as a carrying handle. When filled, it easily fits into my forward day hatch because the bottle is pliable, leaving room for snacks, camera, etc. When out of the hatch, the clip secures it to a bungee and the shape stays pretty much flat.

Having used it regularly this season, am very pleased with the bottle. On warm summer days, additional water is carried in my rear day hatch: a 1.5 L round bottle about 3/4 full, then frozen overnight. If I need to refill my Platypus, that backup supply is just about completely thawed.

The Platyupus is a USA product, leaves no taste and is BPA, bps, and Phthalate free. Has a wide opening for easy fill-up.

Investing in a dry suit was on my "to think about" list for the future. I figured a wet suit and neoprene jacket would do just fine in spite of disliking drenched skin when taking it off. Wet suits are wet whether you've been in the water or not, but my gear was serving its purpose.

Funny how life has a way of changing our plans. When I started paddling in mid-April after the ice left the lake, my Farmer Jane created painful pressure on a healing shoulder injury. I had to find another option and started asking questions here at Pnet.

My outfitter, Marshall of The River Connection, kindly offered to send me a Kokatat Surge paddling suit to try. This suit features Kokatat's new SwitchZip technology. A two-piece suit with attached booties, it was brand new with tags still attached so I never tested it in my boat, only outdoors a few times on cold windy April days. Even while wearing a couple of layers I could feel the wind through the material. I did like the two-piece concept and the SwitchZip was intriguing. Most important, it was comfortable. But I didn't think the Surge was a good option as I don't carry much body fat and doubted it would be warm enough.

I next tried a Kokatat Gore-Tex Expedition suit I could wear while paddling. The gyrations involved getting it on and off were challenging enough, but it was the rear zipper that sealed its fate. Uncomfortable and ungainly. That said, I was warm while wearing it, the Gore-Tex offered good wind protection, and it was wonderful not having wet feet or the clammy skin my wet suit left.

I liked the dry suit experience enough to order a Kokatat Gore-Tex Radius dry suit with SwitchZip. I hadn't tried on the Radius but liked the way it looked, very much liked the SwitchZip technology, and my experience with two-piece and one-piece dry suits made the choice easy. Once I started using it, I knew I made the right decision as I love the Radius for several reasons:

It's two-piece. The pants slip on as easily as a pair of jeans and the top is like putting on a turtle-neck sweater. No gyrations, no stress, no strain, and they come off just as easily. The Radius is also nicely tailored: no excess material hanging off your bum or around your thighs (I'm a girl and how clothes fit matters).

Yes, the SwitchZip takes practice. I spent some time zipping and unzipping while not wearing the suit just to understand the mechanics. Once the zipper is correctly aligned, it's very easy to pull it around my waist and latch it down. I don't feel the presence of the latch knob in or out of my kayak nor is it obtrusive.

The suit's versatility is terrific. I've worn the top as a dry top on cool windy days when a rash guard just wasn't warm enough. I wear the pants weekly as I have to walk in the lake between my dock and an access site because high water levels took out the beach. Dry feet! The Radius dry pants are comfortable so come cold weather season I can don them at home and drive to my launch site then pull on the top, zip, and be ready to go.

The top has two generous self-draining pockets, one on each sleeve. I've not yet needed to use the hood and what I call the Ninja mask, but know they'll come in handy when the weather turns. A plus is the hood and mask store compactly inside the collar.

There's also a large pocket in the pants. I wear an Astral YTV PFD which has only two small side pockets, so the three Radius pockets are a major safety benefit (if you don't have it on you, you don't have it).

I think Kokatat has hit it out of the ball park with the Radius dry suit and SwitchZip. Did I mention how easy it is to put on and take off?

I loved the Werner Cyprus paddle the first time I held it and was overjoyed when I received one for Christmas. Never thought another paddle would enter my life until I fractured my shoulder. Had a lot of soreness during my first pool practice four months later and I was handed a Greenland paddle made by another paddler. It eased the stress on my shoulder muscles considerably so I asked here at Pnet for Greenland paddle recommendations.

Lumpy Paddles was the most highly recommended paddle. I contacted Bill Bremer and told him my tale of woe. Bill is a wonderful human being, spent tons of time asking me questions and giving me explicit instructions on what I needed to measure, emailed photographs, and triple-checked to make sure those measurements were correct. Days passed then he messaged that he had found a piece of Western Red Cedar he liked and was starting to carve my paddle. In the interim, I studied the Qajaq and Greg Stamer websites trying to learn some basics about the forward stroke with a Greenland.

Some time later a stunning Lumpy paddle, richly colored and beautifully grained, arrived. I was amazed at its lightness and put it on a scale. It weighs only three ounces more than my carbon Cyprus.

That evening I tried it, knowing that I supposed to use a canted blade for the forward stroke. Bill made that very easy because he carved the paddle so that when I place my hands on it, it's naturally canted forward. Awesome! One less thing to think about.

I'm still in the learning stages. At first I could barely eek out 2 mph, but with some experience, that's steadily improving where I can cruise around 3.5. In a stiff headwind, there's nothing that can surpass my Lumpy. Best of all, it's much, much easier on my shoulders and invites longer distances.

Except for that short time in the pool using a borrowed GP, my Lumpy is the only Greenland I've held so I didn't realize what a treasure it is until I took a Greenland class with Rowland Woollven, a BCU 5* Sea Kayak Coach from Scotland and the first man to circumnavigate Britain using a stick. He asked to see my paddle, giving me his carbon GP in exchange, then paddled off.

He liked it so much he had everyone else in the class try it. I had to use whatever paddle was handed to me. That's when I realized how wonderful my Lumpy is - made me happy to be reunited with it.

I love the paddle and best of all, Bill comes with it. He really cares about his clients and wants them to have the best experience possible. He's been a wonderful source of information, encouraging and helping me with technique, always available to answer questions by email or by phone. He's a BCU coach, paddle maker extraordinaire, really nice guy, and fun to talk with on the phone.

If you're thinking of getting a Greenland - go Lumpy. For good reason there's a waiting list, but the wait is well worth it.

No hesitation in giving the Hullavator 10 stars. Using the 897XT installed on Thule AeroBlade bars. Quiet as a mouse and works like a charm. In addition to ease of use, the positives include the ability to lock the bars and each Hullavator, the rubber protection around the cam strap buckles, and the sweet little pocket on each cradle so you can stash excess strap inside for a nice, neat transport. Thule's bow and stern tie-downs that come with the kit are efficient and very secure. Best of all, it takes about a minute to install each Hullavator cradle and 20 seconds to remove. I'm just an average 110# gal and each cradle weighs 15#, so I leave the cradles off until I need to carry my boat. Brilliant engineering on Thule's part.

I do just about daily long slow distance training on my lake, which can get incredibly boring since I know the water and shoreline like the back of my hand. I thought listening to music while I paddle would break up the monotony but using bluetooth earbuds with my iPod 5G didn't work well. Enter the smartphone waterproof case. It has a waterproof jack where I can connect wired stereo headphones, which work better for me on the water than earbuds. A neoprene arm band and a lanyard are also included in the package so you can wear it on your arm or keep it on your deck.

The case is clear soft plastic; clear enough to be able to take a photo through it and ample enough to hold both my iPod and my Android cell phone. I can also use the touch screen on both devices without removing them from the case. Since I keep it on my foredeck, I was initially concerned about how waterproof the jack would be. A silly concern; it continues to work perfectly and the music makes LSD paddles quite delightful.

Surrounded by the Great Lakes and Michigan's many inland lakes, my launch and takeout sites are for the most party sandy, sometimes with a bit of gravel. First shoes I used were Keens. Thick and bulky, they filled up with sand. Had to take them off to dump the sand. I hate sandy shoes. Then I tried using my original Teva sandals. Easy to dump sand, but the straps were either too tight or too loose and made my feet cramp. Nor is it a good shoe to wear in colder water. Next was a pair of J-41 water shoes, which worked for a while until the elastic cord on the right shoe weakened and the shoe would slip off my foot. They also took two days to dry and did accumulate sand.

Then Astral Loyaks came on the market.
I love this shoe. It has drainage in the sole, toe, and heel. Great flexibility, quick drying nylon upper, and a wonderful, supportive sole. I wear a pair of lightweight SmartWool micro socks with my Loyaks and while a tiny amount of sand may get in, I never feel it. Best of all, it's a laced shoe so there are no pressure points because of straps and my feet are always comfortable. Stains and dirt are easily washed away and the shoes don't get stinky. When I wear them out, I'll buy another pair. They're that great.

My 2013 Necky Rip 10 measures 10'6", has a 29-inch beam, and weighs 43 pounds. It was purchased new in May 2014. Necky has now made a skeg standard equipment on all Necky Rip 10s built after 2013 and for good reason, as this boat has tracking issues.

The 43-pound weight is evenly distributed along the length of the boat, so it's very easy to lift and carry. That's a big plus. The Rip 10 has one sealed bulkhead in the stern and some foam flotation in the bow. This is not a boat you want to capsize because you'll have to swim it to shore unless you're a body builder and powerful swimmer. Of course, a flotation bag could always be tucked in the front of the cockpit as a safety factor.

The stern hatch has an oval hatch cover. It's large enough to contain my Wheeleze mini-cart and tires, plus other gear. The coaming on the sides of the cockpit is covered with a foam material, which eliminates noise when you rest your paddle across the cockpit. A nice feature.

While easily adjustable, the foot pegs are not well made. My left foot peg started to release about a month after I purchased the Rip 10. Had to duct tape it in place. Then the jam cleat on the seat ripped out and I had to stuff an extra PFD behind the backrest to keep it in position.

The cockpit is huge and deep. Great for large paddlers, not so great for smaller paddlers. I feel like I'm sitting in a bathtub. Because of the size of the cockpit, lots of paddle drip accumulates in the cockpit. I had to purchase a half-skirt to eliminate that problem. On the other hand, a benefit of the large cockpit is that I can install the half-skirt while sitting in the boat; there's plenty of room to turn around and face the stern.

The boat has excellent primary and secondary stability. I can paddle to the shoreline, stand up in the cockpit and exit. It's also a stable and fun boat in waves and wakes - but takes a lot of energy to paddle no matter the conditions. The boat itself is solidly made and I imagine would be a good river boat, as I think it would just bounce off any rocks.

If you're a relaxed paddler who has no need for speed or a good glide, you'll enjoy the Necky Rip 10. It's a good boat to practice the basic strokes; there's certainly plenty of room in the cockpit to be able to fully rotate your hips! It's difficult, if not impossible, to edge the Rip 10 because it's so beamy.

After contacting Necky customer service, Johnson Outdoors did send me a new foot brace and a new seat - but no installation instructions. Finally received those after a second contact.

I grew out of the boat after six weeks of paddling it, but will keep it around for family members and guests who don't get to kayak often.