Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking forward to an Enlightened 2014 - Pale Blue Dot

I am occasionally optimistic. Actually I am usually optimistic, but when it comes to the state of our planet, it is only occasional. I am regularly frustrated, ashamed, and terrified at the things we are doing to our planet, and it is all in the name of corporate and private financial growth. Put another way, greed.

We use resources at a far greater rate than the planet makes them available. We produce garbage at a far greater rate than we can responsibly dispose of it. We have far too many people, and because of it, many are sick and dying, and hungry. 20 percent of children in 37 states live in a food insecure household. That is occurring in the wealthiest, fattest country in the world. If that isn't proof of the one percent, nothing is. So that is why I am only occasionally optimistic about the state of the planet.

But then I will read something like 70% of Americans (Finally!) believe Global Climate Change is real and a great threat to the planet. I start to get a little hopeful. We still lag far behind the rest of the world in this obvious piece of science, but I am hopeful. Oh, and if you are wondering, the only thing Al Gore was wrong about, the situation is worsening faster than he predicted. The science is conclusive, the science is understandable. the science is real.

But then I see something like this video, and I am hopeful that the words of someone like Carl Sagan can make an impact. I have read the "pale blue dot" speech many times - in fact, I have read the book, and it is wonderful! - but this one hit me at the right time, and really struck me. (Thanks Doug and Lynn for posting it! The two of you continue to inspire me, and impress me.) There are great voices out there, and they need to be listened to.

This one is pretty good too.

Boom - de - ada!

Happy New Year everyone.
Lets work together, and make 2014 amazing.
And lets all go paddling together soon!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Paddling Otaku: the year in review.

2013 was an interesting year here in the land of the Otaku.

This site started as a way for me to create my first book, Enlightened Kayaking. After the book was published I viewed the site as a way to promote it and document my expeditions. With 2013 being an off year in terms of expeditions it was difficult for me to always come up with content. I delved more and more into gear, which proved to resonate with readers. As great sites like tend to ignore kayaking I think there is a small market for a kayaking gear site. I am toying with starting Let me know your thoughts on that.

So obviously, gear posts were popular on the site, but it was a good year for all different sorts of content regardless. Here are the top five posts for the year:

Posted in July, My story about the Best Breakfast on the Inside Passage is by far the most popular post on the site (with the aid of Reddit). It has more than double the hits of any other post. Next in popularity, posted in February is a story about the evolution of fleece and what I have chosen to wear over the years, A tale of Three Fleece and a primaloft jacket. I suspect this was picked up somewhere and got popular and I don't know where - as I had some issues with site tracking this year! - because it didn't get popular until the last half of the year. Third on the list is Unfortunately a change in plans, The post where I explain that the labrador expedition isn't happening. Honestly, This post is number three because there is a photo of a famous supermodel in it. If I had known that worked I would be posting pictures of women in bikinis with every post. The fourth posted just a month or so ago, was the Camelbak Cortez post. Rounding out the top five, is the former number one post. Yesterday someone googled.... which is all about how to go to the bathroom in the woods. It is also the only one of the top five posts that isn't from 2013. Those are my top five posts of the year, and also all time. Which means they drew a tremendous amount of hits in a short time. In terms of hits it was a very good year, and long term this site is showing steady growth, which I am really happy about.

On a sad note, as mentioned briefly above, the Labrador trip died due to time constraints, and some logistical hurdles that just proved too difficult to overcome. But a new trip was born, and will occur this summer. If all goes as planned we will be paddling for most of the month of June in Prince William Sound. 'Surveying' glaciers is the plan. and you can read about it here.

I worked hard to find a handful of sponsors for this trip, and it proved to be very difficult. I guess unless you are willing to throw your kayak off a waterfall you won't get too much notice. I would have thought paddling the inside passage, and writing two books would help, but apparently not. I only approached companies whose products I use and love, and in general I had a contact within the company but still no luck. If you read here frequently it should be obvious who I reached out too. (There are still a couple of slim chances that something will come through) So if you wanted your name on a film about glaciers let me know, we can probably work something out.

Another issue we had this year - which is also unresolved - was finding a glaciologist who would act as a technical consultant. I had three reach out to me, and they all decided not to help us out, with the only reason that I can think of for not joining us is that it doesn't pay anything. This disappoints me greatly, as you would think a glaciologist would be excited to help spread information about the state of Glaciers in Prince William Sound.

The Biggest loss of the year was undoubtedly that of my best friend. My beloved dog abby, who sat next to me for countless hours while I was writing finally passed away. Here she is keeping me company while I proof read Enlightened Kayaking.

I didn't get to paddle quite as much as I would have liked this fall, as I was very busy. But with AGAP only five months away - and my paddling partners need to get serious, and spend some serious time in the cockpit. I will be introducing all of them in the coming months. At the moment there are only three of us going - though if the stars align, there might be a fourth. 

With AGAP approaching there is some near gear arriving, expect some gear reviews in January and February. 

Just after thanksgiving, my wife and I decided the house was too quiet without Abby. And while she could never be replaced, we did find a new companion. She isn't as good at keeping me company while I write, but there is hope she will grow into that skill. At the moment her energy level is a little out of control. 

The final piece of the year falls into place as I hit the publish button. This post makes 94 this year. Which just happens to be the same number of posts the first year I started writing, which also happens to be the most posts I have ever done in a year. So maybe I can come up with one more, to set personal record? 

I hope you all had a great holiday, and have a wonderful new year. See you in January!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I always thought Casey Neistat was a little weird.

I have watched a number of his short films, and while they are very good, he comes across as a little insane, and a little obsessed. Having worked in the film industry I saw a lot of people like that, and it is a big part of what made decide to leave the industry. When you put someone insane/obsessed into a position of power it doesn't take much for that person to be, forgive me, an asshole.

Listen to the Christian Bale audio of him freaking out on the lighting guy, he is a little insane, and a little obsessed, and again forgive me, but an asshole. I saw people, including myself, get treated poorly on a daily basis. I watched millions of dollars get spent on advertising for products that never made it to market. Money thrown away that could have been used to do some good.

There are great and talented people who work in the film industry, but there are also a lot of people who are just horrible. It is what pushed me out of the creative arts, and into worlds where I could have an impact on people. First Emergency/Paramedicine and finally outdoor education.

Every now and then, you will see something done by people in the film world that is amazing and breath taking. But it is - in my experience - far too little, and far too infrequent. Then I saw this video by Mr. Neistat.

I applaud Mr. Neistat for doing this, and I view him very differently now. He was given an opportunity to do something, and sold the people in charge that it would be good for them to let him do it.

I don't applaud 20th century fox - or really the ad agency that Fox employs - for allowing him to do this. Here is why. First, they are clearly getting more than their monies worth. This video is going viral and will get way more notice than a more traditional short film. And lets be clear here, their only - in my cynical view - goal is to get good press for the Secret Life of Walter Mitty (which looks great by the way, and I was planning on seeing it anyway!) They are getting plenty of that. The second reason I don't applaud them is this. $25,000. Really? That is a sneeze. You can't produce a television commercial for $25,000. Let alone air it. So Fox got their marketing and I am happy for them. Casey Neistat got to do something cool, help people, and prove that he is a good guy. He has my respect, and admiration.

We get to see that there are still good people on this little planet, who when given an opportunity to do some good, or make a profit, they will choose to do good. And with the holidays around the corner, I think that is a good message to end this on.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


This is wonderful. Particularly as I get older. I am of course north of 35, some might say well north. I have made a number of decisions that have allowed me to work in the outdoors, and enjoy what I do. I will never make a lot of money, but I am very happy.

Every now and then I question my decisions. I look at friends and former business associates and see their careers progressing. I am genuinely happy for them, but I can't help but wonder where I would be now.

So when I see something like this, it re-affirms my decisions.

35 from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

Monday, December 9, 2013

From Patagonia on Black Friday

I meant to post this right away, I think this is an interesting thing for Patagonia to do on the most commercial of commercial days.

Black Friday - which is called that because historically it is the day that retailers go into the black for the first time of the year - is considered by most to be the most important shopping day of the year. The holiday sales forecast is based on the numbers from that one day. It can make or break a company. And it is a completely contrived event, to make people shop.

The American economy is based on growth, if sales are flat to the previous year they are considered a failure. Every year retailers work hard to get more and more out of the American consumer, and they do it by extending Black Friday. Stores will continue to open earlier and earlier offering better and better deals. Which is how we end up with places like Walmart open on Thanksgiving. It is all a plan to extend the shopping season.

How important is shopping to the American economy? I happened to live in lower Manhattan on 9/11. Do you remember the instructions that the President of the United States gave to the American people? The instructions to show our resolve to 'the evil-doers'? I remember vividly, because I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It wasn't to mourn the dead, or get a steely reserve for the coming fight. On December 7th after the attack on Pearl Harbor FDR called it 'A day that will live in infamy'. President Bush told us to go shopping. And why wouldn't he? He knew that what makes America strong, in large part is the power of its economy. He knew that people shopping would stoke the economy, he just wasn't very subtle about it.

Now, this strikes me for a couple of reasons. It may just be the media - or lack thereof - that I watch, but I see changes in part of the psyche of the American population. At least a small part of it. I see things like the Tiny house movement, (24,000 subscribers on reddit) where people are realizing they don't want to be a slave to their mortgage. They don't want to pay a fortune to furnish, heat, cool, and maintain a house, thousands of feet larger than they need. How many McMansions are empty awaiting foreclosure? People are finding work arounds to build houses that most building codes would deem illegal. Some - though not most - measuring under 100 square feet, and no, I didn't drop a zero. One Hundred. Some other subreddits of note, r/simpleliving has 33,000 subscribers, and one of my favorites, r/minimalism has near 80,000 subscribers. So while these numbers are comparatively small (r/Gameofthrones has 275,000 subscribers) there is a growing section of the population that is tired of their emergency instructions being to go shopping.

So it is fascinating that a company like Patagonia, on the busiest shopping day of the year chose not to offer a compelling special deal, other than buy something from us and it will last you a really long time. Now, you could argue that Patagonia is making a lot of money anyway, and they are choosing to make a point on black Friday, and you would be right. Patagonia isn't having any difficulty in the sales department. If you need proof try and find a re-tool snap t. But they are making a conscious decision not to go after low hanging, Black Friday fruit. Of course as I check my inbox, I have plenty of emails from Patagonia. Just about one a day, and the most recent is offering a 50% off web special. Maybe they just chose that day to send a message.

Interestingly, some Apple stores are open on Thanksgiving. Waikiki beach, Las Vegas, and the 24/7 store in New York (On fifth avenue). Apple was going to open a handful of other stores on Thanksgiving, which was vetoed by Apple CEO Tim Cook, siting the importance of Apple employees spending time with family.

My question is how long, and how far can we go on Black Friday? Are we going to see Black Friday specials on Wednesday next year? At some point is the holiday shopping season going to start just after Halloween? I applaud the stores that chose not to open on Thanksgiving. I think it is important that at some point we draw the line, and say that our problems aren't solved with shopping. Yeah, I like a new piece of gear as much as the next person, but I try to not let it define me. And I love that looking at the gear that I regularly use, some of it is old enough to have been featured in the Worn Wear film. I may not have walked 11,000 miles of trail wearing the same hat, but I have had the same fleece for nearly 25 years, and it is a story I wear. Thanks Patagonia.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Review - Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Vol. 3

First, a disclosure. I am a fan. I don't know when I first discovered Gordon Browns book Sea Kayak - a manual for intermediate and advanced kayakers, but it quickly became my favorite sea kayaking book, and when people ask me to recommend something, this is the book I mention (shortly after mentioning my own!) I received the Volume 1 DVD as a gift, and was amazed watching Mr. Brown paddle, and was equally impressed with his ability to teach. At some point I would love to get to Scotland and spend a couple of days with him on the water. I purchased Volume 2 when available and asked my wife to get me Volume 3 this Christmas. Then I opened my big mouth.

In my 3rd annual Kayaking Christmas post I mentioned that I dream of being asked to review a future volume, later that day I got an email, that a copy was on its way to me. An early Christmas present, and much appreciated it was. All this occurred on a particularly rough day, so it was a very nice surprise indeed. So with all that said, I am a little partial to both the film maker, and the Kayaker in charge.

Another thing that should be telling for how much I like, and revere these products is that I as a minimalist I tend to pass things off to others in need when I am done with them. I have fewer DVD's than fingers, but I have all three of these and they aren't going anywhere. (Though I may make the AGAP team watch them!)

So. On with it.

The disc is broken up into 4 parts. Emergency Situations, First Aid Kits, Navigation, and Rolling. If you are new here then you don't know that I am a former NOLS Sea Kayak instructor, and a current WMI instructor. I teach kayaking privately, and other wilderness skills for various organizations. I spend a big portion of my life thinking about, and teaching a lot of the topics on this disc. Particularly the first three topics. So I loaded this disc into my computer with a great deal of interest.

The first section - Emergency Situations

The section is made in a partnership with Her Majesty's Coast Guard, giving a lot of access and a wonderful 'other side of the rescue' view - I don't care who you know, I doubt you could get GoPro's mounted inside the cockpit of a US Coast Gaurd Seahawk! The film presents two situations, one in daylight, and one in darkness. I have been trained to initiate rescues and to hand off my patient, but it was interesting to see from inside the helicopter or boat how difficult it is to see a kayak. They offer great insight in how the rescue crews work and how best to prepare to be rescued. 

While I am in the US I suspect the US Coast Guard works a little differently, but from the kayakers perspective I am sure it is very similar. An amazing amount of information is shown, and it will dramatically change the way I do things on the water, and the gear I carry. I have  had a fair amount of experience with helicopters - though not from a kayak - but despite that, there are still things I will change in my interaction with the noisy, windy machines, and the way that I am prepared to signal a rescuer. 

The first, a situation where a paddler falls in the water and loses their kayak. The second, a situation where paddlers take a break and lose their paddles without spares. While I suspect that these represent typical problems,  neither of the situations involved injured kayakers, which is something I pracite from time to time (and we see later in the film how hard that can be!) Both of these scenarios offer practical advice presented beautifully. 

The second section, Sea Kayak Navigation is a topic I am much more experienced with, as I teach navigation frequently on both land and sea. This is probably the most comprehensive 45 minutes on navigation I have ever seen on video. It covers a lot of ground, but does it effectively. Every time I caught myself saying “they should really be covering xyz” it was mentioned a moment or two later. it is a very nice progression from basics to semi-advanced, with great video illustrations of tides, tidal streams (what I would call a tidal current) and using transit lines. The last section of navigation is planning a route, and they did a fancy trick to calculate your bearing when paddling with a current to reach a desired point. I hadn’t seen it before and it made me want to take a BCU navigation class. 

First aid kits was again something I was interested in seeing as I teach wilderness first aid. I thought this was a good look at marine FA kits, but I liked that they were stressing that importance of training, and not just classroom training, but taking courses that get you outside working in the real environments. They did a couple of things I hadn’t seen before, one of which will have me adding string and a paper clip to my first aid kit, I will also be adding electrical tape to my kit. Ill leave it at that, check out the video for the reasons.

The final section was rolling, which is laid out slightly different than the others, with its own menu, and instructions to practice with friends and a video camera. I have to say I have been waiting for Mr. Brown to cover rolling since the first video, and I wasn’t disappointed. He works with six students in a pool and takes them through the steps to effective rolling, and manages to get two of them successfully rolling by the end of a 3 hour pool session. He has some techniques that I will definitely be borrowing the next time I teach rolling. 

There is a lot of information on this disc, with the first two sections running right around 45 minutes and first aid kits running 20 and rolling running 30+ minutes. 

This is an excellent video and well worth the time and cost, I simply can't recommend all of these products (book and DVD's) enough. Gordon is an amazing resource, and the entire process is shot beautifully. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am a fan, but in the past I have promised reviews of DVD's and I chose not too do them primarily because I wasn't too impressed. So if I didn't like this disc I wouldn't be writing. This is another sensational film that I am thrilled to be able to watch. Thanks for the early Christmas guys!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

10 reasons I paddle all year (and you should too!)

#10 - It forces you to develop systems and use them. For example, dressing consistently, and learning what works for you. Planning for a hot drink while in the boat, and good ways to make that happen. You will spend more time thinking about the 'what if's' and planning for contingencies. What if you get wet? How will you deal with it? That is a good skill to practice.

#9 - It makes you a better paddler. You aren't spending a chunk of the year not paddling. Skills don't wither while you are hibernating through the winter.

#8 - Scenery. The landscape is different and beautiful. Even places you have paddled a million times have a very different feel and look.

#7 - Solitude. So few people paddle in the winter, that you will have the amazing scenery mentioned above to yourself. It is a wonderful time to be introspective, and soak in the beauty of the world around you.

#6 - Hardcore paddler cred. You will impress your friends and relatives with how hardcore you are! "You went paddling n December? You must be crazy, let me buy you a beer!"

#5 - You don't have to worry about storing your kayak for the winter! You will be too busy using it.

#4 - If you are a gear head, it gives you an opportunity to by new gear. You will need some specialized gear to do this safely.

#3 - It is a break from the world - particularly the holiday madness. Tired of dealing with the traffic, the shoppers, and the general madness that looms between Thanksgiving and the new year? head for the water.

#2 - Paddle in Ice. Have you paddled with ice? It's a blast!

bf1012 from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

#1 - If you love paddling in the summer, why wouldn't you love it in the winter? I have said many times that paddling, for me, is a meditation. Why would I stop doing something I love just because it has gotten cold out.

You do have to do this safely. Dress for immersion, leave a float plan with someone you trust, and have a contingencies for when things go wrong. All great skills to practice, that help set you up for longer trips.

For me though it is the solitude. I love paddling and having the world to myself for even a short time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Stocking Stuffers for the Paddler in your Life 2013!

As tradition dictates, a couple of weeks ago I published the annual kayaking Christmas list. Here is The lists little elfin brother, to help you fill out the stocking of that paddler you love, and every item is under $25

Smartwool Midweight Hiking Socks $18.95 - Something I teach students who are planning long trips is the idea of "sacred socks." Socks that never leave the bottom of your sleeping bag. At the end of the day, you take off your probably damp socks. Dry your feet off, and put on clean fresh socks in your bag. By sleeping in clean dry socks you dramatically decrease the chances of getting immersion foot, and it just feels nice!

Light My Fire FireSteel Scout 2.0 $14.95 - makes a tremendous spark compared to some of the others on the market. I keep it in my fire starting kit, for when things go really wrong, or I just want a little challenge.

Vacuum bottle $19.50 - I can paddle all day long in the cold and the wet, if I have a hot drink to go back to. It just makes an uncivilized world seem more civilized.

Sealline Deluxe Bailing Sponge  $14.95 - This seems silly. $14.95 for a sponge? Yes. You see, it is wrapped in the same material as a super absorbent pack towel. So it soaks up moisture two ways. The covering also extends the life of the sponge.

Batteries for the Hero 3+ $19.99 - Yes, the new Hero 3+ has better battery life, but you may still want extra batteries. GoPro has also released a bunch of new really awesome mounts you should check out. Also check out any of the new mounts they released at the same time.

WMI Med Kit 1.0 $14.00 - I love first aid kits, and this one from WMI is awesome! This is a new product line from WMI, and no one knows wilderness medicine better than they do.

The loudest whistle in the world! $5.99- Your PFD should have a whistle in a pocket. We all know this. But this is the loudest whistle in the world, for when you really need to be heard.

NRS Straps in whatever length you want! $5.60 and up - after some time loading a boat onto your roof you will realize you spend as much time securing the unused end of the strap as you do actually securing the boat. How about a strap that is exactly the length you need? NRS sells them by the foot, and they say the size right on them!

Sawyer Mini -$24.95 I love my sawyer water filter, but I am upgrading to this new smaller lighter version. A water filter for 24.95? Yes!

The Smartwool Microweight Beanie $20.00 - Sometimes on a cold day of paddling you just need a little hat, and here it is.

If you need more ideas, here is last years stocking stuffer list, and the one from the year before. There is of course both of my books, and one of them is free!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas wishes DO come true!

A brief mention in a post, and the Christmas fairies go to work. 

Expect a review soon. Well, as soon as I can find the time to watch it, which I am really looking forward to.

Thanks Simon! You made my week!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The 3rd annual Kayaking Christmas

Congratulations! You made it through another year. Thanksgiving - if you live in the states - is behind us, and that means one thing. YES! It is time for another edition of the Paddling Otaku Kayaking Christmas list.

This year I spent most of the month of November doing a minimalist purge, and so clearly it is time to start thinking about new gear. So without making you wait any longer, here is this years list. From least expensive to most expensive, with only one item above $1000 (in the past people complained that the list was too dreamy.... ie. expensive) In about a week we will have the 'stocking stuffer' list, where everything is under $25.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown volume 3 $29.95(us) - I haven't seen this yet, I have a dream that in the future I am asked to review a new volume. Gordon Brown (who I have called the Yoda of Kayaking) is the Paddler I aspire to be, and Simon Willis is the film maker I aspire to be. I better get to work, and it will start with watching this video.

Suunto M3 Compass $34.95 - Repeat after me. You don't need something fancy. This compass does everything you need. Luminous Bezel, workable baseplate, Adjustable declination. I have been teaching Map and Compass for close to a decade, and this is the only compass I will use.

Gigapower torch $39.95 - Okay, I am not sure why I need this, which is tough for a minimalist to say, but it is so awesome! Essentially a blow torch that works off an isobutane canister made beautifully by snow peak. Use it to light Campfires. Or Cigars.

Ultimate Outdoor Map Kit $39.95 - The age of buying paper maps is (almost) over. With Free downloads for charts available for just about everywhere, round out your planning with tops printed 8.5x11 - which works perfectly for a kayaker. I am a big fan of this software when used in conjunction with National Geographic Adventure paper (which should also be on this list, but I am out of room!)

The New Black Diamond Spot $39.95 - I don't own this headlamp, I am still using the more expensive storm, BUT this is a killer. 130 lumen's (brighter than the storm which is ten dollars more) Spot light, Diffuse lights, Red lights, Dimmable. Lockable. Almost double the brightness of similarly priced petzls

Sea to Summit taper dry bag $54.95 - This choice is simple. Changed. My. Boat-packing-life! I know they say to use many small bags, but it just doesn't work for me. This one bag replaced two 20 liter bags that I used for clothes. I wish they made a smaller one for the tight in the bow (it could go in front of this one). The tip is eVent so you can squeeze air out, and it makes packing so much faster!

REI Allstar suit $79.95 - Another product I am itching to try. I paddled the inside passage wearing REI Powerdry mid weight base layers under my dry suit. They were awesome. This is the one piece version which means no gap at the back. Patagonia makes one also in Expedition weight, which for me is too heavy under a dry suit.

Spyderco Delica $100 approx. - I have been carrying this knife for over 20 years, and it has never let me down. Easy to sharpen, cuts anything. Flat in a pocket. You can find wild variations on price, so shop around (I saw it as low as $65!)

Astral Sea Wolf PFD $185 - I am loving this new PFD from Astral (Well, newly redesigned, and new for me) Comfortable, easy to adjust, and feature laden. I don't think there is a better touring PFD on the market.

Any Primaloft Jacket $99 to $199 - Whether you choose The North Faces Thermoball or Redblaze, Patagonia Nano Puff, Mountain Hardwear Compressor or the REI Revelcloud. If you are a paddler and need insulation for around camp. Nothing is warmer, packs smaller, or is more water resistant than primaloft. Can I get a sleeping bag please!

GoPro Hero 3+ $399 - You knew it was coming, right? I thought this was going to be a minor update, and invested in it just for the better battery life. I love it so much I am selling my Hero 3 black to buy another +. It is that good.

Werner Ovation (Special Edition) $480 - $570 This all carbon paddle looks like an upgraded Camano, a paddle near and dear to my heart. It has a slightly smaller blade than the Kalliste, they claim it is the lightest paddle they have ever made and it is 4 ounces less than my already unbelievably light straight shaft Kalliste. I am in love and I have never met her.

Kokatat Custom Dry Suit $1170 (depending on choices) Everyone knows that I love my Kokatat dry suit. Kokatat is now offering a feature where you can completely customize any aspect of the suit, from size through zipper covers and colors. I wish this existed when I got mine. I pieced together the suit of my dreams and it raised the price from the standard by around $150, which really isn't that bad considering all you get. If I were doing it again today - and if I was I would still get a Kokatat! - I would do it this way. Something else worth checking out while you are at Kokatats site is the Maximus Prime PFD, I didn't want to include it on the list because I haven't seen it in the flesh yet, but it looks interesting enough that I will seek one out and try it on.

So that is the wish list for this year. If you still need more ideas here are the lists from last year and the year before. As I mentioned above, in a week or so I will post my stocking stuffer list. Until then, have a great season, and keep paddling.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Product I am excited to see

This is something that made the rounds during the last outdoor retailer. But first let me point out a few things about myself and sleeping bags. I am a pretty traditional guy when it comes to sleeping. I think it may be the single most important part of any trip, because if you aren't sleeping well, you aren't going to be having fun during the day. Currently I use a Thermarest Prolight 4 (which is now called the Prolight Plus) which is a four season self inflating pad. I also use an REI Lumen, which is a 25º EN rated synthetic mummy sleeping bag. Nothing crazy in that sleeping kit. In fact, pretty old school. I have spent a lot of nights in that system, and it has served me well. But I think some changes are brewing. I wasn't thrilled with my pad on the last expedition skills camp. I woke up a couple of times during the night with sore shoulders - I am a side sleeper. So I think it is time to go to something thicker. But I don't like blowing up my own pad. So while I am researching new pads, check out this from Sierra designs.

A zipperless sleeping bag.

This is a pretty simple design, a mummy bag that is a bit roomier, with a blanket that can fill the hole. The blanket is attached to the bottom of the opening. Giving you the ability to open or close it as much as the environment dictates. But because of the design. If you want to roll over you do, leaving he bag where it is. You sleep in it like a bed, not like a mummy bag. Available in 15º and 30º for $399 and $349 it is on par with other bags with these specs. And the specs are 800 fill dri down. The weights are pretty low as well. I don't know if it is EN tested or not.

I want to see this in the flesh, but I am very intrigued. You can see the blue sleeping pad sneaking out in the images above, like the big agnes bags, there is a pocket for a standard size sleeping pad. I don't know if there is insulation above the pad or not.

I wish there was a synthetic version for paddlers like myself, and I also wish the 'blanket' that you use to close up the bag was detachable. If it were, I could change it out - warmer, or cooler - as the environment dictated.

This should be available first quarter of 2014, I for one, will be checking it out.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

CamelBak Cortez

As someone that is very active in the outdoors, something that has always bugged me is the lack of thought that kayakers - and touring or sea kayakers in particular - get from the major manufacturers of camping gear.

For instance. Garmin makes hundreds of GPS units. They make watches for runners, hikers, and climbers. They make swimming watches and tactical watches. They make dash mounted GPS for boats, and air craft. But they have zero devices for kayakers. Yes, there is a 'nautical' mode for the Garmin fenix, but it does little beyond working in nautical miles and knots. Their is a sailing watch that they market as sailing and kayaking, but most of its features are sailing specific, and doesn't really offer anything the fenix doesn't offer and it costs more.

GoPro is similar. they offer an array of mounts, but nothing that works well on a PFD. I would love a PFD lash tab mount! I would love a magnetic kayak mount, where the magnet goes inside the boat and holds the camera on the outside of the boat.

About a week ago I was talking with  a REP from Camelbak. I asked him if I could use the stowaway on my kayak (the stowaway is skiing specific) or if I should just use the unbottle. He told me to wait a minute and came back with this:

This is the Camelbak Cortez - named for the sea of cortez near the Baja Peninsula, land of great warm weather paddling! - and it is a kayaking specific insulated reservoir bag. It comes with a reservoir and is designed to be easily attachable to your bungies or deck rigging with four clips. It also offers insulation for the reservoir, and the tube, as well as a bite valve protector. 

The coolest thing - besides the water inside - is that the underside as large rubber patches that make the bag a little sticky. Making it less likely to slide around on the deck of your boat. I told him on the spot that it would be going to Alaska with us next summer. It isn't available yet, but should be in stores at the end of January or the beginning of February. Priced around $60us. 

While I am super excited for what looks like an awesome product - I only got a few minutes with it, before it was hidden away again, it had a large tag that said 'prototype' on it - I am even more excited to see that a mainstream outdoor manufacturer is catering to kayakers. I will be getting one of these as soon as possible, and will offer up a full review when I do. Thanks CamelBak!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Saying goodbye to well loved gear

This past weekend was the 3rd annual Paddling Otaku Expedition Skills Camp. It was just myself and one other paddler, who will be joining me on next summers Alaska Glacier Awareness Project. It was a great weekend, but a few pieces of gear that have been hanging around for quite a while took their final trip.

It got me thinking about gear that has come and gone, I tend to get attached to my gear, and while I embrace change, parting with a loved piece of gear is always tough. Recently I retired my Astral Buoyancy 300r and replaced it with a new Astral Seawolf. I decided after years of using a rescue (type 5) vest that I wanted to simplify and go to a type 3. I hemmed and hawed about the decision for quite a while, almost buying its rescue version bigger brother the Green Jacket. This was the first multi day trip I have done with the Seawolf and really enjoyed it. I still haven't completely decked it out with my gear. but it performed really well. I will do a full review in the coming weeks.

I remember when my first kayak went to someone else's home. I sold it to use the money to step up to my Delta, and I couldn't love my Delta more, but seeing my old, rotomolded perception shadow leave on someone else's truck made me sad. So it was a tough weekend to lose three pieces of gear on one trip.

The first piece I knew was not going to be able to last much longer, but I was still sad to see it go. It was the old blue duffel bag I have used for food storage for close to 15 years. It fit perfectly inside my kayak, and though it wasn't waterproof it worked perfectly with a thick plastic bag inside of it. It has been chewed by mice, rained on. dropped and dragged, and it was finally too far gone to make the trip. My wife put it immediately in a garbage bag so I wouldn't have the chance to change my mind. I wrote about this bag before, and after trying a couple, and researching many I haven't been able to find anything to replace it. There is one last option that someone recommended which I am going to look into. I am very optimistic.

The next piece of gear to say good bye will take some explaining. On my NOLS instructor course there was another instructor candidate who was already an established instructor. He had previously taught backpacking courses but wanted to slide into paddling. I learned a trick from him when we shared a tent, which was, the pee bottle. Now, this may gross you out, but peeing in a bottle on a cold night - so you don't have to get out of your warm bag - is awesome. But take my advice. Put the lid on REALLY tight! You can also use it in your kayak so you don't have to go ashore to go to the bathroom. So it is a really useful tool. It does gross/freak some people out, but it shouldn't. Going to the bathroom is one of the only things I can guarantee you do. It is something we all share. So I am sharing this bathroom tip. So this past Saturday I was getting into my bag, it was very cold, and I reached for the old white nalgene bottle I use - wide mouth is key! - and as I grabbed it, it literally exploded in my hand. Fortunately it didn't have anything in it.

The last item that bit the dust this trip was a tent. A tent that I have loved for 6 years, that I got from an REI Used Gear sale - I think for $40 dollars. I never found anything wrong with it, it was practically a steal. It was the REI Cirque 2 ASL tent. ASL stands for All Season Light which is the REI way of saying, more than a 3 season tent, but not quite a 4 season tent. It is listed as a two person tent, but is so small it is really a one person tent. It is - or was - my go to solo in bad weather tent. A feature I have always liked is that in the top of the tent, in the rain fly there is a small window. It lines up with a large, close able vent. So it can let some light into the tent, which is really nice. Unfortunately, setting up the tent I saw that the window was separating from the fly, and by the end of the trip it was almost completely gone.

This is going to be the hardest - and most expensive piece of gear to replace. I will probably wait until January to start the hunt. The timing was actually pretty good, as I am in the middle of Minimalist November, meaning I have to part with an item from my life, every day, and the number of items each day corresponds to the date of the month. So on the 10th of November I have to give away 10 things.

For me it reinforces that I shouldn't be too attached to the gear around me. It may come and go. But it serves a purpose, it doesn't define me.

But I loved that tent.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Whitewater vs Sea Kayaking

If you have been reading here for a while there are a couple of things you may have noticed. I like finely crafted short films. As can be witnessed here and here. I think whitewater culture is fascinating, and am in fact a little envious of all the great whitewater films that are made, like this one, or the one embedded below.

Webisode #2 "All Roads Lead To The PNW" from TiTs Deep on Vimeo.

I have said before that I want to make sea kayaking as cool as whitewater. But I am starting to realize it can't be. The young women in the video above are very cool - is that term even cool anymore? They are very high energy, and boisterous, and young and attractive. I would also never sell them short by saying they are anything less than highly skilled paddlers. I am none of those things, and thats okay (well, I am a pretty good paddler). While I am envious of whitewaters ability to translate well to the medium of film - and I will continue to make sea kayaking films that I hope capture some of that feeling - I am coming to realize that the two sports are two very different undertakings.

While the whitewater kayakers are young, outgoing, risk takers, that is not what most sea kayakers are. We are different, and different is okay. I think the serious sea kayakers in the world are a different lot. We are older, perhaps a little wiser, and a little more zen. We don't have to ride tandem off a waterfall - not that there is anything wrong with that - but are happy to enjoy a beautiful swell on a coast, or waiting to watch a glacier calve. I think we are far more likely to see a sea kayaker meditate before or after a paddle, or do yoga on a lunch break.

Tomorrow morning I head out for a weekend of paddling. There won't be any waterfalls, or surf. There will be a couple of long days in the boat, to give a newer paddler the feel for what an expedition is like. A paddler who will do an expedition with me next summer. I will also shoot some video with the new Hero 3+ which will lead to a more detailed review. There will be a nice dinner by a camp fire on a cold night. There will be some meditation. There will be very little hijinks. And that is okay.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The November Minimalist Challenge

I know it is short notice, but starting tomorrow I am doing the Minimalist Challenge for the month of November, which I read about here. Essentially it works like this:

On the first day of the month, you pick one thing to give away, donate, throwaway, etc. I am going to take a picture of it, and post it to the Paddling Otaku Facebook page.  On day two of the month I choose two things. On day three I choose three things. Until the end of the month when I have to choose 30 things to get rid of.

If you are interested in joining me, head over to my Facebook page.

What does this have to do with paddling? Only a little. I am a firm believer in the "Bruce Lee/Jeet Kune Do" school of kayaking. Which is essentially, take what works, and throw the rest of it away. I teach a very simplified form of paddling. I also feel the same way about gear. If I get something new, I am replacing something old. One in, one out. I try hard to do this in my life. I am not always successful, but I try.

So that is how it relates to paddling. Being a minimalist is something that I find stress relieving. When I can't find something I don't have far to look for it. I have very little clutter. It makes everything more simple, and a simple life is a good life. For me anyway. So if you would like to give it a try, head over to Facebook.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Don't tell me Thermoform kayaks aren't durable

I have dropped kayaks. Many kayaks, under my charge have been dropped. There was the wooden one, made by Fox Lane Boatworks. A beautiful boat. I dropped it from a roof rack onto pavement, unloading the boat from my roof. It bounced on a cold winter morning, and I commented on how durable the boat appeared to be. At the time I was trying to get work instructing for them. I didn't get the job.

I don't know how many fiberglass boats I dropped on rocks while moving them on NOLS courses. Fewer than the students dropped, that is for sure, but I have definitely dropped my share. Generally from about knee height, so not that bad. Fiberglass does pretty well when dropped. But I have done some repairs post course with NOLS. Mostly small cracks, no big deal. (On a side note, if you want to test gear give it to NOLS. I worked three courses one summer and destroyed a brand new TNF sleeping bag. 90 days. That was its life)

I have paddled a lot of traditional plastic boats as well, but I never really worry about them. You could probably run your rotomolded poly boat over with a truck, kick out the dents and go paddling.

The boats that live in my back yard are close to the house on a home made wooden rack. Directly next to them is a tree that is probably 3 feet in diameter. My thinking is that they would be protected should something unfortunate happen. But about a week ago we got a night of big wind. The following day I went back there to check on things and I found this.

I have had people look at thermoformed boats, and for some reason decide that they look brittle. Meaning easy to crack. I have dropped my delta from knee height and done zero damage. I have had an 800 pound bear stand on the back deck of my kayak and cause no damage - I was hoping for claw marks! After the bear I slid my Delta down a 40 foot rocky beach to the water, while we carried Sarah's fiberglass boat. Yeah, it got scratched up. But it is fine. But when I saw the scene above I got nervous. We need this boat for AGAP 2014, we don't have the resources to replace a boat, and I have just completed extensive repairs on another boat. I don't want to do that again. But when I got up close I was amazed. First, the branch that fell in the windstorm was about 10 feet in length and about 4 inches across. It weighed around 25 pounds. There was zero damage. It fell from a pretty big height. I am not sure exactly how high, but at least 20 feet. That is a lot of force.

Now clearly, if I just spent time repairing a boat, they can be broken.  The Delta I repaired was damaged in shipping and I think one of two things happened to it. Option one is impact from a fork lift. The other option is that a loaded pallet fell on it. My confusion on that situation is that the damage was pretty extensive on both sides of the bow. I suspect a great deal of force was dropped on the deck of the boat. There was probably just nowhere for the force to go. But that situation whatever it was, was out of the ordinary.

In my experience is rotomolded poly boats are the most durable, But I think thermoformed is a close second. Take a hammer to a fiberglass boat and see what happens. Of course, Fiberglass is easier to repair, so at the end of the day I don't think it makes that much of a difference. I think most of the big boat companies make incredible products. But don't tell me Thermoformed isn't durable.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hey! Got Mavericks?

So, if you are a mac user - and I happen to know that 18% of you are - you can now download the latest version of OS X for free. It's called Mavericks. It is named after this:

Not this:

So why am I giving you this information? For this simple reason. If you have Mavericks installed on your mac, you have a new app that has previously only been available on iPads. That app is called iBooks, which means you can read any books in the iBook store. Including mine. So go check out Forward - it's free and viewable on your Mavericks installed Mac.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

BSA is having a rough year.

You may have already seen this, it really all occurred about a week ago.

These are three Boy Scouts of America troop leaders destroying a natural formation at goblin valley state park. I should actually say these are three former BSA scout leaders, as BSA has rightly removed them from scouting. This isn't the first public relations nightmare that BSA has had this year either. At one point early in the year BSA affirmed that it would not allow openly gay youth to be scouts, which caused an uproar. Then when they changed their minds - hoping to calm people down - they angered their own people, and all of it played out in the media. I would think at this point the BSA are just hoping to end the year quietly.

I have a long standing love/hate relationship with Boy Scouts of America. Scouting has a great tradition in both the United States and in England before that. From what I can find on the BSA website there are about 2.7 million scouts in the US. I applaud any organization that can get that many people into the outdoors. I love that. On average about 30,000 scouts will go to Philmont scout ranch yearly. That is a great number - for comparison in 2011 NOLS graduated 'more than 16,500 students'. I have two dear friends that had amazing experiences with BSA, one even working at Philmont Scout Ranch. I earn a little bit of my income teaching Wilderness First Aid and Leave No Trace to scouts, and the people I meet are hard working, attentive students, with a real desire to be as good as they can in the back country.

So what is there to hate about BSA? Well, frankly, a lot. While I applaud the number of people they get active in the outdoors,  I hate that they do it so poorly. A lot of the problem is that there is a great deal of variation from troop to troop. Some troops do very little in the outdoors, and some are very active. The reason for that is that the level of activity is determined by the troop leaders, which are generally volunteering parents with little or no training. It is people with little or no training in the video above. I can guarantee that no one in that video is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, as all NOLS instructors are.

When I look at the gear list for Philmont Scout Ranch I cringe a little - keep in mind that Philmont is the pinnacle of scouting trips. A compass is listed as optional. Clothing is mentioned but no mention of what the clothing should be made out of. I am hoping the scout leaders bringing their students to Philmont know not to bring Cotton. I found three different gear lists on Philmonts website, presumably for three different types of activities. One list has "pack cover - trash bag acceptable" and one list "pack cover - trash bag not desirable". One also lists "no pancho's" and another list "rain gear or pancho" and the store sells pancho's. How is that for a mixed message? I could go on significantly longer about things they do wrong, but they are having a bad enough week. (I did eventually find a fourth gear list that said no cotton!)

Maybe it is time to have a standard curriculum for Troops? Maybe it is time for some form of systemized education, and training program for scout leaders? How about to be a scout leader you have to do more than put on a uniform? Maybe scout leaders should be told "if you are wearing that uniform you represent the Boy Scouts of America, and your actions need to be in line with the goals and values of Scouting." In retrospect though that wouldn't work. The scout leaders in the video above weren't in uniform.

Addendum - Between the time I started writing this post, and finishing it, the original video was pulled from youtube. I found an alternate host, but at some point I am sure it will be gone too. I am also sure pulling the video is on 'the advice of counsel'.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

GoPro HERO 3+ First look

I have been using GoPro cameras for a long time. I used - but didn't own - the Standard definition version that ran on a single AA battery. It was fun, but really it was a toy. When I heard there was an HD version coming out, I knew that would be something worth shooting with a lot. I used my hero one to make films, and shoot the videos for this website and my first book.

I skipped the HERO 2. For no real reason except that it wasn't offering anything I really needed. But when I saw the HERO 3 was coming, I knew it was time to upgrade. I sold my HERO 1 and all the accessories I knew wouldn't work with the 3. I owned a HERO 3 Black a few weeks after it was released. Since working with my original HERO I knew that it made sense to have multiple cameras, but I never found the extra money lying around, but shortly after I got my 3 Black, I happened to be sitting on some cash. I was ready to buy a second camera but I stopped myself. I realized that GoPro is on a one year product cycle, and if I waited a little longer, chances are I would have a new HERO to choose from. When the HERO 3+ was announced I jumped on it, and had one a little over a week after it was released.

From the outside, it looked like what the computer industry calls a 'point' upgrade. Meaning minor revisions, and bug fixes. That is what I thought I was getting. I was wrong. The 3+ arrived hours before heading to the beach with my kayak so it was a perfect time to get to know it. I shot a lot of imagery, both stills and video side by side with my HERO 3 Black. I used this rig to make it as close as possible.

You can see immediately that the 3+ on the left looks a lot smaller than the 3 on the right. But guess what, it isn't. The camera is the same size, it is just the housing that is smaller. Which means you could put your 3+ in any HERO 3 housing. So your skeleton or frame mount will still work. But if you do that you will be missing something really nice. GoPro has continued to refine the controls of the camera, and they did a really nice job on the three buttons on the 3+. They are much larger, and easier to use. There is a new latch for the top of the housing as well - which is good because though I broke the latch on my original HERO HD housing, the latch on the HERO 3 had two sliders that you need to push to release it. I never found it easy to use. The new 3+ latch is similar in function to the original latch, but much burlier.

I started off by having both cameras shoot stills at 5 second intervals. Ill be honest, I cant quite determine what is happening, it is like there is a pause in the counting for the 3+ but it definitely counts slower than the 3. I know that sounds crazy, but when I turned them both off, at the same time, the 3 had taken a 3 more photos than the 3+. They both ran for the same time, but the 3+ had 18 photos to the 3's 21. This isn't a big deal unless you are fanatical about planning the number of still photos for a time lapse. That number is also going to be much higher if you do an hour of shooting.

It also takes 4 seconds for the HERO 3+ to power on a boot up vs. 3 seconds for the HERO 3. That is a little nit picky, but since I had the cameras on the same rig it was very noticeable.

All of these things are pretty minimal. It is nice that the camera is smaller, but really, the HERO 3 is so small to begin with that it is getting a little crazy that 'smaller size' is a selling point. But then I looked at the photos.....

This is a different camera.

I made no corrections to the image above, all I did was cut half of the image from the 3+ and lay it over the image of the 3. You will also see that I aligned the horizon line, because the frame of the 3+ is a little different. There is also a bit less distortion. But wow, the color! The 3+ is far more neutral. It is hard to believe these two photos were taken on the same day.

I saw the same color shift with video - I will have video up soon, but I haven't had time to do much besides preview the video - and with superview I am getting a wider view with far less distortion. I am literally going to have to re-learn how to shoot with this camera. It is that different. The next thing I am wondering about is whether I will be able to cut back and forth between the two cameras in post without the color change looking odd. Actually, as I type this, I think I will, but I will have to do some color correction.

here is a quick screen cap of 1080 video:

On the top, is the 3+ shooting 1080 superwide. The bottom is 3 shooting standard 1080. Again you see the color difference, but look at the difference in framing! I like the superwide shot, it looks like it shows less distortion in the middle of the frame, but there is an odd curve in the sides of my hull as they get closer to the bottom of the frame. Again, I am going to have to play with it to see what suits me the best. 

People are already complaining about the change of depth of field, with the actual complaint being things in the distance are soft, and I am truly not seeing it. So that is one less thing to worry about.

My biggest complaint with the 3 was battery life. All I wanted was better battery life. It was literally half the shooting time of my original HD HERO. So the first thing I did was turn on both cameras and record until they ran out of juice. My HERO 3 ran for 1 hour and 15 minutes, my 3+ ran for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I was hoping for 2 hours, but I will take what I can get. My bigger concern on the battery front is when will I be able to buy additional batteries, and will I get the same 1:45 out of my 3? Time will tell.

A couple of other odd things I noticed. After 17 minutes and 26 seconds the 3+ saves the clip and starts recording again in a new file. But the 3 just keeps on going until the 26 minute mark, then it starts a new clip. This must be a limitation of file size as they were both right at 4 GB. But that means the 3+ in superwide is using more data.

For my first experiences I have to say I am very happy with the 3+ and looking forward to shooting my first real projects with it soon. I will be using both of these cameras - as well as my DSLR in Alaska next summer.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Today I saw this magazine while shopping.

I have a very close friend who is doing a Paleo diet - which I invented 10 years ago, except I called it the cave man diet! But that is another story - and I told her that if there is a magazine for it, the fad is over.

She responded that she had seen that magazine and it was horrible. Poorly written, horrible graphics. cheaply printed. Just a bad magazine, and when talking to people she said she told them she was "gluten and dairy free" as it caused less trouble. She is very smart. But it got me thinking. The age of magazines is dead, but unfortunately the magazine publishers don't know it.

20 years ago, my wife at the time and I had an idea for a magazine. We both worked in media. Her father worked in magazine publishing and when we told him the idea he said "don't even think of getting in the magazine business!" He explained that starting a magazine was ridiculously expensive and barely paid off, if you didn't go bankrupt first. If it was a bad business idea in 1993, what do you think it is now?

There have been magazines that I have loved. Outside magazine and Backpacker are both magazines I have subscribed to. I read them for years, and was excited when I would see that they arrived at my door. Outside in particular is - or was - amazingly written, and the reason I have been active in the outdoors today is because of the writing of Tim Cahill.  (I say was because I simply haven't read it in quite a while) But at some point I got tired of both. I realized that I saw the same stories and issues from outside on a yearly basis. Oh its February? It's time for the skiing issue, but unfortunately I don't ski. I think the first issue of Mens Journal, and National Geographic Adventure were among the best magazine issues ever published. Over time, Mens journal became a very different magazine. The first issue talked about driving a racing car - written by Roy Blount! - and had another article about building a cabin. Now it is all about the stuff you want, and how to get the body of the guy on the cover. National Geographic Adventure stopped publication in 2009! If NG can't keep a magazine going, what chance do the folks over at Paleo have?

Here is the problem. Everything I read in a magazine is two months old, and we live in a world where ideas move much faster than that. I think Sea Kayaker and Ocean Paddler are both amazing magazines - though visually speaking I think Ocean Paddler is the winner - but if I want to know the details on a new kayak I am going to google it. If I want technique I have hundreds of options, with paddling headquarters being my first stop. The vast majority of the 'how to' world is now online, and I know this because I wrote a 'how to' book! You can search Youtube for any number of 'how to' videos. From starting a fire to cooking an egg. It is there and we all have access to it. And guess what? Access is free.

I wont even get into the trees that are being turned into magazines, so they can be thrown away.

If I ran a magazine today I would be trying desperately to find my next move. Last year I paid for the digital version of ocean paddler which was really nice on my iPad, and no trees were killed. But I let it lapse for the two month old information problem. I think if I ran sea kayaker - which I clearly don't - I would turn it into a free digital subscription, and every day I would push a single article to peoples iPads/iPhones/or insert your tablet of choice here, as well as hosting a website. I would pay for everything with advertising. I am sure that their biggest expense is physically publishing it.

But then again, what do I know. I invented the paleo diet and did nothing about it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

2 things I am really sick of and 1 I am super excited about (HERO 3+)


A lot happened yesterday. Here they are in reverse order of importance.

3) The U.S. Government shut down yesterday and frankly, I am sick of you people. If I don't do my job I don't get paid. Perhaps it is time you experienced this. It's called compromise, look it up. (This is a big deal if you work for the government and can't go to work, and I am sorry for that. I hope they get their act together quickly)

2) Obamacare started yesterday. I am sick of this too. If you already have health insurance this doesn't effect you at all. So stop blaming it for the long lines at the pharmacy. It's a law. lets see how it does.

But now the most important announcement from yesterday!

1) That's right, it is that time of year! Yesterday saw the release of the HERO 3+. A number of slight upgrades from the HERO3 which I have been using since its release last year. As I was planning on buying a second HERO3 Black, it is a no brainer to get the + model instead.

I should point out that I teach the occasional "GoPro Basics" class and so people have been asking me about the rumors for a while. And if asked I would tell people the things I want out of a new camera. Number 1, better battery life. My HERO1 got 2 hours. My HERO3 gets an hour. For long trips this is horrible, and has me trying to figure out solar options for next summer. Beyond that the things I want out of a GoPro camera are more in the realm of 'it would be nice, but I don't need', and what I would have liked was Image stabilization. I didn't get it. Here is what I did get.

30% more battery life..... Better than nothing.
Smaller lighter housing.
Wider - and with less distortion lens.
Faster WIFI.
Auto frame rate adjustment for low light.

I am going to order one in the next few days. There are also a couple of new mounts available and I am super curious if the new batteries work in my older black model. Time will tell.

I think that is about it. Here is your annual GoPro Hero new release video. Enjoy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How many craftsman posts is this?

Really nice short film about a metal worker with a lot of heart. If you have been reading here for a while you know how much I like films like this. This one is particularly touching.

PORTRAIT OF A METAL WORKER from Eliu Cornielle on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

All The Navigation

This weekend I taught another Map & Compass class to 8 wonderful guys of incredibly varied ages. M&C is probably my favorite non kayaking topic to teach. In conversation with one of the students - a student that I happen to know outside of the class - I realized I have done a bunch of nav related topics here, and I thought I should put them in one place.

The most recent of course is The Declination Cheat which was just a few weeks ago. Before that there was a post about Declination. This is the section where people generally make the mistake that gets them lost.

There is of course, plotting a bearing on a chart, which in a kayak is one of the most common nav exercises used. Doing a crossing? Your plotting a bearing. Following a coast? Plot a bearing. Measuring a distance? Plot a bearing, and measure it. Remember though if you are plotting a bearing on a chart and following it in the real world, you have to account for declination. Unless of course you use the declination cheat mentioned above.

I think the most important skill is Orienting your map to your surroundings. Get it oriented and keep it oriented, tracking the world around you, and seeing how it lines up with the world on your map is the best way to not get lost.

People always ask me at the end of class "what is a good book that has these skills" and invariably I tell them the NOLS Wilderness Navigation is the way to go. Another book you must read is Deep Survival: Who Lives Who Dies and Why. Awesome read about the psychology of survival.

Is there something you want me to cover that is related to navigation? Let me know!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Forward - Now Available on iTunes

I am pleased to announce that my latest - albeit short - book is now available on the iTunes store. Forward, is available as an iBook for iPads (and soon coming to all Apple computers). This book is similar in design to Enlightened Kayaking, in that it is a formatted as a lesson followed by a video. But as the title suggests the only topic covered is the forward stroke.

Why one topic? Simply put, it is the single most important thing we will do in a kayak, and the single thing that most people have trouble with. I wanted a small, simple, book to focus on this one important aspect. It is three lessons focusing on the forward stroke.

FORWARD is available now on iTunes - for free - just follow the link in the sidebar on the right.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dressing for fall Paddling

Well, it is that time of year again. The air starts to cool, the leaves start to change, and then fall. We start thinking of things like pumpkins and hot chocolate. We contemplate the last paddle of the year, and start to think about how we are going to spend the fall in the outdoors..... Wait. WHAT?

This is no time to put the kayak away. In fact I paddle more in the fall and winter than I do in the summer. The reasons are many. The water is empty and quiet. The trees look amazing. And most importantly - not really - your friends will think you are hardcore.

But if you are going to paddle in the fall and winter you need to do it safely, which means dressing for the environment. There is one big debate that rages back and forth about, and that debate is, do you dress for 'submersion' or not. Honestly, I think either one can work. If you are careful and take some precautions.

My first choice for winter paddling is a drysuit. I absolutely love my Kokatat GMER. I have used it for about 4 or 5 years now, and it has been sensational. But the price tag is a little high for most recreational paddlers ($1030 US at The gaskets at the neck and wrists are the best I have ever seen, they are silky soft and hold up well. That said, if you want to make fall and winter paddling - or you paddle someplace that always has cold water, like Alaska - then it is the premier choice. There is no safer, more comfortable way to paddle in a world of cold water and cold air.

Your next option down the chain in terms of price range is a combination of a dry top, and dry pants. If I were going to do it today, because I have good experience with Kokatat products I would go with The Rogue Top ($430 at and Tempest pants with socks ($180 at 

Yes, you are still a little over $600 for this pair, but they are offering you awesome protection. While I haven't used the Rogue top I am sure it has very similar silky gaskets and the same quality I have come to expect from Kokatat. I think the most important thing about the pants, are the socks which I should point out are connected to the leg of the pant the same way they are in the drysuits. This is super important, and was my main reason to move into a drysuit, as it allows you to launch your boat without getting your feet wet. Slip your regular paddling shoes or sandals over them, to protect them.

But maybe $600 is too much for you to spend on paddle specific clothing? What if I told you you probably already have clothing that works, that could be used in a kayaking environment? If you read this blog, you know that I stopped using a loved Patagonia Skanorak paddling jacket in favor of an REI eVent rain shell. You can absolutely use standard rain wear, with just a couple of precautions. They work beautifully on top of the water, but if for some reason you end up in the water unexpectedly, then you have a problem. Which means you need to be prepared once you get back into your kayak to fix this problem. When I am in this situation - and I was about 5 years ago - pre drysuit - I paddled to shore, changed into dry clothes and made a hot, sugary drink with a jet boil. You may want to be prepared to do this in the boat if you can. Which means dry clothes in a drybag, in the cockpit. This isn't ideal, but this can definitely be done. I did it for a long time before making the drysuit plunge. Just think through what it is you are going to do, if the worst happens. (Don't paddle alone, and tell people when you are going, and when you will return).

I want to talk quickly about feet, because they will definitely be in the water, and if you aren't doing pants or a drysuit with socks, think about something like this, or this. They will keep your feet warm and dry getting into and out of your boat. Which is key to a pleasant paddling day.

Speaking of warm and dry, all of these options I have discussed are essentially shell layers. You are going to have to find base layers underneath to keep you warm, particularly when you are in the water. I used the Patagonia capilene 4 (heavyweight) when I used a dry top and pant in Alaska, but I found that layer too warm for under a drysuit and switched to Cap 3 with a crew neck. A few years ago I switched again to REI powerdry, which works just as well, has a nicer hand feel, and costs less. It was a grey powerdry top that I wore for 21 days on the Inside Passage. I would also add that a big part of this is finding what works well for you, and adapting what you see other people doing. If you paddle in groups always look around at the paddlers around you I guarantee you will pick things up.

Having had the experience of doing a NOLS instructor course, a WMI instructor course and a couple of other similar courses, I think I have learned more from my fellow instructors, in just seeing how they do things. Learn from those around you. I have talked before about having 'a beginners mind' - which means simply you are open to learning new things. Continue to learn something new everyday. Particularly every day on the water!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Labor day

I had the opportunity to paddle on labor day weekend, with all of the paddlers who are taking part in the Alaska Glacier Awareness Project (AGAP), unfortunately not at the same time. Soon I will be introducing all  the paddlers who are taking part. Yes. They are all women, and my wife is fine with it.

This is Melanie (Mel) and she was super patient while I shot video for a project that is now completed but I still can't talk about it yet. Maybe Tuesday I can give you more information.

But here is Mel and myself towards the end of our paddle. This was the third or fourth time I shot something and when I was done, Mel slid in beside me. Here is the video that resulted.

LabordayAGAP from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

I think we should paddle this closely for the entire trip.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Long way round

The past month or so I have really been enjoying watching "Long Way Round" and its sequel "Long Way Down". If you're not familiar, here is the trailer.

Let me stress, that I am not a motorcycle - or as they call them in this series, motorbike - guy. Having worked on an ambulance I know how dangerous they can be. I won't debate that they are cool and fun, they are, but dangerous none the less. ( I should also point out I have a dear friend, and a wonderful brother-in-law who ride long distances on bikes and it makes me very scared!) But that said, this is a wonderful series about a ride around the world. I love it for a couple of reasons, and it bugs me for one reason.

The loves:

I just love that these two friends have adventures as wonderful as this. They are clearly very dear to each other, and I am excited to see how they support each other. I love that they give each other hugs a lot. It is wonderful to see. I also love that they are both actors, but clearly everyone has heard of Ewan, and I had never heard of Charley. Yet Charley is amazing, and it turns out made a career out of motorbikes after this. I love that. I love when anyone can make a passion a career. (I am trying, and I feel partially successful!)

I love Ewan (and Charley's) love of the different places that they get to go, the experiences that that get to have, and seeing them struggle with the difficulty. I love that they continually say things like "A vacation doesn't have to be a trip to the beach." I have had an idea for a post - or maybe a I would propose it to a magazine - about the will to have adventures. How many times people hear about the trips I do and say "I would love to do something like that!" I can't count. But the thing that keeps you from doing trips like that is you, and nothing else. It is having the mindset that you can do it, and you make it happen. I love that we get to see them eating at little divey restaurants in Mongolia. Where most people would be afraid to eat. They are living life, and having an amazing time.

Here is what bugs me:

As someone who plans, funds, and executes adventurous trips, it kills me how easy it is if your name is Ewan McGregor. Oh? Bikes from BMW? Sure. Tools from Snap on? Sure. Helmets, Cameras, a film crew? Sure. Sure. Sure. A little frustrating. That said, Ewan seems like a really likable guy who I would love to have a drink with. Charley too. When they drive through Alaska they actually go kayaking to see wild life in Prince William Sound, maybe their next trip will have them kayaking and they will need a fixer. I'm available.

Long Way Round, and its sequel Long Way Down are on Netflix instant watch.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thermoform Kayak Repairs - the process

Let me start this by saying, I am far from an expert at repairing thermoformed kayaks. But I think my skills are now serviceable, in that I could do a repair in the field with a reasonably high level of success.

The boat I worked on was a Delta 15.5 expedition. It had severe cracks on both sides of the deck. As the boat had sat for 2 years, I started with a thorough cleaning. But it turns out I didn't do a thorough enough job. The edges of the cracks all had dirt in them that I couldn't get out. In the future I would dremel these cracks bigger for the sole reason of getting the dirt out. After cleaning them as best I could, I aligned the plastic. Most of this was done by hand, but some spots I used a rubber mallet to align the edges.

Once the edges were aligned I cleaned the entire area again, and then cleaned them a third time with Alcohol. I didn't think of this on the first section of repairs, but later on I started taping off the areas to be 'glued'. This made clean up a lot easier, and I was able to tape deck bungies out of the way. After it was taped it was time to proceed with the actual repair.

For this, you want Devcon Plastic Welder. I had a hard time finding it, and tried a couple of other items, but you really want Devcon Plastic Welder. The epoxies and glues just dry too brittle, and in the end we want a little flex. Mix your "glue" (I am calling it glue because that is what it feels like, but I am putting it in quotes because it isn't really glue) and use a disposable paint scraper to apply it to the crack. You will have about 3 minutes of working time. The amazing thing is that it will actually get hot to the touch - I was mixing it in a plastic paint cup, and could feel the heat through the cup. Make sure to fill the crack as that is what is really holding it together. Don't worry too much about what it looks like, you will be sanding it later.

After it has cured, cooled, and hardened it is time to move inside. This is where I had to improvise. I found a great resource on eddylines website, and they show using fiberglass tape and saturating it with plastic welder. Then applying it to inside of the boat, covering the crack. I couldn't find fiberglass tape, so I used the plastic mesh tape that is used to cover joints in drywall. It seems to have worked beautifully. You want to do several overlapping pieces, each covered with Devcon Plastic weld. When it is cooled, and hardened you are done with repairs.

Time to sand. I still have sanding to do, but it is a pretty simple, if time consuming matter. I started with an course sand paper and moved to a more fine one, but the trick is you want to wet sand this. Have a spray bottle handy and keep everything wet. It is easy, but as I said time consuming.

The only thing illustrated on the eddyline website that didn't work for me, was the dremel part. First, these boats don't crack in a straight line, all my cracks are pretty jagged, second, when I dremeled out the cracks, it really just splintered the plastic more. I may have had the wrong bit.

Another tip I would pass along, I did most of this wearing nitrile exam gloves, and it worked great until I touched the Plastic welder. A few cracks I used my fingers to work the weld in. But when you do this, you really have to remove the gloves right away, as it will melt the gloves off your fingers pretty quickly.

Another thing to keep in mind, is the sanding process takes the gloss coat off the boat. So after you are done the area around the repair wont have that beautiful glossy look. I haven't figured out how to return that to the finish.

If you know how, or have any other tips to make this process easier, please let me know. I am sure there are more skilled people out there, so I look forward to your tips.