Life Jacket Facts From The Safe Boating Campaign

Keep these Life Jacket Facts in Mind

Enjoy the water and wear your life jacket!
Enjoy the water and wear your life jacket!

Whatever kind of paddling you like to do, it’s important to always wear your life jacket (or PFD) while you’re out on the water. Think of it like wearing a seat belt in your car – you probably won’t find yourself in a situation where you need it, but it’s a precaution that can be live saving should the worst happen. I came across some great life jacket facts from the Safe Boating Campaign about why you should actually put it on one while you’re out paddling and wanted to share them here:

  • U.S. Coast Guard’s 2010 statistics stated that approximately 88 percent of boaters who drowned were reported as not wearing life jackets.
  • This means that over 400 boaters died unexpectedly because they were uninformed or simply not in the habit of taking this significant safety precaution.
  • It is human nature to think it can’t happen to me–but it can.
    • The majority of people who drown in boating accidents know how to swim, but become incapacitated in the water.
    • Sometimes they are injured or unconscious.
    • Others develop hypothermia or become exhausted.
    • Some are weighed down by clothing.
  • An accident usually happens without warning.Other reasons why people don’t wear a life jacket are that it is too hot, or it will mess up their tan line, or they are simply not comfortable.
    • Usually after the accident, the life jackets are not within reach–in cabinets, trapped under the vessel, floating far away in the water.
  • Many people don’t realize the variety of new life jackets that are on the market–belt packs and other inflatable styles that are low profile and light weight.
  • It is important to wear a life jacket at all times while boating.

 

5 Tips to Extend Your Paddling in Cold Weather Season

Paddling in Cold Weather

It may not feel like it everywhere now, but September marks the end of summer and, eventually, the coming of cooler fall weather. This time last year, our team was talking about kayak storage options to help people get ready for the cold winter months. Boy, did we get an earful (or eyeful, technically, since responses were sent via email). We were reminded that many of our customers have yearlong paddling seasons and that ‘kayak hibernation’ wasn’t a term they were interested in hearing!

It makes sense that paddlers would want to stay on the water. With less recreational activities taking place, fall and wintertime water offers a more quiet and solitude experience. It means less bugs too! Pests like mosquitoes seem to disappear from cooling waterways as soon as Labor Day passes. But before you jump in your kayak and hit the lake, remember that long exposure to the cold can present a safety factor: hypothermia. I’ve outlined 5 things that I think anyone looking to extend the length of their paddling season into the winter months should consider.

1. Start With The the Basics

Keeping warm on the water as temperatures start to drop isn’t as hard as you think. Make sure you have all the basics like your PFD, spray skirt (for sit insides), bilge pump (also for sit insides), whistle, paddle leash and first aid kit. Add to this list a complete change of clothes in a dry bag just in case you fall in the water and want to change later. It may go without saying, but be sure that none of the clothes you wear or pack are cotton. Cotton dries slow, meaning you’re going to be cold if there’s even a slight breeze out, plus it weighs you down. Just don’t do it. What should you wear? Well, I was getting to that…

Guide for Paddling in Cold Weather
Cold Weather Paddling Apparel Layering Guide

2. Layering Is A Paddlers Best Friend Against the Cold

You’ll want to take on the cold with the appropriate paddling apparel, and that means layering with synthetic materials proven to keep you both warm and dry. I’d recommend starting with a good base layer in early fall and then adding piece by piece as the weather gets colder. Refer to our Cold Weather Paddling Apparel Layering Guide to see how you can best do this.

Keep in mind that when it gets colder it will be more important to keep as much covered as you can and this means investing in things like neoprene socks, paddling gloves (or pogies) and headwear. One really great headwear option that’s just arrived at ACK is the Buff Thermal Pro, which uses a Polartec fabric to cover your neck and head as well as merino wool for your chin and mouth.

3. Don’t Paddle On An Empty Stomach

It’s important that you hydrate whenever you’re paddling but it’s easy to forget when the sun isn’t beating down on you. In fact, keeping well fed and hydrated will help minimize the risk of hypothermia if you happen to fall in the water. Carbohydrates and foods high in fat will give you both energy and warmth. On especially cold nights, I recommend bringing along a vacuum sealed flask of your favorite warm beverage (non-alcoholic) like hot chocolate or cider.

4. Familiarize Yourself With Rescue Techniques

Even for a paddler who is dressed for cold water immersion, a swim can still bring on hypothermia if you aren’t prepared. Knowledge of rescue techniques and regular practice with your paddling companions (and cold water paddlers SHOULD have partners) are essential. Rolling is particularly important to know for sea kayakers or anyone else in a sit-inside because the inability to perform this will mean an extended exposure to cold water. All paddlers should also be able to re-enter their kayak should an accidental capsize occur. If you aren’t comfortable with these skills, make sure someone in your group knows this and is prepared to help.

5. Wear Your PFD!

At risk of sounding like a broken record, my last tip is a reminder to wear your PFD. Not only is it an added layer of insulation but they will keep your head above water, increasing your ability to fight against hypothermia dramatically. Just take a 10 minute lesson from the Cold Water Boot Camp if you don’t believe me:

Cold weather might be hard to imagine for some of us (like my fellow Texans) but for many cooler fall temperatures are just around the corner. Don’t let them mean an end to your paddling season but also remember to be safe on the water. Have something to add to my list? Just leave a comment below!

Astral Ronny PFD Deemed a Comfortable Option by Kayak Angler, Travis Abner

Several people have asked me about my gear and why I chose what I did. Being a convert from whitewater boating, I started completely new with kayak fishing, so pretty much all of my gear other than my rods and tackle are brand new (I have fished in a bass boat for many years). I did countless hours of research to make sure I was getting the best deal and the best product for my money. I didn’t go with the highest end gear for everything, simply because it’s not necessary for me. The products I did pick though were what I deemed the best bang for my buck, and none of them have let me down so far.

Astral Ronny PFD
Astral Ronny PFD

As far as my PFD goes, I knew it would be difficult to find another as comfortable as my old Lotus Lola, which my wife now uses. As mentioned before, I did quite a bit of research, mostly looking through reviews and message boards. The product that seemed to stand out the most for my specific application of kayak fishing, appeared to be the Astral Ronny, so I bought one to try out. I was not disappointed.

This is by far the most comfortable PFD that I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing. It’s completely adjustable from the shoulder straps to the side straps. The back panel of foam is only 1/2″ thick, so it’s extremely comfortable when leaning against a full backrest such as the one on my Ride 135. There’s no big chunk or wad of foam making you feel awkward or uncomfortable, which is a very welcome change. The back panel also has a small vent in it to keep the air flowing a bit better. I’m not sure how much it really helps, but it looks cool and I feel cool, so that’s pretty much all that matters to me.

The Ronny has one front pocket made out of mesh that I use to hold my Gerber EZ-Out knife and glasses strap. It’s not a very big pocket, but would at least fit a cell phone in a waterproof case or similar.

Overall, I am very impressed with this PFD and will certainly keep on using it for quite a while. While I am satisfied with this PFD, especially for the price it typically goes for, there are a few things that I would like to see either changed on this model or possibly for a future creation. I’d like to see thicker fabric such as 400 or 500D nylon. The nylon on the current Ronny seems tough enough as-is, and it dries out super quick, but I’d just like to have a tad tougher material. I’d also like to see another pocket or two on the front for additional gear. This is where if they did take that into consideration, it might be for a completely new model made specifically for fishing, but still keep the 1/2″ thick back panel. That’s pretty much it! As I mentioned before, I’m very happy and look forward to using this PFD for many seasons to come.

Check out the video below for a quick look and basic overview. Comment with any questions, thanks!  — Travis Abner

SUP Safety: Life Jacket or Leash?

When the American Canoe Association (ACA) released their 2012 SUP Survey asking for paddlers to share opinions on lifejackets, leashes & legislation, we were a bit surprised by the data. The survey took into account responses from over 550 SUP paddlers from beginners to certified instructors. As a paddlesports company, we always recommend that paddlers wear a PFD when on the water and for those paddling a SUP we also recommend a leash. When you SUP, do you wear both?

 

I Bought a Fishing Kayak. Now What? by Chris Payne (Payne’s Paddle/Fish)

Chris Payne recently posted this article on his blog and we thought it was too good not to share! In it, he outlines the products (in order of necessity) you need to start outfitting your kayak for fishing with tips for fitting and choosing certain products as well as techniques for installing some.

It’s a great feeling to pull the trigger on a new fishing kayak (or any kayak for that matter). Especially that first one. Your very first kayak is special. It’s almost like when my oldest child was born. There was a ton of anticipation, excitement and several months leading up to it. When it finally arrived I was so excited but at the same time scared. Now what? Hopefully you bought it at a place like Austin Canoe and Kayak or other reputable dealer and they can help with this next part. If you didn’t buy your kayak from a dealer, didn’t have someone to guide you through and are spinning from all the options, keep reading.

As with kids, the kayak makes you start to think of “What else do I need?” Maybe your budget is tight and you can’t get everything all at once. That is most of us. Don’t be embarrassed. Very few of us have everything we need as soon as we get home. I’ve been through this process several times and it is different with every one but what I would like to offer is a shopping list. Start at the top and work your way down. Some people may have differing opinions and that’s great. What I am hoping to do is take some of the guess work out of gearing up and save you the headaches I have gone through. This list is specific for kayak fishermen so after the second item the list would vary for other sports.

Start Here:

PFD (Life Jacket)- Most people go straight for the paddle. The only reason I recommend a PFD first is safety. If you blow all of your money on a fancy paddle and end up paddling in an $8 PFD that fits like an albatross, you won’t be paddling for long. Choose a good PFD and always wear it. Check out the Astral Buoyancy and Stohlquist PFDs. Want to learn more about PFDs? Click Here. I also recommend a knife and a whistle to attach to the PFD so you can call for help or cut your way out of a tangle or hung anchor. If you are going to paddle at night, get a 360 degree light.

Paddle- This is your motor. Use this paddle guide and find the right one for you. If you only have two things you can buy, they need to be a good PFD and a paddle. That seems like a no-brainer but lots of people skimp on the first and sell their kayak shortly after from non-use.

Anchor Trolley- It seems strange to buy this before an anchor but believe me when I say you will be much happier if you do. An anchor trolley allows you to use a drift sock, stake out stick and anchor while positioning yourself to take advantage of the wind, not be a victim of it. This also will allow for a quick release if you get into trouble. This is the one I use. Inexpensive and easy to install.

Anchor- This is the most widely mispurchased item under $50. Anchors exist in all shapes and sizes. The most popular one is the collapsible anchor. This is also the most frequent one laying at the bottom of a rock pile or root group in 20 feet of water. Use a bruce-style claw anchor and use the zip tie method of connection to get your anchor back from the murky depths. Here is a link from TexasKayakFisherman.com that shows the proper way to rig this up.

Anchor Rope (and accessories)- Most anchors don’t come with rope. If you are going to be fishing in any current or wind at all most people will recommend 2X the length of rope for the depth you are fishing. So if your fish are in 20 feet of water, you need at least 40 feet of rope. If you are fishing on the coast it is recommended 3X the depth. I like 3/16″ rope but choose what you like. Just don’t buy 1/16″ rope and expect to raise a big anchor easily. While you are there in the rope section, pick up a carabiner and rope float to attach to these as well.

Rod Holders- These come in different varieties. You can get flush mount, rocket launchers, trolling rod holders for baitcasters and spinning, rail mount, and the list goes on and on. Look at some rigging pictures, sit in your boat, see where you can reach and then go buy one.

Milk Crate- You can buy one or ask a retail grocer for one. Either way, you can strap this down to the back of most kayaks and hold tons of tackle and gear. You can also add some PVC to be additional rod holders. Cheapest investment you’ll love forever.

Everything Else-These things will get you going pretty well. After you have the above mentioned items, you should look at, in no particular order: a fish finder, stabilizers (depending on the kayak), drift sock, stake out stick, VHF handheld radio, scupper plugs (for sit on tops), waders, paddle gloves, really the list goes on and on. Most of all, have fun and catch some fish!

Chris Payne is an avid kayak fisherman from Temple, TX. Paddling since 2003, he is spreading his adventures, foibles and knowledge to those who have a couple of minutes to read a post or two. Chris loves to talk kayaking with anyone who wants to share stories, learn more about kayak fishing or just chew the fat. You can reach him at paynefish@gmail.com.

Cold Water Boot Camp – Another Reason to Wear Your PFD

Here’s another reason to wear your PFD! It’s an older video but still a powerful one. Put on by the US Coast Guard, Cold Water Boot Camp shows how even good swimmers who don’t think they need a PFD can quickly be overcome without one in cold water. Just wear your PFD! – Joseph@ACK

 

KATS Sponsor Update – Kokatat

Now that we’ve already told you about our patron sponsors, Bending Branches and Malone Auto Racks, we wanted to get started with our KATS Platinum Sponsors. Today, we begin with Kokatat…

Kokatat is a California based company that has been manufacturing paddling apparel and accessories in the United States since 1971. Today, they continue to evolve the development of the finest and driest paddling apparel in the world. They’ve donated a variety of prizes including PFDs and paddling apparel. We noticed many of their prizes already being used by KATS competitors during the event such as Kokatat’s Tempest Pants and of course their PFDs. Thanks for everything Kokatat!

Click here to view our full line up of Platinum sponsors or here for more information about KATS.

Child Life Vest

My 7-year old took his first sailing class this summer. The list of required equipment was a child life vest or ‘personal flotation device’ (PFD).  Of course I waited till the day before to read the list of required gear so it was the perfect excuse for me to buy the NRS Vista Youth PFD for him.

I got it home and put it on him and started adjusting it and immediately realized that I wasn’t exactly sure how to properly fit it on him (look for a PFD fitting piece to be posted here in the not too distant future) and just about the time his patience wore out (4.5 minutes) I finished the final adjustments.

The size of the vest was great on John and at a fighting weight of 50 lbs he has another 40 lbs of growth before it gets handed off to another kiddo. He didn’t have the large and hot, water ski vest that the other kids had and because it was fitted properly you could clearly see the difference as 25 kids bobbed in the water after class.  The NRS child life vest wasn’t jammed up around his neck like the others…he was floating high and comfortable in the water.  John liked the snug fit and the smaller size…it wasn’t like wearing a winter jacket, plus he loves the fact that his life vest has “pockets”…not sure for what…but he has pockets.

If you’re looking for a solid child life vest the NRS Vista Youth PFD is an outstanding choice.

-Clayton Clabaugh
ACK HQ