Hiking and Your Feet

Written by Dr. Jeffery W. LaMour at Family Foot & Ankle Clinichiking

Hiking is one of the easiest ways to engage in regular physical activity. Unlike many other athletic pursuits, hiking requires minimal equipment and can be done in almost any type of weather. Plus, there’s the added benefit of exploring the great outdoors while clearing your mind from everyday life. Since hiking typically involves walking on uneven terrain, it can help to develop and strengthen the lower body, but can also expose it to injury. We contacted the experts at Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) to give us some tips on how to keep feet and ankles injury-free while hiking. Continue reading Hiking and Your Feet

Travel Safe: How To Protect Your Bags and Belongings While Traveling

Travel SafeIf you strategize for travel safety—and plan ahead—you can avoid becoming a victim of theft on the road. Keep these eight tips as you start packing up for your next getaway.

From Eagle Creek Blogger Jessica Festa

When traveling and exploring unfamiliar territory, your belongings become more vulnerable to being lost or stolen. That said, you don’t need to travel in fear: there are tactics you can employ to keep your things safe. To help you plan a strategy, here are Eagle Creek’s top suggestions.

1.  Leave Unnecessary Valuables at Home

If you can’t bear the thought of losing something, leave it at home. Of course, there are some things you may need to bring like your camera or cell phone for emergencies; however, do you really need to bring your high-end wristwatch, costume jewelry, laptop, tablet and your smartphone? Pack light, especially when it comes to valuables.

2.  Invest in Concealed Accessories

Instead of putting valuables in outer pockets and backpack pockets where they can be easily stolen, invest in accessories that allow you to keep your important items on the inside of your clothing and inside secret pouches.

ACK offers three different concealed accessories to help you travel safe. The Undercover Neck Wallet can be worn around your neck and tucked into your shirt. The Undercover Money Belt and the Undercover Hidden Pocket are two other options for keeping your valuables out of sight.

3.  Lock Up and Stay Alert in Crowds

Instead of just leaving your suitcase vulnerable to intruders, keep it locked up using a Signal Search TSA Lock or Mini-Key TSA Lock. This type of lock allows you to see when your belongings have been opened by TSA. You can also use one of these locks to secure purses and day bags to make it more difficult to get into your possessions both on the street and in the hotel. If you stay alert and are confident, you’ll avoid looking like a target.

4.  Don’t Let Your Guard Down In The Hotel

It’s easy to let your guard down once you’re off the city streets and back in your comfortable hotel room. Don’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in a hostel or 5-star hotel, you need to be mindful of your belongings in order to travel safe. Lock up valuables, keep luggage closed and secure and, if you don’t need your room cleaned every single day, hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to keep cleaning staff out of the room when you’re out exploring the city.

5.  Keep A Clear Head

While it may be tempting to sample every beer on the menu at the local bar when traveling, it’s not wise. When drinking, sip slowly and alternate with water to keep from becoming intoxicated — and putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Some thieves specifically target travelers they see leaving popular bars and coffeeshops as they make easy targets. The more clearly you can think, the more aware you will be or your surroundings and better equipped to handle potentially dangerous situations.

6.  Trust Your Gut

If something seems too good to be true or a situation just doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. Get in the habit of always taking your hotel’s business card and putting it immediately into your wallet. Late at night—or if you need to leave the scene quickly to avoid trouble—you’ll be able to hand the card to the driver, and know that he’ll be able to get you back to safety. You won’t have to remember addresses and directions or deal with language barriers.

7.  Be Mindful of Scams

There are some truly outrageous scams out there aimed at robbing tourists, so ask your hotel or travel agent which ones you should be aware of when you are touring around at your destination. One rule of thumb is to be wary of anyone trying to be overly helpful — helping you with your bags, wiping dirt from your shoulder, touching you in a flirty manner — as they may just want access to your pockets. In general, keep your bag closed tightly and close to your body.

8.  Stay Organized

The more organized you keep your luggage, the less likely you are to lose track of your valuables. Use Pack-It Specter Cubes  to save luggage space and keep clothing separated. Additionally, Pack-It Sacs can secure your important documents, credit cards, passport, money and receipts.

Jessica Festa, a New York native, is a world traveler who is always looking for a new adventure. She stays active through hiking, cycling, and dance and loves nothing more than her backpack. Follow her travels around the world at Jessie on a Journey and at Epicure & Culture.  

6 Reasons to Get Your Kayak Lit Up with SuperNova LED Lights

SuperNova LED LightsWondering why you should invest in SuperNova LED Lights for your kayak?

The super bright LED strips from SuperNova offer the kayaker many advantages. Here’s 6 reasons to get your kayak lit with SuperNova:

1. Safety First: Increased visibility of SuperNova LED Lights gives you peace of mind that everyone else on the water knows you’re there. These things are extremely bright!

2. Long Lasting Durability: Not only will they get you seen, but SuperNova LED Light Kits they are durable, submersible and salt water ready.

3. Color Options: Blue strips…or green? Blue SuperNova LED lights are bright enough to light structures for casting at a distance and their UV qualities work well with fluorescent line. Green are a bit brighter and attract bait by the net full.

4. Light Up Your Work Space: Position them in the kayak’s cockpit or seating area as task or indirect lighting to help with tying line or bait selection. Blue is easier on your night vision but green is brighter and renders color best.

5. Storage Space Lighting: Place them in your rear tankwell or inside a hatch to make it easy to locate your tackle, rod or favorite frosty beverage. No more fumbling around in the dark!

6. Custom Solutions Available: If the kits at ACK.com aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, contact our customer service team at customer@austinkayak.com or 888-828-3828 and we’ll arrange a quote for your idea or specific need.

Shop SuperNova LED Lights now.

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.


3 Simple Steps to Better Sun Protection

After four consecutive weekends of ACK events this month, I’ve gotten my fair share of sun. It’s been a lot of fun, but the bad news is that I haven’t done my best to consider sun protection while I’ve been out there. It wasn’t until a visit to my grandfather’s house prompted me to reconsider my way of thinking.

I had just spent the day working at the Texas Ski Ranch for our San Marcos Demo Days and decided to pop in to say hi to my grandfather who lived nearby. We caught up and watched some football and eventually he commented on the sun burn I had gotten that day. I told him I had put on sunscreen but still managed to get a little burnt, no big deal. He proceeded to tell me about how he’d recently been fighting with skin cancer, brought on by some carelessness to protect his skin when he was younger and spending a lot of time outside just like me. He gave me a info sheet he had gotten from the doctor and that was the end of the conversation.

What the info sheet had on it and what he told me wasn’t anything new. I knew sunburns were bad and could lead to long term skin problems, but for some reason it’s an easy danger to dismiss. It’s also an easy danger to beat, and next weekend when I was out at the National Hunting and Fishing Day I took some extra precautions for the sake of protecting my skin. Just 3 simple steps to protect myself from the sun that’s easy for anyone to follow.

Step 1: Keep Sun Protection in Mind When Planning

Even on a cloudy day like this one you need to consider sun protection.
Even on a cloudy day like this one you need to consider sun protection.

Start protecting yourself from the sun before you even get going. When you plan an outdoor adventure, consider the time of day you’re going out. UV rays are strongest when the sun is directly overhead (usually between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM) and during the summer months. If you’re going out during these times, be extra conscious of protecting your skin! On the other hand, you probably don’t have much to worry about if you’re going out for a night paddle.

Also, don’t let the weather fool you. Fall often means more overcast days, but a cloudy sky doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about the sun. UV rays can penetrate cloud coverage and sometimes even reflect off of a patchwork of clouds to result in more rays on the ground. Even on cloudy days, you need to prepare yourself with proper sun protection.

Step 2: Cover Up What You Can

ACK Developer Jeremy covered up for a summer paddle.
ACK Developer Jeremy covered up for a summer paddle.

Protecting your skin involves covering it up. No, this doesn’t mean that you need to be covered head to toe, but covering up in a comfortable and responsible manner is important.

Something for your head is a must have – I don’t know about you, but when I try to apply sunscreen to my scalp, my hair usually gets in the way. The problem is that hair usually isn’t enough to protect your noggin from the sun and an easy and effective way to compensate for this by putting on a hat. Ideally, your hat should be wide brimmed giving 360 degree coverage to your whole head, neck and face. A popular option to do this are the sun hats from Outdoor Research, including the Seattle Sombrero which is perfect for colder Fall weather because of its GORE-TEX fabric crown. Buffs are a popular alternative to hats and come in a wide selection of styles that can cover your entire face. In the end, it’s a personal preference whether you prefer wearing a buff versus a hat, or both like Jeremy choose to do in the picture.

In addition to covering your face, it’s a good idea to wear clothing that offers sun protection as well. Find long sleeve shirts or pants that offers a UV Protection Rating (UPF) that are loose fitting and comfortable so they don’t interfere with your adventuring, like our apparel from Columbia. Gloves, closed toe shoes, sunglasses and other apparel accessories are there if you want to go completely covered, but remember you can always use sunscreen to take care of anything not covered up. In colder weather, you’ll probably want to wear clothing that provides extra coverage to keep warm anyways!

Step 3: Use Sunscreen – and More Than Once

Applying a first application before a paddling trip.
Applying a first application before a paddling trip.

For anything not covered, bring a tube of sunscreen and keep it with you. Aim for one that has a SPF rating of 15 or greater and if you’re planning on participating in some water sports make sure you get a brand that’s waterproof! When applying, cover everywhere from your ears to your toes – easy to forget spots like these are often the first places to get burnt.

Finally, it’s important to remember is that you need to apply more than once if you stay out for an extended period. Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule for how often you need to re-apply as factors like the SPF rating, weather conditions and even your propensity to burn play a factor in how often you need a new layer. When participating in activities where I’m not heavily perspiring or constantly getting wet, I’ve found that it’s best to re-apply every 3-4 hours. Even if you are using a waterproof brand of sunscreen, water sport activities require more frequent re-application of sunscreen, approximately every hour and a half.

Remember Sun Protection on Your Next Outdoor Adventure

Don’t let the sun keep you from adventuring, but remember to take the appropriate steps to be protected. Even if you don’t see direct results of it now, improper steps to keeping your skin healthy can lead to long term problems in the future. It’s best to just be safe!

So how do you protect yourself from the sun? Do you have a favorite brand of sun screen or wear a buff to cover your face? Comment below and let me know!





Think Paddling Safety First And Always Be Mindful Of Mother Nature!

Remember Paddling Safety: Kayaking Comes With Exposure to the Elements

Lately, as I have been scanning the various kayaking forums, I’m starting to notice a very disturbing trend among some of my fellow paddlers. In just the last 2 months, I have counted over a dozen instances where paddlers aren’t taking into account paddling safety when it comes to weather conditions. Many are passing over the opportunity to check out the forecast for their paddling area so that they can know what mother nature has in store for them that day. Without the ability to get back to your land or your vehicle as quickly as you have with boats with motors on them, they are taking a huge gamble that is just not worth the risk.

Paddling Safety - Bad Weather
Example of less than ideal paddling weather.

These scenarios are easily remedied by always being mindful of the changing conditions and by utilizing local TV weather channels prior to your trip, weather apps on your smart phone that incorporate live radar, VHF radios that can tune into Coast Guard weather channels, or even a cell phone that allows you to call someone who can check weather patterns wherever they are for you. Mostly these instances seem to involve new kayakers who are anxious to hit the water and explore the opportunities their new plastic boat gives them. While I share in their enthusiasm, it’s important to stay alert and keep paddling safety in mind so that there will be many more trips in the future. Technology has come a long way and a lot of it is accessible even while kayaking. Waterproof cases for your phones, like the lifeproof case, instantly gives your electronic device protection and allows you to scan weather conditions with the peace of mind that if you drop the phone overboard that it will still work when you retrieve it.

If you find yourself on an outing and the weather shift and you can’t get back to your vehicle in time, here are some great practices to help prevent worst case scenarios. In the case of lightning, lay tall items in your kayak down flat, paddle to shore as quickly as possible, get out of your kayak and hunker down till the storm passes. The last place you want to be is exposed out on the water where you are one of the tallest things available for lightning to strike. Dealing with heavy winds can be a challenge as well, combat them by zig-zagging across the wind’s direction instead of going directly into it.  If you have no choice but to go straight into it, feather your paddle accordingly and if need be, take a break and rest every so often to regain your strength. In strong currents, you can attack the problem similarly as your would strong wind with the zig-zag approach as well as taking rests.

There won’t always be a solution to every problem that arises, but it is best to know basic paddling safety procedures that can help you in times of need. Preparedness is the key, and awareness can save your life. If possible, always scout conditions before you ever hit the water. The phrase “dying to hit the water” has no reason to be taken literally.


Practical Solutions for Your Paddling Endeavors from North Water

North Water Logo
Made for paddlers.

The name North Water isn’t anything new in the world of paddlesports or to ACK.com. In fact, the Vancouver based manufacturer is a widely known brand among experts and professionals in the field of paddling and professional rescue. The reason? Their variety of specialized products to help keep users comfortable, safe & organized come with a guarantee – that North Water products are made by experienced professionals with a dedication to quality.

Safety is the Solution to Help Prevent a Problem

The company got it’s start as a response to tragedy. Founder & owner, Lindsay Merchant witnessed his friend and paddling partner in a life ending canoeing accident. Afterwards, he found the resolve to take paddling safety seriously resulting in the design of his first product. He had this to say in a recent interview for the North Water blog:

“From the beginning we have designed all North Water safety and rescue gear to be as effective and reliable as possible , always with an emphasis on custom designing related to the specific needs of a paddler, being able to keep turning that product out in record time while making it last beyond the life of the paddler. I think water rescue is as dynamic as its environment, so I often tend to over engineer what I build, trying to make it work for as many different scenarios as possible.” – Lindsay Merchant

Today, they’ve designed a wide range of paddling safety equipment which can be found at ACK.com, all with  glowing reviews from our customers. Take a look for yourself – not a single product has less than four out of five stars!

North Water Designs For Paddlers With Specific Needs

Interior Mounted Cockpit Bag
Not something you’ll find at Walmart.

A browse through the ACK.com’s selection of North Water products and it quickly becomes clear that these are some very niche products designed by people who know paddling. Need a tow line that puts the strain on a kayak’s coaming rather than the paddler? What about interior mounted cockpit bags for sit-inside paddlers not wearing a spray skirt? Each product is made to serve specific needs for paddlers.

One of their more unique products is the 4 Play Paddle Float, which serves not one but, as its name implies, four different purposes beneficial to paddlers. It functions as a paddle float, camp chair, extra sleeping cushion for camping and protective padding for your kayak. See it in action in this video:

So paddlers, what’s your need? Take a look & see if there’s a North Water product for it. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for on our site, comment below – we want to know, plus we always have the option to put in a special order! Ask us about their custom made Canoe Spray Deck too – with a 2-3 week turnaround time they can build exactly what you need.

Watch out for that… Goose?!?

Yup, you read that correctly. Goose and other animal encounters are happening all over the nation!

Listen to Chris dela Torre elaborate on his unplanned entanglement with as he calls the “Gangsters of Nature” on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC from Canada.

Photo Credit: Outdoor Research Blog
Photo Credit: Outdoor Research Blog

On a serious note, it is important to remember that being adventure seekers means we are trekking into territory that isn’t ours. The animals that live in these natural habitats such as geese, swans and other waterfowl may look cute and harmless from a distance but may be aggressive if they feel threatened. Even though we mean no harm, it’s important that we give them space and respect their environment. I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t want to receive the wrath of a “Gangster Goose”!

Have you had a crazy animal encounters? Tell us about it!

Win a First Aid Kit for National Safety Month this June!

Designated as National Safety Month by the National Safety Council, June marks both the coming summer and a reminder to be safe in everything you do including adventuring outside. We thought this would be a great opportunity to remind readers about staying prepared with proper safety gear and in particular, first aid kits.

Day Tripper Kit
Day Tripper Kit

Day Tripper from Adventure Medical Kit Giveaway

In recognition of National Safety Month, we’re giving away some Day Tripper kits from Adventure Medical Kits. Want to win one? Comment below with an outdoor adventure you have planned this summer and we’ll pick three winners at random on Wednesday 6/19/13! Check the Blog Giveaway Terms and Conditions for any exclusions.

Want to double your odds of winning this giveaway? Share the link to this blog on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest and then comment again with a link to let us know where you shared it.

See more about the kit in this video:

Why Bring a Kit?

Safety in your outdoor adventures, whether it’s a short hike or an overnight paddling expedition, is all about preparation. Cuts, scrapes, bug bites or  a headache can happen anywhere, anytime, and it pays to be ready. Equipping yourself with a pre-assembled first aid kit is often the most convenient and cost effective way to do this. Most are compact, lightweight and are always a great way to make sure you haven’t forgotten any of the basics.

The Weekender Kit is made for week long trips.
The Weekender Kit is made for week long trips.

If you do plan on relying on a first aid kit there are a few things to consider including:

  • the size of your group who will be relying on your kit
  • the duration of your trip
  • any inherent danger of your specific trip
  • proximity to medical assistance
  • special needs of anyone in the group

For example, Adventure Medical Kits makes several different kits based on the length of your trip like the Weekender Kit versus the Day Tripper.

What Should a Kit Include?

Kits should include the basic necessities like:

  • Bandages (various sized adhesive bandages for wounds, dressings and moleskin for treating blisters)
  • Items to reduce chance of infection (antiseptic wipes, gloves & hand wipes, alcohol swabs)
  • Basic tools (tweezers for splinters, tape, some type of knife or blade)
  • Simple drugs & lotions (Aspirin or Ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment and any prescription drugs)
  • Manual explaining how to use items in the kit

Of course there are plenty of extra items to consider ranging from things like emergency dental items to bug bite ointment. Each kit should be personalized to the nature of your trip and group, so if there is an expected hazard make sure to pack first aid items to prepare for it!

Browse our full selection of First Aid Kits and Accessories.


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?