If I could total up the amount of gear that I have either lost or damaged during my outdoor adventures, it would definitely exceed thousands of dollars (don’t worry, my wife knows). More of us than would like to admit have experienced the rage that immediately follows the dropping of that expensive new reel or camera overboard, gear that we drooled over for a month on the Internet. It’s borderline embarrassing to admit that the majority of the times that I have lost gear, it has not only been foolish but more importantly preventable.
A prime example is when I flipped my kayak offshore a few years ago during the BWKC (Blue Water Kayak Classic) in Corpus Christi, Texas. Flipping the kayak was not necessarily the problem, as this will most likely happen to all of us at least once, but the rods that were not leashed and the unlocked hatch that contained all my tackle was the problem. Conditions were less than ideal that morning and evidently the risk of losing gear or running into trouble go up considerably with marginal weather. Nonetheless, because I opted to ignore my inner voice telling me to manage risk and ensure that everything was locked and secured, I ended up paying the price.
A few weeks ago, I had an incident that reiterated the all-mighty power of nature and that our ability to mitigate risk, manage conditions and understand the operation and limit of our gear should be a fundamental part of how we approach our outdoor excursions to guarantee a safe and enjoyable time.Carlos Andreu
That weekend, I had decided to go on a kayak fishing trip around Port Aransas, Texas. The weather forecast for Saturday was manageable with winds between 10-15 mph, but Sunday’s winds gusts were predicted to reach 50 mph. The National Weather Service called for a “small craft advisory,” which basically begs for smaller boats to stay off the water due to high winds. Saturday went well on the water; fish were caught and everyone in the group had a blast. Sunday morning, we woke up to the predicted weather conditions. Winds were strong and constant, averaging 25 mph and gusting at 50+ mph. Whitecaps (wave crests breaking into white foam caused by wind) were visible all across the bay and my truck, outfitted with the Yakima Outdoorsman 300 and loaded with two Hobie Outbacks on top, rocked with the raw power of the wind.
Given the brutal conditions, I decided to head back home to Austin. I finished packing my gear and started driving west. I could feel the truck working harder than normal due to force of the wind so I decided to slow my cruising speed and take country roads in case something happened. As I drove I thought about stopping and putting the kayaks on the bed of the truck or adding bow and stern lines (as I typically don’t use them) but again, I ignored my instinct, knowledge and experience. Now, keep in mind that the Yakima rack and most racks can take an average of 300 – 500 lbs of load and are ultimately designed to take the force of the wind head on. It is also important to note that I’ve had the opportunity to travel thousands of miles with this rack loaded with kayaks with no issues whatsoever.
That being said, the wind hit the side of the vehicle during a powerful gust at one point during the drive and the rack came off the rail of the bed of the truck and sent one of the Outbacks flying out the back into the road!
Luckily I heard the snap and had enough time to slow down and pull over to the shoulder before the kayak tumbled a couple of times on the asphalt and into the grass. Maybe it’s just me, but I was not upset at all. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had played that exact scenario in my mind as I drove that morning before the incident actually happened but didn’t stop to mitigate the risk (you see the theme here). I was certain that the power of the wind could push the limits of the gear to its breaking point, and it did.
In hindsight, I should have added the bow and stern straps or put one of the two kayaks on the bed of the truck. The lesson here? Even the highest quality and best engineered products have limits, and we must place our experience and instinct at the forefront of our decision-making process to prevent unfortunate gear mishaps.
Losing and breaking gear comes with the territory of exploring The Great Outdoors. Ultimately, we are putting ourselves and our equipment through a pace of use and abuse where even the best performing athlete or highest quality product could eventually fail. It’s not only the excessive or irresponsible use of the gear but the elements ultimately remind us that in the wild, everyone and everything is at risk so trust your instincts and play safe!