Don’t Lose Your Kit, Label It!

I’ve scrawled my contact details (and some funky designs) on to various items of paddling kit using many different implements over the years; Paint Markers, Sharpies and even Radiator Paint have been previous favourites, but I’ve been introduced to a better solution…

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2 Sheets of Toughtags and some offcuts of other colours they were kind enough to send me for a purpose you’ll see later…

Toughtags are fantastic! They don’t scratch, crack or rub off and it doesn’t matter how bad your handwriting might be, as they’re printed in an easily readable font!

It can often be difficult to write legibly on smaller items of kit too, which is another advantage of Toughtags, as even the smaller font sizes are still clear.

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Two labelled carabiners, and one in progress; Toughtags were originally designed for climbing gear so are perfect for this!

If you’re on a safety course, or dealing with a real life whitewater rescue situation, it can often be a pain in the bum to work out whose carabiners and pulleys are whose after everything has calmed down again; labelling them with Toughtags is a great way to make yours immediately identifiable.

For us kayaking types, Toughtags even offer an extra-long tag that will wrap around any size of paddle shaft (probably one of the most lost items when on the river!) – just send them an email asking for the longer tags!

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Comparison of the regular sized Toughtags (top) and extra-long Toughtags (bottom).

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Labelling my Werner Sho-Guns with the extra-long Toughtags.

Labelling your kit doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it back, but with no real GPS tracking option that is compact, waterproof, affordable and has a long-lasting battery, it’s the best chance you’ve got; it’s even mandatory at places like Lee Valley (so they know who to blame when a stray item jams the pumps!)

Make sure you include an email address and phone number (with international dialling code), so that whoever finds your kit has plenty of options to get in touch with you. If you have any specific medical needs you could even have these printed on Toughtags to stick on your helmet incase you’re unable to communicate those needs to the emergency services after an incident.

The strong, waterproof glue and durable material of Toughtags isn’t just great for kayaking kit, the offcuts shown in the image at the top of this article were used to replace the tattered colour coding labels on my tent poles, and they’re still going strong too!

 

P.S. I felt a strong sense of irony when completing this article, as I’ve recently lost my own, unlabelled kayak – should have followed my own advice!

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If it Ain’t Broke, Make Sure You Have a Repair Kit Handy for When it is!

Until recently, I’ve never carried a repair kit whilst on the river, under the assumption that if I broke any of my equipment I’d either just deal with it or get off the river.

As Chris Brain pointed out to me on a 4* White Water Leader Assessment though, it isn’t always that simple; the toolbox in your car might be incredibly comprehensive, but it’s no use when you’re miles away in a remote gorge with a loose seat and 6km of grade IV to negotiate before the nearest egress.

Bits and Bobs for All Sorts of Jobs

Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Paracord, Butane Welding Pen, Tenacious Tape, Dental Floss + Needle, Footrest Nuts, Miscellaneous Bolts & Nuts, Waterproof Repair Patches, Pocket Tool, Cable Ties, Permanent Marker, Zip Lube, Waterproof Glue, Spare Bung, Duct Tape, Container, Security Torx Bit, Plumber’s Mait, Plastic Welding Rods, Nylon Nuts, Sandpaper + Stanley Knife Blade.

So, I got to putting together a kit to fix the most common issues whilst kayaking, and here’s what it consists of (I won’t go into too much detail with every item, as most have several, fairly obvious and straightforward uses that would take forever to list, but I will pick out some key pieces and give a little more info on them):

A Durable, Water Resistant Container

I’m generally quite picky with my gear choices, and as soon as I started thinking about putting my repair kit together I had a very clear picture of what sort of container I wanted to use – unfortunately, I had no idea if it actually existed!

What I was looking for was a flexible, transparent, pouch style semi-dry container so I could stuff plenty of bits inside without it taking up too much room in my Ocoee Bag. Initially I was looking at pencil cases and document pouches, but nothing I found had a zip that looked like it’d stand up to any abuse – then I walked in to Tamarack Outdoors and saw the perfect solution, the Exped A6 Sized Vista Organiser.

Duct Tape, Paracord and Cable Ties

Plastic Welding Kit

A boat split is probably one of the worst kit breakages you could have on the river, so it’s worth having something with you to repair it; a plastic weld is the neatest and strongest way to do this.

Some people will just carry a lighter and a teaspoon or similar item to smooth the surrounding plastic over the split, but as usual I’ve gone the whole hog and got an Antex Gascat 60 Butane Torch Kit and some Plastic Welding Rods. I chose the Gascat as the lighter is handily built into the lid, and it’s necessary to buy the kit so you get the flame attachment (I don’t carry the other bits with me). I also have some Sandpaper and a Stanley Knife Blade to neaten up the split before and after a weld.

Pocket Tool

The Leatherman Piranha 2 is very compact, and has a screwdriver and various spanner sizes to suit most brands of kayak. I swapped out the additional screwdriver bits for Allen Key ones, and I also carry a Security Torx bit, as these fit the best kayaks in the world (Pyranha, of course!).

Spare Bung and Footrest Nuts, plus Miscellaneous Bolts & Bits

Plumber’s Mait

This stuff is fantastic for quick repairs of boat splits, or for awkward cracks that can’t be welded easily; it’s a putty-like material which is available from most DIY stores and will set solid, even when wet!

Some people will also carry a strip of flash bang for quick split repairs, but this is very difficult to remove afterwards and I’ve decided that I have enough repair options with the plumber’s mait and plastic welding kit.

Items for Quick Dry Gear Fixes

No one wants to paddle for a long period with a leak in their cag, and it could even be quite dangerous if the rip is big enough to cause any of your kit to fill with water; McNett make Tenacious Tape™ and Patches that can be used to do bombproof repairs on small holes or seams and bigger tears.

Drysuit Zip Lube

Spraydeck Repair Gear

A ripped spraydeck can mean anything from distracting drips on your legs to having to stop and empty your boat every couple of hundred metres, but sewing it back up with cotton thread will only last for a short time before the cotton deteriorates and breaks; instead, it’s best to sew a deck using dental floss and a strong sewing needle, then seal the repair with Waterproof Glue.

I’ve still never had to use any of the above (touch wood), but I now feel more confident knowing they’re always on the river with me.

What’s in your repair kit?

Eddy Cuisine

As any kayaker will know, all the excitement and pumping adrenaline can get exhausting after a few hours, especially if the weather is miserable or you’ve taken a swim or two!

If you have any experience of River Leading or being an Assistant Kayaker with a Uni Club or another newbie-focused group of paddlers, you’ll also know that it’s important to keep your group’s morale and energy levels up; the former can be done through a good blend of encouragement, trust building and a healthy dose of awesomely awful jokes (Tom Parker has that last one nailed), but when it comes to the latter, apart from ensuring your group have had a hearty breakfast, what else can you do?

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A picnic on the banks of the Tryweryn.

River Snacks are the key! In this blog post, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of a few tasty morsels that have graced my BA pockets over the years…

Trail Mix

Per 100g: Energy (kJ) 1685, Energy (kcal) 404, Protein 7.0, Carbohydrate 38.5, Fat 23.7

This was a common thing to see paddlers pull out in a plastic zip-lock bag when I started kayaking, possibly due to it being popular with hikers (as the name suggests) and these generally being the sorts of people who would also go paddling. Trail Mix offers a reasonable amount of short and long-term energy, but there’s a moderate choking risk and a high risk of allergies being a problem if you’re offering it out to others. It’s also a bit tricky to eat on the river, involving a lot of eating off your hands which isn’t great in the mucky and germ-filled environments kayaking involves!

Sesame Snaps

Per 100g: Energy (kJ) 2130, Energy (kcal) 509, Protein 9.4, Carbohydrate 54.5, Fat 28.2

I hadn’t heard of these at all until a friend suggested them on a recent paddling trip, but they’re pretty good! Sesame Snaps offer more long and short-term energy than Trail Mix, taste a bit sweeter so work better as comfort food, and come in a pretty waterproof and robust packet that should cope with being bashed around in your BA. Unfortunately, a lot of people with nut allergies are also allergic to sesame seeds, so it’s worth checking with your group before offering these out.

Penguin Bars

Per 100g: Energy (kJ) 2147, Energy (kcal) 513, Protein 5.1, Carbohydrate 61.1, Fat 27.1

Penguin Bars are my go-to snack; they’re yummy, easy and cheap to get hold of, robust and some of them even feature a picture of a kayaking penguin on the front! They (and other similar biscuits) also offer more long and short-term energy than both Trail Mix and Sesame Snaps, and you can easily pop a handful in the pocket of your BA. The only disadvantage with Penguin Bars is that their packets aren’t completely waterproof, and if you leave them in your BA for a few days they can get soggy and the chocolate discoloured, making them a little less appealing.

I haven’t made any mention of energy, recovery or protein bars as these can be quite expensive, however if you’re after any of these just for yourself then it’s worth looking at something like Battle Oats. Whatever you eat on the river, make sure to eat it in an eddy so you don’t spot an unexpected Grade VI and choke!

What’s your favourite eddy snack?