Kayaking in Branson – Lake Taneycomo Part 2

Have you tried Kayaking in Branson, Missouri?

Have you been on Lake Taneycomo?

This is the story of my first outing in the tiny red boat in 2020, but you can check out more information about kayaking in Missouri in my previous post “Kayaking in Missouri” and in my post “Kayaking in Branson-Lake Taneycomo”.

From the Shepherd of Hills Hatchery

I finally got to take the little red boat out on the water. First trip of 2020!

With everything going on in the world today, unfortunately, no one is immune to the social distancing, and craziness that is surrounding us. With that being said, thank goodness they have opened up the waterways and we can get out and enjoy nature.

So yesterday, July 18, 2020, I got to finally get the kayak out and get down to the lake. It was such a wet spring that the water has been pretty high, so I was really hesitant to go out on my own. Finally, yesterday I decided to bite the bullet and go.

So, I had my husband help me load up the kayak into the back of the truck and take me down to the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery. There is a public access boat ramp there, with room to get out of the way of the boats and ready your gear.

It is a beautiful put-in location for kayakers.

I got there at around 10:30 am and the fog was still heavy on the water. Taneycomo is a cold lake, so with the heat in the air and the amount of humidity, the fog was thick.

I love how the fog plays on the water. It’s like watching a beautiful dance. Although, it is not without its challenges.

What Gear Did I Take

As you can see in the photos, I had my Ascend Dry Bag, which I put in a towel, my camera and my phone. I always take my phone for two reasons.

1. For emergencies

2. For the camera.

I also carry my digital camera, which is a Nikon D80 with my 300 mm lens. I love to take photos.

I also had a small cooler bag with water and some trail mix. Gotta have snacks and have to stay hydrated. It was about 91 degrees outside and sunny, after the fog rolled off. Forgot the sunscreen though.

Had 1 fishing pole and my small tackle box. Just in case I felt the urge to do a little fishing.

What did I wear?

Well, since it was a very hot and humid day, I wore a simple pair of denim shorts and a cotton, sleeveless shirt. I also had on a ball cap to keep the sun off my face a bit. I had on my water shoes and of course, my Ascend life vest of PFD.

Into The Water We Go!

After I got everything situated into the kayak, I moved it into the water and settled into the boat. Fortunately my husband stuck around long enough to help me cast off.

The water is still a bit high, and was flowing pretty good from the dam. They have been running the turbines, so the current was moving pretty good.

Lift Off! Once I was away from the shore, I was moving pretty good down stream. It took me a minute to get my kayak seat, and the fog was a bit intimidating. The big thing with putting in at the dam, is the fishermen. That happens to be the trophy area for the big trout, so I could hear the boats coming upstream, but I couldn’t see them.

Anyway, once I realized how fast I was moving, I kind of got bummed. I wanted to take pictures and by the time I managed to get to my camera safely, I was past a lot of the beautiful scenery in that area of the lake. Just means I will have to take the trip again.

Anyway, I managed to get myself going, and I really didn’t have to do a whole lot of paddling due to the current. Mostly just keeping myself away from trees and boats.

Taneycomo Wildlife

Lake Taneycomo is full of wildlife. It is home to Canadian Geese, mallard ducks, bald eagles, king fishers, blue herons and many more bird species. Not to mention the many species of fish.

On this trip I encountered numerous Canadian geese in groups along the shoreline. I happened upon a mamma mallard and her clutch of babies. I had a hummingbird zip around me for a moment, which was kind of fun. Then the highlight of the trip was the bald eagle that flew over my head. Course, I could not get to my camera fast enough to get a shot of that one. The experience was very cool though.

Halfway Mark

As I made my way downstream, there are several dock systems along the way at the many lakeside resorts and camps. I past Point Royale, Lilly’s Landing, and several others that I didn’t know existed.

My only sketchy part on the river was when I encountered the Fall Creek inlet. The water was moving pretty fast and there is a rather large rock at the entrance to Fall creek, right before you get to the big set of docks. I imagine that it is usually out of the water when the water is lower. As it was, it was pretty turbulent, then combined with passing motor boats, it was kind of hairy when I bumped into the rock.

The next real public access is Cooper Creek and I figure that is about the halfway point. It took me about 1 1/2 hours to get to that point on the lake.

Now if you stay to the right side of the lake, across from Cooper Creek there are 2 waterfalls to watch out for. They are kind of hidden by the trees, but spectacular.

Almost There!

The water flow seems to slow down quite a bit once you get past Coopr Creek. The boat traffic picked up considerably and there were several kayaks that joined me at Cooper Creek. They quickly passed me up, and I was good with that. I was in no hurry.

On the left-hand side of the lake you will encounter an island before you get to the 65 bridge. They call it monkey island, although I have not seen any monkeys, LOL. It does give you a nice reprieve from the boats though.

Then you will go under the 65 bridge, then next is the train trestle that carries the Branson Scenic Train. To your left there is the public boat ramp for the city of Branson. Scotty’s Trout Dock is there as well, and they are under great new ownership. In the future they look to add a kayak ramp, as well as kayak rentals and shuttles.

Next in line is the Branson Lakeside Campground and the Branson Landing. 3 hours on the lake and I pulled out at Scotty’s. Called the husband and had an ice cream while I waited.

The End of a Wonderful Trip

My first trip out on Taneycomo this year was great. The weather was hot, but the lake is cold, so you get a nice breeze off of it now and then. The boaters are crazy, but manageable.

If you are looking to extend your float a bit, directly across from Scotty’s Trout Dock is Turckey Creek. It is a great little side adventure. I passed on this trip, but maybe next time.

Next time I will remember my sun screen. Gotta a little sun, LOL. New tan lines!

If you get a chance to float Lake Taneycomo, I would love to hear about it. I would love to see your photos. I love Taneycomo. The water is crystal clear, and full of fish. It makes for a great float on a hot day.

Share your thoughts below and join me on Facebook!

The Best Dry Bags for Kayaking – 2020

Dry Bags, Oh the options are endless it seems.

In this post we are going to review the best dry bags for kayaking in 2020.

I personally have an Ascend Dry Bag and really like it, but we are going to look at some other brands on the market and see where they rate. You can also check out my previous post about the Ascend bags here.

EGO TPU Tactical Dry Gear Bag

Mother Nature Has Met Her Match!

That was the first line I encountered when researching this bag series. I say series, because the EGO TPU Tactical Dry Gear Bag comes in 3 basic sizes. The sizes are 30 liters, 55 liters, and 100 liters. These are duffel style bags which is different from the vertical design of most dry bags.

Made from the latest in dry bag technology, TPU fabric is strong, abrasion resistant, and is resistant to cold weather cracking. It is stronger, more flexible, and lighter-weight than PVC material.

All three sizes of the EGO bags sport molle loop strapping, g-hook closure systems and a zippered, roll top closure. They each have contoured shoulder straps and the 100 liter comes with a removable backpack strap system.

Inspired by artillery camouflage netting, these bags are pretty sporty looking.
<Click the photo for the latest price>

Some key features are:

  • Made of high-performance TPU fabric
  • Water-proof and resistant to abrasion
  • Zippered, roll-top design
  • RF welded seams
  • Zip-close pockets and molle straps
  • Top and side carry straps, removable shoulder strap
  • Cool Kryptek camo finish

I personally love the duffel style of this bag. I think it adds an easy storage option for kayaks. I also think it makes it very versatile.

Earth Pak – Waterproof Dry Bag

As of the writing of this post the Earth-Pak waterproof bag was one of the best-sellers on Amazon. Check price at Amazon <Here>

These bags were produced by two guys looking to bring quality, durable gear to those that love the outdoors. They started with the 2 smaller bags in their line and have grown over the years. Made of 500D PVC material, these bags are great for all outdoor activities.

The Earth Pak line of bags are relatively in-expensive and have a multitude of color options as well as size options. They range in size from 10 L to 55 L and come in about 8 colors.

The 10 and 20 L bags come with a 24-42 inch shoulder strap while the 30 to 55 L bags come with a backpack strap, sternum strap and the new 55 L models sports a waist strap to further relieve the stress of carrying the weight.

Key Points for this bag are:

  • 500D PVC material
  • Roll-top nylon strap closure
  • Shoulder Strap on the 10L and 20L bags for easy carriage
  • Backpack style straps on larger bags with sternum strap for extra support
  • Includes an IPX certified waterproof phone case when purchased at Amazon

Based on the reviews that I read here are some Pros and Cons on these bags.

Pros

  • When closed properly, waterproof
  • Easy to handle, and carry with the shoulder strap
  • Great for all outdoor activities such as kayaking, boating, camping, hiking, SUP, etc.

Cons

  • Some folks had trouble with the strap not holding up and coming loose from the bag
  • One review had an issue with the bag not holding air, which concerned them about it being waterproof

Over-all most people really liked this product, so it is understandable why it is a best-seller.

Unigear Dry Bag

This is another brand of dry bag that had over 1000 reviews on Amazon and rated a 4.7 on the scale. Check the price on Amazon <here>

This dry bag is made of 500D PVC material and is designed with the standard roll top type closure. They come in several sizes ranging from 2L to 40L.

Unigear has been around serving campers and hikers worldwide since 2014. Their bags are made with love and integrity. These bags are suited for all outdoor activities, whether you are planning a trip to the beach or kayaking down the nearest river.

They are waterproof, light-weight, durable and come in enough sizes to suit your needs.

Some key points are:

  • Waterproof
  • Made of 500D PVC material
  • Anti-leak, anti-tear, anti-abrasion for long-lasting durability
  • Welded seams
  • Singe strap on 2L-20L bags, backpack straps on larger bags
  • Double sewing around connection points of straps for extra durability
  • Floats
  • 6 sizes and 10 colors to choose from

The fact that you can get this bag in a 2L size just makes me happy. What a perfect size for keys, phones, cameras, etc.

MARCHWAY Floating Waterproof Dry Bag

So, this bag was again a top seller on Amazon and I found it on several top lists throughout the web. Check out the latest Amazon price <here>

The Marchway bag is made of rip stop tarpaulin, which makes it light-weight, compact and durable. They boast of sturdy welded seams and claim they are rip, tear and puncture resistant.

The Marchway bag is available in sizes from 5L – 40L. The 5L and 10L come with one adjustable shoulder strap, while the 20L and 30L come with 2 adjustable, detachable straps and the 40L comes with 2 backpack straps that are not detachable. They also sport about 12 colors to choose from.

Some key features are:

  • Made of the Highest Quality 500D Tarpaulin
  • Simple roll down closure
  • Waterproof, as long as the bag is not totally submerged for a period of time
  • Thermo welded construction
  • Detachable and adjustable straps
  • Will float if closed properly

So the Marchway bags are a great option for all outdoor activities. All the reviews I read were good and folks really like the bag and felt they were a great value and they fit their needs

Luck route Dry Bag – Waterproof Backpack

Okay, so I have shown you a duffel style, some traditional styles and now a backpack. This Luck Route dry bag – backpack has all the qualities of the other dry bags, but it also has the extra pockets of a backpack. Now the exterior pockets are not waterproof, but depending on what you want to put in them you could use a zip lock baggie to help with that.

This is a 20L bag and is made of the 500D PVC material that is very common in dry bags. Providing you with durable, anti-tear, waterproof security for your belongings.

The big difference with this bag and the others is the extra compartments and pockets. Included on the 20L bag is a side bottle foldable pocket with a zipper. Inside the bag for double protection is a pocket for your mobile device. It has inner and outer d-rings, the extra d-ring is not for your straps.

It also has an outer front pocket with a zipper and velco, inside there is also an all-size touch screen, reflective cell phone pouch bag. The yellow bag also has a reflective cover on the front pocket for visibility.
<Click the photo for latest pricing>

Key Features are:

  • Made with 500D PVC material
  • extra D-ring and pockets
  • comes in 2 colors (black and high vis yellow)
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Easy to carry with backpack straps

This backpack dry bag would be great for anyone who wants to go kayaking, hiking, camping or even just walking to class at college. It would easily carry a small laptop and protect it from the rain.

Things to Think About

A few things I want you to consider when choosing a dry bag are:

  1. What are you putting in it? This is going to determine what size or capacity yo are going to need. Also, it may determine if you need more than one.
  2. What activities are you using it for? Are you getting it to go camping, kayaking, boating or to haul your laptop to class? This could help you decide if you want a duffel style or backpack style, or if a traditional style will suit your needs just fine.
  3. Ease of Use, you want to be able to get into easily, especially if you are kayaking and want to be able to access your camera quickly.

Warning!

Although all of these bags are touted as waterproof, please test them prior to placing your expensive equipment in one and throwing it in the water. One just never knows.

Plus, make sure you properly close your bag for absolute best results. The roll-top type of bags require 3- 5 rolls before you clip the buckle for maximum protection. This is also going to affect the capacity of your bag.

Nearing the End

I think I have given you some pretty great options in the market of waterproof dry bags. Not only are these bags great for all your outdoor activities, but they make great gifts as well. Do you have a kayaker, fisherman, hiker or even a college student in your family? I bet you do.

A dry bag is a must have if you are kayaking or boating and want to keep certain things dry. Hope this post helped you make a decision as to what you need for your outdoor life.

Thanks for stopping in and spending some time with me today.

Until next time!

Best Automatic Inflatable Life Vest

We all know that PFD’s are a very important accessory when doing any kind of boating. Kayaking is no different. The only difference is the fact that finding a comfortable PFD (personal flotation device) can be more of a challenge.

We are going to take a look at the best automatic inflatable life vests on the market, and whether they are a good option for kayaking.

Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe Automatic Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

This Life jacket rated very well on several websites that I encountered. Many of the reviews that I encountered were 5 star reviews based on the quality, comfort and the fact that it has zippered pockets.

With a minimum buoyancy of 22.5 pounds when inflated, it has enough to bring you to the surface if you are rendered unconscious. This PFD can be inflated two ways. Automatically when it is below 4 inches of water or you can inflate by pulling the red T-inflate pull tab. You can also convert the Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe from automatic to manual inflation only at will. The straps, back, and lower section are designed with padded air mesh which provides for additional airflow and comfort.

The Onyx A/M-24 Deluxe is designed for those over 16 years of age and over 80 lbs, but not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers.

I personally like the fact that it can be used as an automatic or manual inflatable. When Kayaking, this could definitely be a bonus. Especially if you have a tendency to get wet a lot.


Some key points of this model are:

  • The Onyx AM/24 is Convertible from AUTO/MANUAL inflation to MANUAL ONLY inflation
  • It has Zippered pockets for a spare CO2 cylinder, or other gear. Perfect for sunscreen or chapstick
  • The Onyx AM/24 is designed with Secure Pull – clips attached to the life jacket; allows for quick release when pulled for manual inflation
  • Padded air mesh for add’l comfort on the lower panels, back and straps
  • Padded, fleece lined sunglasses pocket, wouldn’t want to lose those out on the water.
  • 1″ buckle and body belt for a secure fit
  • The Outer shell is made of a 420 Denier, rip-stop nylon for durability
  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type V Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with Type III Performance

This model has replacement cartridges and you will want to look for Onyx A/M-24 Reaming Kit #1352

Many of the reviews I read on this product were from actual kayakers. That makes me feel confident that it would serve the kayakers needs well. Now, with that said, these will inflate when wet, so if you are in the habit of tipping your boat you may want to make it manual or search for a traditional type PFD. Otherwise, it could get costly replacing the CO2.

ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket

Again, another great product from Onyx. This PFD is also a US Coast Guard approved type V life vest with type III performance.

This vest boasts a light-weight, compact and comfortable design. The Onyx AM/24 is made from the same durable fabric as all Onyx life vests. This particular model also has neoprene at the neck line for extra comfort. The many reviews I have read were all great and a lot of them were kayak owners. They loved the fact that this vest can be worn all day with comfort and doesn’t hinder any movement needed when kayaking and fishing.

Some key points for this model are:

  • Coast Guard Approved
  • Automatic or Manual inflation
  • Easy to rearm
  • Reflective cording for visibilty
  • 420 Denier rip-stop nylon for durability outer shell, also puncture proof
  • Neoprene neckline for all-day comfortWhile this vest is a great option, it is not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers

Mustang Survival M.I.T. 100 Inflatable PFD

The Mustang Survival has rated very well in general with boaters and folks that work around water. Non of the reviews were actually kayakers from what I found. Although, this model is a manual or automatic inflation device, there is no way to make it strictly manual without tampering with it.

While it rates well for its comfort, low profile and light-weight design, I am not so sure I would recommend it over the other two for a kayaker.

The Mustang is USCG approved, and is designed for those over 16 yrs of age and over 80 lbs. Not recommended for non-swimmers or weak swimmers.

Some key points for this life vest are:

  • It’s made out of 500 denier cordura fabric for durability
  • The T1 version comes with reflective tape and a whistle
  • Inflator inspection window and easy entry flap
  • Provides 28lbs of buoyancy when inflated – 1.5 times that of a regular foam PFD
  • Universal vest fits most adults with chests from 30″ – 56″
  • 1 fold – easy repack design
  • Has 3 color options

Again, a great product for someone looking to be out on the water all day, as long as you take it off before jumping in. It will inflate within 10 seconds of being immersed in the water.

This PFD did rate 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon. The Mustang is a popular brand and is good quality.

Bass Pro Shops AM24 Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest

Since I life in the land of Bass Pro Shops, I had to add the Bass Pro AM24 Auto/manual life vest to the count. You can easily order this vest online or make a trip to the store to get this vest, which makes it great for trying it on before you buy.

This is a light-weight, low profile vest made of 200 denier rip-stop fabric. The Onyx AM/24 is built for comfort while boating, fishing or anything else you would do near water. The Onyx AM/24 is USCG approved and can inflate automatically or manually. The fabric is designed to resist tears or punctures and this vest is suitable for those over 16 yrs of age and over 80 lbs. Fits adults with chests of 30-52″ and has a neoprene neckline for comfort.

It comes in 3 color combos so you might even be able to match your boat. Gotta look good out on the water. Plus you get to sport the Bass Pro Logo everywhere you go, LOL.

Some Key Points of this vest:

  • US Coast Guard Approved
  • 200 Denier Rip-stop Nylon
  • Automatic and Manual inflation, can be switched to just manual inflation
  • Soft Neoprene Neckline

Bass Pro Shops AM 33 All-Clear Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Vest

This vest is an upgrade from their A-33 insight automatic inflatable vest. The AM 33 All-Clear is an automatic/manual combo inflatable vest.

Rather than the usual clip and loop fastener, this vest sports a YKK zipper in the front for maximum protection of the inflated chamber, while still allowing for easy opening when necessary for activation. The All-Clear window allows for at-a-glance viewing to make sure there is enough power to inflate the vest. With a green indicator and a red indicator. Green meaning go and red meaning t needs rearmed.

This vest also has a wide, comfortable neckline made of soft neoprene for all day wear and it has a d-ring on the bottom for extras.

I also love the fact that it will fit most adults with a chest size of 30 – 65″, where most only go up to 52″. Again, this is a USCG approved Type V with a Type II (with manual inflation) and a Type III (with automatic inflation) performance PFD.

Key points on this vest are:

  • Automatic and Manual inflation
  • YKK Burst zipper front closure to protect the inflation chamber
  • Wide comfortable neoprene neckline
  • Green/Red cylinder readiness indicator
  • High-vis inflation chamber
  • Min. 35 lbs buoyancy

How to Choose your Automatic, Inflatable PFD

I found this great video on YouTube that I though would really help you decide if an automatic, inflatable PFD is what you are really looking for/ Check it out!

Now that you have watched the video I hope you have a better idea of what to look for your specific application for using an inflatable PFD.

Some key things to look for are:

  • Size
  • Comfortability
  • Inflation Method
  • Material/Durability
  • Fit

Size matters! Make sure you take accurate measurements before buying. I hate when I order something online or get to a store and have no clue if it is going to fit. Also, make sure you are adhering to the recommendations of the manufacturer. Most inflatable life vests are designed for people over the age 16 and over 80 lbs. It is a safety issue if you do not follow the guidelines.

Don’t compromise on comfort. If it is not comfortable, you won’t wear it. The vest will not do you any good if you don’t wear it.

Inflation method. For kayaking specifically I would certainly prefer a dual method. All the vests that I have here are automatic and manual. Some even come with an air tube for blowing it up yourself if needed. Obviously, the automatic option is great, but if you are lacking an extra CO2 cartridge to rearm it during a trip, the manual option is going to come in handy.

Material and durability are important as well. These vests are somewhat of an investment, so you want them to last as long as possible. You are definitely going to want one that is easy to rearm, and one that resists punctures and tears.

Finally, you want one that fits. You are not going to be happy if the thing falls off the first time you fall in the water because it is too big. Make sure you have a good fit. Too small is not a good option either. Make sure the straps and buckles are fitting you correctly.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of options on the market today for automatic inflatable life vests. The 5 I have highlighted here have rated at the top of the charts and have been popular with many folks.

Before you purchase, do your homework. Do not trust your safety to anyone but yourself. I hope that I have made that decision easier for you and that you find what you are looking for.

I believe that all the above are great options for fisherman, kayakers and boaters alike. I personally would have a few of the standard foam PFDs in a boat if you were going to be doing any skiing or tubing. I would not recommend these for that kind of sport.

I also read that while these vests are Coast Guard approved, if you get checked while out on your kayak or boat you must be wearing it at the time that you get pulled over. It will not count as a required PFD if it is laying in the boat. You must have it on and properly secured at time of being pulled over. Otherwise, you better have a standard type PFD in the boat with you.

Hope this has helped you in you decision-making and on to the next review!

Until Next Time!