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.

The Onyx AM/24 is compatible with Rearm kit D (model #MA2014)

This PFD did rate 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon. The Onyx AM/24 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. The Onyx AM/24 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!

 

Best Sit-On Top Kayaks of 2020

I personally prefer a good sit-on top kayak for a couple of reasons.

They are personal reasons, but reasons non the less. I will tell you my reasons as we go through this review.

We are going to take a look at what I would consider to be the best Sit-on top kayaks of 2020.

sit on top kayak


Criteria for the the Best

What am I looking for?

There are certain things to look for when deciding what the best kayak is. So we are going to look at:

  • Durability
  • Stability
  • Transportability
  • Customizable
  • Comfort
  • Budget or Cost

We are going to look at how durable these kayaks are. No one wants to put out good hard-earned money and then have to buy a new one in a year or even 5 years. Unless of course, we just want to upgrade or want a new one.

Stability is a major one for me. I have no desire to go swimming just because I adjusted my seat. I like to feel stable in my kayak. So we are going to look at the stability factor.

We have to be able to transport our kayak. It doesn’t do us any good sitting in the garage. So we are going to look at the weight and what it takes to get it to the lake or river.

How hard is it to customize the kayak and what does it already come with. We have to be able to bling it out.

Comfort is another biggie. If it isn’t comfortable for you, you will not use it. Nothing worse than getting off the lake or out of the river and not being able to walk. Us older folks need to be comfortable.

Last but not least is budget or cost. I am not shooting for the cheapest here. Although, budget is always a concern. Let’s face it though, you are going to pay a bit more for the best.

Okay, let’s get to it already. Are you excited to learn what I think is the top picks of 2020?

Why a Sit-on Top or SOT Kayak

While the reasons I have a SOT are strictly personal for me, I thought I would share them to give you food for thought.

  1. They are easier to get on when launching and easy to get off of when done.
  2. They are easier for me to fish off of, and generally provide easy access to storage and stuff.
  3. Customizable! While the fishing kayaks come with a lot, you can add more.
  4. They can be very versatile.

OMG!

My research has been a long process. Trying to narrow down the best sit-on top kayaks is a challenge. There are so many options and there is so much to consider.

I am going to break this down a bit and separate my choices into a couple of categories.

Basically, a lot of your Sit-on Top kayaks are versatile enough to use in many applications. Although, there are those that are best suited for one application or the other.

Sit-on Top Kayak for Recreation

The recreation category is a big category.

While I consider all kayaking to be recreational, the term is generally used for basic kayaking done by families or individuals randomly without a definite purpose. Such as just having fun on the lake or river on the weekend.

So the best sit-on top kayak of 2020 in my opinion for this purpose starts with the Pelican Sentinel 100X.

I chose this model for a couple of reasons.

  1. It had great reviews on Amazon and YouTube
  2. Easy to transport
  3. Versatility
  4. Budget Friendly
  5. Ample Storage

The Pelican Sentinel is a one-person kayak that is manufactured in Canada. It is easily transported due to the light-weight construction and the molded side handles.

While it is dubbed as a recreational kayak, it can easily be used for fishing as well.

Its construction makes for a durable kayak and has built-in flotation (foam blocks) for extra stability and safety.

Specs. for the Pelican Sentinel

Length – 9′-6″

Weight – 47lbs

Capacity – 275lbs

Check out this video for a great walk-around of this great little boat.

The few cons that I found were the same as some other kayaks I researched. The paddle is sold separately, but that just means you can get one suited to you.

The Exoshell that is shown in the video is not water tight. So, make sure your gear is in a dry bag before hitting the water.

There are so many options for this category that I am going to leave you with this one for now. You can also check out my review for the Ascend 10T. Also, a great little boat, I own an older model the D10T, and it is made in the USA.

I am going to start reviewing some of these kayaks on an individual basis, that way I am not boring you with extremely long posts, LOL

Sit-on Top Kayak for Fishing

This category is flooded with awesome sit-on top kayak models. These range in prices from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars.

The Hobie line is at the top.

My pick for 2020 is the Hobie Mirage Compass

Hobie is notorious for building a quality fishing kayak and this is no different.

While the Hobie is in the higher price range, you are paying for quality and a wealth of standard upgrades compared to other kayaks. Hobie is also manufactured in the USA.

Specs. for the Mirage Compass are:

Length – 12′

Weight – 87lbs (fully rigged with standard equip., seat, pedal drive and rudder system). Fitted weight without stuff is 68lbs.

Capacity – 400lbs

The Hobie Mirage has a lot of Pros.

It comes with a breathable, mesh seat that can also function as a beach chair when removed. It is also adjustable to suit your comfort.

All Hobies come standard with the MirageDrive pedal system. This one also has the retractable fins and can also be upgraded to the drive that offers reverse and the bigger fins.

It has the Hobie H-track system to attach accessories easily on either side.

Molded side handles for easier loading and carrying. Also, has bow and stern handles

Comes standard with a built-in transducer mount and includes thru-hull cable plugs. So you can add your fish finder.

This kayak also checks off the stable and durable boxes in my checklist above.

It is also very versatile. While I really like it for fishing it can also be used for recreational purposes other than fishing. The flip-up fins make it doable for shallower waters, so you can still enjoy rivers as well as lakes and island touring.

Check out the video below for a great walk-thru demo of this awesome kayak.

The only con I found with this kayak is really the weight. If you are alone and not super strong it is going to be a challenge to transport. You will certainly want to have some kind of cart to get it to the water. I would recommend the Hobie Fold n Stow Kayak Cart.

Sit-on Top Inflatable Kayak

The top pick for me in this category is the Driftsun Rover 120

The Driftsun is a versatile, durable kayak that checks off many of my criteria boxes. The only real exception is being able to bling it out. Let’s face it. It is inflatable, and adding gear could really compromise the structure.

It is, however, budget friendly, comfortable and easy to transport.

It has a great many reviews on Amazon and rated at a 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Specs for the Driftsun Rover 120

Length – 8′-6″

Width – 32″

Weight – 22lbs

Capacity – 300lbs

This kayak generally comes with the two-piece aluminum paddle, Dual-action hand pump, rear tracking fin, adjustable EVA padded seat w/ high back support and a handy dandy travel bag.

This kayak sports a rocker profile ideal for maneuverability and stability and can handle up to class 3 or 4 rapids. It is just as handy on flat water.

The construction is composed of high-pressure drop-stitched floor, and reinforced layered PVC. Both adding to the stability and durability of the kayak.

It has a removable rear skeg. It makes for great tracking in flat water, but can be stored for whitewater use.

Lastly, It has 7 self-bailing plugs.

It only takes about 9 minutes to inflate, which makes it great for getting your day started.

Also, if you find that you would like to have a little larger capacity with more space, Driftsun also offers a two man inflatable with all the same bells and whistles.

Wrap it Up!

Okay, so I purposely only gave you my 3 top options for 2020. There is a huge selection of Sit-on Top Kayaks on the market. I chose the three I chose for specific reasons stated above as my favorites.

My intention is to start reviewing different makes and models of kayaks individually. Had I tried to review them all here this post would have turned into a book, LOL.

So I hope you found my reviews helpful and informative. Keep coming back to see what I have reviewed next and what I think about them.

Until Next Time!

How are Kayaks Made

Does Construction matter and what are the differences?

We are going to take a look at how kayaks are made and the difference in the construction process. Also why construction is important and how it is relative to the plan you have for your kayak.

4 Basic Types of Construction

We have come a long way from the original kayaks made out of tree bark and animal skins. Not that they were not effective. In todays world, they are not efficient, economical or practical.

There are 4 types of construction or materials that kayaks are made out of. Each type will determine things such as weight, durability, pricing, and what you are going to use it for.

Kayak Construction Materials

  • Rotomolded
  • Thermoform
  • Fiberglass/Composite
  • Wood

Rotomolded or Rotation Molding

This is a process that has been used for a long time to produce many plastic or polyethylene objects and products. Many of the products we use in everyday life and is not just contained to kayaks.

The process is done by pouring a plastic powder into a hollow mold and continuously rotated while the heated plastic forms to the sides of the mold. The rotation continues through the heating and cooling phases. Eventually after cooling the product shrinks and pulls away from the sides of the mold allow easy removal.

Advantages Of Rotomold

  • One solid piece polyethylene or plastic
  • Durabilty, flexibility and can handle quite an impact
  • Consistant wall thickness
  • Budget Friendly

Cons to Rotomold Kayaks

  • Weight, they tend to be the heaviest kayaks
  • Hard to repair
  • Susceptible to UV damage

Rotomolded kayaks are very popular, because they tend to be less expensive and are easily found. A couple of the popular brands are Ascend, Perception and Lifetime Kayaks.

Rotomolded kayaks tend to be very durable and come in a variety of lengths and widths. They are used for recreational kayaks, whitewater kayaks, fishing kayaks, touring kayaks and surf kayaks.

Thermoform Construction

Thermoform is another form of molding plastic or polyethylene. In this process thin sheets of plastic or polyethylene are heated till they are pliable then formed over a male our female mold. Thus, creating two pieces that are then molded together. Then, once removed from the mold the product is trimmed to increase usability.

There are two types of Thermoforming.

There is Vacuum forming and Pressure forming.

Vacuum forming is accomplished by heating a sheet of plastic, then placing it over the mold. Once it is at the desired temperature a vacuum is used to apply the pressure needed to form the plastic into it’s desired form.

Pressure forming has many similarities to vacuum forming, but has the benefit of added pressure. This is great when extra detail is needed or wanted for additional aesthetics value.

This technique is used in many different applications. Everything from kayaks, car parts to disposable food containers.

Advantages of Thermoform

  • Budget Friendly
  • Light-Weight
  • Impact Resistant
  • Durable
  • Outer Layer is UV Resistant
  • Recyclable

Cons

  • Acrylic outer layer can break down over time

There really aren’t any cons to this process. Many popular kayak manufacturers use this process. Pelican and Hobie to name a few. This process is relatively new and provides a product that is also pleasing to look at.

Again, this process is used for a large variety of kayaks. These kayaks are great for beginners and are typically easier to transport due to weight.

Fiberglass/Composite Construction

This process is used for a lot of your higher end kayaks. It is an expensive process and takes a long time to complete. But it does produce a beautiful kayak.

It is a constructed of layers of fiberglass, Graphite or Kevlar, or a combination of the three and resin to hold it all together. Think of it as making lasagna. They build them in a mold one layer at a time. Due to the lengthy process they are quite expensive.

Advantages of Composite

  • Ultra Light-weight
  • Highly Responsive, great tracking and fast
  • Fairly Durable
  • Fairly easy to repair
  • Many configurations are available

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Susceptible to damage in impact situations

Not sure I would recommend for general recreational kayaking.

Composite kayaks are beautiful to look at and if you have the budget, they are high performance kayaks. I would imagine a long-distance journey in one of these kayaks would be a lot like riding in a Cadillac.

Wood Construction

For that purist kayaker or that person that just loves art, the wooden kayaks are glorious. They are stunning to look at and there is just something about them that brings out the naturalist in a person.

Wood construction is a lengthy, expensive process and really requires patience and a loving hand. Although, they do sell a few DIY kits for that person that wants to give it a try.

Wooden kayaks can be just as durable if not more so than composite kayaks. They are typically coated in fiberglass, resin or varnish to protect the wood underneath.

Advantages of Wood

  • Beautiful to look at
  • Light-weight
  • As Durable or more so than composite
  • Fairly easy to repair
  • Great DIY project

Cons

  • Requires some woodworking skills
  • May need to be put together
  • Custom-made is expensive
  • Not really recommended for rough conditions

Here is a short video to show the process.

Wow, Who Knew

Now you know what goes into making a kayak and what to look for depending on what you are going to do with your kayak. Rotomolding and Thermoform are ideal for most kayak applications. If you are looking to go on long tours maybe you would be better suited with a composite built kayak or even a wooden one.

==>Click here to learn about the different styles of Kayaks<==

Either way, in the modern world there are affordable kayak options that are durable, nice to look at and easy to transport. Construction really does matter depending on what you are using your kayak for.

There are also inflatable kayaks that are obviously not built in any of these constructions styles. We will save that for another day.

If you have any comments or experiences you would like to share about your kayak and it’s construction, please share!

Until Next Time!

Kayaking in Missouri – Lake Taneycomo

Kayaking in Missouri can be a wonderful adventure. If you need some ideas of where to get started, checkout my recent post.

I am going to focus on kayaking Lake Taneycomo, in Branson, Missouri for a minute. So, come take a trip with me and let’s explore a hidden kayaking gem.

Lake Taneycomo

Where is Lake Taneycomo

Lake Taneycomo is nestled in the heart of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. It’s name alone tells you where it is. Taneycomo is the combination of Taney County Missouri, or Taney co mo. I know, ingenious!

Branson is known for its musical shows ranging from Country to some good ol’ 50s and 60s, to some Classic Rock n Roll and sweet Gospel. Branson boasts of things to do with the family and lots of places to eat. It also has 1.5 miles of boardwalk along the bank of Lake Taneycomo that also houses the Branson Landing.

Lake Taneycomo was the first of now several reservoirs on the White River. It began in 1913 when the Ozark Beach Dam in Powersite was constructed. Nothing more than a widening of the White River and hosting a number of species of sport fish native to the river.

Lake Taneycomo became the first tourist attraction in the area and for 38 years hosted many sport anglers on the shores of Rockaway Beach. Everything changed in 1958 with the construction of Table Rock Dam 22 miles upstream.

After the construction of Table Rock Dam, the ecology of the lake changed. It is now being fed from 160 miles below the surface of Table Rock Lake. This caused the waters in Lake Taneycomo to drop significantly. The lake generally maintains a temperature between 45 and 55 degrees year round. The warm water species of the lake started to decrease in numbers and there needed to be a fix.

Why is it Unique

This is where the unique part of the lake comes in. As the waters got colder and the fishing declined the Missouri Dept. of Conservation scouted for ways to bring the Lakes fishing back up. So, the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery was constructed and in come the rainbow and brown trout. Now the lake is stocked constantly with trout.

rainbow trout

If you like to fish there is no shortage of fish in Taneycomo. I personally have kayaked and fished it several times near the Branson Landing and in a few of the inlets nearby. Trout being the main fish in the waters these days, you can still catch bass, crappie, and walleye depending on the season and the way you hold your mouth.

If you have never fished froma kayak, I highly recommend you try it. Check out my post “Kayak fishing for beginners” and get all the scoop on how to get started.

Why Kayak Lake Taneycomo

Why not?

Actually, it really is a gem. There are several places to access Lake Taneycomo if you are looking to put in a kayak. There is public access at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, which is up at the Table Rock Dam. A little further down stream there is public access at Cooper Creek again at the Branson Landing and at Rockaway Beach. Those are the ones I know of for sure.

While normally Lake Taneycomo is a flat water float, it is dependent on the release of water from Table Rock as to how fast it is moving. Meaning that, if they are releasing a fair amount of water, it will not take to long to get downstream. If they aren’t, your arms may get a bit tired.

The scenery of Lake Taneycomo is stunning. Up by the dam you will find gravel bars and tree line shores. You can spot trout in the water underneath you and you will probably spot an eagle or two in the tree tops. As you move downstream the scenery will be spotted with houses and private boat docks with and occasional stream flowing into the lake.

Lake Taneycomo scenery

Watch out for the Canadian Geese and ducks, they are everywhere. The Great Blue Heron is a constant companion along the way hoping you will toss a morsel or unwanted catch. I have been lucky enough to see an occasional mongoose and otter along the way as well.

Because of the cold water of the lake it is not uncommon for the fog to roll in the evenings and hang out well into the morning. I haven’t had the pleasure of getting on the lake early enough to paddle in the fog yet, but I want too, with caution of course

Lake Taneycomo fog

Don’t overlook the little inlets either. Turkey Creek is straight across from the Branson Lakeside RV Park, which by the way is a great place to camp and launch your kayak. Also, downstream from the campground, just past the Branson Landing there is Roark Creek. In between the two is a smaller inlet that doesn’t go very far in before it becomes too shallow to navigate, but is very scenic to see.

Turkey Creek is where you can also find Branson Kayak. The most popular outfitter in town. So if you do not have your own kayak, no worries. They have you covered. It is also chock-full of wildlife. Everything from herons, ducks, turtles and the occasional snake.

Roark Creek is a popular fishing spot and scenic as well. Lots of turtles and bird life. Also, if you happen to float up Roark look out for the giant orange goldfish that hangs out by the boat docks.

Places to Stay

There are several options for accommodations on Lake Taneycomo. I mentioned the Branson Lakeside Rv Park earlier. It is a great RV park right in the heart of Branson. It is city owned and maintained. Clean amenities and right on the lake. You are also right next door to the Branson Landing. Just a few strides away you will find Bass Pro Shops for all your fishing needs and eateries to keep you from cooking. Although, nothing beats a campfire and some hot dogs and s’mores.

Branson Lakeside RV

Also, on the Lake is Cooper Creek Campground. I cannot vouch for Coopr Creek, I have never stayed there. I do know that they are right on Lake Taneycomo and there is a boat launch there. Also, right on the lake is Lilly’s Landing. Again, I have not stayed here, but I know they provide fishing guide services and boat rentals. I do not think they rent kayaks though.

There are also countless hotels, motels and resorts in the area. It is Branson after all.

Thoughts on the Hidden Gem

So, while Lake Taneycomo is not the most popular river or lake in Missouri to kayak on, it is certainly a gem to explore and fish.

The only downside in my opinion is the amount of powerboats on the lake during the busy season. The fishermen can get a little impatient when the fish are biting, so just be alert and aware of what is around you.

If you have had the pleasure of kayaking on the lake let me know your thoughts below. I would love to know about your experiences and see your photos. All the pictures here were taken by myself on the lake. So head over to the Facebook page and share yours.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking in Missouri

While I am relatively new at the whole kayaking thing, there are a bunch of peeps out there that are not. Thankfully, they too are willing to share their knowledge and adventures.

I have a huge desire to get out on the water and explore our country. Right now I am in the Branson area, and I am going to focus on Kayaking in Missouri.

Kayaking _Missouri_map

The Best Places to Kayak

I really do not know if there is a best place to kayak in Missouri. I do know that the part of the state that I have explored, either by foot, by car or by kayak is amazingly beautiful. The Ozarks are a world unto their own and have a beauty that is undeniable.

There are places that make you feel like you are in a fairy wonderland and there are the stunning blue lakes and streams that you can see every rock on the bottom.
Branson_bridge

Missouri has a ton to offer kayakers. Everything from beginner to experienced. There are small streams, large rivers, lakes full of fish, and historic sites all throughout the state. Rocky bluffs and caves sneak up on you. Waterfalls and pools of crystal clear water.

The Ozarks are a popular place to enjoy many outdoor activities. Kayaking/canoeing, hiking, fishing, and camping are just a few of the fun things to do. There is a wide array of State Parks and natural areas to explore.

kayakinginmissouri_tablerocklake

So, lets get started and check out some popular places to go with our tiny boats.

Southeast Missouri

In Southeast Missouri, there are several hot spots for paddlers and kayakers alike. From the popular Current River to the Eleven Point River to the Meramec River. These are just a few that I found listed. There are so many to explore. You can find a full list of Missouri rivers here.

The Current River starts in the Southeastern part of the Ozarks and joins up with the Black River and flows into Arkansas. It is a popular river for floating, fishing and camping. The Current River is approximately 184 miles long and in 1964 about 134 miles of the upper course and its tributaries were federally protected as the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. This was the first National Park to protect a river system.

The Current River begins in the Montauk State Park. The Montauk Spring combined with the confluence of Pigeon Creek make up the headwaters of the Current River. After leaving the Montauk State Park the river passes by many springs, several tributaries and flows through the beautiful Ozarks.

About 52 miles from the headwaters, the Current river receives its largest tributary the Jacks Fork River near the small town of Eminence, Missouri.

The Current River also boasts as having the largest spring in the Ozarks dumping into its waterway known as the Big Spring. This happens a few miles after passing by Van Buren, Missouri and under US Rt. 60.

From there the river travels Southeasterly out of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways 105 miles from the headwaters. It eventually runs through the Mark Twain National Forest and into Arkansas where it runs into the Black River.

The Current River is a very popular summer destination for all kinds of outdoor activities. While it is considered a mostly calm river with some class 1 rapids, there are a few that could be considered class 2 rapids.

Some awesome things to look out for along your adventure are: The Montuak State Park (trout park), The Current River State Park, Welch Spring and Abandoned Hospital, Akers Ferry, Cave Spring, Devil’s Well, Deer Leap, Rockhouse Cave, Pulltite Spring, Round Spring, Jack’s Fork, Blue Spring, and Big Spring.

Keep your eyes open as you will see beautiful rocky cliffs and dolomite bluffs, caves, springs, hardwood trees and gravel bars. Take your fishing pole and camera, you are sure to catch some great shots and possibly a fish or two. Also, watch out for those motor boats. Summer weekends will get busy for sure.

The Eleven Point River is another popular river in the Southeast portion of the Ozarks. In 1968 a 44-mile stretch of the Eleven Point River starting in near Thomasville, Missouri and ending near the Highway 142 bridge was selected to be added as one of the original eight rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Although, the river is about 138 miles long in total and eventually runs into the Spring River in Arkansas.

The Eleven Point is considered a year round river with approximately 30 natural springs feeding it. The largest is also the second largest in the Ozarks, known as Greer Spring.

Even though, in drought circumstances, some areas may need you to do a little walking. It is generally an easy river for the experienced paddler, but with some Class 1 and Class 2 rapids on the International scale, it is recommended that beginners be cautious.

Be prepared also for some spectacular scenery and the occasional wildlife encounter, as it runs through the Mark Twain National Forest. The area below Greer Spring is known as the Irish Wilderness. Full of lush greenery and rolling hills, caverns and sinkholes. It is totally recommended to take a camera along, but make sure you have it in a dry bag.

Also, on certain parts of the river be prepared to meet up with the occasional boat with motor. As they are allowed to have up to a 25 hp motor on certain stretches.

The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in the state of Missouri. From its starting point at near Salem till it dumps into the Mississippi River near St. Louis, it is 218 miles long and encounters 14 Missouri counties.

While the Meramec is a rather large river and can be navigated pretty much year-round, the majority of paddlers stick to a 67-mile stretch of the river between the Maramec Spring to the Meramec State Park. There is excellent access and many outfitters situated along the route.

The Meramec winds its way through the Mark Twain National Forest, through the limestone Meramec caverns and several tributaries intersect with the river for your delight. The Meramec is a Class 1, mostly flat water river that offers great fishing, scenery, wildlife and caverns. The Meramec State Park offers hiking trails and over 40 caves to explore, in addition to other outdoor activities to keep you busy off the water.

The Meramec is surrounded by history. The earliest explorer of the river was a French Jesuit Priest by the name of Jacques Gravier. He was a missionary to the new world and traveled the river between 1699-1700.

It is also hard to believe that at one time the Meramec was labeled as on of the most polluted rivers in Missouri. Since then state and local governments have taken extensive measures to clean it up and it now has a great diverse ecology and is home to many species of fish and other wildlife.

The tributaries include the Big River, Bourbeuse River, Courtois Creek and the Huzzah Creek. All of which are great flat water waterways for exploring the Ozarks.

 

Southwest Missouri

The Southwest portion of Missouri is just as beautiful as the Southeast portion.

The White River is an interesting river with many tributaries and many lakes along its path. The White River is not solely in Missouri. It actually begins its journey in Arkansas in the Boston Mountains In the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest southeast of Fayetteville.

The White River then travels northward into Southern Missouri. Many modifications have been made to the river between its start in Arkansas till its end at the Mississippi River, again in Arkansas. Since 1913 there have been 8 dams erected on the White River, two in Missouri and six in Arkansas.

With that we now have Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake. While they are all man-made reservoir lakes, Lake Taneycomo still resembles a river.

Lake Taneycomo is still very river-like, even though there is a dam at both ends. It flows from the bottom of Table Rock Lake and is held in place by Powersite Dam. It flows through Branson, Missouri and Rock-Away Beach and is a gem. From Table Rock to Powersite it is about 22 miles.

Many kayakers enjoy floating down Taneycomo. It is home to some best trout fishing in Missouri as well as many bird species including Bald Eagles.

Kayaking in Missouri_Lake Taneycomo

Taneycomo is a flat water float and easy for beginners, but I think even experienced kayakers would enjoy the scenery and the fact that you can pull out right at the Branson Landing for food and drink.

The only real hazard on Lake Taneycomo is the onslaught of powerboats and fisherman that really do not pay much attention to who is on the water with them.

There are several small tributaries on Taneycomo that are worth the short jaunt off the lake. Turkey Creek and Roark Creek are the best known and do not have the boat traffic.

The James River, also a tributary or at least part of the White River Watershed Basin, is another great spot to check out. Before the formation of Table Rock Lake I am sure this river ran right into the White river. Now it runs from northeast Webster County and dumps into Table Rock. Along the way it forms Springfield Lake, in Springfield Missouri.

Large portions of this river are used for recreational activities and when water levels are right you could potentially paddle from the access on the downstream side of the dam at Springfield Lake for 3 solid days to Galena.

KayakinginMissouri_James_River

The James River winds southward through the Mark Twain National Forest and flows near the Wilson Creek Battlefield in Missouri. This site has significant history from the Civil War.

While the James is not as big on the paddlers list of rivers, it is still worth the trip and if you like to fish it is a great one to catch some fish on.

The Niangua River named by the Osage for a tribal leader {Neh-hem-gar} meaning bear, is a very popular river in the summer for floating and paddling.

The Niangua is a tributary of the Osage River and runs about 125 miles. It starts in Webster County and runs northward through 3 counties and runs through the Bennett Springs area, Lake Niangua and Ha Ha Tonka State Parks. It flows into the Osage River as an arm of the Lake of The Ozarks.

There are roughly 113.8 miles of river that are easily accessible to kayakers and paddlers. The Niangua River is wonderful for fishing as the Bennett Spring State Park is home to a trout hatchery for rainbow and brown trout. There are also many other species available for the anglers to harvest.

The river is surrounded by mostly state-managed conservation areas that hosts a number of hunters seeking deer, turkey, rabbits and other edible creatures. So I imagine that the scenery is just stunning and a camera is going to be a must.

Northeast Missouri

The Cuivre River in northeast Missouri is about 41.6 miles long. While, technically not considered to be in the Ozarks, it has all the trademarks of the foothills. As the northern part of Missouri is not as popular as the southern Ozarks, you likely will not be faced with as many people on the Cuivre River.

Most folks stay at the Cuivre State Park when visiting this neck of the woods. There are no campgrounds along the river other than this as far as I could tell. From my research, access is limited but some local outfitters can get you into some other spots other than the few public areas if you ask.

Fishing is a popular activity on the Cuivre as there are 71 species of fish in the river. So take your fishing pole and your camera to back up those fish stories.

The Salt River is a very history rich river. It is about 55 miles long, but since the construction of the Clarence Csnnon Dam in 1983, the first 15 miles of the river are contained in the Mark Twain Lake. Below the dam you can access this river and float its winding path towards the mighty Mississippi.

Mark Tain was born on the Salt River back in 1835 in the town of Florida. The Salt River was called the “Ohaha” by the Native Americans that lived along its course. So, you history buffs will really enjoy this adventure.

According to my research and some helpful folks here on the internet I have discovered that the water levels on the Salt River are primarily controlled by how much water the Corp. of Engineers are letting out that day. So, this river is probably a great one for beginners looking for a smooth float.

Also, they said that the scenery is beautiful and full of birds, butterflies and even the occasional otter. Fishing is also something worth trying while you are drifting along. So, a pole and a camera are a must.

Northwest Missouri

Okay, so floating in the northwest portion of Missouri is doable, but more of a challenge. Access to a lot of the rivers may be limited and you are not going to find the crystal clear waters of the Ozarks. But do not give up yet.

The Platte and The Grand Rivers are both tributaries of the Missouri River and are unique in their own way. Both are rich with history and offer gentle flowing waters for leisurely floats. They say the best time to float the Grand River is in the spring and fall while the migration of the birds is in its height.

The Grand River as several wildlife refuges along its course, so it attracts many bird species.

The Platte River is a playground for Kansas City, but offers many gravel bars and places to pull up and camp. While the northern portion has been channeled, the lower portion between Agency and Platte City can be twisty and navigable most of the year.

Then we have The Missouri River. It is the longest river in North America and enters Missouri in the northwest corner and winds its way south then southeast then east till it reaches the Mississippi River on the northern side of St. Louis.

The Missouri serves many purposes and offers floaters many opportunities to float its waters in many location throughout the state. It has a massive amount of tributaries along its path and many of them offer kayaking adventures for people to enjoy. The “Float Missouri” website offers an extensive list of access points for people to utilize.

That is the Short List

So, here is a very short list of some great places to get you started in the great state of Missouri. I have a huge bucket list my self of places I want to explore while I am here. As I check off my list, I will add more info about them on this site. My research here has just increased the size of my list and I can’t wait to get started.

If you have floated any of these or other rivers in Missouri, please leave you opinion in the comments or on my Facebook Page. I would love to hear of your adventures and see pictures.

Until Next Time!


Kayak Fishing for Beginners

Do you like to fish?

I love to fish and I have found that it is even more fun on a kayak!

We are going to break down some basics of kayak fishing for beginners in this article.

Choosing the Right Stuff

Now, this is a very broad subject. Stuff encompasses a huge amount of categories, but I am going to try to contain myself and keep it simple. I am sure you have seen the KISS metaphor. Keep It Simple Stupid! Well, let us relate this to kayak fishing.

First, what is the perfect kayak for fishing? I say the perfect kayak for fishing is the one you already have. With that being said, while you can fish off any kayak, ideally there a few things you are going to want to look for if you are shopping for the perfect kayak for fishing.

  1. Stability/stand ability – meaning your kayak is stable enough if you want to stand up and fish, and you won’t flip the first time you set a hook.
  2. Storage – you are going to want to have adequate storage for gear.
  3. Comfort – you want to be comfortable.

You can check out a couple of my previous posts for more about kayaks in general and the different types that are out there.

Second, where do you plan to go fishing? There are going to be distinct differences in what you need depending on what you are fishing for and where. For instance, the gear you take with you when fishing a river with trout will be different from what you take if you are fishing in saltwater.

Third, How are you getting there? Getting to the lake, river, bay or ocean. Transportation is important.

Fourth, What are you going to wear? Dressing for a fishing trip is going to be a little different from dressing for a recreational float trip downstream.

Fifth, Do you have your safety gear? Safety is always high on the priority list. We do not want to ruin a great fishing trip because we have been lax on safety. Check out my Kayak safety post and check off the safety boxes.

The basics of kayak fishing are essentially the same as the basics for any kind of kayaking. If this is your first experience with kayaking or fishing from a kayak, check out my posts on kayaking for beginners. Everything from choosing the right PFD to the right paddle for you.

OH, I almost forgot! Make sure you have the proper paperwork. Get your fishing license, and a rule booklet. All states and countries are going to be different and you don’t want to get in trouble.

The Basics of Outfitting Your Kayak

There are a ton of upgrades or modifications you can do to your kayak. Most kayaks come with at least one flush-mount pole holder. One trip to YouTube will show you a plethora of people modifying their kayaks to work better for them. Honestly, you don’t need to doing any upgrades to go fishing. There are some tho that will make your trip more pleasurable.

  1. A secure rod holder or at least a rod leash to secure your rod and reel to the boat out of the way.
  2. A paddle leash. You certainly do not want to have to worry about losing your paddle while fighting the big one.
  3. A fishing crate. This is a popular way to secure your tackle boxes and other gear to the kayak, out of your way while fishing.
  4. Some kind of wheel rack to get you kayak to the water from your vehicle.

While the top four options are handy and basic, there are so many things you can modify your kayak for and with. Everything from electronics (fish/depth finders, GPS), anchor systems, extra pole holders, etc.

It’s Not a Fashion Show

Dressing for a fishing trip is more about comfort and function rather than fashion.

Be prepared for weather conditions and changes in the weather. Be mindful of the hot sun reflecting off the water. Light-weight, long sleeve shirts, hat, sunglasses, face protection and loose, light-weight pants or shorts.

You will want to do likewise for colder weather. Use layers, that way you can shed them if needed. Have something that is waterproof to put on the outside layer.

Shoes are also a basic need. Summer, some kind of water shoe or kayak boot. Steer clear of flip-flops. Remember there will be fish and hooks in the boat.

I do not recommend wearing waders in the kayak. They could potentially turn into a giant sinker if you fall into deep water.

The Basics of Fishing

While fishing can be a very basic sport, it can also turn into a complicated passion of craziness. If you have ever stepped into a Bass Pro Shop, you know what I mean.

When I was a child fishing with my dad, I thought there was really only 1 or 2 types of rods and reels and there were worms, minnows and the black rubber worms my dad used. Now obviously, I now know that wasn’t true back then, nor is it true today.

You can get very overwhelmed, very quickly with all the shiny objects out there associated with fishing. For us here as beginners, put on the blinders and march on. All you need to get started is a fishing pole and reel, some kind of bait, and a will to catch a fish. Everything else will come with time and practice.

Now there are some other things that I would recommend, just to make your life easier and we will get into those. Here is a short list of things I carry for convenience.

  1. Small tackle box w/extra line, hooks, sinkers and a few lures of choice and bait.
  2. Some kind of measuring tool. Most places have length requirements on certain fish and a scale.
  3. Fish Net, this will help land those fish in the kayak
  4. Pliers or Fish grip to hold the fish or extract the hook
  5. Towel, to wipe my hands

This is just my basic list. You will find so much information that varies from one person to the other. It really comes down to preference and what you are comfortable with.

The Fishing Pole

This is going to be an item that is really specific to you. I will say that if you are someone with shorter arms, you may want to consider a shorter pole when fishing from a kayak.

There are an exuberant amount of different kinds of fishing poles and reels on the market. If you already fish, you probably already have 4 or 5 in the garage. You know they are like potato chips, you can’t have just one!

The poles come in various lengths and strengths. I personally have a 5′ Crappie Max rod with a spinning reel on it and love it. I also have a 7′ and a 6.5′ rod, and found that it can be hard to get fish off of with short arms and lack of coordination. LOL

Choose what works for you!

Tackle Box/Fishing Crate

This is what will determine if you are minimalist or a crazy, obsessed angler that gets sucked into shiny objects, LOL.

I say as a beginner, keep it small and just the basics, until you know what you need or what works for you. Don’t take everything you own. Mostly because you are going to be limited by space and you don’t want to lose it all if you happen to knock it into the water.

Extra line, hooks, sinkers, some reliable lures that you like to use, a pair of pliers or fish grips. Just the basics to get you started. It will also depend on the type of fish you are fishing for. Crappie will not necessarily hit on the same thing as Bass.

Make sure you have your measuring tool. There are some cool measuring things out there. Even some paddles have measuring tools on them. You might also want a scale of some kind, for those fish stories.

Are you keeping your fish or releasing them? You will need a means to keep them if you are. A stringer, basket, cooler, or a bag. There are options, but depending on where you are, put some thought into it. Don’t set yourself up to be bait for larger prey (alligators, sharks, etc.).

Fishing Net

Again, there are options. Everything from folding, collapsing, long handles, short handles, neoprene, and rope or string nets. You just want one that is going to be easy for you to handle while sitting in your kayak. This tool can be a huge help when landing a fish or a hindrance if it is not suited to you.

Fishing Skills and Techniques

Your skills and techniques are going to vary wildly in a kayak. Everything from your basic balance, paddling, using your kayak and fishing equipment and how easily you can access and handle everything.

Casting from a Kayak

While you could be the absolute best at casting your rod and reel on the bank, casting from a kayak is going to be quite different. I found that the first time I cast my pole from the kayak that it felt a little wobbly. Now, after relaxing into it a bit, I found it to not be too hard.

Practice, practice and practice. Learn to have confidence in your boat. You are not going to tip your kayak over with a simple cast. It may feel like it, but if you took your kayak out before attempting to fish from it, you would realize how stable it really is. You will surely improve and get more comfortable the more you do it.

You may have to adjust the way you cast. I found that while I cast over my head with some power from the shore, I tend to cast from the side more at an angle with not as much power from the kayak. You have to adjust to the terrain you are in as well. You will find your sweet spot.

Now, you are going to see folks standing in their kayaks fishing. I am sure it is much easier to cast that way. Although, I can tell you that, that is a learned skill. If you are used to skate boarding or paddle boarding, should be no problem, as long as your kayak is set up for it. Again, practice, a lot!

Boat Position

Learning to position your kayak can be a challenge. Even more challenging is keeping it in position. You should practice working your paddle with one hand while holding your rod in the other. There are a couple natural conditions that are going to affect your position. Watch the current and the wind will play heck with you.

The first time I went out, I found that I spent more time correcting my position, than actually fishing.

You can use an anchor set-up to help with this, or if you are in an area where there is some weeds touching the surface with no real current, try docking yourself on it for a bit.

Drifting

I see kayakers doing this a lot on the river. They start at the at a point and let the river carry them along while they cast or troll for the fish. If the current isn’t super fast you will not have to correct your kayak too much. Minor corrections will keep you path. This method can be very effective though.

Catching Fish!

This is the moment we have all been waiting for!

We are now set up to go out and catch some fish. Now we have to think about how we are going to land those fish in the kayak.

One of the things you need to consider is the fact that when you set the hook on even a small to medium fish, you are not anchored to a mass that is larger than the power of the fish. Even a 5-6 pound fish can and will tow your boat around if given the chance. Just be prepared.

Your kayak will act as a secondary drag system to your fishing pole. This just means that you could potentially be fighting a fish longer and breaking less line. You could also potentially go for a ride depending on the size of the fish. While this could be very exciting, it could also turn scary very quickly in the wrong situation.

Once you get the fish close to the boat, remember to use your net, and to keep your body centered in the kayak. You do not want to go swimming at this point. Place your pole into the hand that is farthest away from the fish and use the closer hand to net it or grab the fish.

Another thing to keep in mind. Depending on the fish, you really don’t want to place anything in the kayak between your legs that has teeth or spikes. Just saying! Keep your pliers or fish grabbers handy.

Don’t forget about Safety

Even though we are out there to have fun, please do not forget to be safe. Check out my “Kakaking for Beginners-Kayak Safety” post for the basics in kayak safety.

There are few more safety things you need to be aware of when fishing.

  • Make sure you have enough water and snacks to get you through the day. Inevitably you will be out longer than predicted.
  • Watch out for flying hooks or spilled hooks. Accidents happen and some fish can be ornery.
  • If you are fishing in the South or in open waters like the ocean, watch out for critters that may want to eat your fish or you. There are other concerns with wildlife. Watch out for low hanging limbs in dense areas and for snakes. They have been known to drop into boats. Don’t Panic and remove them as quickly as possible.
  • Weather can always be a concern. Wind, lightening, rough waters. Be weather aware.
  • Finally, other boats speeding around on the water. Probably the most dangerous animal out there are other humans racing around in the fancy boats.

Let’s Get Out There!

So, we now have the basics to get us out on the water with our fishing poles. The best way to get better at fishing from our kayaks is to just get out there and do it. Like I said earlier, Practice!

I’m going to leave you here and hope that you found this post helpful. I hope I was able to get you educated and excited about getting out there and catching some fish.

Please, add and comments below about your experiences. Meet me over on Facebook and share some pics with me of the fish you have caught or the stories of the ones that got away.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking for Beginners – The Checklist

Are you a list kind of person?

Lord knows I make lists all the time, and sometimes I even use them!

In this installment of Kayaking for Beginners, we are going to work on a basic checklist to get you started.

What is a Checklist?

Now we all know what a checklist is. We make them all the time.

  • Grocery Lists
  • Chore Lists
  • To Do Lists
  • Honey Do Lists

We have all made them. This checklist is going to be geared to you and your kayak adventure. Now, depending on the adventure, this list is going to grow, shrink become a living creature, who knows.

We are going to break our list into a few categories.

  • Essentials – Items you cannot do without.
  • Safety Gear – items you shouldn’t do without
  • Navigational – items to keep you from getting too lost
  • Clothing/footwear – items to keep you from going naked
  • Personal – items to enhance your adventure

10 Essentials List

A little history here. The original 10 Essentials List was introduced by a group of outdoor adventurers called the Mountaineers back in 1974. It was published in the third edition of “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.” While the origin of the list dates back to the 1930s, the purpose has always been to answer two basic questions.

  1. Can you respond positively to an emergency or accident?
  2. Can you effectively survive 1 or more nights outdoors?

So naturally, over the years this list has evolved with new technology, equipment, and activities. But, the basics remain the same. The Classic List resembled this: Map, Compass, Sunglasses and sunscreen, Extra clothing, Flashlight or Headlamp, First-aid supplies, Firestarter, Matches, Knife, Extra food.

In 2017, the Mountaineers released a new and improved version of their list known as: Freedom 9 Systems.

We are going to tailor our list to kayaking and primarily recreational kayaking.

Our Kayaking Checklist

Our Essentials – You cannot go kayaking without these items. Quite frankly, if you try you are going to get awfully wet and you won’t get far, LOL.

This is going to be your kayak Pre-trip list.

  1. Kayak – you obviously need your kayak.
  2. Paddle – again, we won’t get far without it. So, store with the kayak so you don’t forget it.
  3. Seat – this will only matter if it is not already attached and not stored with the kayak.

Safety Gear – You should not go out with at least some of these items. Depending on your adventure, this list is going to grow.

Kayaking_for_beginners-pfd

  1. PFD – In my book the most important safety item.
  2. Whistle – in case you need to signal for help
  3. First-aid kit – just in case.

Check out my post “Kayaking for Beginners – Kayak Safety” for more information about safety gear.

Navigation – depending on where you are going this could be needed or not. I personally take my cell phone.

  1. GPS – Some of these have tracking systems
  2. Map – Handy if you are on an unfamiliar lake or river system.
  3. Compass – I would only worry about this if you know how to use one. I personally use landmarks to navigate, so North/South probably wouldn’t help me much.

Clothing and Footwear – dress appropriately for the climate you are in. Again, this list could become a much larger list depending on the trip you are taking.

  1. Kayaking shoes or water shoes – I recommend some kind of decent water type shoe or sandal with a fairly hard sole. I DO NOT recommend flip flops.
  2. Hat – something to keep the sun off your head. A wide brim is recommended.
  3. Quick drying pants or shorts – again weather dependent. Swimwear is okay if it’s warm enough. Take an extra set.
  4. Dry top/Jacket – even if you don’t wear long sleeves, I recommend having something in case the weather changes or you just want to protect yourself from the sun.

Again, this list will grow if you are going out for a longer period.

The Fun Stuff

The Personal Category can and will get out of control if you let it. Totally dependent on the trip. Are you going on a short day float, or a camping float or a fishing trip. It will make a difference in the personal gear you carry.

For a day trip this is my short list. Now, I consider a day trip a couple of hours close to home.

  1. Dry Bag – to carry your personal items that you want to keep dry.
  2. Sunscreen – don’t think you won’t burn out there. Remember, water is reflective.
  3. Sunglasseskayaking for beginners-sunglasses
  4. Lip Balm
  5. Cell Phone
  6. Water Bottle/snacks – chocolate is essential, but we will put it in this category.

Okay, again, this list can grow exponentially depending on the circumstances. I also like to carry my camera and sometimes I remember my little video camera.

Obviously, if you are going fishing that is going to add a whole new category to your list. We will touch on that in a later post.

Start Checking the Boxes

This is just a starter list for you to start checking the boxes. There are certain things I would hate to forget and then there are something I can live without if I am going out close to shore and not for very long.

I hope this helps to you start your list and gets you more prepared for being out on the water.

Thank you for checking in on the next installation of Kayaking for Beginners. Share with me some of the stuff you cannot live without when you go out on the water.

Until Next Time!

Best Way to Store Kayaks

In this post we are going to talk about storage options for your kayak.

Storing kayaks can be a task, depending on the length and the space you have available. So Let’s spend some time to find the best way to store kayaks.

Inside or Outside

Where are you planning on storing your kayak now that you have it?

I do not recommend that you just lay in the yard, out in the sun till the next time you use it.

Ideally you are going to want to store it in a secure location, out of the harsh UV rays of the sun, with easy access and where no critters are going to build their forever home in it.

There are many options for either outside or inside provided you have the space. I am going to talk about several options in this article for both places. Obviously, if you have the room to store it in your garage or shed, where you can control the climate a bit and lock them up that would be awesome.

However, not all of us have that option. I personally live in a RV, so storage of a 10′ kayak can present a challenge and generally speaking my only option is outside.

Rack Systems

There are a ton of rack systems available on the market. I focused on several that you can easily pick up through Amazon.

There are basically three different styles.

  • Free-Standing
  • Wall Mounted
  • Overhead Mount

Let us start with the Free-Standing style of rack. These are going to require a bit of space, but can be used inside or outside depending on what you need. There are several options for this, so let me highlight a few that I found.

This rack is the king of racks. It is going to require space or its own building. I show this to you because, if you have more than one kayak or plan on getting more than one, it can handle it. It also would provide storage for paddles as well as other stuff. You could ideally use it as a multi-functioning rack if you put it in your garage or shed.

Let’s break it down.

  • It will hold 6 kayaks
  • made from steel
  • Easy to assemble
  • Comes with wheels for easy movement

This rack measures in at: 51 x 47 x 72 inches. The product description claims it will hold up to 11′ kayaks, but the reviews state that it can handle longer boats as long as they are not over 32-34″ wide. This rack rated 4.9 stars out of five and had many great reviews.

This rack just looks sturdy. I picked it mainly because you could also adjust it for the length of your kayak. The heavy-duty steel will hold up to 100 lbs per set of hooks. They are padded nicely to protect your kayak as well.

Key Points

  • Sturdy tubular steel
  • Space saving design
  • Easy Assembly
  • Good for indoor or outdoor use

This rack measures in at: 48 x 28.7 x 7.2 inches. This rack had good reviews and rated in at 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you only need to hold up one kayak, this rack would do. They are lightweight, come in a set of two and are inexpensive. You can use them anywhere and adjust them to the length of you kayak.

Key Points

  • Lightweight Aluminum construction w/stainless steel hardware
  • Indoor/outdoor use
  • folds into compact mesh carry bag
  • Weight capacity is 100 pounds
  • Stands 17″ tall
  • Sturdy, even on uneven ground

This inexpensive set of racks come in at 4.4 stars out of 5. People were pleased with the quality and stability of the product. There were many good reviews about this system and based on the price you cannot go wrong.

Wall Mounted Racks are another option for saving space. You can mount them on the wall either inside or out. Imagine the possibilities. You could place them in or out on the garage, shed, or tiny house.

For a Wall Mount set-up, this set came highly rated. The customer reviews gave it a 4.8 out of 5 stars. They look nice and are sturdy.

Key points

  • Heavy Duty powder-coated steel
  • Lightweight
  • Nylon covered foam padding
  • Weight capacity 100lbs
  • Affordable

Most of the reviews I read, the folks really liked them. Most used them inside, but one used them outside in the north. While the hooks are rated at 100lbs, if you are to purchase these make sure you mount them properly on a wall that can handle the weight, just saying.

This is the king of wall racks. If you are not worried about space and you have multiple kayaks or paddle boards. This is the rack for you. Rating 5 out of 5 stars, you cannot go wrong.

Key Points

  • Holds up to 4 kayaks
  • Steel Construction, 100lb capacity per rack or 400lb total
  • Adjustable rack levels
  • Easy Assembly, easy adjustment
  • Protective felt padding

Again, this is a sturdy built, adjustable, wall-mounted rack. Built tough to handle whatever you want to put on it.

The only real downfall to wall-mounted racks that I can find is the lock-up factor. You would have to get creative with locking your kayaks up, unless you are keeping them inside.

Over-head systems are great for saving space. Ideally you are using these inside or you are building something outside to mount them on.

This is a basic hoist system. You would ideally put this inside a garage or shed, mounted on the ceiling. Hoisting your kayak above everything else in the building. This particular system rated 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Most of the hoist systems rated in this range.

Key Points

  • Space Saver
  • Easy Installation
  • Heavy duty Straps – weight capacity only 60lbs
  • Affordable
  • Will fit any length or width kayak

The downside that I found to these systems, was strength. Most reviews on any of these systems complained about the weight factor and not feeling secure about the rope sent with the kits. Also, they said in several reviews across the board that it takes some effort to hoist the thing up. Just be prepared.

DIY Rack System

Are you handy? Have tools, build your own system. Pinterest has a ton of really cool ideas to build your own storage for kayaks and the like.

I found some great options made out of wood and PVC. You know, the white or black plastic pipe used for water and sewage. You got it, how imaginative.

Here is a fun little video to show one option found on YouTube. The possibilities are endless with some imagination.

Tiny House Options

For those of us that have opted to live tiny the options are not as vast. This is also dependent on whether you are stationary or mobile. Most of the RV dwellers I have seen store their kayaks either on their extra vehicles with vehicle racks or they have racks on the RVs. If you have a toy hauler, you have the garage option to store inside.

As I mentioned earlier, I store mine outside. I currently slide mine up underneath the RV, then I cable lock it to the camper. It is hidden, out of the sun and secure.

Stationary tiny homes can have shed options or outside kayak huts, if they are on their own property. Check out Pinterest for great ideas.

Here is an example of a kayak/bicycle rack I found on YouTube designed for those that camp or are on the road.

Stored and Secure

So, there you have it. There are a ton of options for storing and protecting your kayak. If nothing else, I hope I got your creative juices flowing and you are thinking of different ways to get your kayak out of the weather and helping it last a good long time.

Hope you found this helpful and enjoyable. If you have any questions, comments or ideas, leave them below. I would love to know what you think.

Thanks to all those that take the time to visit.

Until Next Time!

Kayaking for Beginners – Kayak Safety

This is probably the first post I should have written. Safety is and should always be first.

As it is though, Welcome back for the 4th installment of Kayaking for Beginners. We are going to discuss some important things in this one, so hold on to your hats!

Safety First

Safety is vital, not only for your health and enjoyment, but for others as well.

We never go out on any kind of adventure and expect an accident to happen. Unfortunately, they do happen and they affect not only us, but the people that are closest to us and those called out to rescue us.

So, ALWAYS do your due diligence and be as prepared as you can be.

The Mistakes We Make

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are what we would conceive to be minor, while others can be real whoppers. Here are 5 common mistakes people make when going out on a kayak.

  1. Not paying attention to the Weather
  2. Not knowing what is happening with Tides and Currents
  3. Not wearing or packing proper clothing
  4. No Life preserver or PFD
  5. Mixing alcohol or drugs

When you look at this short list, you are probably thinking, who would go out and not do these things. My answer to that is all of us. Maybe not every time, or all these things at once, but I can tell you that even I have taken my PFD off on occasion and thought, I can swim if need be, or I am close enough to the shore it will be fine.

So, let’s address these common mistakes and see how we can fix them.

Always Check the Weather

Weather can change in the blink of an eye. It amazes me how many people pay so little attention to what is happening in the sky. I tend to be a bit of a weather bug, so I am always checking the weather. I live in a RV, so weather is huge for us.

Check the weather where you are going to be for the day. Check it for the whole day, not just the morning or midday when you are planning to be on the water. Depending on where you are, you may want to check the surrounding areas as well.

For instance, if you are going to be on a river and the weather is fine where you are, remember, if it pours a bunch of rain North of you and it flows into the river upstream, guess what? You may get more than you bargained for downstream.

Storms can blow up on large bodies of water quite quickly. You don’t want to get stuck in that kind of scenario. Lightening and water do not mix well. Be prepared.

Kayaking for beginners-stormy weather

If, you are going to be out for a couple of days check into a battery operated weather radio.

We all have cell phones, no reason to not know what the weather is up to.

Tides and Currents

Even our little Lake Taneycomo here in Missouri has a current. You can check with the COE (Core of Engineers) to find out when they are releasing water from the dam. Check the USGS for river conditions where you are.

Kayaking for beginners-currents and tides

If, you are going ocean or surf kayaking, you will certainly want to pay attention to the tides and currents. You can check these through the NOAA’s current and tide charts.

Dressing for Success

It is really important to have proper clothing.

Whether it is 90 degrees and sunny or 32 degrees and cold, proper clothing is a must. There are so many options on the market today for both occasions.

When it is hot and the sun is high, you are going to want something that breathes and dries fast. You can even get long sleeve shirts now that will help protect you from the UV rays. A hat is a good idea as well. I like to pack extra in my dry bag just in case.

Cold weather kayaking would require warmer clothing, obviously. You might want to consider a wet or dry suit. Hypothermia would be a real problem if you got wet in colder weather.

Running whitewater in a kayak will require a helmet in most cases and I would recommend one even it they didn’t. Rocks and noggins don’t make a great combination. Just make sure it is the proper helmet for the task.

Common Sense

Common sense tells us that a PFD or life jacket is one of the most important if not the most important piece of safety gear needed. You know that the US Coast Guard reported in 2018 that 77 percent of boating fatalities were from drowning and that 84 percent of those were not wearing a PFD.

Kayaking for beginners-pfds
Photo By Denise Hunter

Find a proper fitting PFD and wear it!

Having Too Much Fun

Studies from the US Coast Guard also show that alcohol is still the leading cause of accidents on the water.

I get that we are all out to have fun. I do however recommend saving the drinking for the campsite. We all know that alcohol diminishes our ability to react and make decisions.

I am all for having fun, and I certainly enjoy a drink now and then, just know there is a time and a place, and it is not out on the water.

Tip for Staying Safe

Now that we know kind of what not to do and some things to look out for. Let me break it down into a list of tips to keep you safe.

  1. Know Your Limits: Know what your experience and physical limits are. If, you are a beginner, don’t jump into a river with category 5 rapids.
  2. Know you Boats Limits: Know what kind of kayak you have and what it is capable of. Don’t take a $200 recreational kayak out in the surf or over a waterfall.
  3. Lower Your Risk for Hypothermia: Dress accordingly for the weather and water conditions.
  4. Visibility: Make sure you can be seen. Especially on a busy lake or on the sea. Reflector tape on you kayak or paddle, light colored clothing, a flag, etc.
  5. Boating Regulations: Know the regulations for your area. Follow the rules and be mindful. You can generally get a booklet at any marina.
  6. Take a Class: It never hurts to take a paddling class.
  7. Go with Friends: Paddle in a group. If, you must be alone then tell someone your plans.
  8. Plan your trip: Especially if it is going to encompass more than one day. Then revert to the previous tip. Let someone know what your plan is.
  9. Practice: practice the many techniques you have learned. Practice climbing back into your kayak in deep water. You may not always be close enough to shore when and if you flip.
  10. Be prepared with the right safety gear

Safety Gear, the Short List

Here are some basic items that come to mind that you will want to include in your safety collection.

  • PFD
  • Dry Bag
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Whistle
  • Bilge Pump
  • Spray Skirt (for those sit in kayaks)
  • Light or Headlamp

Kayaking for beginners-first aid

This list would certainly grow for more extended trips or more complicated trips.

For those types of trips you may want to add a couple of these items.

  • Float bags
  • Paddle float
  • Paddle Knife
  • Change of clothes
  • Throw Line
  • Radio
  • compass

Just to name a few.

Recap

Okay, so we have talked about safety and some things that you need to stay safe. A safe trip makes for a fun trip, and ultimately that is what we are after. Fun and Adventure.

So, let me recap the top 10 safety tips for you.

  1. PFD
  2. Dress Appropriately (including a helmet if necessary for you whitewater folks)
  3. Follow Local Boating Rules
  4. Pick a Suitable kayak location
  5. Practice you deep water entry
  6. Check Equip.
  7. Tell Someone about your plans
  8. Know your cold water safety
  9. Check the weather
  10. Leave the alcohol at home or for later

I hope you found this helpful and I hope you guys have a great safe adventure the next time you go out in the kayak. Thank you for joining me here for another installment in the Kayaking for Beginners Series. Leave and comment, suggestions or experiences below.

Until Next time!

Kayaking for Beginners – How to Launch Your Kayak

Welcome back to number 3 in our Kayaking for beginners series!

Today we are going to launch our kayak! It’s getting real now.

Pre-Launch and Pre-Landing Check

Just like a truck driver, we should always do a pre-launch check. Once you get your kayak to the launching area, make sure you have all your gear and it is where you want it. Make sure your foot rests are where you need them.

Make sure your PFD is secure and properly fitted!

Be aware of your surroundings. Especially if you are in a remote wildlife area. Don’t land your kayak in an area where there could be heavy traffic from predators. No one wants to become dinner for a bear. Also, watch out for nesting areas for waterfowl and such.

Don’t forget the snacks and water.

Launching From the Shoreline

This in my opinion will be the easiest way to launch your kayak, as long as you do not mind getting wet. I personally would rather get my feet wet rather than taking a swim due to lack of balance.

Depending on the type of kayak you have, will determine the way you get into or on your boat.

Sit-on Kayak

For those of you that have a fishing style sit-on top kayak, like myself. Getting on the boat from the shoreline is relatively easy. While the first time I did it, it wasn’t graceful, I got better each time I did it.

Look for a calm, shallow area near the shore. Either place your kayak in the water parallel to the bank or vertical, it really doesn’t matter. You just want to make sure you have everything you need and didn’t leave anything on shore.

Walk into the water with your kayak. We are going to enter our boat bum first. So, place yourself with your bum at the seat area of the kayak and holding onto the sides, sit our self down on the seat, gradually. Once your bum hits the seat firmly, rotate yourself around, bringing your feet into the kayak.

Make sure your fishing poles and or other gear is out-of-the-way so you don’t get hung up and throw yourself off balance.

Sit-in Kayak

For those of you that have a sit-in style kayak, this could potentially be a little less graceful. Especially if you are anything like me, LOL.

Look for calm shallow water. If you have a narrower kayak or you have longer legs. Straddle the kayak and lower your bum into the seat, then bring your legs into the cockpit.

Now, if you are like me and not a yoga master, and you have a smaller cockpit, you may need to place at least one foot into the kayak first. If, you do this, try not to put any weight onto that leg, it will require a bit of balance. Then slide yourself into the seat, bringing your other leg after.

If your kayak has straps on the front, place one of your paddle blades in those straps. The other end can hang out and act as an outrigger.

If you are going to launch at a boat ramp, please be mindful and courteous of the boaters that are also going to be using that ramp.

Launching From A Dock

Now, I personally have not done this. So, upon my research, her are some tips or steps you will want to consider.

Depending on whether the dock sits high or low in the water is going to determine how or where you place your hands and knees for the best leverage for getting in and out of the kayak. Adjust as needed.

After placing your kayak in the water parallel to the dock, place your paddle on the dock about an arms’ length away for easy access.

Sit on the dock with your feet dangling into the kayak to keep it close. Depending on the height of the dock, this is where you may need to make adjustments.

With one hand still on the dock, lower your bum into the cockpit to the seat. Rotating your body a bit to keep your connection to the dock, slide your feet into the cockpit to the foot pegs. Once you are seated, grab your paddle and off you go.

Now, the steps are basically going to be the same with a sit-on top style, except you will be sliding onto the boat rather than in.

Mastering the Landing

Now landing your kayak and exiting the boat is going to be the exact same steps as above, just run them in reverse.

If landing on the shoreline, be mindful when exiting the boat of the possibility of boat waves and such that could shove the kayak towards the shore. If you are in the way, it could cause an injury.

Also take into account, if you are a newbie paddler like myself. Your arm strength, leg strength and overall flexibility is not going to be the same at the end of the float as it was in the beginning. No joke! Don’t get in a hurry, stabilize yourself and you will be fine.

Besides, it’s just water and you will still have your PFD on if all else fails. It gets easier the more you do it.

We Did It!

In this “Kayaking for Beginners” lesson we learned how to launch our kayak!

As I have said in previous posts, I am not an expert and there is a great deal to learn. I recommend taking a lesson or two from a qualified trainer if you don’t feel comfortable on the water. Safety always comes first.

I hope this was helpful though, and I hope that you will return and hang out and learn with me some more. Leave any comments or even suggestions you may have for more lessons below. I look forward to providing you with great content here and I want to help you be the best you can be in your kayak.

Until Next Time!