Any good boater knows that the river has it’s own natural set of red, yellow and green lights as well as danger and do not pass signs. Knowing what these natural features mean and how to understand them, is what makes a good boater a great one. Keep an eye out for specific natural features, or changes in the flow and direction of the water to stay in the know of what obstacles might lie ahead. The following list is a crash course, or rather smooth line tutorial, on what to look out for when you’re on your favorite river or creek.
Strainers are usually pretty easy to spot, but regardless there are times we find ourselves face to face with a branch or limb that’s not so friendly. These are trees, limbs, vines, branches, strange locals or anything else obstructing your line. Strainers can also be large items submerged, like a log. Debris like tires or trash that unfortunately end up in our rivers need to be watched for to. Like a spaghetti noodle in a strainer that stays in the bowl when you drain the pasta water, that noodle is you in your kayak against an overhanging tree. Not a good spot to be! It’s better to bail out than to get seriously pinned against a dangerous strainer if it comes down to brass tacks.
Upstream and Downstream V’s
Knowing how to spot upstream and downstream V’s can help you out tremendously while on the river. An upstream V is an indication that there’s an obstruction in the river, and the exact location of the V depends on the depth of the obstruction. If the rock or lurking river monster is deeper, the V will be below the actual obstruction as opposed to right on top of it in shallower water. These you want to avoid, as hitting one sideways could cause your boat to flip. Downstream V’s however, usually indicate a safe channel with obstacles on either side. Look for dark current in these downstream V’s, indicating it’s deep enough to run.
Eddies – the friendliest of all natural river features! Eddies are a good place to hang out and grab a snack from your drybag after you just got through some ridiculous rapids and don’t even know how. These areas are where the river current slows and often reverses, and are typically characterized with a circular flow pattern. The best eddies are on the downstream side of an obstruction, typically a big ass rock. They can also be found behind midstream boulders or inside the bend of the river. These “time out” spots are formed anywhere something gets in the river’s way forcing it to slow down or make a turn. Heads up though, in faster moving water “eddy lines” are created where you’ll encounter reverse flow upon entering, so check your line before entering and exiting. Steady Eddy.
These can be the do not enter, one way street, and wrong way sign of natural river features. Holes can also be a fun place for kayakers to freestyle and playboat, and have different indicators of whether they’re naughty or nice. A hole is created by water flowing over an obstacle creating a gap that needs to be refilled. The river refills this gap, by folding back on itself and flowing back upstream, creating a continual recirculating flow of water. This article from Canoe & Kayak Magazine has a good breakdown to determine if a hole you’re looking to paddle will either wreck your day or be an awesome play spot.
Not to be confused with a stunning horizon line pool edge, it does mean the same thing essentially. Big drop ahead. Anytime you’re boating and see a natural horizon line on the water, this would be a good time to catch an eddy (since we know what those are and how to catch them now!) and scout what’s ahead especially if you’re unfamiliar with the river. It’s virtually impossible to see what the situation and rapid is like below a horizon line, or if there’s boaters down below.
Mother nature always wants you to have fun and be safe while on the water, so keep an eye out when she’s showing you the way to go or when she’s saying not to do something or you’ll be sorry. Remember to plan ahead, and when in doubt scout it out!
Kayakers and boaters alike are always pressing for bigger, faster, and gnarlier whitewater to conquer. Some will travel the globe in search of a new challenge, and there’s nothing like staring down the mouth of a huge rapid you’ve never had the chance to run before. There are some killer rivers here in the good ol’ US of A – as well as globally – that have been run where stories are told and legends are made. The technical aspect, location, obstacles and size of a rapid determine it’s classification. The other factor involved is the fear factor. Scouting out a new rapid can either make you want to carry your boat around it whistling to yourself and choose life for today, or…buckle down and shred through what could be the one of the best runs of your life. The following list is 5 of the top whitewater rapids that are kings in their class.
When one looks up the definition of the word “dry” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this is what they’ll find: “A) free or relatively free from a liquid and especially water <Mix the dry ingredients first.><as dry as a bone> B) not being in or under water <happy to be on dry land>. Or, A) marked by the absence of alcoholic beverages <a dry party> B) prohibiting the manufacture or distribution of alcoholic beverages <a dry county>.“The latter, however, is not the dry we’re referring to. We’re talking about the kind of dry when you pull a cozy hoodie out of your Drybag at the end of the river and put it on you feel like the Snuggle Bear from those fabric softener commercials. The kind of dry that your river map, cell phone, and matches for the campfire are in perfect shape after 13 miles of shredding the gnar kayaking. The folks here at Watershed got real tired of sub-par products, and wet sandwiches, and created the patented Watershed Zipdry Closure. When you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself they say. Here is why our Zipdry Closure is the bomb…or rather bomb and 18 wheeler proof.
No Rolling Required
Anyone who has used other drybags featuring the rolling technique can understand the frustration. Simply rolling the bag down multiple times does not ensure a watertight seal. It takes forever, and typically once you’ve rolled and “sealed” the bag you realize your phone is sitting on that rock next to your boat… that you left there… that should be in the bag. Ugh. Also, this feature makes it difficult to get what you need quickly, especially sneaky little items that find their way to the bottom of the bag. It’s a production just to get a granola bar. Our bags work like a freezer bag you’d use at home, with multiple levels that grip and lock shut even when submerged and under pressure. The lengthwise opening feature makes it so you can get in and get out quickly and on with your life.
Bill Nye the Science Guy, or Mr. Wizard – if he’s more your style – would get stoked about the radio frequency welding process used to create the seams. Electromagnetic energy and pressure are used to molecularly combine materials permanently and form the seal. There are no stitches used in the process. This means there aren’t any weak points for the bag to fail, thereby letting river water inside to reek havoc on all your items and belongings that are much more fun when they’re dry. Combine this unique design and construction process with only quality chemically stable polyurethane coated fabrics, and you’ve got a product second-to-none for performance and durability. Just like the fabrics used to make Watershed Drybags, when you’re out there paddling you can’t crack, fade, or lose your flexibility.
PS…though we can’t be sure what the lyrics mean, we can only hope it’s saying something like, “Yes! The Americans have it on this one! This drybag is the most badass in all the lands!”
Another adventurer of ours sent in this pic of his Colorado DryBag that in an act of God (or just faulty roof rack assembly) flew out of his kayak on the interstate and went toe-to-toe with an 18 wheeler. Sadly, the body of the bag got destroyed, but you can see the zipper feature remained shut throughout the entire hellacious event. Now that’s a true seal!
We created these bags with us in mind, and you are just like us – wanting a quality product that does what it says it does. We strive to create a top-notch Drybag to keep items dry and ready to go no matter what the circumstances. As always have fun, and stay dry out there!
Ah the great outdoors. What’s better than running out of the office at 4:59pm and being in your kayak and on the river by 5:30? Knowing that you’ll be camping overnight and paddling the next morning, that’s what. Planning a multi-day overnight paddling trip is a great way to experience your fave river or creek in sections, and cover a ton of ground. There are some extra preparations needed for a multi-day quest, and planning ahead is always a smart move. The following tips and MacGyver style camping life hacks will have you running the river and camping in comfort and style.
Use Your Vessel Wisely
Your boat will be your carry on or your checked bag for this voyage if you pack wisely. Unlike backpacking, you’re not technically having to carry every item you need. Start by putting everything you think you’ll need next to your boat at home to see how things can fit, and what’s going to work and what’s not. You’ll want to put heavier items at the bottom of the boat closer to the cockpit, and away from the bow and stern. This aids in keeping the weight distribution balanced. Items can be strapped to the deck, but remember this will affect wind resistance and change the balance of the boat. In the off chance something happens and you need to wet exit, which is rare because you’re a badass kayaker, know anything you have packed may end up in the drink. Don’t bring your new iPhone 7 along unless you have a good drybag to keep everything safe!
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to eat like a caveman. First of all, we need to point out the obvious fact that you’re on a river likely full of tasty aquatic creatures…just sayin’! If the laws in the area allow and you have a permit, you can consider bringing the necessary tools to season and prepare fresh fish. TIP: you can use flame sealed drinking straws or Tic Tac boxes to store spices. If you’re craving a steak, but don’t want to take down a large animal with your bare hands, you can bring frozen meat or foods to be eaten along the way. These items will slowly thaw, and can be prepared accordingly. Remember to put perishable foods on the bottom of your boat to help keep them cool. Craving something sweet? Make Camping Style Crescent Rolls you can fill with chocolate or what have you…deliciously genius!
Kayakers are the some of the best of the best when it comes to improvising. Though you may have your line all planned out, life happens and you need to have the ability to change gears quickly. TIP: for tips on quick repair, Duct tape or Bituthene can come through in case of a hole in your boat. Some have seen the camping life hack to strap a head lamp to a jug or bottle of water to create a lantern, but did you know that you can use tortilla chips as a fire starter? BuzzFeed has this, and some other fantastic camping life hacks you need to check out before your trip, in their article here.
Start planning now so you can be prepared and camp like a boss on your next overnight kayaking adventure. Remember to only bring what you really need, and as always, to leave no trace!
Where would you be without the modern day lifejacket? Now lovingly called the personal flotation device or PFD, it literally is a life-saver. A PFD is the most important piece of equipment you have with you while on the water, besides your trusty brain. This clever device was created to keep our heads afloat and our bodies upright while submerged in water. Life jackets have come a long way through the years, with infinite styles and designs. These days PFDs not only boast higher flotation and added safety features, they’re pretty snazzy too! Let’s take a look at this unique product and its history from then until now.
The earliest traces of PFD devices can be linked all the way back to circa 870 B.C. where stone carvings depict Assyrian King Assur-Nasir-Pal’s army using inflated animal skins to cross moats and waterways. Pretty clever! By the early 19th century, seamen had begun using cork or wood filled vests to keep themselves afloat in case a man went overboard. The invention of the modern lifejacket as we now know it can be credited to Captain Ward of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. In 1854, Ward created a cork lifejacket to be worn by crewmen for protection from weather and buoyancy. Later the cork was replaced by kapok, a vegetable fiber found in tropical tree pods that’s similar to milkweed. The kapok’s waxy coating helped to add to buoyancy. It was also much more comfortable to wear than a vest filled with your collection of wine bottle corks from that week. Many designs followed, including an inflatable lifejacket that became popular during WWII. It was nicknamed the “Mae West“, for the inflated chest similar to the physical features of the actress it would give anyone wearing it. Ooh la la!
Modern Day PFD
We’ve come a long way from the bulky and not so fetching lifejackets from the past. Modern day PFDs offer comfort, style, and versatility with a huge range of models and sizes to choose from. Often, they are tailor-made for specific activities as well as gender and age. There are 5 main types of lifejackets with different buoyancy and categorizations. New design features reduce bulk and weight, making wearing a lifejacket an obvious choice. Now, boaters can match their lifejacket color to their other boating gear like their kayak or helmet. It’s easy and cool to be safe and stylish, a win-win!
Choosing the Right PFD for Me
The most important factor when choosing your new best PFD friend is to find the one best suited for what you’ll be using it for. Different jackets are made for different types of activities, and watery environments. Fit, flotation materials and of course comfort all need to be taken into account. REI’s PFD How to Choose Guide is a great place to start. Once you know what type and flotation level you need to be looking for, the endless designs and fabulous styles make shopping fun. Remember to look for a PFD for your furry friends and your human children too!
The humble and ever evolving PFD: from its early origins until now has rescued countless individuals and given peace of mind in troubled waters. Take a minute next time to you get geared up to think about all that PFD is doing for you, and as always have fun and be safe out there!