Sunday, November 15, 2009

Finding Kayaking Gear in Odd Places

It's pretty surprising where I can find gear that's useful for paddling. There's an assortment of things that are really useful to have when kayaking, at least some of the time. And some of these items are in the oddest of places.
Grocery stores have granola bars, fruit bars and energy bars... but then, apples or nectarines are so much more affordable than fruit bars, even if they're more juicy and squishable. And most of the other bars are just fancy cookies in a watertight wrapper! If the watertight wrapper isn't a problem, homemade energy bars or granola bars or even muffins and cookies are good, too. Gotta admit, it's nice to have a couple of the commercial bars of one kind or another in my dunk bag. So far, raccoons haven't figured out that my dunk bag contains food-like substances and found it necessary to chew their way through to the goodies.
I knew that drugstores have handy things like liquid-gel capsules of ibuprofen (hits the bloodstream much faster than the hard pills do!) or Pepto-Bismol tablets for indigestion, or liquid Benadryl for allergy relief. Hey, I know that not everyone considers over-the-counter medications to be paddling gear. But I sometimes get bad headaches, or seasick, and I know a couple of people who have been stung by bees while out on the water, so these medicines make sensible paddle gear for people who are familiar with their effects. Other stores have useful gear, too.
I was in Office Depot the other day, and saw that they carry not only underwater cameras but Pelican cases for cameras... very handy for those who like taking photos while kayaking. There are other stationery stores that carry notebooks with water-resistant paper, which are useful when boating and camping.
The day's shopping took Bernie and me to Lee Valley Tools. This is a chain of stores with several locations across Canada and a website to promote their woodworking and gardening supplies. Don't just pop in with a pocketful of money and credit cards if you don't want to come home with all sorts of neat things that are really useful. One of my friends used to work at a Lee Valley store. She said that it was a good month when there was any paycheck left to take home, but wow, did she ever have the best tools and presents and garden and... you get the picture.
Lee Valley has useful gear for the discerning gear-head paddler. There are two kinds of little screw-sealed containers to attach to your PFD, for instance. The littler size is all brass, and good for holding a waterproofed slip of paper with your name and who to contact if you are found. The larger size is still tiny, about half the size of a fat golf pencil, and has a gasket so it's probably waterproof. This little gizmo could also hold a couple of pills of medicine, something that's essential for some people to carry at all times.
The other kind of paddling gear I found are Bogs Boots and Bogs Ankle Shoes (you can find them on their website in the Garden Catalog on page 186). These are neoprene shoes or boots with natural rubber soles, much stiffer than the usual paddle booties which have flexible soles. I handled a couple of pairs and believe that they're well-made, though not cheap. As soon as I can come up with the price, I'll buy a pair and let you know how they feel. Because I get so vexed at the flexible soles of paddle shoes/boots which let my feet hurt and toes go to sleep, I'm hoping that these more rigid soles will feel better. Lee Valley has good warranties for all its products, so I'm really looking forward to trying these Bogs Ankle Shoes.
So, though I wasn't on the water yesterday, it wasn't a total loss as far as kayaking goes. Paddlers who keep alert can find gear on the most eclectic of shopping expeditions. If you're ever in a store that carries wheelchairs, look for the big square gel pads! While these aren't cheap, they may be just the thing to cushion your sit-upon bones. There is paddling gear everywhere!

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