I will be the first to admit that I have a thing for stoves the same way that some women have a thing for shoes so when I heard about a new stove on the market called the Solo Stove I contacted the company to see if they could send me a sample I could try.

There are several other wood burning camp stoves on the market but what makes this one unique is its double walled design which channels air in and around the flames. Solo Stove describes how it works:

Designed with a double wall, the Solo Stove™ (patent pending) is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove. The air intake holes on the bottom of the stove channels air to the bottom of the fire while at the same time, channels warm air up between the walls of the stove. This burst of preheated oxygen feeding back into the firebox through the smaller holes at the top of the stove causes a secondary combustion. This allows the fire to burn more complete which is why there is very little smoke during full burn. A more efficient burn also means you'll use much less wood compared to an open camp fire. The Solo Stove doesn't just burn wood. It actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice!

The Solo Stove without the windscreen installed.

The Solo Stove is pretty rugged being made out of high-grade stainless steel. It’s also compact at 3.8 inches high and weighs in at only 9 ounces. The stove also has an integrated wind screen and pot stand which due to its clever design fits inside the stove when inverted enabling it to pack down.

How did it perform?

The quick answer is that it worked wonderfully and boiled water like it was going out of style.

Throughout the morning while out walking the dog, I collected a bunch of dry twigs and small sticks at our local park (all while avoiding the weird looks I was getting by fellow dog walkers). I also made an easy fire starter using cotton balls and Vaseline (quick tip: mix them up and store in a small zip-lock bag to keep your hands clean).

The Solo Stove

After lighting and getting the fire going, I put a litre of water in a pot on the stove and started the timer. 9 minutes later the water was boiling away.

Solo Stove also sells several accessories including a small pot as well as a windscreen to help speed up boil times. For those who are worried that they will not be able to find dry wood after a serious downpour, they sell a small burner insert that quickly converts it over to an alcohol stove. This will help bring peace of mind as well as allow you to use the stove even if there is a fire-ban in your area.

There are several advantages over using a wood stove over a typical white-gas stove:

  • The fuel is free and you don’t need to lug bottles or cans of camping gas throughout your trip.
  • There are no moving parts to break down or get clogged which is a pretty very common problem with white-gas stoves.
  • Except for the sweet sound of burning wood, the stove is completely silent. The roar of my beloved MSR DragonFly on camping trips drives me absolutely crazy.

Of course there are some disadvantages as well:

  • You will need to be proactive in keeping a little cache of sticks just in case you encounter wet wood. Or flip over to using the alcohol burner insert.
  • You likely won’t be allowed to use it if you are camping in an area with a fire ban as there is no on/off switch like a gas stove.
  • You will need to practice with the stove before your first trip (but that’s the same issue for every stove on the market).
  • As with any wood burning stove, your pot will blacken with soot.

Solo Stove and pot boiling water.

So what’s the verdict? I’m going to give it a couple more lights but I’m pretty confident that it’s going to become my primary stove when out on camping trips.

The Solo Stove retails for $69.99 and be found at solostove.com or several online shops including Amazon.

Friday, 26 April 2013 15:15

New Rescue Technique Using a Lap Bag

I recently stumbled upon this very interesting video hosted by a buddy of mine, JF Marleau from the BC sea kayak school, SKILS.

The video demonstrates a new twist on the classic paddle float rescue by using a waterproof lap bag in place of a traditional paddle float bag. Take a look, it's really interesting:

I decided to contact JF to find out more information:

1) Tell me about yourself, what you do with Skils and how long you have done it?

That is a tough one. I am one of the main instructors at SKILS, I am also a co-owner and the guy running the office. SKILS has been in business since 2003.  I have been guiding and teaching kayaking across Canada for the past 16 years. I am also a maniac of kayak fishing.

2) In a typical year, how many days on the water are you paddling/teaching?

I have been on the water teaching and guiding between 100-175 days per year for the past 16 years. Don’t forget to add another 40 days for personal paddling and kayak fishing.

3) How did you guys get the idea of using your lapbag in place of a traditional dry bag?

Like criminals in a court of law or during an inquiry commission are saying “I do not recall'', we have been doing it for so long. Maybe because a long time ago, we used kayaks with no day hatch to guide or instruct long expeditions and we needed to keep things handy to ensure safety, efficiency and comfort. The lap bag provides a much easier, faster and stable access than the day hatch. Furthermore, you can carry more gear on longer courses or trips. You can even have make-up handy if you are from the big city like Toronto...just kidding

4) How has the response been in BC? Do other instructors use it in their lessons?

In BC, most of the kayak guides, kayak instructors and advanced paddlers carry a lap bag which is a purse for kayaker. It might be because SKILS trained most of them and they like the idea. A lap bag is very common in BC.

Watershed Ocoee Waterproof Duffel

5) Any tips or tricks you have discovered over the years using them?

During the paddle float rescue, you will notice that your lap bag does not do "a yellow or red rainbow", the weight inside the lap bag provides a counter-balance during the paddle float rescue which is more stable than a blow up one if you are athletic and you do not carry an excess of weight in your lap bag.

Using a drybag instead of a real lap bag completely sucks. It takes too much time, you are more prone to lose stuff and it tends to get wet more often.

Yellow is the best colour because the daylight makes the contents in your drybag highly visible vs the red, blue or camo. Furthermore, Yellow is a highly visible color and enhance safety

Make sure you pick a lap bag with a good seal. Watershed are the very best though Orlieb has a long lasting fabric but the seal is not as good.

Friday, 26 April 2013 15:12

Off Incest Repellent

If I was the owner of Off Bug Spray I think I would be hunting for a new ad company for my next promotional campaign.

Via: cslacker.com

Wednesday, 24 April 2013 16:09

Waterproof Cameras for 2013

I’m really excited to have a guest post today. Jason Shreder is the owner of Montana's Zoo Town Surfers and sent us in this waterproof camera round-up for 2013.

One of the best things about spending lots of time on the river is the people you meet, places you go, and all of the memories in between.  Many times, it’s hard to translate how you feel or what you see through the lens of a camera, but it's sure worth trying.  There are many different reasons to take photos on river trips, and I will leave that topic for you to decide.

Nowadays, there are many options for point and shoot cameras that are waterproof, dustproof, and shock resistant.  Trying to find the camera that’s best for you can be frustrating, even with the big ole’ World Wide Web.  Over the past ten years, I’ve tried almost every model that’s been out.  Below, I’m recommending my top 5.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 is the best waterproof camera on the market today.  Nice design, quick shutter speed, and a nice zoom make this camera a deal.  With an underwater depth of 40’, ruining this camera is going to be hard.  Although this camera doesn’t have as many megapixels as the others (12.1), the photos will still look good if you want to print some larger photos.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX20

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX20

The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX20 is a great all around camera as well.  It’s a couple ounces lighter than the Panasonic (for all you minimalists), and has a couple more megapixels as well (16.2).  The Sony only has an underwater depth of 16’, which is somewhat of disappointment.  The camera is a bit more expensive, starting around $250.

Olympus Stylus Tough TG320

Olympus Stylus Tough TG320

I have a long relationship with Olympus cameras.  When I first started boating, the Olympus Stylus Tough TG320 was one of the first waterproof cameras on the market.  Well, the other folks finally caught up.  This tuff camera has a better zoom than the others but doesn’t have the best shutter speed and battery life I need when taking action photos.  For a $100, you can’t go wrong.

Nikon CoolPix AW100

Nikon CoolPix AW100

Some folks buy Canon, some buy Nikon.  The Nikon CoolPix AW100 is similar to the Sony and is priced about the same as well.  I have never liked the buttons on the Nikons, especially when wearing neoprene gloves.  I like a camera that has a nice grip, and this one could certainly slip out of your hands.

Kodak Easyshare Sport

Kodak Easyshare Sport

The Kodak Easyshare Sport doesn't have the bells and whistles that the other cameras have, but if your looking for a cheap, simple, easy to use camera, this is it.  This small and compact camera is great for kids to use on the river.  Less than $100, you’ll be less upset if this camera disappears into the depths of the river. 

For the record, I'm a professional river guide, not a photographer, so hopefully this helps.  Floating down the river is one of the best ways to see the world, spend time with family/friends, and create memories of a lifetime.  Make sure you try and capture some of those moments, so you can look back, share, and relive those awesome memories.

Jason is owner/operator of Montana's Zoo Town Surfers, a Missoula-based outfitter specializing in kayaking trips and lessons, scenic and whitewater rafting, stand-up paddleboard trips and rentals, and American Canoe Association kayaking instructor training

Tuesday, 23 April 2013 12:19

Brutal Facts about Dragonflies

I always knew that Dragonflies were enemies to insects but I had no idea they were as cold, calculating and viscous as they actually are.

The top-10 list website, Listverse has set of 10 surprising facts about dragonflies. Here is my favourite fun-fact from the list:

Fact: They Can Isolate Their Prey in a Swarm

Dr. S.D. Wiederman discovered when he began studying the way Emerald dragonflies select their prey. Curious about the way dragonflies hunt, Dr. Wiederman and his team placed a nano-electrode inside the visual processing neuron of a dragonfly. They then positioned the "subject" in front of a TV monitor with two moving objects.

In simple nervous systems, multiple objects tend to fade out; the insect can’t handle the attention multitasking. But dragonflies have the ability to switch their attention between objects at will. Under observation, the dragonfly focused first on one object, then shifted to watch the second, then shifted back to the first again, never losing track of where they were. This selective attention span allows the dragonfly to single out one target in a swarm, then zero in on it exclusively-while remaining aware of the rest of the swarm to avoid a collision.

All I can say is thank goodness that they are not big enough to hunt us.

More dragonfly fun-facts on Listverse.

Photo credit: Dragon Fly | Flickr by meke http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_CA / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

I got news over the weekend that Amy and Dave Freeman finally completed their massive 3-year, 11,700 mile expedition called the North American Odyssey which included traveling by kayak, dogsled and canoe.

Back in April, 2010 they started their afternoon adventure in Bellingham, Washington paddling the entire coastline of British Columbia, then across the Yukon and eventually working their way back to Lake Superior. The last leg of the trip included kayaking to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence then down the eastern seaboard and eventually ended up at the southern tip of Florida.

The North American Odyssey route.

The expedition was a partnership with their non-profit organization, Wilderness Classroom whose mission is to “increase students' appreciation for the environment while improving core academic skills by introducing students to the wonders of exploration and wilderness travel through live, web-based expeditions and school assemblies.”

We interviewed Amy and Dave last year just before starting the final leg of their trip.

Photo credits: Bryan Hansel and Wilderness Classroom

Seaward Kayaks LogoSeaward Kayaks announced via their monthly newsletter that they have been invited to pitch their investment idea on the CBC television show, Dragons Den.

For those who haven’t seen Dragons Den before the idea is simple. Business owners (and weird inventors) come on the show and only have a few minutes to pitch their big idea to a group of investors (called Dragons). The Dragons decide on the spot if they are in or out. If they like your idea they make a deal and invest in your company. If they don’t like it, you get the old walk of shame... In the US you might have seen a similar version of the show called Shark Tank. Here in Canada it's promoted as Canada's most popular unscripted show with 1.3 million people tuning in each week.

This is a pretty big deal for Seaward so they have been preparing like mad for this Saturdays taping for several months when they first auditioned for the television show. “I’m president for our local Toastmasters club so the members are absolutely sick of hearing my pitch.” says Doug Godkin, General Manager of Seaward Kayaks, “That being said, the group has been great at pretending to be the Dragons and asking the tough questions to find holes in my pitch.”

Nobody at Seaward wanted to give the spicy details away about the upcoming proposal but did say that Seaward is looking to expend their kayak line into new areas and take the company to the next level.

Seaward Kayaks

Doug feels that they have a decent chance of attracting the attention of at least one of the dragons. “We are very proud of the fact we are an established company and all of our kayaks are built here in Canada. There is always pressure to take the cheaper way out and start production overseas but we feel strongly about keeping the manufacturing here. For that we are looking for outside investment.”

The plan is to tap the episode this Saturday (April 6) here in Toronto and it should air sometime in the Fall. “The producers haven’t given us an air date yet. In fact, there is the possibility that we won’t even get on the air. It all depends on how well the taping goes.”

I wish the best of luck to Seaward Kayaks. With 1.3 million Canadian’s watching, this is easily the biggest audience the little company will ever have so showcase their products. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to introduce kayaking as a healthy and fun activity to Canadians.

I will post an update when we know more details about an air date and all that good stuff.

More info: cbc.ca

Photo credits: cbc.ca and Seaward Kayaks.

Paddle Canada LogoBack at the end of January I had the pleasure to be invited to attend a strategic planning meeting for Paddle Canada. I got invited because I’m the Chair of the Sea Kayak Program Development Committee. The goal of the weekend meeting was to develop a 3-year plan and it already had a catchy title: Float Plan for Success.

The reason for the meeting came about because the Board of Directors felt the organization was just about to enter a new phase in the life of the Organization. For those who studied the long and sometimes weird boring history of Paddle Canada will remember several years ago when the Organization had major financial trouble that left it hanging on for dear life. Thanks to good leadership at the top who made some tough choices, Paddle Canada has come back stronger than ever and is now ready to tackle some new projects.

Overall the weekend was a lot of fun (as fun as strategy development can be I guess) and filled with lots of fellow paddling policy wonks nerds like me who were happy to chat the days (and evenings) away talking about how to turn all Canadians into paddlers.

A couple of days ago Executive Director, Graham Ketcheson posted a pdffinished report about some of the changes you will see over the next 3-4 years. If you are bored already the short summary is that the new strategic plan isn’t ground breaking but it is a change in direction for the organization.

Here are a couple of highlights:

1) New Vision and Mission Statements
The new Vision and Mission Statements have a stronger focus on the development of its paddling instructional programs and the development of complementary partnerships with other organizations.

2) Strategic Priorities and Goals
After hours of brainstorming as a group we boiled down the ideas into four major categories which are Public Awareness & Membership, Youth, Partnerships and Instructor Development.

  • Public Awareness & Membership
    Paddle Canada is seen publicly as the authority for safety and education for paddling. Paddlers and organizations value membership in Paddle Canada.

    This one isn’t rocket science. We want to make more Canadians aware that a) Paddle Canada exists and b) we are the experts for all things recreational paddling. This will likely mean the development of more public awareness campaigns and membership drives, etc.
  • Youth
    Paddle Canada engages youth to participate in recreational paddle sports and to grow a vibrant Canadian paddling community.

    Paddle Canada supports youth in healthy lifestyle choices and appreciation of the natural environment.

    This just makes sense. We need to focus stronger on Canadian youth if we want more people paddling tomorrow. Look for youth focused programs to be developed and stronger partnerships with organizations that already have inroads with youth.
  • Partnerships
    “New and existing Paddle Canada partners support and promote common goals and values.

    Paddle Canada's goal is to: Strengthen and grow relationships with new and existing partners, in order to support the Paddle Canada Vision.”

    It’s a lot easier to work with friends rather than strike out on your own and from what I hear; Paddle Canada is often approached with partnership proposals so over the weekend they were able to develop a rough framework to help decide which proposals to explore further.

    For example, a very interesting project that Paddle Canada has been working on is the development of new water safety programs with AdventureSmart. AdventureSmart is a national program to encourage Canadians to “Get informed and go outdoors” by offering online resources as well as instruction to small groups like Scouts, school groups, hunting clubs, etc.

    They offer a wide variety of safety programs to kids and adults alike such as Hug-A-Tree, Survive Outside Program (trip planning and basic survival) and Snow Safety. 
  • Instructor Development
    Paddle Canada is seen publicly as the authority for safety and education for paddling. Paddlers and organizations value membership in Paddle Canada.

    Some of the proposed projects here include the development of new teaching resources for instructors as well as getting all of our manuals translated into French.

 

That does this all mean for Paddle Canada?
There are a couple of advantages to formalizing a strategic plan. As I mentioned earlier, none of these were ground-breaking revelations or direction changes. What it does do is to make sure that the members of the Board of Directors are on board with the new plan and everybody has bought in. The second (and more important) outcome of it is that the Board has developed a clear set of “marching orders” for the Executive Director to take and figure out how to implement over the next 3-4 years. This gives him a lot more freedom to work with people and grab the opportunities as they come along without wondering what the board thinks about this new direction.

What does this mean for you as a member or instructor member?
It means that there is going to be a whole lot more work coming down the pipe for the volunteers so we will need your help. If you have 10 minutes of free time on your hands and are interested in helping out, get in touch with Graham and he can set you up.

More info: paddlecanada.com

Mobile satellite communication company, Thuraya will be introducing this April a new product called the SatSleeve that will easily transform your iPhone into a satellite phone allowing you to be able to make phone calls and send SMS messages around the world.

The new phone case has a couple of features including an extra battery built in to charge your phone and give it more talk time in the field as well as a built in emergency button that will make an automatic call to a pre-programmed number.

Right now the SatSleeve will only transmit voice and SMS but look for a version to be released in the third quarter of this year that will also transmit data turning your iPhone into a truly global smart phone. Just think how fun it will be to be able to get work emails throughout your entire canoe trip vacation in Northern Canada.

The price for this bad boy isn't cheap with an MSRP around $500. No word on the proposed pricing for the data version but rumours put it at a couple hundred dollars more.

More info: thuraya.com

Oh John Rambo, why do you tease us with those massive God-given pipes while kayaking with your daughter on vacation in Hawaii last week?

The Daily Mail wins the award for the worst headline in the Sylvester-Stallone-going-kayaking coverage: Don't Rocky the boat! Sylvester Stallone enjoys kayak ride with daughter in Hawaii

Photo Credit: Splash News

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