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 / 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:

Photo credits: 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:

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:

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

If you are looking for an adventure this summer you should consider joining me on Lake Superior as we circumnavigate the extremely remote, Michipicoten Island (map link).

Michipicoten Island Trip Route

The Michipicoten Island Expedition (as we've dubbed it) is being organized by Naturally Superior Adventures and is an 8-day sea kayaking adventure for intermediate paddlers looking for a challenge yet still want to be under the care of a guide.

The plan is to take a 60 kilometer boat shuttle from Michipicoten Bay out to the mystic Michipicoten Island. We will then circumnavigate the island, make the 18 km perpendicular crossing from Bonner Head to the mainland, then eastwards along the Superior Highlands shore before finishing back at the NSA base in Michipicoten Bay, a total of about 140 km over the eight days.

Michipicoten Island caves.Michipicoten Island has a bunch of caves. This is one of the largest and they used to store dynamite in there when the cooper mine was active.

Michipicoten has a very interesting cultural history. Once shunned by First Nations peoples as a place of malevolent giants, Michipicoten Island became one of Ontario's most promising sources of copper and an easy access point to Lake Superior's seemingly endless bounty of fish in the early 1900s. Since then, the copper mine and fishing village have been abandoned. All that remains are old mine shafts, ramshackle buildings and flourishing populations of woodland caribou and beaver. Throw in a couple of lighthouses and a few shipwrecks, rugged shoreline and you've got everything all wrapped up in this island expedition.

For those who have always wanted to do a trip on Lake Superior but shied away from a fully pampered guided trip, this is the adventure for you. It's unique in that it's designed as a self-reliant expedition so all members of the group are responsible for their own food & gear. I won't be cooking for you but I'm quite happy to bring you a cup of my famous poor tasting and burnt coffee in the morning. My role in the as leader will be to provide logistical support, local knowledge, a safety net and completely made-up stories of my time living with a pack of wolves.

Rest break in one of the sea caves on Michipicoten Island.Rest break in one of the dry sea caves on Michipicoten Island.

Because it's a self-reliant trip in a very remote an inaccessible part of Lake Superior participants need to make sure they have a strong level of both kayaking skills and wilderness camping experience.

Michipicoten Island is an amazing place and completely unique to the rest of Lake Superior. I had the opportunity to visit back in 2007 and have wanted to return ever since.

Lunch break on the north shore.Lunch break along the north shore.

The dates of the trip are Friday, August 2-10th. There is a floating price scale depending on the number of participants so for example, if we have 3 people the price is $1190 but that price drops to $750 if we get six people onboard so make sure you get a buddy to come along. Of course taxes are not included in those prices.

Check Naturally Superior Adventure's website for all the details and feel free to contact me or NSA with any questions you may have.

It's going to be wicked awesome.

Caribou Antler found on Michipicoten Island.We found this Caribou Antler one evening walking along the rocky shoreline.

Sunday, 31 March 2013 22:05

Google Maps: Treasure Mode [April Fools]

ArrrrGoogle Maps: Treasure Mode

Google has rolled out a treasure map mode for Google Maps just in time for April Fools and I'm currently on my knees praying that this is becomes a permanent feature as it's terrific. Arrrrr.

They even released a cute video explaining the key features of Google Maps: Treasure Mode.

Good hunting people.

Don’t let the recent poor press steer you wrong. The Cook County Forest Preserve is still a family friendly place despite the occasional discovery of a dead body. Adventure awaits kids!

Follow Me On Instagram


Search the Site

Get our Newsletter


Strategic Partner

Paddle Canada Logo

Site Sponsors

P&H  LogoWerner PaddlesKokatat LogoNorth Water
Keen Footwear Logo
Aquapac LogoSeals Logo