Tech. tips - Gear

Gear #1, Gear tip: airbags

NRS airbags are really lightweight and tough. But the first few times I inflated and deflated them, I was mystified as to why I couldn’t close the large valve. The valve seemed to be made out of a softer rubbery feeling plastic than other airbags. i knew there had to be a trick... there is. just wet the plug and it easily slides into it’s seat. Cool eh?

I seem to be carrying Esquif Sparks around on my roof racks more these days and found that A) if i didn’t take the airbags out, they would invariably flap in the wind as the daytime temperature cooled on the way home. B) removing them all the time is a pain. The solution: a coreplast airbag cover that keeps the wind off them. Just find an old realty sign, cut it to fit under the gunwales, with a knife, score it on alternate sides so it will fold up for storage. tThen starting in the middle or so of the canoe, slide it under and over thwarts and airbag strings to hold it in place. Do the same for the stern and tie them to a thwart near the middle. Reduces wind drag too, so probably better gas mileage. Watch my airbags video for more tricks.

Gear #2, Drysuit gasket replacement

This is a super fast, clean and easy way to replace a neck gasket. Oh, and it works. (Note: I took these pictures in hindsight after I’d finished the repair, that’s why the gasket is not cut in first two photos.)

First cut off the old gasket, leaving about 2 inches of gasket still on the suit.

#1 Make yourself a plywood circle and two half circles out of thick plywood, I also like to add in a piece of blue ensolite to cushion things. Just seems like a good idea...

#2 after very gently sanding gasket remains on suit, and new gasket edge with fine sandpaper, wipe with rubbing alcohol. Place disc inside suit (suit should be inside out). Smear Aquaseal onto the remains of gasket on the suit. No I don’t do both surfaces even though most instructions recommend that. it just gets too messy. I’m just more generous with coating on the one surface.

#3 With new gasket inside out, place onto suit. I like to add waxed paper in case any glue leaks out, don’t want suit sticking to the wood. Place half circles in position.

#4 Clamp in position. The idea is to have even but not excessive pressure all the way around. too much pressurre would cause glue to squeeze out... yuck.

Allow to dry overnight. Ta-da!

#1                                        #2                                           #3                                         #4

Gear #3, Thermo barrel cooler

This barrel cooler is cheap, waterproof, smell proof and kept ice until day 5 of a July canoe trip in Ontario.

The weather was mixed, but there were some hot days and the items in the cooler were still cold on the morning of the sixth day after we returned home!

How to: Buy water tank insulating blanket from your hardware store. The 40L blanket looks like it would do two small barrels.

#1 cut reflective blanket to fit outside of barrel, cut slits to feed straps through, cut a couple pleats to accommodate the curve in at the top of the barrel. Get a roll of gorilla duct tape, regular duct tape is too wussy.

#2 out of an ensolite pad, cut two discs to go in the bottom of the barrel, cut a piece to wrap around inside of the barrel. From the reflective blanket, cut one disk to stick to the inside of the barrel lid. Cut another to act as an adjustable barrier between frozen food and food to just keep cool. finally cut a third to make a removable cap (with taped on, 3 inch sides) that will cover the lid and metal seal on the outside of the barrel.

#3 fold blanket to cover bottom, tape excess folded blanket to the side of the barrel. Cover bottom with duct tape to prevent wear.

#4 fill one or two large zip lock bags with water. Put them in a (nylon) drybag and seal it up. Put the full drybag in the freezer. Be very gentle with the drybag once it is frozen so you don’t damage it.

#1                                        #2                                           #3                                         #4

It was a really nice change to not have to worry about trying to keep the frozen food in the shade all the time. Two ziplocks of water are pretty heavy, you’ll need to experiment with how much ice you really need.

Gear #4, Bomproof anchors in your canoe

  1. 1.Cut a piece of rope (kevlar is best), then cut off about 2 inches of the sheathing from both ends. Separate the exposed strands a bit.

  2. 2.Trace the outline of the anchor onto the hull and wipe the area down with acetone or rubbing alcohol then sand it well with course sandpaper.

  3. 3.Spread east or west systems epoxy on the hull, lay down your anchor, add more resin on top of the strands.

  4. 4.Cut up a freezer weight ziplock bag and lay a piece of plastic over the strands, rub gently to remove air bubbles and smooth everything down. Wait 24hrs,Ta-Da! Your done. Actually you can peel the plastic off the next morning.

Tip: Before the glue sets, make sure the middle part of the rope is not pressed tight to the hull, otherwise you won’t be able to feed rope etc. through your nice new anchor.

A paddler asked me for a bit info. about rope anchors for thigh straps or flotation tie downs. I mention it briefly in “Thrill of the Paddle” on page 49, so let’s start with the picture from the book. To avoid confusion, there are 4 anchors shown in this photo.

I have a favourite pair of gloves for creeking that feature little kevlar looking knuckle pads. So it was disconcerting to discover that as the factory applied grippy stuff on the gloves wore off, it became increasingly difficult to grip my carbon paddle. Now, aquaseal is great for repairing gloves, but if you spread it on the palm of your gloves you’ll find it is actually slippery when your paddle shaft is wet.

Gear #5, Old made new again.

As I cast my glance around the garage a solution came into view. Plasti Dip is made for coating tool handles, turns out it works on gloves too. After testing it on an old work glove, I coated my paddling gloves with it. I used the gloves for paddling at Ain’t Moosefest and I’m pleased to announce the experiment was a success. That plastic coating is a little rough if you wipe your nose though...

R&D in action

The ‘finished” product

Gear #6, Swing weight of canoe

I made an observation recently. If you are a solo paddler, flatwater or whitewater, consider where you are stashing your gear in your canoe. For a day trip, you'll certainly have a few items, drybag, throwbag, camera, etc. If you attach them to your canoe near the ends of the boat, you'll increase the swing weight of your boat, making it feel sluggish to pivot. Instead, locate your gear near the middle of the boat, it's still extra weight, but it won't be as noticeable.

Gear #7, Velcro outfitting

If you use Velcro, Iʼm sure youʼve experienced having one of the hook or loop strips detach from the surface it is glued to rather than separating from its mating strip. I have an Esquif tandem Blast whitewater canoe with adjustable saddles. The saddles are velcroed to the hull so I can adjust the boat’s trim, moving a saddle forward or back depending on my partner’s weight. The problem is that often I canʼt get my fingers in between the Velcro strips to start separating them. Result is that one of the strips peels off the minicell foam saddle instead of separating from its mate.

Here’s a hack to make the Velcro separate more easily. On the hook side of the Velcro, sand off a narrow band of hooks all the way around. For example, on a 2 inch wide Velcro strip, I sand smooth about 1/4” inch wide strip from the hook side. Since they are not attached to each other along the edges, you can slip your fingers in to help pry them apart when you want to separate the Velcro.

Gear #8, How an Esquif

T-Formex canoe is made

In the second photo, you can see the various layers that make up a sheet. That thin white one is the foam core. By layering the core sheets they can make hull stiffer in certain areas. The sheets aere baked several at a time, at very high pressure to expand the foam core. Next a traditional royalex oven is used to soften the sheet again for molding into the shape of a canoe. Jacques says they have something like 45 seconds to get it out of the second oven and into the mold before it cools too much. As the canoe mold comes down from above a vacuum sucks the hull to the mold and a hydraulic ramp comes up to push material into the stem of the mold. Finally it cools and a new canoe is born!