On the Water And In The Woods

Sea kayaking, sailing, and lightweight backpacking in the-Chesapeake Bay, Mid-Atlantic region

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Need vs Want, or the annual gear check

"I want to figure out what I need as opposed to what I want. Could it be a new tent? A new backpack? Some paddling accessories? I don't know."

A friend posted this on our club paddling web site.

Need versus Want!

What a great lead in to the annual gear check we should each be doing as the warm water paddling season approaches. Do this: take all the gear you normally take on a paddle and put it in a pile on the floor. Now take each piece, one at a time, and ask this question: "will this piece of gear function as I need or want it to function through the upcoming paddling season?" If the answer is no, you need to replace it. If "maybe", you should start looking for good sales. Here's a couple of examples:


The obvious one: Does it still fit? Like neoprene, PFDs sometimes seem to shrink over the winter. Can you still zip it up, and bucklet it?

Is the fabric ripped?

Can you see the floatation through the faded, sun worn fabric?

Hold the pfd up in front of you by the two shoulder straps. pull the pfd like you are trying to rip it in two. Without using too much force, do you hear ripping sounds? That means the fabric is deteriorating. If you were in the water in this pfd, and the coast guard had to haul you up into their boat by grabbing the shoulder strap of the pfd, would it rip on them and drop you back into the water?

Check the pfd pockets. Are they intact enough to hold your gear?

Are the lash points still firmly attached to the pfd? You'd hate to loose that expensive radio you've tethered to a weak lash point.

Paddle float:

Blow up each chamber. Yours only has one chamber? Go buy a two chamber paddlefloat.

Does the float still hold air when you press on it?

Is the lanyard to attach it to your paddle in good condition?


Inspect the material, looking for holes and wear points. If water can get in, either patch with neoprene and aqua seal, or buy a new skirt.

Look at the bungee around the rim. Is it still intact?

Look at the seam between the sprayskirt deck and the tunnel. Any places where the seam has come undone? Repair or replace.


Take out your pack of flares and check the expiration date. Will it expire this season? Replace.

Can't read the date? That means the flares have probably spent some time getting water soaked. Consider replacement. We know from SK102 flare demonstrations that flares that have spent time getting wet have a significantly lower chance of working when needed.

Bring your old flares to SK102 to fire off, or donate them to CPA for our flare demo.

Strobes, flashlights, and other electronics:

Open up the equipment and take out the batteries. Look at the batteries. Are there signs of corrossion? Are the batteries wet? Replace.

Inspect the inside of the battery compartment. Is it wet? Are the contacts for the batteries corroded? If so, replace.

If the batteries are rechargeables, rechage them. If disposable, consider replacing with rechargeables.

Does the electronics operate correctly?

I think from these examples you can get the idea of how to do this. Do it for each piece of gear, and then do it for the boat.