Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Skin On Frame Repair Kits

A repair kit is a must-have item in the gear of any kayaker, even moreso for anyone who paddles a skinboat. And it's useful for repairing more than just your kayak! Most of the items in the repair kit can also be used for other purposes, such as repairing a wetsuit or drysuit, sewing a button back on your shorts, attaching items to your PFD or your kayak, and so forth.

What's in my repair kit?

  • Leatherman Multi-Tool - This is a great tool for doing everything from cutting line to pulling needles through fabric with the needle-nose pliers. It also works as a makeshift handle for the camp cookpot.

  • Duct Tape - Useful for temporarily patching holes in the kayak skin, taping broken gear back together, etc. It can also be used for First Aid purposes, closing up cuts, securing a splint, etc.

  • Parachute Cord - Available from Army Surplus Stores, 550 cord is another repair kit item that has as many uses as you can think up for it. It can be used to lash items to your PFD or to your kayak, to splint broken kayak stringers or ribs, or, "gut" it, i.e., cut the ends off, pull out the lighter weight cords inside, and use them to sew up holes in the kayak skin.

  • Sewing Kit - How are you going to sew a hole closed if you don't have a sewing kit? Also useful for repairing tents, sleeping bags, clothing, tarps, etc. Forget the lightweight needles normally included with a sewing kit. Buy large canvas/leatherworking needles, both straight and curved and some nylon or polyester upholstery thread. Avoid cotton covered nylon or polyester. Use thread that's rated for outdoor/UV resistance.

  • Lighter - Start a campfire, burn the ends of threads or cord to avoid fraying, etc.

  • Seal Cement - Neoprene contact cement is technically not a kayak repair item, but if you blow a seam on your wetsuit or your neoprene booties, you'll be glad you have it.

  • GOOP - From the makers of Shoe Goo, Amazing GOOP is useful for gluing patches over holes in the hull, or, if the hole is small enough, glob some GOOP over top of the hole and you're good to go. It cures quickly, so, if you make your repair before breakfast, by the time you're packing up, it should be ready to go.

  • Fabric Patches - I carry scraps left over from skinning the kayak. Use GOOP to secure them over larger holes. If you paddle a fiberglass kayak, you may want to include strips of fiberglass tape.

  • Zip Ties - Who knows? Zip ties are useful for all kinds of things, such as splinting broken stringers or ribs in the kayak hull or tying your garbage bag shut.

  • 5-minute Epoxy - A double tube of epoxy is small, resealable, and handy for more permanent repairs, assuming that you have the time to do them. If a stringer breaks, epoxy the break and back it up with a piece of wood epoxied on as a backing block. Secure it with zip ties until it cures. If you paddle a hard shell kayak, 5-minute epoxy can be used to fix cracks and holes.

There are a number of other items that you could include, but many of those can be found lying around your campsite. E.g., before you apply epoxy to a fiberglass repair, or GOOP to a skin repair, you should sand the area to give the repair better adhesion. No sandpaper? A piece of wood and some beach sand works to rough up an area. Sprinkle sand on it and rub it down with the piece of wood.

When putting your kit together, try to imagine what could go wrong and think of how you would go about fixing it. Think of multiple uses for the items you have and think light and small. I like to use a Sharpie to write the contents of the repair kit on the outside of the drybag.

Finally, keep the repair kit in a place where it is easily reached for yourself or for others. If the rest of your group hasn't spent as much time preparing for eventualities you may be the hero of the day!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Apostle Islands

We were recently in the Apostle Islands in Northern Wisconsin testing kayak protoypes and miscellaneous gear. We ended up paddling over forty miles in four days, camped on four islands, dodged two thunderstorms, and generally had a great time paddling and finding out what the Madeline 16 could do on tour.

You can find the whole story and a lot of photos on our Bulletin Board.