As a purely recreational kayaker that rarely travels more than an hour or two away from home, kayaking should be a very inexpensive sport for me. Surprisingly enough, my passion for this fantastic sport has driven me to spend a small fortune on my paddling. There is no end to how much money you can spend on paddling...and it is worth every dime! Here are some help you keep your kayaking affordable.
Discover what aspect of paddling truly drives your passion.
Although I did some canoeing as a child, when I tried it again decades later I instantly fell in love with paddling. My wife and I made a short day trip down the Illinois River in a rented canoe one early summer day and I suddenly felt like I knew how I wanted to spend my weekends for the rest of my life. After renting canoes on only two rivers, Dianne and I realized that neither of us cared for sitting in the front of the canoe. We both wanted to drive. Kayaks proved to be the ticket for putting us both in the driver's seat of a much quicker craft.
With many rivers now under our belts, Dianne and I have learned that there are countless things to enjoy about float trips. We love seeing the lush scenery and wildlife, getting outdoors and seeing our neighborhood waterways from a different perspective. I am endlessly amused with the anticipation of wondering what lies around the next bend in the river.
Kayak photography has also become something of an obsession for me and Dianne spends more and more time kayak fishing every year. The fairly easy whitewater rapids on the Mulberry River and the Mt. Fork River offer a thrilling change of pace that is down right addictive. Even the simple workout that comes from paddling across the lake chasing a good sunset is reason enough for me to own a kayak. Decide what kind of paddling excites you most and it will help guide your purchasing choices.
Choose the Right Canoe or Kayak
So far, I have purchased three plastic kayaks, one plastic canoe and one cheap inflatable kayak. Every boat I buy teaches me something different about paddling and about myself. The Wal-Mart inflatable kayak (I forget the brand) cost less than $100. It taught me how important it is for me to have a boat that is quickly ready to get on the water. An inflatable kayak takes two viagra and twenty minutes of sweet-talking to get ready. It did not fit the busy schedule my day job forces me into and it tracked very poorly. We paddled it once or twice and then banished it to the nether reaches of our garage as future yard-sale fodder.
When the plastic Bayou canoe arrived, I was surprised to learn that it weighed in at a far-from-lean 70+ lbs... unloaded! At around $700, it is one of our most costly boats, but it rarely sees water. Canoes make great cargo vehicles on the river, but they can be overkill if all you want to do is enjoy a few hours exploring the local reservoir.
Choose Between SINK or SOT Kayaks
All three of our plastic kayaks are Sit-Inside-Kayaks (SINK's). We rented a few Sit-On-Top Kayaks (SOT's) and found that the most affordable SOT kayaks keep you sitting in a small pool of water much of the time. Although they are unsinkable, it is just as easy to fall off a SOT as it is take-on-water in a SINK. Since we like to paddle a bit during the winter and in waters that are less-than-pristine, a Sit-Inside Kayak is the only way to go for our floating adventures. You can check out the wide range of kayaks available and do some price checking here: Kayaks for Sale.
Boat Length Impacts Speed
When the first plastic kayak we ever purchased started to get a bit leaky, Dianne decided that she wanted to try out a longer boat. In the recreational kayaking world, fourteen feet long is HUGE and most Rec Kayaks come in at around ten feet long. Like most longer kayaks, Dianne's Old Town Vapor Sit-Inside Kayak promised more weight capacity, faster speed and better performance in wavy conditions. Adding length at the waterline, almost always has those impacts on performance and the 12' Vapor is no different. What they don't tell you in the ads is that longer kayaks are more difficult to load and carry off the water and slower to turn when on the water.
The slow turning is an issue for me. I enjoy throwing the kayaks in the back of the pickup and heading for the put-in fast and Idon't want to ask anyone for help. Either Dianne or I can get Dianne's twelve foot long Vapor in and out of the back of the truck, but it is more difficult and it would not work at all with a longer kayak. You can also count on paying around a hundred dollars per extra foot of kayak length above 10 feet long. On the Sea, bigger boats payoff more, but I often paddle creeks where I can reach out and touch both river banks!
Hauling Kayaks & Canoes
A longer, faster kayak is also bound to weigh you down more, especially when strapping to the roof racks on a car or SUV. Most folks who paddle longer kayaks tend to roof rack them. Folks that are new to the practice are often surprised to learn that their roof racks require some additional investment in bracing and tie-downs that can end up costing as much or more than an entire boat trailer! You can't have much fun with your kayak, if you can't get it to the water. Make sure you have a boat transportation plan before choosing your kayak. For most folks the choices are: roof rack, pickup truck bed, toy hauler RV or boat trailer.
Secure Your Kayaks
Believe it or not I spent of a lot of time worried about my kayak getting stolen. Even when we were sharing a single $400 plastic boat, I wondered how those big bass boat owners slept at night. To my knowledge, no person ever tried to swipe any of our kayaks. However, a bit of change and a cheap padlock improved my ability to sleep at night (cable locks work good, too). After paddling waters all over the Ozarks, I can tell you that most people we pass tell us that we are 'working too hard'. I don't think our cheap plastic boats are hugely at risk!
A much bigger security issue is how you secure your gear on the river. Dry bag your gear and tie it to the boat. You can even find small dry bags and pelican boxes for your cell phone & GPS. Keep your wallet bagged or leave it at home. No glass containers on the river.
Plan your Accommodations Carefully
Riverside cabins offer the nicest way to enjoy a few days of paddling, if you have the loot. Tent camping can be a lot of fun too, but if sleeping on rocks turns your gal off the desire to hit the river...you failed. Motels offer a cheap alternative to get lodging that is closer to the water than home and they are much cheaper than river cabins.
If you have old bones like ours, you might prefer the comfort of Trailer Camping aka 'Tramping'. We bought a toyhauler RV to help me and Dianne get a good night's sleep and still get on the water, while the light was good. It wasn't long after that until we were shopping for a river lot to keep the toyhauler parked on.
As I said, there is no end to how much money you can spend on paddling. Just make sure the spending doesn't start to interfere with your time on the river!