Cool Kayak Stuff

A collection of really cool kayak ideas that have wandered my way.

I noticed that there are a lot of things that kayakers around the world are doing that are really cool, innovative and/or helpful to the rest of us. This page provides a place to showcase and share some of those cool ideas. If you have any questions, or have something cool to share, feel free to e-mail me.

All of the items here are presented in the spirit of an exchange of ideas that others have tried and found useful. As with all gear, you should test any new item to ensure that it works well for you given your personal skill level, your particular equipment and your specific paddling environment.

Branch Hangers
I first saw these in a towing seminar at the 2005 Port Angeles Sea Kayak Symposium. BCU Coach/towing fanatic Les Ulrich had one attached to his tow line in place of a carabiner. Branch hangers are used to add leaders to the main line when long-line fishing. The big ones (5") are used for swordfish. They are solid stainless steel, can be operated with one hand, have no separate moving parts and provide a positive lock that, despite a lot of testing, we have been unable to shake off. I bought mine on-line at, but they should be available through any commercial fishing supplier. If you buy them in bulk 35+, they are usually less than $1.

Branch Hangers. The large (5" with a 1/4" eye) are great on tow lines in place of a traditional carabiner. The small ones (3") are great for contact tow lines and accessory clips.
The branch hanger ready to be clipped on a line. The line gets pinched between the two hooks. One note, the large hangers may need to be squeezed at the round end a couple of times with a pair of pliers to loosen them. They are quite hard to squeeze out of the box (as you would expect given the purpose).
The branch hanger clipped onto a 1/4" line.
Another view of the hanger in action.

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Welding Rod Holder/Flare Case
This one comes from Maine Guide Ben Fuller. We were discussing gear and I mentioned that I kept my flares in a (very crowded) wide-mouth water bottle. He pulled out a waterproof blue tube and opened it to reveal a pile of full-size flares, as well as various bits of survival gear. The blue tube (pictured below) was a welding rod storage case. It is used to keep welding rods clean and dry. The case fits behind the seat of a kayak and holds a whole lot more than my water bottle solution. Ben gave me the holder as a gift. I added a length of cord, a small branch hanger, and a loop of bungee to hold it in place. In the event I need to bail out, I can grab the case and clip it to my PFD. I thought the idea was so cool that I wanted to get one for my wife. I found the red one at my local home improvement mega-store for $9.95. It has a belt clip and a removable divider. Even if you don't use it for flares, a waterproof case like this has a million uses at a price well below what you would pay for a specialty case.

Two different model holders. They are both 15" long and 3 1/2" around (inside diameter).
Inside view of blue case.
Inside view of red case with removable divider.
Cord and clip (stowed)
Cord and clip (deployed)

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Shawn's Stuff
No collection like this would be even remotely complete without a section from the man that brought us the "World's Longest Tuilik" and the gas-powered blender. Rather than replicate the hard work of Shawn Baker, I am providing a few links to some of his more notable accomplishments. Hopefully, we can get plans to the gas-powered blender in the near future.

Homemade Tow Rig
Modified PFD
Custom Fiberglass Seat
Homemade PVC Bilge Pump

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Camcorder Housing
I wanted to be able to take occasional video while kayaking, but the thought of spending over $100 on a flexible "bag" housing or $600-$1000 on a specialty diving housing was a bit more than I was up for. Shawn Baker had reasonably good luck making a waterproof housing out of PVC pipe by following the directions on the MSN "Dive Light" forum. His housing is cool, but it takes a fair bit of work. I looked through my existing gear for a quick solution. I found out that my Canon ZR85 digital camcorder fits nearly perfectly in a Pelican 1050 clear micro case. Thus the $12 housing was born.

The camcorder in the box. The box comes with a rubber liner that attaches to the rim gasket. You need to cut the liner away from the gasket.
Side view with the LCD panel flipped out. This works fine, but it is hard to see from behind. I added a prism (from my daughter's science kit), covered with some of the rubber from the liner. The whole thing attaches with Velcro to allow me to see the LCD from behind.
Other side view. Pad out any gaps with slivers of minicel foam. Rather than mess around with controls, I use the remote control that came with my camera. It gives me full control over the camera. I put it in a waterproof cell phone container. The low-tech solution is to just push record, close the housing and wait for either the tape or the battery to run out.
I didn't want to mess around with having to hold the camera, so I made a mount out of minicel and bungee. It fits both the bow and stern of my boat and can be mounted facing forwards or backwards. In this photo, it is mounted on my bow (yellow boat) facing forward.
A view of the housing with the prism in place and on the mount. The mount is just high enough that I don't have a foreground of deck in every shot. I have tested the mount in the pool and in the ocean. It has survived rolling practice, moderate waves, and "victims" hamming it up during rescue practice. I also shot video while whitewater rafting by holding the camera freehand.
Side view showing the mount and the prism. One lesson learned: Turn off the auto-focus on your camera. If you do not, when the camera loses focus (when you roll, etc.), the autofocus often focuses on the inside of the housing. It makes for really boring video. Interestingly enough, the sound quality through the housing is pretty good.

All-in-all I have been pretty happy with the housing. I am not going to be shooting "This is the Sea 3" any time soon, but it is great for occasional wet-environment filming.

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