Not all kayaks are the same


  • Lifestyle
  • Saturday, 27 Aug 2011

In this month’s column, our gear experts clue you in on storage-friendly kayaks; bomb-proof (literally) luggage for rough travel; and how to treat your drinking water on the go.

MY wife and I are avid kayakers, albeit novices. We both did a whitewater kayaking course years ago but we now kayak mostly in the ocean, calm rivers or lake.

We are thinking of splurging on a tandem kayak that we can take on travels via plane or strap on top of our car.

However, we live in an apartment so storage space is an issue. Ideally, our budget should not exceed RM5,000. – Yearning for a good paddling trip, Kuala Lumpur

When selecting a kayak, be realistic about what, where and how you are going to use it.

Apart from knowing your destinations, you need to know what you want out of your kayak. Is it for multi-day touring, angling, fitness training, exploring or just for mucking around your holiday site?

Once you’re clear about what you need, it’s easier to narrow down the selection. For example, kayaks for whitewater kayaking, angling, and exploring sea caves, coves or inlets require a sturdier and broader hull for stability and durability. But speed and efficiency are usually compromised.

Cheap inflatable kayaks or rafts with only a single chamber or a single wall (shell) are dangerous if you are in unfamiliar waterways. The risk of running a puncture from rocks, corals or debris is extremely high.

On the other hand, if you are kayaking on open water to cover great distances with ease, you should consider getting a longer (yes, more expensive!) and more streamlined touring kayak.

Prepare to fork over at least RM10,000 or more for tandem folding kayaks in this category, like a Feathercraft.

(Note: Inflatable kayaks from Gumotex and Airis are meant for cruising on protected waters, Class 1 and 2 whitewater, lakes and sea bays. These kayaks can set you back about RM3,500 and above.)

Many people imagine they would like to travel with their own kayak but hauling 20-30kg worth of gear (which will be wet and stinking on the return journey) on a holiday can’t be a lot of fun.

Once you get back from a trip, your inflatable or folding kayaks needs to be opened up, inflated, dried, and checked for mildew, damage and leaks.

If you are looking for adventure locally, get yourself a durable linear polyethylene (plastic) kayak from affordable brands like Ocean Kayak, Necky Kayak, or Mission Kayak. They are easier to maintain and almost impossible to sink. They travel better on water and will give you 20 years of pleasure.

You can load them on most cars with a normal roof rack or with a temporary Solution Gear kayak rack. You can mount one on vertical or horizontal wall racks for storage, even in an apartment. But the downside – these tandem kayaks won’t fit into most apartment lifts.

That said, my vote is still for polyethylene kayaks as they perform much better on the water for a budget of less than RM5,000.

If you are travelling overseas, go with the kayak operator there. If you want to enjoy the local kayaking experience without hassle, then buy a kayak expedition trip and support the local adventure business.

Once you have established your international kayaking contacts, perhaps you might want to increase your budget and invest in a craft. – Leong Dee Lu, Corezone

■ Hard-shell kayaks can be found at Corezone; Renegade Perception, Tel: 019-236 3013 (Najib) while foldable/inflatable kayaks are available in Singapore-based Kayakasia Paddlesports, http://www.kayakasiaps.com/, Tel: (65) 9756 2040.

I’LL be heading to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland for a month-long overland trip. We’ll be travelling through villages and mountains by truck, staying in chalets and huts. I’m not exactly backpacker material and I’m petite (about 5’ 1”). Can you suggest a bag that can withstand the rough handling in these countries. I’d like something that I can proudly carry, even on luxurious vacations (which I often take). I’m willing to spend RM700. – A greenhorn backpacker, Bandar Utama, KL

What you need for your overland trip is something durable and versatile. Since you will be travelling mostly by truck, you should consider expedition duffels. Bags like The North Face Base Camp duffel, Vaude Naxos or Millet Roll Expedition are designed for rough handling and mobility.

They can be shoved into or stacked in cramped spaces in buses, trucks, 4WD, or strapped on the back of a mountain yak.

Multiple carry options like shoulder straps and haul handles allow you hoist the bag whichever way. If you don’t need the straps, they can be neatly tucked into built-in pockets. Rugged construction, double stitching and a water resistant and durable laminate material make them a burly hauler.

They are also designed with easy top access to your clothing and gear. The good news is you can score one of these haulers from as little as RM277 to RM439 (sizes range from 25L to 90L). The extra large (100L) and super tough Millet Roll retails at RM849.

Conventional backpacks with hip belts and multiple straps, and five-star roller luggage are ill-suited for rugged overland travel because they aren’t space efficient nor tough enough for rough handling.

Your luggage will be tossed about, pinned under heavier bags, or even left on dusty roads while waiting to be loaded. After all the bashing, chances are, your “pretty” luggage will not look so pretty and presentable for a “luxurious vacation”. – Leong Dee Lu, Corezone

■ Expedition duffels can be found at Corezone, SS2, Petaling Jaya, www.mycorezone.com, Tel: (03) 7873 5560 and Lafuma, Bangsar Baru, www.lafuma.com.my, Tel: (03) 2287 1118.

I WILL be joining a group of trekkers to Maliau Basin, Sabah, for a seven-day trip. We have been given a list of things to bring by our organisers who are experienced trekkers. However, I do have some questions: Is it safe to drink the water from streams and rivers? What are the types of water filters or purifiers in the market. I hear that iodine purifiers taste yucky. – Novice trekker, Petaling Jaya

A good and timely question. From what I observe, many outdoor folks tend to overlook water purification. Since the rat urine disease (Leptospirosis) scare in 2010, there has been increased awareness in the cleanliness of river water.

I strongly recommend treating river water prior to drinking. You can treat it via many ways – by boiling or using mechanical or chemical filtration. Each method has its pros and cons: boiling water is time-consuming whilst a mechanical filtration system can be pricey but well worth the money spent.

Chemical filtration makes the water tastes different, requires a “holding time” and may cause side effects with prolonged use.

Water purifying tablets like Puri-Safe or Aquatabs purifies water to make it safe for drinking by destroying micro-organisms that may cause water-borne illnesses like typhoid.

A Puri-Safe tablet can treat one litre of water, but you need to wait 10 minutes for the chemicals to take effect. Because it’s formulated based on a chlorine-based compound, the water may have a slight taste of swimming pool water. To improve the taste, you could add some cordial or flavoured powdered drinks like Nestea Ice Lemon tea.

Iodine is also commonly used for treating water outdoors. The general rule: three drops of iodine per litre of water and a 10-minute wait. But iodine-treated water tastes slightly bitter and is harder to mask. Iodine-treated water is best suited for cleaning wounds and for emergency situations.

Another version of the iodine filter is the LifeStraw personal water filter (RM105). It uses iodine-impregnated beads so there is no spillage. Designed to be maintenance-free, the LifeStraw requires no batteries or electricity to operate. Just plunge one end into untreated water and suck on the mouthpiece on the other end. Also, you won’t get the iodine aftertaste due to an in-built silver filter. – Ahmad Nadir, Outdoor Dynamics  

(Note: If your budget permits, splurge on the “revolutionary” water purifier MSR MIOX Purifier (RM682). This nifty little gadget can treat up to four litres of drinking water in one go. It is ultralight (99g), compact and easy to use. No pumping or maintenance required, just add water, shake and press a button. The purifier uses only rock salt, water and lithium batteries to operate. And the treated water doesn’t leave an aftertaste.)

■ Water purifiers like Puri-Safe are available at most outdoor retailers. LifeStraw is sold by Outdoor Dynamics (www.outdoor dynamics.com.my) and MSR Miox is available at Corezone.

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