All About Paddles: A Description of a My Madness


Canoe paddles come in many different forms and style, more than the casual observer would think.  If I were king of the world, I’d have a rotating paddle-rack, where you key in where you’re going to be paddling, how long, in what weather, etc. etc. and it would swing through like, 100 paddles and bring you the proper one for the job.  Being that when you’re out on the lake you can lift and pull a paddle over 14,000 times in a day, so you want to make the most out of every stroke.  Here’s a quick run-down of how, from a technological point of view. 

The Ottertail

This is my all-time favorite type of paddle, mostly because it fits the type of paddling I like to do the most.  With quite a bit of flex and a thin blade, it’s terrible in white water and would most likely splinter into pieces if you put too much weight on one, but on flat and calmer waters it can’t be beat.  The long, thin blade sits nicely in your hand and allows for a lazier stroke with maximum control and minimal j-stroke from the stern.  A well-made Beavertail will run you 100-150 bucks, but it’s well worth it if you spare the coin.

The Voyageur

I call these ones Pizza-servers because they’re fat and wide like the utensil that you use to get a pie outta the woodfired stove.  These mammoth blades push a LOT of water and are good if you’re up at the front of a canoe producing power.  If you’re going up-current or are willing to blow out your shoulders for a quick burst of speed, these are 100% necessary, and they’re also good for a stronger paddler.

The Bent-Shaft

Ok, these are the powerhouse paddles.  They’re shaped so that you get the absolute most out of your stroke, pulling the greatest amount of H2O as a conventional stroke will allow.  I’m going to be perfectly honest that I’m not a huge fan of these paddles, and it’s probably because I’ve barely used them (only a few strokes here and there).  They seem like a great idea, power in the front and bigger J-strokes in the back, but I just feel like they’re betraying the purity of the straight-shaft paddle.  That’s right, I’m saying they’re too “sciencey”.  God, this must be what it’s like to live in Kansas…

Carbon-Fiber Paddles

These, I like.  I like them a lot.  Whenever you incorporate Carbon-Fiber into any aspect of the paddle, it becomes better.  Lighter, stronger, and tougher than any wood out there, Carbon-Fiber can be used for lightening up the blade, the shaft, or the entire damn thing!  I’ve only seen one Beavertail-type paddle made entirely out of CF, but it blew my mind and now I would love to try one.  The only caveat I know about with CF is the price, as it is incredibly expensive.  Any decent CF paddle will run well over 200$, so the real question is how much you want to pay versus how much you want to work.

On top of all these, there’s still more blade types, grip types, boat-specific paddles, etc. etc. etc.!  If I had it my way, I’d have a whole bunch.


Thoughts on GORP!

I made my own GORP for the first time in ages yesterday, and now that it’s properly all mixed up I feel I should offer my advice on how to make a good one.

For those of you not ‘in the know’, GORP is Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts, and often incorporates a whole plethora of other additives. It’s a critical camp staple if you’re going out for an extended time as it is lightweight, doesn’t spoil easily, and it’s full of essential nutrition.

I made my latest little batch out of salted peanuts, assorted dried fruit, and raisins. The dried fruit is great, as it gives tremendous flavor and some good vitamins without weighing you down. The raisins were also good, and require little in the way of justification. I would, however, advise against using any salted nut. It’s very overpowering and wouldn’t be any good out on the trail. I’d also suggest some more exotic nuts if you can spare the dime. Ones like almonds and cashews are really good sources of calories and energy which are vital to any paddler. Finally, I’d add chocolate like M&Ms to the mix. Not only does it maintain it’s consistancy in summer heat, but it tastes great and really brightens up the day.

Long story short, GORP is an effective way to boost your energy through the day, whether in an office or out on the trail. It’s tasty, tailored to your needs, and cheap. All in all, I approve.

How I Can Get Clean Water, and How me and Kevin Callan are Best of Friends.

There’s a certain sense of community within the realms of the campign world, and fortunately for me I’m in the very heart of one of the best places for us all to get together and share our experiences.

This whole thing started with my debate over what kind of filter to get for camping.  Water is the most critical thing you can have on a trip, and anyone who’s had “Beaver Fever” knows that you should invest in a proper filter.  But which one to get?  There’s basically two types, pump and gravity fed.  The pump ones are nice and compact, forcing water through a ceramic filter and out through the bottom past some threads which screw right into a standard Nalgene.  Long story short, you can throw a little hose off the canoe, pump a handle for a while, and have it go straight into your water bottle ready to drink.  The other looks like a 10L bag which you can fill up, hang it from a tree, and wait as gravity forces the water through a filter, into a hose, and down into a waiting container.

Example of a Gravity Filter

Both have their benefits and disadvantages, but I just couldn’t make up my mind.  I mean, the pump you can use anywhere at any time regardless of your situation (in the middle of the lake, along a portage at a stream, on a barren rock island).  The drawback is that it takes about 1.5 minutes of pumping to get one litre done, which can pile up when you’ve got more than 2 people on your trip and only one pump.  With the gravity filter, you can filter 10L at a time, and some of the faster-flowing ones can basically give water on tap (which is great!).  Unfortunately, you will most likely have to haul a lot of water around and the filter’s are more prone to breaking than the pump’s hard case enclosed ones.

An Example of A Pump Filter. The water comes out the bottom of the cylinder.

So I went to the proper source, Mr. Kevin Callan.  This guy has at least 6 or 7 published books on canoeing in Ontaro, he’s been on TV, spoken at expos, etc. etc.  What’s even more impressive is that he’s genuinely fun to watch and read.  I sent him an email asking what he prefered, and unfortunately apparently he brings both.  But he said I should probably get the pump.  I’m going to have to trust him here, but I do have a very popular model on loan from one of my friends, so we’ll see how it goes.

Many thanks to Mr. Callan for getting back to me, I highly suggest everyone take a look at his youtube videos as well as his website

Broken Record: I like camping and it’s getting into season soon!

Be prepared, camping season is coming…

I’ma gettin’ excited!  The ice is out, and now we’re just waiting for the temperatures to get a bit warmer so that we can get out there and not be super-uncomfortable.  So I figured I’d share with you all what I’m doing to get ready:

1.)  General Fitness – Camping isn’t a particularly labor intensive activity, but it does help to be prepared.  I’ve been putting into my local creek and lakes to keep up my paddle form.  It’s not an entirely tiring thing to paddle for an entire day if you know how to properly paddle.  It’s all in the form etc. etc.  Paddle 6 hours a day for a week and it becomes like riding a bike.  You get into a rhythm and it gets to be really fun.  It’s also a good idea to be able to run on only a little bit of food, allowing you to go farther and carry a lighter food pack.


2.)  Getting the gear ready – I’m double-checking the gaskets, inspecting the zippers, and airing out the sleeping bags!  It’s incredibly necessary to do this at home and will make your life a lot easier.  There’s nothing worse than getting to a camp site and realizing that you’ve got a whole the size of Kansas in your tent, or that your stove is clogged.  So I’m firing things up and then taking them down in a way that only makes me more excited to use it all in the field.

There’s a lot of wilderness to discover!

3.)  Planning the routes – It has long-since happened, but with all normal people now would be the time to bust out the maps and figure out where the hell you’re going to go.  It’s a great time, where the maps are taken out and unfolded on the floor and you try to connect the dots.  You try your best not to go to the same spots again and again, but you’re drawn to the memories you have from the years gone by.  It’s a problem, but one that’s awesome and fun.  It stimulates the spirit of adventure and allows you to channel the spirit of the voyageurs hacking their way across the rugged Canadian landscape!  Whee!

My menu is much more extensive than this!

4.)  Selecting from the menus – I’ve got what I call “The Camp Cookbook” which is exactly what it is (for sale, only 99$ a copy).  It’s got enough on it to keep people eatting a different meal for about three or four days and it can be fun to plan it all out.  My favorite meal?  Throw some potatoes into the fire, wait an hour or so, then put a can of chili either on the stove or also on the fire.  Once both are heated up properly, you put them in a bowl with the chili over the potatoes.  It’s a very filling and nutritious meal, perfect for the hungry paddler!

I’m doing a lot more too, but it mostly comes down to jumping up and down on the spot and waiting for the weather to cooperate.