2013 Outdoor Adventure Show


James Roberts, from LearnToKayak.ca, demonstrates how to roll a canoe without spilling your coffee

James Roberts, from LearnToKayak.ca, demonstrates how to roll a canoe without spilling your coffee

For more photos of the event, see my Facebook albumsDay 1 | Day 2See bottom for some fun kayak rolling videos.

Another Outdoor Adventure Show is in the books. It’s one of my favourite events. It gives me a chance to meet up with other outdoor enthusiasts, see some neat new gear, watch some demos and of course see some presentations.

Kevin Callan was presenting on a few topics, and as always, he was entertaining.

Kevin Callan was presenting on a few topics, and as always, he was entertaining.

My first task when the event’s schedule comes out is to find when and where Kevin Callan (The Happy Camper) is presenting. His talks all always insightful and entertaining – not to mention funny – and as usual he didn’t disappoint. On Saturday morning it was “Tales of a Wilderness Wanderer”, showing us pictures of some of the adventures he’s been on. In the afternoon it was “How to be a Better Camp Cook”, talking about food and recipes around the campfire. In both, he combined tips with stories, and a lot of fun. I’m not sure how long this will continue, but apparently his new thing is to toss hats into the audience. If you get a chance to see him, I’d recommend getting there a little early and getting a seat close to the front, as the hats don’t seem to fly too far.

Performing Yoga on an SUP. I can barely do this on land.

Performing Yoga on an SUP. I can barely do this on land.

Of course the feature of these talks was to promote Kevin’s two new books. First was Dazed but Not Confused: Tales of a Wilderness Wanderer, a great new book that I loved reading and will review soon. Second was The New Trailside Cookbook, a recipe and tips book for making tasty and fun meals on a camping trip. Apparently Kevin had only one copy of this book, the first copy, which he decided to give it to an audience member who answered an intelligence test. He started by asking the crowd “Who has been on a canoe camping trip that didn’t require a portage?” When someone answered “Yes”, he gave the book to them, telling them “Smart.” Interestingly, this person was friend of mine, and Kevin later signed the copy of the book. I’m not jealous at all. I’d rather buy my own copy anyway. A new copy, without all that writing in the front cover. Not jealous at all.

Bill from Swift Canoe & Kayaks showing off how light their canoes are.

Bill from Swift Canoe & Kayaks showing off how light their canoes are.

Some of the best moments at the show are around the demo pool. First we watched Swift Canoe and Kayaks demonstrating their light weight canoes, offering tips on choosing your preferred self-propelled boat and a few paddling techniques. I like to keep up to date on all the latest models myself, so when I win the lottery I don’t have to waste any time figuring out how to fill the very large canoe rack I will have. (For me, a trip to the show is not complete until I stop by and visit the Swift guys and Mike from Badger Paddles. I’d drop by again on Sunday, but more on that below.)

Jeffrey McMurtrie of Jeff's Map hangs out with Chris Scerri of the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co.

Jeffrey McMurtrie of Jeff’s Map hangs out with Chris Scerri of the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co.

On Saturday we also got a chance to see some Paddle Canada kayak demos, which are always fun. I’m not a kayaker and I don’t normally feel the tug to get in there and join them, but I have to say, there isn’t much more impressive than seeing some kayak rolls. They might – might – have inspired me to consider learning to roll a kayak … maybe. Speaking of impressive, we also caught a SUP demo, but this time with a twist. The Complete Paddler teamed up with Osha Paddle Boarding and Yoga to show us how to do yoga while on a paddle board. I’ve done yoga. It’s hard. I can’t even imagine how difficult that would be while floating on a paddle board. But I bet it’s fun! I should try this, as of course they offer lessons – when it’s warm and no one’s looking, because I’m going to fall in. (They seem pretty reasonably priced too.)

Coming up from a roll at the Paddle Canada kayak demo.

Coming up from a roll at the Paddle Canada kayak demo.

Of course the highlight of all the demos is the show that LearnToKayak.ca puts on. If you haven’t seen these guys, look for it next year. They show all kinds of kayak skills, demonstrating what you’d learn on the different leveled Paddle Canada kayak courses, starting with the basic rescues to more and more complex rolls. Then they really start to show off. James Roberts, in particular, is quite talented. In the half hour demo, he must have rolled a hundred times. He rolled with and without a paddle, with someone clinging to the back of his kayak, with two people on his kayak, 11 times in a row, and the coup-de-grace, pictured at the top of this post, was rolling while keeping his coffee cup out of the water and not spilling a drop (talk about rolling up the rim). See the two videos at the bottom of this post to view the hitch-hiker and multiple rolls on video.

The LearnToKayak.ca crew were great once again when they got into the pool for a kayak skills demo.

The LearnToKayak.ca crew were great once again when they got into the pool for a kayak skills demo.

And now for the real unique thrill of the weekend: Meeting the legendary Hap Wilson. I’ve read his books – I mean, he literally wrote the book on Temagami canoe routes – and so was eager to take the opportunity to meet him. He’s an artist, author, photographer, guide, and trailbuilder and probably the person most recognized with the Temagami area. He was going to be visiting the Swift booth, but only on Sunday from 12:00 to 3:00. I got there early because I didn’t know what kind of line up there would be. I was absolutely shocked to find the booth relatively empty. (And a little embarrassed for having rushed into the show like a mad man. I apologize to anyone I knocked over. Pretty sure it was a garbage can, but it might have been an old lady for all I know. )

Hap Wilson and I chat about the outdoors, his trail building business and his guide books.

Hap Wilson and I chat about the outdoors, his trail building business and his guide books.

The guys at Swift later told me that it was kind of a last minute thing, so the word hadn’t really gotten out. Still, I question why fellow canoeists weren’t stopped in their tracks as they walked by. Nevertheless, even with the lack of a huge line, it took me a while to drum up the courage to go up and talk to him. But I’m sure glad I did. He was very nice and super interesting. We chatted about tripping, his eco-friendly trail building business,  and what he’s been up to lately. I probably took advantage a bit, because of the lack of people that were there at the time, just asking more questions so he’d keep talking. I even got a chance to pose for some photos with him.

Hap Wilson shows me some of his books.

Hap Wilson shows me some of his books.

Another reason to attend the event was to view the new gear the outdoor industry has to offer this season. A couple of things stood out to me. First were these bungee cords that attach to stand-up paddleboards by suction cups, allowing you to secure a good bit of gear with you for longer SUP excursions. I’ve been thinking I’d like to try tripping using a paddleboard, for the experience and the inevitable stories. I wonder how many of those would involve me falling off the board. The suction-cup-bungees would at least be an easy way to keep my stuff from floating away when I do take an involuntary swim.

Neat idea: suction cup bungies to hold your gear on extended SUP trips. (I have to try this one day.)

Neat idea: suction cup bungies to hold your gear on extended SUP trips. (I have to try this one day.)

I also saw something that I really think is going to make people’s lives a little easier (or at least mine): multi-coloured and patterned yoke pads by Hooligan Gear. Last year when on a trip up through Canoe Lake on a long weekend, it was busy. The first portage was packed full of canoes, with others cramming in as soon as there was room (or debatably even when there wasn’t). The canoes were all rented from the same place (The Portage Store) and so looked identical. A few, like mine, had the rather popular blue yoke pad. In fact, until Sunday, I’ve never seen them in any other colour than blue. Once I got my gear out of the canoe, I went over to grab my canoe but with all the traffic there were a bunch of identical empty canoes on the beach. With all the rushing to get out of people’s way, bumping into those who wouldn’t get out of your way, and all the canoes coming in, I honestly could not figure out which canoe was mine. “No problem,” I thought to myself, “Yours has the yoke pad.” Yeah… they all had blue yoke pads. So now I have to figure out which new colour will be the least popular.

How many times have you met at a popular portage where all the canoes look the same?

How many times have you met at a popular portage where all the canoes look the same?

Needless to say I had a great time, met some great people, and saw some really neat stuff. Speaking of neat stuff, as promised, here are those kayak roll videos of James Roberts of LearnToKayak.ca:


Making the most of the Ontario Outdoor Adventure Show

My favourite photo from last year’s Outdoor Adventure Show. Alan from LearnToKayak.ca demonstrating the benefits of carrying a spare paddle.

This upcoming weekend one of my favourite outdoor events is taking place: The Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show. (Read last year’s report here.) This year looks like it’s going to be an even better event than years past. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to miss the best stuff, and so you might want to go in with a game-plan. Since I’ve done the research already, I might as well share with you what I’ve learned to expect at this year’s event. See below for coupons to save a bit of money and ways you can keep up with the event remotely.

What to look for:

  • Legendary Hap Wilson will be visiting the  Swift Canoe and Kayak booth on Sunday from 12-3 pm signing books, talking about tripping and the Path of the Paddle project as well. This is definitely something you don’t want to miss.
  • Kevin Callan – As usual, the Happy Camper will be presenting twice in the Ontario Outdoor Adventures Theatre: “Tales of a Wilderness Wanderer” (Sat 12:30, Sun 12:00) and “How to be a Better Camp Cook” (Sat 3:30).
  • Kevin will also be hanging out at the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co. and Ontario Tourism booths as well. (Andy from Treks in the Wild will be helping out at the Ontario Tourism booth, so if you want expert advice when Kevin’s not around, ask for him.)
  • Speaking of Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co., they’re also hosting Sticks and Stones Wilderness School as well as Jeffrey McMurtrie (Saturday), creator of Jeff’s Map (formerly Algonquin Online Map).
  • Demos at the pool including favourites Swift Canoe and Kayak, LearnToKayak.ca, The Muskoka Paddle Shack and the Complete Paddler.
  • Henry’s School of Imaging booth is offering free 30 minute photography seminars throughout the weekend.
  • Mud Hero mini obstacle course (sans the mud, probably a good choice). If this is for big people too, I may have to try it. Someone needs to get my picture (unless I fall, of course).
  • Sat 1:30 – Les Stroud, aka Survivorman in the G Adventures Theatre
  • Sun 2:00 – Olympic silver medalist and adventurer Adam van Koeverden in the G Adventures Theatre. See Adam kayaking around with Rick Mercer here.

Some resources:

Can’t be there? You can keep up to date from tweets and Facebook updates from a few of the people and companies I know will be active (or at least have something to say):

Oh, and me too! FacebookTwitter. Hope to see you there.

Guelph Lake Spring Sale and Demo with Swift

This weekend I got a chance to help out at the Swift Canoe and Kayak‘s spring demo/sale at Guelph Lake. It was a chance to hang out two full days with people who know just about everything there is to know about canoes and kayaks, and hopefully learn a little from them.  Specifically though, the event was going to be a chance me to help make a big decision, one that I’ve been agonizing over for quite a while now.

Kayaks on display at the Swift Canoe and Kayak Sale/Demo

The spring demo is an annual tradition for Swift – they’ve been coming to Guelph for 20 years now, bringing all kinds of paddlers from far and wide to check out the boat they’ve been thinking about buying, and get out on the water to do a little test drive. As a bonus, this event is a great way to save a little money by either taking advantage of event discount, or you could also get a deal on a demo or used boat. And apparently the event doesn’t just match canoes with their owners, either. It was working at this event that Mike and Fiona of Badger Paddles fell in love years earlier. (So obviously there was a chance I might come home with more than just a new canoe.) I should mention that I do not in any way work for Swift. I just really like their canoes. Which is why I jumped at the chance to volunteer at this event.

Plenty of canoes too

My job was to help people get in and out of the canoes and kayaks. I was told that I would enjoy myself, but warned I’d be tired at the end of the day – and to bring extra clothes in case I had to go into the lake after a spill. It seemed like a perfect job for me. I’d get people set up with paddles and PFDs, help them into the boat and give them a little push to get them on their way. The sales guys would bring people down, we’d make bad jokes – often the same ones over and over again – and get them on their way. We’d chat about canoes, paddling, trips people were going to take, and what model would best suit their needs. The best part about this experience was to be able to try out each model, as the only way to really know how the boats feel is to get out on the water with them. It was very interesting to hear about so many people’s preferences in what made for the best canoe. Tracking, maneuverability,  stability, load capacity were all qualities that varied in importance depending on the individual, but the “feel” of the boat was really the most important to people. For that you can only really know when you get a chance to try out your boat. And boy did they have a bunch of boats to try out. Canoes and Kayaks were laid out practically as far as you see, in a great mix of colours, in all shapes and sizes. You’d be hard pressed not to find a boat that was right for you.

Getting an SUP lesson from BluWave Paddlesports

In fact, if canoes or kayaks weren’t your thing, there were even representatives from BluWave Paddlesports giving demos on their SUPs. I didn’t try this myself, but plenty did, and they all looked like they had a blast. Also there were the guys from Hobie. They sell a line of kayaks, sailing and fishing boats that you can paddle or sail, but also by use of the foot pedals that turn blades similar to how penguins swim, making for a pretty efficient movement (more info here).

This is called the Hobie Mirage Tandem Island - you can sail it, kayak it or pedal it. It's fast.

Of course the other part of my job was to carry the boats around. It would have been interesting to have counted how many boats I carried. For me, this was a great opportunity to test portage all the different types of canoes. Thankfully, they make canoes pretty light today. The boats weighed between 30 and 60 pounds, but most were nice and light. I’m not sure how quickly I’d volunteer to do this for a company that makes heavier canoes, because as I was warned, doing this all day did wind up wearing me down a little. I also confirmed that I’d hate to portage a kayak, especially a heavy one. They’re awkward to carry compared to a canoe. This I knew, but the point was really driven home after carrying a number of them. Some were so light I could just haul them around at the hip, but even then I’m not sure how often I’d want to do that over the tougher/longer carries. Sure, you’d be able to paddle faster, but I guess that just means getting to the portage quicker, which doesn’t sound as appealing. But that’s just my opinion. I’m not kayaker. Which brings me to another point.

Mike from Badger Paddles, showing us how it's done

What I also confirmed this weekend was that I know very, very little about kayaks. It seemed Friday was the day of the double blade, with most people arriving wanting to test out a new kayak model. I felt bad, because I really couldn’t help these folks out as much. Kayakers would ask me questions and I’d find my best smile and tell them I’d find them an expert. What this meant, was that it was my best opportunity to learn. When I could, I would listen to the kayak talk (kay-yak?) and try and pick up what I could. In fact at one point, one of the sales guys – Jim – gave me an impromptu kayak paddle lesson. By the end of the second day, I can honestly say that now I know a little about kayaks. I even considered getting into one and try out what I learned. Alas, I was too busy. After hauling canoes all day I was ready to go home after putting in a good day’s work.

Best way to choose a boat is to try out as many as you can

I’m not going to say I had a hard day – I mean, how hard can it be to be out in the sun talking about paddling? I will say that I slept very well, and was a little stiff when I woke up. If you ever get a similar opportunity, make sure to use proper carrying technique. I can’t imagine how sore I’d be otherwise after the chill of the evening locks up your muscles. And speaking of being outside, I think I missed a few spots with the sunscreen, because I had a few hot spots that absolutely radiated. What was supposed to be a nice warm limbering shower felt instead like sand blasting to the back of the neck. It’s good to get the first burn over with, I think, and as I limped down the stairs like I had aged a few decades over night, I thought the best part of this experience is what good preparation this is for this year’s tripping season. (I’m either an optimist or a masochist, I can’t remember which I decided.) Contrary to how it must have appeared, I eagerly drove back for the second day.

My station was equipped with the rugged Demoine. In the case of a spill (it happens) a portageur was ready to come get you.

Just as Friday seemed to be all kayaking, Saturday was canoe day. I felt a little more helpful right away, and I even met a few people I knew. In fact, there were quite a few people who were trying to find the best tripping canoe, and a lot were doing so with their dogs. Yes, you could say I finally felt I could really be of some help. I got a chance to talk to people about their trip plans, how to pack and trim the boat for the canine needs, or just simply exchanging portaging stories. This is why these events are so great for deciding on a canoe. You get to talk to other paddlers, think about what you’re going to do with your new canoe, and try out a bunch to compare how they’ll fit with your plans.

Buying a demo, used or new, there were deals to be had

That was after all, what I was doing there. I decided last year that it was time for me to buy a new canoe. Like most people, it was a big decision for me, and I wanted to know I made the right one. I was back and forth on everything from the model to the colour to the material. After talking to Mike from Badger Paddles about it, he suggested I volunteer at this event so I can demo some boats, talk to the sales guys and get a feel for what I wanted. Needless to say, I got what I wanted out of this event. The last thing I did at the end of the day was to order my new boat.

Swift's Jon trying out a BluWave Easy Rider

So thanks again to Swift for letting me do this. I had a lot of fun with a great crew and learned quite a lot. Because of this experience, I can be absolutely sure my new canoe will be exactly what I want. What did I buy? Well that will have to wait for another post. Feel free to guess in the comments (choices can be found here).

The end of a great day with Swift Canoe and Kayak

Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show 2012

Catching the show at the pool

I just got back from a pretty great weekend attending the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show. It was two full days of talking canoes,  camping and other paddling pursuits. I go mainly to see the presentations and demos in the pool, and to generally see what’s new in the camping world. Most years I go for a day, rush around and try to see everything, get caught up in some interesting conversations, then miss half the show. This year I just decided to take my time and just come back for a second day, and it really worked out.

A canoe so light even a child can lift it

Here’s the thing

So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way. The Outdoor Adventure show isn’t perfect. I’m not a real big fan of crowds, or randomly touching strangers. When the two are put together, you need more space. The Cottage Life and DIY weekend uses the same venue, and gives you much more space to walk down the isles, so I know this problem is fixable. Please, someone, charge us an extra quarter and open another room. (Having been before, I did get quite good at identifying the less popular isles for quick moving when necessary.) My second complaint is that the show seems to feature a lot of booths that have very little to do with the outdoors, but to be fair, it was much, much better than previous years (I was not harassed to subscribe to a newspaper or sign up for a retirement fund for the promise of a toaster) . I’d also like to see more unique items and specialty shops. Places that sell stuff you can’t just grab at your local big box store. In fact, I think what I’d really like to see is more – more shops, more exhibitors, more neat new stuff.

Route planning with Algonquin Outfitters

If that’s your only complaint

Now on to the good stuff. What I like best about these shows is talking to all the outdoor people. They’re the best people around. It’s really a great opportunity for you to get up and talk to the outdoor companies and talk to them about their products and services. The tourism booths are especially good because you can talk about the best places to go, what you can do there, and where you can get more information. I don’t know how many times I’ve started up a conversation with them and completely lost track of time trying to find out the best places to canoe and camp in the area they represent. If they don’t know, they usually know someone who does, and points me towards them. Outfitters being there, you can chat with them about planning your upcoming trips, getting real from-the-horse’s-mouth advice. Then there’s the paddling and/or canoe companies you get a chance to visit. Often located in relatively far off places, outdoor shows like these give you a chance to see their stuff up close and talk to the staff about it – and often there are some really great “show” deals going on. For example, I had a lot of questions for Swift Canoe and Kayaks, especially regarding the new Flax Fusion boats they’ve introduced this year. (I was actually planning on buying a solo canoe, and figured this show would be a good time to do it. Then they came out with a new model and laminate, but more on that in a another post.)

Mike's showing how to paddle without, well... a paddle

And now presenting

My favourite part of these shows are the presentation and demos, and this year’s didn’t disappoint. I saw a great presentation on bear safety from a very good story teller from Ontario Parks, learned about new camping programs and War of 1812 commemorations at Parks Canada, and took virtual trips down the Norwest Territories Trans Canada Trail and along Lake Superior, to name a few. There’s also a bunch of less formal presentations going on on building fires, camping tips, and cultural dances and music (even saw the Parks Canada Beaver gettin’ down at one point).

Kevin Callan showing us canoe routes of Northwestern Ontario

And then there’s Kevin Callan (aka the Happy Camper). It seems he works overtime at these things. He gave some presentations on camping at the Ontario Parks booth (where he hung out and talked to campers when not busy). In the theater, I caught both his presentation on Paddle Routes of Northwestern Ontario and the Quest for Wilderness film. The former was filled with good route advice and some funny stories. The latter was the “World Premiere” of his new DVD . This was truly entertaining. I’ll write more about this after I get my copy, but it is at times both very funny, but also introspective about what it is that we enjoy about travelling deep into the woods. (It is tough to put into words sometimes.)

Talking with the guys at Swift Canoe and Kayak about "Flax Fusion"

Friends in Outdoor places

For me personally, these shows are a great excuse to catch up with friends in the industry. Some are old friends, others new, and some I may have known a while, but I still hadn’t met face-to-face. I got a chance to talk to Mike Ormsby from Reflections on the Outdoors, Naturally, the boys at Swift Canoe and Kayak – including Mike from Badger Paddles, Jim from H20 Performance Paddles – my Movember partner in crime, along with my paddle making instructor Bruce Smith of W. Bruce Smith Paddles. Then there was the crew over at LearnToKayak.ca. They invited me out after the show and we had a great time. They were very welcoming even knowing I paddle the single blade (there was some talk about making me sit in the corner, but being such nice folk they let me stay put). Dympna, James, Heather, and of course Alan, you guys are awesome.

Alan being awesome: He rolled upside down, slowly raised his paddle on top of the kayak, then rolled back up with his spare.

You can checkout more photos here (Day 1) and here (day 2).

Some other great OAS2012 posts: