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:


Mo Paddles 2012

The Frozen Offseason

November usually marks the end of my portaging season, when I begin to dedicate my time more to indoor pursuits and, sadly, less about being out in the wilderness. Yep, this is the start of “The Frozen Offseason”. For one thing, I have a lot of writing to do. This year was a great one, and I’ll be telling you guys all about it. I’ve also got a few projects and changes coming up of the winter. Oh, and there’s still some fun activities to preoccupy the restless Portageur while the rivers are solid. Speaking of which, November also marks the most fun time of the year: Mo Paddles!

Sacrificing this baby face for charity

Once again, a group of Paddling and Outdoor companies have got together to raise funds and awareness for Men’s Health by growing some sweet, sweet mustaches. This is the second year in a row, so officially we can add the title “Annual” to Mo Paddles. That’s exciting! We had a lot of fun last year, so of course we were going to try to do it again.

Last year we put things together quite quickly. It was a relatively impromptu thing, an idea put together in only a few weeks. With extra time to plan, we got a few more participants, some even better prizes and we even have a website dedicated to the event. This year, 3 mustache sprouters have decided to compete their growing abilities against each other, and we’re letting people in on the fun by making them choose a winner. The best part is that every time you vote, your name gets entered into one of 4 prize draws. For more information on the contest, checkout the website: portaguer/mopaddles. Along with the prizes, we’ve added a bunch of fun jokes and features to the site. Vote, you’ll see what I mean.

Wait, what’s Movember?

If you’ve never heard of Movember, it’s a month long campaign to raise funds and awareness for Men’s Health. It’s a world-wide initiative where men grow mustaches for the entire month to raise funds and awareness for men’s health – in particular prostate and testicular cancer. The idea is to remind men to get themselves checked out. It’s not a fun experience to check for Men’s Health Issues – downright embarrassing and uncomfortable, really – but going through this will find these potentially fatal conditions early, when they can be perfectly preventable and treatable. Movember is fun, a celebration of being a man, and what better way to be silly and manly than to grow a mustache. And of course because of all the fun, it makes it much easier to talk about pretty serious issues that often we men shy away from.

2008 – My very first Mo

Challenge #1

This is my fifth mustache I’ve grown. In 2008 it was pretty tough. Not many people knew about Movember, and let’s just say the idea of sporting a mustache wasn’t a popular fashion choice. As I went about my day, I would run into people, some that I knew, some that I didn’t. I felt this strong need to explain that the weird decision to grow hair on my upper lip was for a good cause. I saw the look on the faces of friends you bump into, grocery store clerks, business contacts, family members… I wanted to tattoo my forehead with “I’m doing this for charity!” It was a challenge, to say the least. Every now and then, I’d hear “Nice mustache.” Never knowing whether they were being sarcastic – no safely assuming they were being sarcastic. Either way, I’d get a chance to explain what I was doing. Most of the feedback was the same. They thought it was an interesting idea to raise awareness. It certainly got people’s attention, to say the least. And it got us talking about Men’s Health issues. At the end of the month I happily shaved knowing I did my part.

2009 – Cropped Mo

The second time

After a successful first run, and based on the amount of support and expectations of those around me, I was up for another challenge. The “rules” for Movember state that you must shave on November 1st, starting with a “clean shaven face”, and grow and groom your mustache. This makes growing a mustache an overt, intentional act. If I’m being perfectly honest, the first year I did what a lot of people do, hiding behind an outrageously big, over the top, bushy mustache. It started out as a “handle-bar”, but it turned out to be just a short strip of skin away from a goatee (or more precisely a “Van Dyke”, which is the technical term for a goatee with a mustache – an example of specific knowledge you gain participating in Movember, but anyway…) This time I was going to make sure to grow something that would never be mistaken for anything other than a true mustache. In that sense, Year 2 was more of a challenge.

2010 – I dubbed this one “The Cop”

Even Challengier

For Year 3, I decided that I’d have to take the next step. Here’s the thing: Growing a bushy or outrageous mustache is easy (or at least easier). It’s over-the-top, camp and quite clear that you’re joking around with your facial hair, like putting on a costume. What would be more brave, at least I thought, would be to grow an authentic mustache. With Movember becoming popular, I wanted something that people might think twice about whether or not I was growing it for charity, or it was my normal look. I’d shave it down to just my upper lip, and even trim the hair towards the end of the month if it got too bushy. Turns out I didn’t need to trim too often, just a few times on the last couple of days. But I was happy with the results. Not happy with the look of the mustche – oh no, it looked horribly creepy – but with the fact that I had been able to test my social resolve, walking around in public with this thing on my face: an intentional, groomed, I’ll even say “real”, mustache.

I should probably mention that I’m not big on rules necessarily, but they’re made to make Movember a bit more focused and challenging. Often people have consulted me on the rules, as I follow them relatively strictly, but I don’t hold other people to them. There’s no “Movember Police”, I tell them. I think it’s more important people participate than follow the rules. If you need to get a head start, or shave down mid-month, or grow something outrageous, you do what you have to do. You’re doing it, that’s what’s important. Way more important than some mustache rules. 

2011 – “The Zappa”

Grooming Challenge

After the success of the previous year, I was looking for a bigger challenge. Normally I receive a lot of input on the style I should grow. Some suggestions require an unrealistic amount of hair – most men can’t grow a Salvador Dali in only 30 days. Other suggestions are impractical. For example, I have, and never will, grow a “Hitler Mustache”. There’s always a few people would tell me to do that, giggling when they do. Yes, if I was looking for a challenge, sporting that would certainly be difficult, obviously. But because of the negative and even offensive nature of that look, I wouldn’t want it to detract from what I was doing. So I guess what I’m saying is please stop asking.

That said, I found the previous year a little challenging with all the grooming. I don’t like to shave every day, and have no styling or artistic talent. No, seriously. Year 4’s challenge would be to sport something that had to be maintained. I went with what I was calling a “Frank Zappa”. It would be bigger, and require much more precision with the razor, on a daily basis. According to the Movember rules, you’re allowed a “soul patch” – a slight bit of facial hair under the bottom lip, so long as it didn’t touch the chin – so I decided I’d indulge for this year, adding to the mustache complexity. It was a challenge. I know this because I loathed managing the mustache every morning. But it worked, and some even recognized what I was doing. I’d say it was a success.

2011 – “The Pencil”

This year

Naturally, I decided to take it up another notch for Year 5. What was the creepiest, hard-to-maintain mustache I could grow? The “Pencil” mustache. Unlike the others, I’d have to keep it trimmed down regularly, require much more precise shaving, and I’d look like a complete idiot. Now this is an overt mustache. I have no idea how I’ve been able to walk around like this. It’s funny, because while it’s much smaller than all the other mustaches I’ve grown, it seems to stand out the most.

Why I do it

I took to Movember the way I take to most things, like I took to portaging. First, I needed to try it, to see if I could do it. Then I would challenge myself a bit more each time, but instead of going further or faster or to more exotic locations, for Movember I would find different ways to accept new challenges. Despite my public exposure, I’m actually a bit shy and anxious when it comes to standing out. You should see my wardrobe: everything is grey and black, t-shirts, jeans and shorts. The idea of walking around with a mustache a few years ago caused a lot of anxiety just thinking about it. That’s why I did it. You should do something that scares you every now and then. That, and I thought it would be funny.

But what really kept me going the next years were all the people who have since approached me and the feedback they’ve given. I am lucky enough not to have been affected by Prostate or Testicular Cancer or any other Men’s Health issues. Like most people, I didn’t know how many people were because sadly it’s not something we like to talk about – especially us men. The conversations I’ve had with a mustache on my face have been, to say the least, moving. They tell me about their father’s struggle or their grandfather’s preventable death, their uncle’s or brother’s or husband’s ordeal. Every now and then it’s their own story I hear. I’ve got to tell you, when someone thanks you for doing this, it’s a bit over-whelming. To find out that so many people around you have a story about Men’s Health Issues is shocking. The fact that it took some kooky facial hair to get us talking is a bit sad. But then again, it got us talking, and that’s really the point of all this.

So help me raise awareness. Talk about it, mention it to your friends, checkout my silly photos on Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear more comments on my progress – encouraging or funny, either/or. Checkout Movember Canada. Consider growing your own Mo, or supporting someone who does, or voting for the best mustache, and if you can spare it, donate.

Most importantly, get yourself checked out. Early detection makes for successful prevention.

… Now what should I grow for next year?