A couple of weeks ago I found a FedEx package at my front door and opening it up I was excited to find a Motionize paddling tracker inside.

It you haven’t seen it before, Motionize is a system of two sensors (one attached to your paddle and the other on the deck of your kayak) that when used in combination with your smartphone can provide instant feedback to help dramatically improve your forward stroke.

Motionize tracker

The Motionize system measures a wide variety of specific items including, strokes per minute, stroke length, distance traveled per stroke, total number of strokes, all instantly displayed on your smartphone via the Motionize app.

Initial setup is pretty quick and easy. After attaching the paddle sensor you need to wirelessly connect both it and the kayak sensor (this is built into the housing) to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The Motionize app itself is easy to configure as it walks you through a series of questions to get an idea of the size of your kayak and length of paddle. It also takes into account if you paddle with a wing, euro or Greenland paddle which I thought was really interesting.

I will be honest with you, before using it, I was super skeptical as I wasn’t sure how accurate the data it collected was or even if it would useful. But it didn’t take to long for me to realize just how accurate the sensors were and after about 10 minutes I looked at the data and the first thing I saw was that I was pulling harder on one side and compensating by increasing my stroke length slightly longer on the other. It was subtle enough that I had no idea after all these years.

Motionize tracker and paddle sensor.

Now you might be asking yourself, "but that deck housing seems super big and clunky." It is. It’s big and heavy but in the time since I received this review copy the people at Motionize released the completely redesigned unit called the Edge which replaces the big housing with a small deck sensor and a universal smartphone holder that fits most waterproof cases and bags. Just looking at it, I think it’s a much improved system over the older version that I tested. If you are thinking of purchasing, you should consider that option.

If you are a kayak instructor I think this could also be an interesting tool. While the sensors are designed to stick with double sided tape, you could temporarily attach it to student’s kayaks with electrical tape which would provide them with instant feedback on their forward stroke performance.

What I liked:

  • Super easy to set-up
  • Paddling tips and analysis is clear and to the point
  • The sensors are hyper accurate for data analysis

What I didn't like:

  • Got to say that I was nervous of keeping my smartphone in a waterproof bag but still exposed on my deck to the elements or possible loss (it’s expensive!). The included tether helped keep that at bay.
  • The unit I had was big and clunky though it shouldn’t be a problem for the newly released smaller version.
  • Depending on the age of your smartphone, battery life could be an issue due to the fact that the screen is always on and Bluetooth activated.


The MSRP the smaller Motionize Edge is $249 and can be purchased on their website at motionizeme.com.


While there are several other kayak training/recorders out on the market, Motionize is one of the only ones able to develop a product that’s also very accessible for recreational paddlers. Most of the other ones I’ve seen are either super complex to operate or are specifically designed for one type of kayak (surf skies for example) making them limited to anything outside of the competitive world.

If you are looking to squeeze out a bit more performance you should check out the Motionize for sure.

Motionize tracker

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Motionize system from the manufacturer in consideration for review publication.

Published in Gear Reviews

I will be the first to admit that I have a thing for stoves the same way that some women have a thing for shoes so when I heard about a new stove on the market called the Solo Stove I contacted the company to see if they could send me a sample I could try.

There are several other wood burning camp stoves on the market but what makes this one unique is its double walled design which channels air in and around the flames. Solo Stove describes how it works:

Designed with a double wall, the Solo Stove™ (patent pending) is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove. The air intake holes on the bottom of the stove channels air to the bottom of the fire while at the same time, channels warm air up between the walls of the stove. This burst of preheated oxygen feeding back into the firebox through the smaller holes at the top of the stove causes a secondary combustion. This allows the fire to burn more complete which is why there is very little smoke during full burn. A more efficient burn also means you'll use much less wood compared to an open camp fire. The Solo Stove doesn't just burn wood. It actually cooks the smoke out of the wood and then burns the smoke not once, but twice!

The Solo Stove without the windscreen installed.

The Solo Stove is pretty rugged being made out of high-grade stainless steel. It’s also compact at 3.8 inches high and weighs in at only 9 ounces. The stove also has an integrated wind screen and pot stand which due to its clever design fits inside the stove when inverted enabling it to pack down.

How did it perform?

The quick answer is that it worked wonderfully and boiled water like it was going out of style.

Throughout the morning while out walking the dog, I collected a bunch of dry twigs and small sticks at our local park (all while avoiding the weird looks I was getting by fellow dog walkers). I also made an easy fire starter using cotton balls and Vaseline (quick tip: mix them up and store in a small zip-lock bag to keep your hands clean).

The Solo Stove

After lighting and getting the fire going, I put a litre of water in a pot on the stove and started the timer. 9 minutes later the water was boiling away.

Solo Stove also sells several accessories including a small pot as well as a windscreen to help speed up boil times. For those who are worried that they will not be able to find dry wood after a serious downpour, they sell a small burner insert that quickly converts it over to an alcohol stove. This will help bring peace of mind as well as allow you to use the stove even if there is a fire-ban in your area.

There are several advantages over using a wood stove over a typical white-gas stove:

  • The fuel is free and you don’t need to lug bottles or cans of camping gas throughout your trip.
  • There are no moving parts to break down or get clogged which is a pretty very common problem with white-gas stoves.
  • Except for the sweet sound of burning wood, the stove is completely silent. The roar of my beloved MSR DragonFly on camping trips drives me absolutely crazy.

Of course there are some disadvantages as well:

  • You will need to be proactive in keeping a little cache of sticks just in case you encounter wet wood. Or flip over to using the alcohol burner insert.
  • You likely won’t be allowed to use it if you are camping in an area with a fire ban as there is no on/off switch like a gas stove.
  • You will need to practice with the stove before your first trip (but that’s the same issue for every stove on the market).
  • As with any wood burning stove, your pot will blacken with soot.

Solo Stove and pot boiling water.

So what’s the verdict? I’m going to give it a couple more lights but I’m pretty confident that it’s going to become my primary stove when out on camping trips.

The Solo Stove retails for $69.99 and be found at solostove.com or several online shops including Amazon.

Published in Gear Reviews
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 16:09

Waterproof Cameras for 2013

I’m really excited to have a guest post today. Jason Shreder is the owner of Montana's Zoo Town Surfers and sent us in this waterproof camera round-up for 2013.

One of the best things about spending lots of time on the river is the people you meet, places you go, and all of the memories in between.  Many times, it’s hard to translate how you feel or what you see through the lens of a camera, but it's sure worth trying.  There are many different reasons to take photos on river trips, and I will leave that topic for you to decide.

Nowadays, there are many options for point and shoot cameras that are waterproof, dustproof, and shock resistant.  Trying to find the camera that’s best for you can be frustrating, even with the big ole’ World Wide Web.  Over the past ten years, I’ve tried almost every model that’s been out.  Below, I’m recommending my top 5.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 is the best waterproof camera on the market today.  Nice design, quick shutter speed, and a nice zoom make this camera a deal.  With an underwater depth of 40’, ruining this camera is going to be hard.  Although this camera doesn’t have as many megapixels as the others (12.1), the photos will still look good if you want to print some larger photos.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX20

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX20

The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX20 is a great all around camera as well.  It’s a couple ounces lighter than the Panasonic (for all you minimalists), and has a couple more megapixels as well (16.2).  The Sony only has an underwater depth of 16’, which is somewhat of disappointment.  The camera is a bit more expensive, starting around $250.

Olympus Stylus Tough TG320

Olympus Stylus Tough TG320

I have a long relationship with Olympus cameras.  When I first started boating, the Olympus Stylus Tough TG320 was one of the first waterproof cameras on the market.  Well, the other folks finally caught up.  This tuff camera has a better zoom than the others but doesn’t have the best shutter speed and battery life I need when taking action photos.  For a $100, you can’t go wrong.

Nikon CoolPix AW100

Nikon CoolPix AW100

Some folks buy Canon, some buy Nikon.  The Nikon CoolPix AW100 is similar to the Sony and is priced about the same as well.  I have never liked the buttons on the Nikons, especially when wearing neoprene gloves.  I like a camera that has a nice grip, and this one could certainly slip out of your hands.

Kodak Easyshare Sport

Kodak Easyshare Sport

The Kodak Easyshare Sport doesn't have the bells and whistles that the other cameras have, but if your looking for a cheap, simple, easy to use camera, this is it.  This small and compact camera is great for kids to use on the river.  Less than $100, you’ll be less upset if this camera disappears into the depths of the river. 

For the record, I'm a professional river guide, not a photographer, so hopefully this helps.  Floating down the river is one of the best ways to see the world, spend time with family/friends, and create memories of a lifetime.  Make sure you try and capture some of those moments, so you can look back, share, and relive those awesome memories.

Jason is owner/operator of Montana's Zoo Town Surfers, a Missoula-based outfitter specializing in kayaking trips and lessons, scenic and whitewater rafting, stand-up paddleboard trips and rentals, and American Canoe Association kayaking instructor training

Published in Gear Reviews

I recently received a couple Vapur collapsible waterbottles sent to me as a sample. I knew they were coming but I got a nice surprise when I opened the package and discovered that that the company also threw in a couple of their kids bottles after they found out that I had two girls.

Vapur wanted me to give the new designs a try and let them know that the family thought of them.

To be honest, I’ve always been hesitant about collapsible water bottles after having once a bad leak while using a cheap one but when I pulled these out of the package it felt a whole lot beefier than others I have tried before. Vapur describes material they use this way:

Vapur Anti-Bottles are BPA-free and are constructed of three layers of ultra-durable plastic. The innermost layer is made from FDA-approved polyethylene, which is then bonded to two layers of nylon for strength and durability.

Other than that, the "adult" design is a water bottle with a quick flip-up plastic lid that doesn’t leak when you give it a good hard squeeze. The flip-up lid easy to open and with a built-in hinge, you won’t lose the top on a hike. It’s pretty simple.

Vapur Waterbottle Close-up

It’s was the kids water bottles that got my kids (and me) all excited. The Quencher is a smaller sized bottle that holds just under a ½ litre (14oz) so it’s light enough for kids to carry and manage. I can go on and on about design features but really, the best part of it is that fact that it comes with four different great monster patterns. On top of that you also get a sheet of cool plastic stickers so your kid can add the appropriate monster eyes and/or rainbow clouds as my youngest daughter said it required.

My only disappointment was that our sticker set didn’t come with unicorns running on the rainbows. Make note of that Vapur.

Any ways, they are great little water bottles that we’ve been using pretty regularly over the past couple of months and so far the stickers are still going strong (and isn’t that the important part?)

Vapur bottles range between $10-12 depending on the model. They can be purchased online at vapur.us. I also just found out that they have a great kids design-your-own-bottle mini site here so I know you will want to take a couple minutes out of your very busy workday to play with it this afternoon.

Published in Gear Reviews

Kanulock Straps

Face it, nothing is quite as frustrating as getting your boat stolen from the top of your car while you are sleeping at a hotel on your way north to the trip put-in.

To keep your canoe, kayak or surfboard from walking away; invest in a set of Kanulock stainless steel reinforced straps.

For the past couple of months I have been eying them online but since I don’t own a car, I don’t get to experience the joy of tying down boats very often. I finally had the opportunity to play with them this past Spring while teaching a several kayak courses with my good friend Tony Palmer, owner of the paddling shop Undercurrents. Over the 10 days of teaching we hauled boats back and forth to the local lake every day.

The Kanulock straps are exactly what you think they are. They are constructed of tubular nylon webbing with two braided stainless steel cables running the length inside the webbing. The wire reinforcement is designed to keep an opportunistic thief away as the straps can’t be cut with knives or scissors while the synch-down cam has a built in lock to make the system even more secure.

The first time I tied down a boat I thought that straps would be really stiff but I was pleasantly surprised at how pliable they were. You can easily tie the straps in a knot or loop the ends around the racks to eat up the extra strapping.

The Kanulock straps come in three lengths 8 feet, 13 feet and 18 feet and pricing ranges from $79 to $99 so check out your local paddling shop or visit online at kanulock.net.

Published in Gear

Several weeks ago I had the great pleasure of getting a package in the mail from the watersports clothing manufacturer, SeasonFive. Inside the package I found a short sleeve Barrier Top which is made of a very cool material called Atmos 1.0.

SeasonFive markets the Barrier Top as a garment to be worn when it’s to warm for a wet suit but it’s still to cold to go without any type of insulation while on the water.

What sets the Barrier Top apart from other insulating tops on the market is their proprietary ultrathin material they call Atmos 1.0. The waterproof, windproof breathable material is designed to fit snugly and provide support for your muscles.

I tried this garment out in some very intense testing conditions which included a family vacation (playing with the kids in the ocean and sitting by the pool avoiding my kids) as well as several days out paddling or teaching in a kayak.

I will start-off by saying I was quite impressed. The Barrier Top was considerably warmer then I thought it would be based on the thinness of the material. That being said, it doesn’t provide a huge amount of insulation when you go swimming (compared to fuzzy rubber or a wet suit) as water flushes down the neck but it was more then enough for playing around in the water.

The fact that it cuts the wind was really nice as it took the chill off as soon as I was out of the water. Since the garment is waterproof and hardly absorbs any water so I also found that it dried quickly.

If you are looking for a new top for out paddling in semi-cool conditions check out the Barrier Top from SeasonFive. They are a newer company so their products are only available in a couple of paddling/surfing shops so check their website for your closest dealer. They do sell everything through their website which might be your best bet for purchase.

When I first put on the top I found it to be a touch tight for my liking but since using it for several days on the water, it’s stretched slightly and no longer notice it being anything more than snug. If you want larger, the website does mention to order the next size up.

The Barrier Top comes in both short sleeve and long and is available in black or charcoal. The MSRP for the short sleeve version is $79.99.

Published in Gear

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