Our Readers Write
A Garage for Your Dachshund, and More
Hints, Tips, and Good Advice
June 29, 2004
Summertime. It's the season for family
vacations, weekends at the cottage, and long expeditions to remote
northern rivers. A time to relax? Sure. But there's plenty of work to do,
too. Planning, buying food and gear, getting the whole show on the road
and back again.
Who doesn't need a little help from time to time? We
do, at any rate. And our readers are there for us. Our virtual mail-bag is
filled with hints, tips, and good advice. Here's just some of what we've
learned since the
last "Our Readers Write." We hope you'll find it as useful as we have.
Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the
The Joy of Surplus
I just read "The Rucksack
That Came in from the Cold War." I recently discovered your articles
on the Internet and have put the
archive in my Favourites file now I read one or two during my afternoon
break at the office. It's been wonderful so far, and with the volume of articles you
two have produced, it will be for a while longer.
In your article you mention that old Bundeswehr rucksack. For a while,
it looked as though German high-school students of a certain age and
outlook (generally anti-Establishment) were issued these wholesale. They'd
be modified with ink pens, usually with highly stylized rock band names,
etc.. It might interest you that the inside pocket against the back was
actually meant to contain one half of a tent. Each soldier would carry one
sheet of heavy, partially waterproofed canvas with (hold on to something!)
buttons along the edges to lash together in order to form a rain
fly, which would go over some aluminum tubing carried in a separate
bag in the main compartment of the pack to make an A-frame tent.
These tents, due to the space provided (or lack thereof), were generally
referred to as "dachshund garages." Good to have a buddy whose smell you
could tolerate. (Our medical personnel said "hygiene is what you expect of
I just realize I must sound like some old coot reminiscing about a
glorious past I only spent two years with the army before going on
to university and saw that newfangled equipment arrive (though not fast
enough that I was issued any). And I have to say that the Gore-Tex®
pants in drab olive I picked up in a local army
surplus store for the equivalent of 20 bucks are probably the best
value-for-money deal I've ever been offered in the outdoorsy area (except
for Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking, but that's something else).
Anyway, you've brought much enjoyment to my breaks and food for thought to
my brain. I thank you. Please keep it up.
The Finer Points of Sharpening
Thanks for an interesting article ("Looking
Sharp"). As a wood carver, I appreciate good steel and a sharp blade.
Here are a couple of additional things I've found to work:
- Ceramic seems to work a lot better than natural stone for sharpening
- A strop will put a shaving edge on a blade once the stone work is
done. A strop can be made with a 12-inch (+/-) length of leather around
one inch wide, dressed with either red (high-carbon steel) or white
(stainless steel) metal polishing compound, available at most hardware
I don't care for serrated blades much, since, as you pointed out, they
are a pain to sharpen. However, when it comes to cutting rope, they are
superior to a smooth blade due to the sawing action. My wife and I carry
partly-serrated-blade folding knives with thumb studs clipped to our life
jackets. These are used only for emergency purposes, not camp chores, so
they will be sharp if they are needed.
Thanks again for your article.
Use Your Noodle
A couple of words apropos "The Boat Who
Couldn't Sink": Pool noodles. Ahh, dem pool noodles! Being one
of those "cash-strapped" folks with a kayak without waterproof bulkheads I
found myself with a ton of water aboard two years ago. Thankfully, we were
on a river that wasn't very wide and that had gravel bars the kayak could
be dragged out onto. (Dragged was the key word.) That week I bought a
spray skirt and discovered one-dollar foam pool noodles. Fold 'em, cut
'em, and stuff 'em into each end. I'm sure some kind of netting retention
system could be rigged up for canoes. The really nice part about these?
They're inexpensive and UNdesirable. No one is going to be robbing
your pool noodles (versus what occurs with float bags).
The Air is Free, Too!
I always enjoy your articles at Paddling.net, and "Full
Circle" was no exception. Being a pack rat, I commonly make my wife's
and my friends' eyes roll with my "resourcefulness."
My own personal variation on your "free" float bag is a wine-making kit
grape-juice concentrate bag with a slightly undergauge hole drilled in the
removable plastic cap to accommodate a tubeless tire valve. I made several
of these last year, taking care always to minimize (and preferably
eliminate) damage to the cap on removal. My set lasted all season with
amazingly little air loss, even without using any sealant on the
reinstalled cap. Pillowcase covers sized to take any abrasion and stress
on plastic-bag seams work well too.
The tire valve may be overkill but engineers are like that. Seems to
work fine in Class 2-3 type lake-wave action in my old Carolina boat.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
A Slick Trick with Cast Iron
I love to camp and kayak, and I enjoyed "Cast-Iron
Joy." Have been enjoying cooking with cast iron for years. Thought I
might pass this on. Not sure if you have heard of it or not, but a bar of
soap only a little scrubbed on the outside of the skillet or
dutch oven just prior to cooking will make the soot cleanup much
easier. It simply rinses off with water.
Enjoy all your info. Keep it coming. May the Wind always be at your
Clayton, North Carolina
The Ties That Bind
Thanks. I keep enjoying and learning from your Paddling.net articles.
Regarding foam blocks
as economical tie-downs for a kayak, I learned an easy trick that
makes them many times more secure on the car top. First strap the foam
block to the boat. Then strap the whole boat-and-block package to the car
This keeps the blocks from "crawling" out from between car top and boat
while driving. Straps which hold both boat and blocks in place on the car allow the
blocks to come loose. Road vibrations especially bumps from crossing
railroad tracks or gravel roads work the blocks loose, and so the boat
comes loose as well. I found myself constantly stopping to re-cinch a
loose boat until I switched to this method.
I use a standard kayak foam-block carrier with channel cut-outs in the bottom of
each block to fit a rack crossbar. Set the blocks channel-side down on the car
top. Then place the boat in the V-shaped cradle on the top of the blocks. Now run
straps through the channel cut-outs and around the boat. I use plastic side-lock
buckles on the straps as they do not hold anything but the foam blocks to
Next, with longer, stronger straps, strap the boat-and-block unit to
the car top. As you indicated, I use this tie-down method for short trips
to a local river, though one time I hauled my kayak about 120 miles this
And while I'm on the subject of keeping things tied down, a note about
the plastic cable ties that you mention in your recent "Practical
Paddler" piece: An unlockable version is now available! They
are a boon to kayakers and canoe folk.
You can cinch them tight and then release them again with a small
ratchet release button so they can be re-used or at least freed without
difficult cutting. (As you said, plastic cables are
really hard to sever even with a shaving-sharp knife.) They are not
"quick-release," however, unless you have better eyes and dexterity than I
have, especially in dim light.
I bought mine at a Revy hardware store in Canada last summer. The
package says: "MARR, multipurpose ties. Releasable. 50 lb. tensile
strength. Thomas & Betts, made in USA."
I keep a package of these unlockable cable ties in my possibles bag on
board, plus I use them to secure accessories that I want to hold in place
on the water but remove later before loading my boat on the car top. That
sometimes includes a fishing-gear tray that has rod holders, tackle and
paddle holders, small cooler, etc.. I secure the whole tray to the
bow-deck bungee eyes at launch and remove it when I finish paddling
and am ready to cartop the kayak again.
A Goathead-Proof Tire
I loved your article on biking and boats ("The
Amphibious Paddler"). The one thing you might like to try is the
urethane-foam-filled "airless" tires I have been using for the last 10
years. They are by Amerityre and I love them. They are not high-speed
tires: at about 20 mph they are at their limit. But it certainly lightens
my load and mind having them. No pumps, patches, tire levers, etc.. Here
in the state of Washington we have "goathead" thorns in superabundance.
They leave a hole that Slime (tire hole-fix) just oozes out of for two
minutes before stopping the leak, and even then the leak really only slows
down. I get a lot of rest riding with other folks who insist that tire
liners and thick tubes are puncture-proof, when they have to stop to fix
their flats on a short ride.
Keep up the articles. I love them.
Glad you enjoy our articles, Barney. Good tip, too. We don't have
goatheads in the East, but we sure have a lot of broken beer bottles,
particularly on the roads and trails used by ATV riders. Airless tires
could be the way to go. They might be just the ticket for portage carts,
too. Speed certainly isn't a problem there, and stopping to fix a flat in
the middle of a carry makes it far too easy for the blackflies to dine out
at my expense!
Check This One Out
I loved reading your article
about the prefloat and postfloat checklists. I'm a big fan of the
checklist myself, using them for everything from going out for a long bike
ride to teaching my freshman composition classes. So reading your article
was, for me, mainly an exercise in having some of my dearest convictions
One thing I could add, though, is that checklists that are used often,
like the prefloat and postfloat, can be laminated, so they'll hold up to
years of hard use. You could even laminate the checklist, then punch a
hole in it and add a line so you could hang it on a peg or other handy
protuberance near where you keep your paddling gear. That way, you
remember not to forget the checklist!
Enjoy all your articles keep 'em coming.
Judy Hale Young
Department of English and Foreign Languages
University of West Florida
That's it for now. Our heartfelt thanks to all the folks who took the
time to write to us. Please keep telling us what's on your mind. After
all, it's Our Readers Write!
Editors' note: Letters appear only with their writers' permission.
All letters may be edited for publication.
Copyright © 2004 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights