This is the first article of a series of articles written for preppers who may choose to use paddlecraft when SHTF.
If some sort of SHTF scenario occurs, people will most likely be evacuating to the point that roads will be clogged to the point of being impassable. One way out could be paddling your kayak! This article will help you think about if this is right for you, and what type of kayak would work best for your area, what you need to carry, and how far you plan to go.
Most people are going to try to carry as much as they can, in which case they should be checking out kayaks with the most capacity. Sea kayaks, tandem and solo fit the bill here. If one only has sit on top kayaks there is limited storage, and most of your gear will be topside, exposed to the elements and causing drag with any wind.
There are countless different makes and models of kayaks on the market, new and used, and lots of ways to put them into different classifications. To keep it simple this will separate by tandem and solo.
Tandem, meaning two-person boats are great if there are two people together and there is a wide disparity in paddling ability. Technique, speed, balance, experience etc all contribute to whether one paddler can keep up with another. Most tandem kayaks can be paddled solo, giving one more room for supplies as well. Below is a comparison of two typical expedition tandems.
The above picture shows two tandems, on the left is a Wilderness Systems Skookumchuk,a fiberglass, 21 feet long, 30 inches wide, approx 90 pound boat with 2 cockpits, 3 hatches, and an overstern rudder with is controlled by the paddler in the stern seat. This boat hasn’t been in production for years but there are similar kayaks on the market today, and boats similar to this can often be found used.
On the right is a Folbot Greenland II, a skin-on-frame folding boat that is 17 feet long, 34 inches wide, just over 60 pounds with an overstern rudder that is also controlled by the paddler in the stern seat. Unfortunately Folbot has gone out of business, but there are many of these on the used market, and several other manufacturers make these type of boats.
As for which one is best, that is subjective according to the needs of the individual. The fiberglass boat has more durability, by far. Being longer and more rigid, it is also faster. It will actually carry more cargo than the Folbot. But-the Folbot is at least 30 pounds lighter. It can be disassembled and hidden if the need arises. Also, if one has a storage issue, this kayak can live in a closet!
Things worth noting on the pic above. There is reflective tape on the bow and the stern, but in a SHTF situation you may be trying to remain less visible. It’s likely one would be traveling at night, and without that tape the kayak is almost invisible. There are compartments with hatches at the bow, stern, and midships. This creates a lot of storage! There are bungees mounted to the deck in front of both cockpits, handy for maps, snacks, water bottle, weapon, etc. Also, there are cockpit covers attached to the rim of the cockpits. These cut wind resistance and save you gas when it’s on the car, and they keep bugs, rain, and critters out of your boat when you aren’t it in (except bears, of course).
The two duffel bags on the ground hold everything you see, plus a couple life jackets and enough room for some other small items. The spray shields on the ground attach to the hoops you see and tighten around the stomach to keep water out. The hull is made of a very tough material called Hypalon. It’s very durable but you can puncture or tear it if you hit the wrong thing. Notice there are also deck bungees for attaching things you want available. Also worth noting is it takes about 30 minutes for a novice to disassemble or re-assemble the boat.
Solo sea kayaks are great choices for those with the skill to paddle them and who know how to pack. However, if one didn’t have a tandem and needed to get two people out, a second solo can be towed from the first without too much effort, at least in flat water.
The pic above is from the Stellar S18, an 18 foot sea kayak made by Stellar. The water bottle holder is standard on their kayak seats, and that’s a Beemon air rifle tucked in by the seat. If one is going to the effort to travel silently, they may as well be able to harvest small game silently as well from the boat.
Sea kayaks are made out of everything from cloth, wood, plastic fiberglass, kevlar and carbon. Most that one sees on local waterways will be plastic or fiberglass. True sea kayaks tend to be at least 16 feet long, have bulkheads separating the cockpit from the bow and stern, and usually have either a skeg or rudder to help with steering. It needs to be pointed out that every kayak is a trade-off of features.
Plastic sea kayaks can take a beating! Their durability is unmatched, but downside is that they are going to be heavier and slower than their composite counterparts. They need to be stored out of the sun, as UV radiation is the great destroyer. The biggest advantage to them is price. They are usually much less than a composite boat.
The composite boats are typically lighter as they are made of fiberglass, wood, or kevlar. What makes them significantly faster is the fact that hull shapes can be designed for them that are impossible to re-create with plastic boats. Also, the added hull stiffness makes them more efficient than plastic boats. And although brand new boats are more expensive, used composite kayaks can be found at great deals.
I am a kayak tour guide, instructor, racer, and Stellar dealer, so I have more experience and kayaks than most. That being said, in a SHTF scenario, I would probably bug out with one tandem and two solo sea kayaks, assuming all four of my family members were home.. In my situation, I have a family of four-my wife is supportive but doesn’t paddle, really. My two children are now young adults, grew up paddling, and work in the paddlesports industry. They’re competent and smart paddlers. IF I didn’t have a tandem, I’d rig a tow rig and drag another solo kayak behind my solo.
Whatever boat you are interested in, try it before you buy it! The fastest boat in the world will do you no good if you can’t keep it upright! Sea kayaks have wide variability in stability and you won’t know if it will be suitable until you actually paddle it. Also, most manufacturers give maximum weight limits on their kayaks, but take them with a grain of salt. They can be more or less, so you need to experiment with your boat to determine what your boat can stand.
Upcoming in the series-How to load a kayak, how to handle/figure out tides/currents/wind/waves, navigation on the water, and ?? Any requests?