A kayak provides outdoors enthusiasts with one of the easiest and economical ways to see the world around them from the water. A paddler can get a top-quality kayak for under $1,000, although kayaks can cost several thousand dollars. Once you have your kayak and your paddle, though, you will find yourself tempted by all sorts of bells and whistles at your local outfitter. While many of these things (like life jackets) are best purchased, many it's possible to create your own do-it-yourself (DIY) kayak accessories.
Equip your kayak with a PFD (personal flotation device -- a fancy word for a life jacket), visual signaling device and whistle. While you should purchase a life jacket, you can make your own visual signaling device. Instead of a flashlight, consider using an old CD or DVD-- the sunlight reflected off the silver side will act as a signaling device. You can also use a small mirror, such as one from a ladies compact, or a magnifying glass. While you can buy a whistle at a kayak outfitter, you can also find an air horn at a boating store or get a whistle from the sporting goods department.
Use a large sponge instead of a bilge pump; it takes up less room and costs less. While a high-quality dry bag is a must for long trips to protect expensive electronics, save money by using zippered sandwich or freezer bags to hold money, charts, and other items. If you want to fish from your kayak, get a foot of PVC pipe (two inches in diameter) and drill a slightly larger hole in the top of your kayak. Slide the pipe through the hole and seal the hole with marine sealant. The pipe will hold your rod and allow you to fish hands-free.
Eating on the water
Instead of packing utensils, plates and other weight in your kayak, try these DIY tips to make your meal on the water easier, less expensive, and just as tasty. The next time you have a single-serving bag of chips or popcorn, save the foil bag. If you want to have a hot sandwich on the water, place it in the bag and snug the ends of the bag under the bungees on the bow of your boat for about 45 minutes. Your sandwich will be toasty and the cheese will be melted. If you need a plate and you have a frisbee, bring it along on your paddle. Frisbees float, so it makes it easier to find in the event of an unfortunate experience. The plastic, non-porous surface makes it easy to wash, too. A Swiss Army Knife (or other multi-tool) will work just fine for everything from spreading soft cheese to cutting steak. Bring a plastic fork from a local fast-food restaurant (just don't throw it out when you're done) and you don't need to worry about buying a set of utensils. If you catch fish and want to cook it, try this trick: clean it with your Swiss Army Knife, place it in one of your freezer bags with some lemon and other seasonings, and secure it to the back of your boat so it floats in the water as you paddle. The sun, coupled with the lemon, will cook the fish nicely. No need to bring charcoal, lighter fluid, or a grill, and the cleanup after is minimal.
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