As RonO and I discussed Canoecopia over some fine wine on Saturday we both said that we were going down to Madison to see what was new and see old friends. We weren't going to buy anything; and then we laughed. Yeah, right! I am sure there are people who have the willpower to stroll out of there with there hands in their pockets but I'm not one of them. It seems like there is always something whether a cool new pair of gloves, a new chart you have to have, or maybe even a new paddle jacket. One of the greatest Canoecopia's I ever attended was with my buddy the FrugalFisherman as he wrestled with the inner demon of fundamental cheapness, agonizing over the decision to finally pull the trigger on a brand new Prijon touring boat. Once the water converts to liquid form again around here the question will once again become, "Where do I put that gear?".
There is the minimalist approach to sea kayak touring and then there is my approach. I backpacked for years and it was pounded into my head that if you bring an extra 2 ounce fork, that it takes a mere 8 steps before you've turned that 2 ounces into an extra pound. Hence the invention of the ludicrous 'spork'. When sea kayaking I embrace the notion that gear is essentially weightless if its floating in your boat. I can't imagine the barbarity of setting off on a trip without my trusty camp chair, 12" cast aluminum dutch oven, or my Kelly Kettle for boiling water. Or a judicious supply of beer and wine for that matter. Once you've embraced the anti-minimalist philosophy the question becomes where to put gear. As you can see from the above photo, the FrugalFisherman has no problem loading the Prijon deck like the Beverly Hillbillies loaded their truck. This can result in problems however, especially if you get waves breaking over your deck or a beam wind. Gear may wind up overboard or you may wind up practicing your combat roll if the wind catches you just right (or wrong). I personally like having a nice clean deck but I've found that is impossible on a trip. Spare paddle and usually paddle float and bilge pump are alway on my back deck along with the camping chair. The front deck typically has either my deck bag with 35mm camera and lenses or my fishing gear. I don't particularly enjoy that scenario but if I want to take pictures on the water and keep the camera dry with my spray skirt intact the options are limited. I've found that the Sagebrush deck bag works great for electronic gear and also doubles as a day pack with the optional lumbar support system. It also locks solidly to the deck with a 4 point restraint system. If you plan to carry anything on your deck you better make damn sure its attached to something. It took me 3 pieces of gear plunging to the bottom of Lake Superior before I figured out and internalized this basic sea kayaking principle.
Its a matter of personal preference whether you are a kayaking minimalist or a pack rat. But when you have a pile of gear sitting on the shore next to your boat, wondering where it will all go, its nice to have that deck option in your back pocket, as well as the backup option of cramming it into your cockpit, behind your seat, ahead of your feet, and between your legs on those days when the sea torments those with extra gear on their decks.