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It’s in our nature to customize our kayak to our liking and having the proper electronics or gear can do just that. Some go the simple route and some load on the gear, but whichever way floats your boat, here are some essential electronics that should always accompany you on your voyage, especially if fishing. (We won’t get into lighting as that is a whole additional conversation.)
GPS. A GPS, or Global Positioning System, allows you to revisit your favorite places or even get back to where you came from. Use the track feature to leave a virtual breadcrumb trail if you’re traveling in lakes or rivers with many islands or braids or use it in the salt marshes that have several paths that all look the same. You can also use it offshore to pinpoint your favorite wreck or structure so that you can get back and forth quickly and effortlessly. A GPS is also handy for marking waypoints such as boat ramps, points of interest or your favorite fishing hole. Here’s a piece of advice: Before venturing out on the water with your brand-new GPS, use it in an area that you’re familiar with to learn all of its features. The last thing you want to be doing is figuring out the device when you need it most.
VHF Radio. A VHF radio is an essential piece of equipment that often times gets overlooked. A VHF radio is a great way to get up-to-date weather alerts but is also handy in the event of a rescue situation. If other boats are in the area, you can contact them or by using the emergency channels or contact the Coast Guard directly. If paddling with a buddy or group (which you should try to do), a VHF radio makes it easy to communicate with everyone in case of a separation. Most radios float and are waterproof, making them the ideal kayak accessory. Again, play with its functions before taking it out on the water.
Fish Finder. If you’re a fisherman, or woman, then a fish finder may be your best friend. Although not always used to find fish, it will however echolocate the bottom of any body of water and produce an image of what it looks like. This is great for finding structures, ledges, deep holes and other things that many fish call home. With dual-beam technology, color screens, side scan imagery, and even chart plotters built right in, the options on these devices are endless. I personally like to keep my system simple but having a built in GPS is awfully convenient. With many kayaks nowadays coming prebuilt for fish finders, including Vibe Kayaks, installation is easy as. When purchasing a fish finder, be sure to consult local experts with any questions and/or concerns you may have. With all the options available, finding one to suite your needs can be overwhelming. Have I mentioned to learn the device’s functions before use?
Cell Phone. As simple as it may seem, a cell phone can be one of your most essential pieces of electronics you can find. Today’s smartphones come equipped with GPS capabilities, excellent cameras, and there are even apps to run a fish finder from! And if not traveling in remote areas, then you can even use your phone for what it was intended for—phone calls! So if you’re able to consolidate some features into one compact device, then why not? Just be sure to house it in a waterproof case to protect your investment.
Video Camera. We’re currently living in the age of, ‘pictures or it didn’t happen’, so cameras are becoming an integral part of our kayaking experience. Whether you’re looking for that hero shot of your trophy catch or you’re just wanting to take pictures of the incredible sunrise/sunset or landscape, a camera is a must have. GoPros, or similar products are taking the kayaking world by storm and are being used to put together videos of your adventures. I’m going to keep saying it: familiarize yourself with the camera’s functions before putting it to use on your kayak, and make sure you have good camera attachments like these here. Always keep the camera rolling, you’ll never know what you may catch!
Satellite Tracker. When exploring those remote areas where cell phones, let alone radios will not work, pick up a satellite tracker. Companies like SPOT offer up devices to the consumer that enables communication with your loved ones as well as authorities if things go wrong. They use satellite technology for this, thus making the system work regardless of where you might be. The only places that it might not work? Dense tree canopy or underground exploration. Chances are though that if you’re on the water, you’ll be able to communicate via satellite.
Fish Scale. If you’re an avid kayak angler looking to document your trophy catches, then an electronic fish scale should always be in your arsenal. Along with your camera to capture the moment, a scale will debunk any doubt about the size of your catch. Keep it handy and keep it dry.
Portable Power Bank. These little guys can be a huge help when kayaking with multiple electronics: phones, cameras, GPS units, etc. Power banks are capable of recharging multiple devices several times while on the go. I especially find them useful for multiday trips when constantly running my phone, GPS and cameras. Plug them in each night and voila, instant power.
Although these listed items will help make any outing a successful one, don’t forget to glance away from the screens and enjoy the moment that you’re in. Breathe the air, take in the sights, and listen to Mother Nature. After all, isn’t this part of the reason you got into kayaking to begin with?