How to Understand Sun Protective Clothing

As the summer season kicks off we get a lot of people looking for sun protective clothing, which is great! Unfortunately, we can’t help but notice that there is sometimes a fundamental misunderstanding about how sun protective clothing works, what UPF means, and how to put it all in context. That’s what this post will attempt to clarify.

As the sun’s rays get stronger and people spend more time out on the water or vacation to more equatorial locations, the need for adequate sun protection is incredibly important. Exposing your skin to UV rays is not only damaging and unpleasant in the short term, but also carries a host of long-term complications.  To mitigate this, you need to wear sunscreen or appropriate clothing. Clothing is sometimes advertised with a UPF rating. Let’s break that down.

What is UPF?

UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor, is a direct measure of the ability of clothing to block ultraviolet light. Unlike SPF, it does not involve any measure of exposure time. It is simply an expression of the ratio of UV light that passes through the fabric. For example, a UPF 40 garment will allow around 1 out of 40 units of UV rays through the fabric. That’s 97.5% blocked. A UPF 50 garment will allow 1 out of 50 units of UVB, or 98% blocked.

How does UPF work?

It’s pretty simple. The denser the weave, the higher the thread count, the more protective the garment is because it lets less light through. Surprise! It’s got less to do with the thickness of the fabric, and much more to do with the weave density and fabric type.

To further demonstrate how thicker doesn’t necessarily mean better, take a comparison of the Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight baselayer, and the Patagonia Capilene Daily garments. The Thermal Weight Capilene is thicker, almost like fleece, but its loose surface weave means that I can see my hand through it. Though it’s not always a direct relationship, it should be pretty obvious that a garment I can easily see the color of my skin through is probably not going to be as effective. Conversely, the Capilene Daily has a much higher thread count on the surface fabric, making it a denser weave, which gives it a great UPF 50 rating. It’s thinner but that doesn’t matter as much, as we’ve shown.

Garment color can play a role as well. Darker colors are more effective at blocking UV rays for the same reason that window tinting is effective. However, darker colors also absorb more heat which may make it less desirable for hot environments.

Fabric type can also determine effectiveness. Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are far more effective than cotton or hemp. As a point of reference, a white cotton T shirt has about a UPF 5, even worse when the cotton gets wet.

This garment doesn’t have a UPF rating, does that mean it’s not protective?

No, not necessarily.

The concept of the UPF system as we know it didn’t come into being until the mid 1990s. Quite obviously, people have been wearing sun protective clothing for thousands of years because it’s been understood that clothing protects your skin. They also understood that a denser weave was better. It is of no surprise that many desert-dwelling peoples use long, loose fitting garments to cover as much skin as possible and to keep cool.

The FTC has oversight over UPF standards. If a manufacturer has an interest in advertising their product as sun protective, they will undergo testing and certification on the product. So, it’s possible that a garment is effective, but the manufacturer may not have chosen to undergo testing. Use your best judgment, and if you’re still on the fence then there are thousands of options from hundreds of manufacturers out there who have done the testing.

How much UPF do I need?

This varies depending on what you’re doing and where you’re going, like so much of outdoor clothing and equipment.

Obviously, if you have fair skin you want a higher UPF rating. If you’re going to a place with harsher sun exposure such as in the desert, at higher altitude, to equatorial latitudes, or on the water, then you’ll want a higher UPF rating.

Typically, UPF rated clothing will range from about UPF 15 to UPF 50. General summer wear is usually around UPF 15 or 20. I would look for at least UPF 30. Speaking for myself, I prefer UPF 40 or 50 since I am pale and really, really don’t want to repeat the 360 degree lobster-red sunburn I received on a Lake Erie fishing trip on a sunny day.

The General Takeaway

Use your best judgment given your skin and your plans, and try to seek out higher UPF clothing with a long, loose fit. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or a buff, or seek out a light sun-protective hoody. If it’s a sheer cloth or a mesh bug overshirt, it’s pretty clearly not going to do much for you. Don’t forget your hands, either. Several manufacturers make a light sun-glove. Always use and liberally re-apply sunscreen to exposed areas. Wear sunglasses! Your eyes can get sunburned too, and it’s about as unpleasant as it sounds.

Don’t underestimate the sun, and you’ll have a much better time out and about this summer!

Used Gear Sale 2018

Used Gear Sale 2018

Tired of all the old outdoor gear that you have laying around the house collectig dust? Then pack it up haul it down to the Outdoor Source Used Gear Sale taking place Saturday October 20th and Sunday, October 21st at the Kingsdale Store. Sale hours will be normal store hours on Saturday, 10am to 6pm and Sunday, Noon to 5pm.

Used gear to sell will be accepted between Monday, October 8th and Thursday, October 18th from 10am to 7pm each day during the week.

For directions to the Kingsdale Store click here.

To download the Used Gear Sale Guidelines & Instructions click here.

How to Choose a Winter Jacket

(Clint Eastwood on the set of The Eiger Sanction, wearing one of the very first Marmot jackets, the Golden Mantle)

How to Choose a Winter Jacket

Summer is gone, the temperature is dropping, and you now realize a light fleece isn’t going to cut it.  When you look at what’s available, you’re paralyzed.  Where do you begin with the myriad of options flooding the market these days?  Let’s break it down for you.

“How warm is this jacket?”

This is a question we frequently get, and the answer isn’t always a simple one.  You may have noticed that companies don’t put a temperature rating on jackets, and there is a reason for that.  There is such a multitude of factors such as activity level, humidity, wind level, and personal temperature (some people run hot, some run cold) that you can’t really put a number on it.  And if they did put a temperature on it, they would get a cascade of unfairly bad reviews from people who might not understand the information I’m about to give you.

Here’s the short answer:

Thickness is warmth.  Say it again…thickness is warmth.

Technology changes and every company is trying to push the limits of insulation.  However, the laws of physics still apply.  Insulation works by trapping a layer of warm air around your body to protect you from the cold.  Think of it as your own personal atmosphere.  The thicker this “atmosphere” is, the more effective it will be.  

Beyond that, we’ll ask you a few questions on what you are doing and where you are going.

How active will you be?

The more active you are, the more warmth you will generate.  If I am going to be hiking at a good pace or running, I will be overheated in a very thick jacket.  Conversely, if I am going to be sitting still in a stadium I will not be generating as much heat, and therefore need a thicker jacket to compensate.  

If you are going to be experiencing a variety of activity levels, you need to utilize the layering system.  For example, when I go backpacking in Winter I will be down to my baselayer or wearing a light fleece when I’m in peak activity, and pulling on a puffy midlayer jacket during hydration / meal breaks and when I stop hiking for the day to set up camp.  

What are you doing / where are you going?

Revisiting what I mentioned above, this question interfaces with what sort of activity you will be engaged in.  For active, technical pursuits you will need to use the layering system.  

  • Baselayer, for moisture management
  • Midlayer, for warmth retention
  • Shell layer, for protection against wind and rain

For more casual pursuits like sitting at the game, going out on the town, or walking to and from your car, you can opt for more of an all-in-one option.  If this is the case, you probably aren’t worried as much about the weight of the jacket either, compared to the backpacker who is concerned with ounces.

Will you be at elevation or out of the treeline?  You’ll be contending with wind, so bring a shell.

Will you be in the Pacific Northwest where it is wet most of the time?  Consider a synthetic jacket instead of down.  Synthetics retain most of their loft when wet and dry faster, but are heavier and less breathable.  

What else are you going to be wearing with it?

This is sort of a restatement of the question above.  Do you already have a rain jacket or wind jacket?  Then you can go with just a mid-layer instead of a shelled jacket.  Do you have a favorite fleece you like to wear?  Then you might not need as thick of a jacket to wear over it.  

Regardless of which jacket you’re looking at, it’s always a good idea to wear a quick-drying baselayer to wick moisture away from your skin.  Damp skin makes you chilled quickly.  For that reason avoid cotton when possible, in favor of synthetic or wool fabrics.  

What’s this “fill rating” on my jacket?

The “fill rating” is simply a metric of the quality of the feather.  An 800 fill jacket is NOT necessarily warmer than a 500 fill jacket.  This is best explained using sleeping bags as an example.  

If you have a 30 degree 800 fill down bag, it’s not any warmer than the 30 degree 500 fill down bag; they’re both 30 degrees.  It will be lighter, however.  

As I said, fill rating is a metric of quality.  Higher fill down has more loft, and therefore these companies are able to use fewer feathers to achieve the same amount of loft they need.  Therefore, it will be lighter and more compressible.  

Repeat the mantra:  Thickness is Warmth.

Which is warmer, down or synthetic?

Thickness is warmth.  That being said, down is more breathable and slightly more comfortable over a wider range of temperatures.  If synthetic gets soaked, it will keep you warmer than down, but these days with water-resistant down treatment, it’s getting increasingly difficult for down to get truly soaked.  

I don’t like the puffy Michelin man look.

That look is due to baffles; essentially they sew the jacket into a series of tubes that they blow the down feathers into.  They need to do it this way because otherwise the feathers would sift all the way to the bottom of the jacket, and you’d be cold.  Synthetic insulation is often in sheet form, so some companies make synthetic jackets by laminating the insulation to the interior nylon face of the jacket.  

Other than that, sometimes comfort supersedes fashion.  Repeat the mantra:  Thickness is warmth.

Hopefully, this helps you in your quest to find the right jacket for you.  Stop by the shop and we’ll help you pick one out from the crowd.

Six Hour Series: Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV


In a word, damp.

In another word, inspiring.

(Photo Credit: Kevin King)

This is the first installment in what I call the Six Hour Series; a collection of overnight hikes outside of Ohio but within about 6 hours’ drive of Columbus.  Overnight backpacking in Ohio can be limited, but there are several excellent options within a manageable drive from 270.

The Dolly Sods Wilderness is located in the Monongahela National Forest, in Eastern West Virginia, about 5 and a half hours from Columbus.  It is a highly favored backpacking spot of mine.  Let me tell you why.  First, a history lesson:

The Land

The land encompassed by the Dolly Sods Wilderness was first viewed by white folks in 1746, when a group of surveyors under Lord Fairfax of Virginia were sent to explore the Northwestern reaches of Virginia, territory given under grant by King George II of Britain.  Fairfax, the only resident British noble in the 13 Colonies, made the acquaintance of a distant relative of his: the young George Washington, whose first employment as a lad of 16 was to survey Fairfax’s lands west of the Blue Ridge.  While we don’t have definitive proof that the future first President of the United States walked the Dolly Sods, Washington’s life and career made an impact all along the Alleghenies.

The Dolly Sods gets its unusual name from an equally unusual immigrant.  Johann Dahle was a Hessian mercenary; a German soldier who fought in service of Lord Cornwallis against the aforementioned George Washington.   In 1781, two years after Lord Fairfax’s land was confiscated by Congress, Dahle was captured at the battle of Yorktown and imprisoned for a few years.  Then, in the 1780s, he purchased land nearby reportedly on the advice of George Washington himself, and used the high meadow grassland (or “sods”) to graze his livestock.  As you might imagine, its easy to “Americanize” from Dahle’s Sods to Dolly Sods.

The Dolly Sods wilderness was once described as “so savage and inaccessible that it has rarely been penetrated even by the most adventurous,” storied by “marvelous accounts of its savage grandeur, and the quantities of game and fish to be found there.”  The high areas of this region were once covered in massive stands of ancient spruce and hemlock inhabited by bears and mountain lions.  It was home to the largest tree in West Virginia, a white oak boasting a 13 foot diameter at the base (height unknown.)  Naturally, it was cut down.

In fact the entire region was savaged, to such a degree we will never again truly know the “savage grandeur” that was described.  Railroad men flocking to the area in the 1890s logged the highlands bare of spruce and hemlock, and settlers burned the rest to clear grassland for cattle grazing.  With the protective tree cover gone, the underlying humus dried out and became essentially a massive tinderbox.  Without natural protection, fires ravaged the area in the early 20th century to the point where all forms of life down to the lowly worm were obliterated and the rocks were scorched.  In 1916 the Federal Government stepped in and purchased the land in an attempt to mitigate this hellscape.  In the 1930s the CCC began to plant Red Spruce.  The land was trying to heal.

Then came World War II, and the Army used the area as an artillery practice range.

Let’s pause a moment.  You are surely saying to yourself “this doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement.”  While the land will never be what it once was, I would reply it only takes a quick Google Images search to reveal the extent to which the land has recovered, and the special terrain that has evolved makes for a memorable backpacking trip.  The highland bog is often wet and rocky, but during the summer when everywhere else is in the 90s and drenched in high humidity, I can count on the Sods for a breezy 80 and sweeping vistas.  In fact, the area contains flora and fauna that conjures a scene one might expect from Canada.  When I am sick and tired of the sweltering and humid “Green Tunnel,” I go to Dolly Sods to feel the breeze..and maybe once in a while a burn on my pale skin.  Sunrise and sunset are often host to a gaggle of photographers, with spectacular results.

Enough history, now on to the hike itself.

The Hike:  October 15-17

Taking advantage of an unanticipated 3 day break, I jumped on the opportunity to get in a Fall trip to the Sods.  I had the gear mostly together already after a Zaleski hike a couple weeks previous.  Looking at the temperatures, I knew I was in store for a couple cold nights.  After a re-pack and food run I hit the highway, arriving at Bear Rocks trailhead at 5:30 PM.  Sunset was at 6:48.

(Chasing the sun)

If I had time, I might have stopped at Bear Rocks for a leisurely stroll and some photo opportunities.  At a brisk pace chasing the sun West I was able to cover 2.5 miles and reach a suitable camp just after the trail intersection with the Raven Ridge trail, tucked away in a stand of Red Spruce on a nice soft floor of needles.

The breeze that sweeps over the ridges is a double-edged sword; it keeps the hiker cool during the day but can also have a cold bite in the evening when you’ve stopped and are trying to keep a stove from blowing out.  In the dying light filtering through whispering spruce trees, I pulled on my down jacket and set to work setting up my Big Agnes HV UL 2 tent.  9:00 PM, otherwise known as “Hiker Midnight,” rolled around after dinner was done and the foodstuffs were put away.  Nothing to do at that point other than burrow into my down sleeping bag and hibernate for a bit.

The first night out on the trail after a long period of “normal” life is always rough.  I spent the remaining 10 hours tossing, turning, and stitching together a few hours sleep in between.  Fast-forward to sunrise, Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy, and wiping the evening’s rainfall off of the fly.  There is not a much greater motivator than temperatures around freezing, so the goal was to get on trail and get moving as quickly as possible.

The croak of ravens over the eponymous Raven Ridge and the blanket of fog produced by the previous night’s rain created an effect about as gloomy as you could expect from Halloween season.  Before long, the fog was driven back by wind and sun as the trail turned South along Rocky Ridge.

(Fog on Raven Ridge)

Let me tell you something; the people who named these areas were true to their word.  For a significant distance along the Western ridge, you will be picking your way across pebbles, rocks, boulders, and any other designation of stone there is.  The views looking Westward are definitely worth it.

(Looking West from Rocky Ridge)

A gentle Southward descent brought me to a popular entry point on the West side, a trailhead that splits off into three different directions.  I had already visited the Lion’s Head rock formation on Breathed Mountain a couple years earlier, so I wanted to explore an area I had not been to yet.  I took the Breathed Mountain Trail, which is a rocky trail that picks its way across from West to East through patches of scrub meadow, hardwood and windswept conifers alike before it descends to meet the Red Creek trail.  After a brief snack, I forged ahead accompanied by the sound of rushing water, the cooling aura of damp air and the smell of wet leaves and rocks hidden from the sun.

Crossing Red Creek is not particularly difficult, but my trekking poles ensured I did not experience a shocking dip in the cold highland water.  The bit of flat land on the North bank of Red Creek is a popular place to set up camp, and the scene of a trailmix theft that was visited upon me by some small rodent back in the Summer of ’15.  Letting bygones be bygones, I stopped just long enough to refill the bottles and continued on my way.

(Red Creek, looking East)

(An artist’s interpretation of crossing Red Creek)

At this point, it was mid afternoon and I knew I wanted to make as much progress as possible to ensure a short hike back to the car on Tuesday.  Approaching Blackbird Knob I mused to myself that it were 74 years ago I would have been in the center of a furious artillery barrage, dodging from crater to crater as trees splintered around me.  Instead I was treated to a calm walk through a mottled canopy, dodging only the occasional raindrop.

Passing several tempting campsite options along the way, I managed to push to the site I had made camp at the previous night.  Positioned on top of the ridge and close to the Bear Rocks trailhead, I knew the next day’s hike would be a simple stroll back to the car.

The next morning, I awoke to a layer of frost over everything.  Eating the rest of the food and drinking the last of my water to reduce weight as much as possible, I pulled on my shell to protect against the wind and the cold as I began to crunch my way through frozen grass and mud back to the car.  About an hour later it was time to pack everything in, warm up the car, and say goodbye to Dolly Sods.

(A parting view)

The Verdict:

  • Pros
    • Ridgetop vistas
    • Sun and breeze
    • Gentle elevation change
    • Easy to follow the trail
    • Trail network makes it easy to customize a hike
    • Unique type of terrain you might expect to find in Canada
  • Cons
    • The wind can make camping in the open a noisy affair
    • Rocky on the Western side and along Red Creek trail
    • Muddy, especially along the low creeks
    • Can be busy on weekends around trailheads
  • Gear “MVP”
    • Trekking poles definitely saved me an injury or two
  • What I needed
    • Stove windscreen – I had forgotten that I had taken it out of the bag for my Outdoor Cooking class.  I needed it.

by ODS Staffer John T.




Ohio Hikes: Zaleski State Forest South Loop



One mosquito.  This is why Fall hiking is the best.

Well, maybe a few other reasons too.  Comfortable day temperatures, cool nights for campfires, and the golden light of late afternoon sun filtering through the yellows and oranges of Fall foliage are just a few added perks.

Zaleski State Forest, located between Logan and Nelsonville South of 33, is a very popular backpacking destination for those in Central and Southern Ohio.  It contains a South loop and a North loop, which allow for configuring hikes of varying lengths depending on whether you have one or two nights to spend.  Water pumps are available at each campsite, which means you won’t have to carry more than 2-3 liters on you during the course of the day.

Looking at the beautiful weather we were due this past weekend, I decided a quick overnight trip to test out some new gear was in order.  As I sometimes do, I got a late start, pulling into the parking lot around 5:45.

Let’s pause here.  In case you were wondering, Zaleski is not a place you go for solitude, especially not on the weekend.  You will not be under any illusions otherwise.

So, I pull into view of the parking lot, and both lots are completely full.  As luck would have it, one car was just leaving as I arrived so I nabbed their spot.  A few minutes later, I had ascended up the first ridge, looking down at the parking lot and the remnants of the precious wetlands which once covered the low places of this region, before they were drained for roads and rail towns long since abandoned.

The trail along the South loop is pretty tame, snaking along the hardwood ridges for the most part.  Before long I reached Campsite 1, which is more of a tightly grouped congregation of suitable clearings lying just off the trail.  They were all taken, except for the far end of one of the largest clearings which became my home for the night.  As the night wore on, it became increasingly clear I had forfeited the prospects of a good night’s sleep with raucous laughter, shouts, and the barking of dogs ringing around the flanks of the hills, overwhelming the sounds of distant coyote packs vying for territory.  Still, the moonlight filtering through the trees and the smell of the forest were sufficient to remind me that I was, in fact, in the woods.

With the next morning came the next task; hike the remainder of the ~8 miles of the South loop back to the parking lot.  I could have not asked for better weather; bluebird sky, dry ground, and a slight breeze.  Approaching the East side of the loop, I took advantage of a hydration break by a cliff overlook.

Not long after, the trail alternates between dry hardwood ridgeline and cool, humid gulleys populated by ferns and a host of insects humming on an ambient level.  And then, through the canopy you can spot the approach of Bear Hollow and an unnamed pond, host to a chorus of frogs.

If there were any bears in this particular hollow, they likely disappeared shortly after the construction of the Moonville Rail in the 1870s, the remnants of which lie tucked just out of sight on the far bank.  As a point of interest, farther West along the railway looms Moonville Tunnel, which is the setting for a few ghost stories, if you lend credence to such things.

After crossing the gravel road, the final stretch of the loop proceeded without a radical change in environment back to the parking lot.  Reunited with my trusty blue Mazda, the siren call of Millstone BBQ waylaid me on my return journey to pack on the calories I had just burned over the weekend.

The Verdict:

  • Pros
    • Close
    • Loop Options
    • Beginner/intermediate terrain
    • Water readily available
  • Cons
    • Very crowded during peak times, for the above reasons
    • Can catch other background sounds, like the gun range at the nearby Fish and Game club, or heavy equipment
  • Gear “MVP”
    • Osprey Exos 58 pack – comfortable, and breezy
  • What I needed
    • Ear plugs

by ODS Staffer John T.


Used Gear Sale


Tired of all the old outdoor gear that you have laying around the house collecting dust? Then pack it up and haul it down to the Outdoor Source Used Gear Sale taking place Saturday, October 14th and Sunday, October 15th at the Kingsdale Store. Sale hours will be normal store hours on Saturday, 10am to 6pm and Sunday, Noon to 5pm.

Used gear to sell will be accepted between Monday, October 9th and Thursday, October 12th from 10am to 7:30pm each day.

For directions to the Kingsdale Store click here.

To download the Used Gear Sale Guidelines & Instructions click here

Ohio Hikes: Blendon Woods Metro Park

Armed with a phone camera of questionable quality and the motivation that arises from the alarming realization that I weigh about 20 pounds more than I would like to be (I suspect I am not alone in this), I decided to take advantage of a nice 85 degree day and start to burn off some of the winter insulation I accrued.  Being short on time the logical choice was Blendon Woods Metro Park, located on the edge of Northeastern Columbus off 270 and 161.

Blendon Woods has a few trails that can be linked together for a decent fitness hike, running along ridges, dipping into deciduous ravines and crossing over ancient shale-bed creeks.  While the road noise from 270 and 161 means that you will never quite forget you are in the city, you couldn’t tell by looks alone.  The 653 acres of the park present a reasonable illusion of wilderness.

At the end of April, the foliage was just beginning to surge back into its prime.  With limited time to spare, I chose the Sugarbush trail, a flat two mile trail that spurs off from the parking lot by the nature center.

The Sugarbush trail has less gravel than some of the other trails, and thus softer underfoot and a little more forgiving to soft-lugged trail running shoes.  As a result, however, Spring rains can bring some mud, as shown by this rather bizarre and well-worn detour below.  Are people really that afraid of a little mud on their shoes?

Wildlife abounds, although decidedly less wild in behavior due to frequent acclimatization to human presence.  Many times I have walked along a birch-covered ridge in Summer less than 30 feet from a procession of turkeys scanning for cicadas.  (Fun fact, the plural of wild turkeys is a flock, whereas the plural of domesticated turkeys is a gang.)

There are benches along the trail for those who just want to sit for a spell and just enjoy being outside.  Ultimately, I have found that the best way to kick off the season is to just get out, get moving, and build momentum and enthusiasm.  Blendon Woods Metro Park is a great resource for that endeavor, offering a quick and easy access for those wanting to get outside and get some exercise.  Blendon Woods makes for a great after-work destination within easy reach for those on the east side of Columbus.  Give it a shot on a nice afternoon, I think you’ll like it.

Written by John T.

2017 Pedal Drive Kayak Review

2017 Pedal Drive Kayak Review

It was such a nice day to play with the new 2017 Kayak lineup! With only a few missing we felt confident we had what we needed to compare what was on the market today.

What we had to play with: Hobie Pro Angler 14, Hobie Outback, Wilderness System Radar 115, Perception Pescador Pilot 120.

We had six staff down at the water each taking the time to adjust, play, and use the kayaks.   With all hands on deck we started jumping into the kayaks. After we all had a chance to use each model we started comparing notes. It was not surprising that we came to a similar conclusion on all the kayaks; what we liked, what we didn’t, features, adjustment, ease of use, comfort, and of course price.

Who won? It depends on what you’re looking for. They are different enough that we could not agree on a true winner. We found it was dependent on what your use was and how much you could afford. We can say however why they are different.

Breakdown by Kayak:

Hobie Pro Angler 14– The Pro Angler is at the top end of price coming in at $3449-$3599. This was the best overall fishing option. You can’t beat the features of this kayak. It had the largest standing room of all the kayaks and greatest stability with most of us being able to walk front to back without falling in. Nothing was close in terms of all the built in rod storage and compartment storage. Since there are plenty of reviews on how awesome this thing is, let us explain why it wasn’t our winner. It’s big! It was noticeably slower in the water then the others, just more kayak to push. For a non-fishing environment, this would not be the one I would choose.  As for the price, it was so much more than everything else. But really those were the only downfalls we found. For purely fishing, however, it wins hands down.

Hobie Outback– At $2499-$2649 this was the sweet spot for most pedal drive kayaks this year. The Outback was much faster than the Pro Angler, and the seat was equally comfortable. Steering was also really nice compared to others. However, while the Outback comes with rod holders built in and fish finder ready, we found the standing room for fishing lacking and without installed track mounts.  I think this would win as our favorite non-fishing option only.

Wilderness System Radar 115– Coming in at $2495 with drive, the radar was also in the average price zone. The radar seat was instantly comfortable and easily adjustable. The pedal drive worked flawlessly, which was good because we had some worries since it was so new. We used the kick retracting option which brought the drive up to clear objects but since it never came up fully some of the unit was still exposed. It was nice how easy it was to drop it back down and continue pedaling. This thing was also great for fishing with plenty of standing room and aluminum track mounts on sides.  The Radar is Power Pole and fish finder-ready as well. So what didn’t we like? The steering is a forward-aft steering system, which isn’t immediately intuitive.   I didn’t like the feel of the plastic handle, but that was minor. If you are looking for both fish and rec this would probably be the best option. Also note that this system is sold separately giving you the option to buy the pedal drive system later.

Perception Pescador Pilot 120– At only $1799, this was the least expensive one we tried. While the price is less the features are all there; nice standing room and fish finder ready, it even has four rod holders built in. So easy choice for fishing. The seat is ok and has basic adjustments, and we found it comfortable enough for the price. The drive system worked great and was very easy to pedal.  The pedal drive does have to be retracted manually, but again, that’s ok for the price range. Just stay in deep water areas. The only big complaint was the steering handle; it was not as comfortable as the others. It also didn’t have the steering sensitivity the others had, but we did not think that was a deal breaker. Needless to say this surprised us, for the money it is still a contender. Great price for recreational use.

*We all agreed that we liked the Mirage drive pedal system better than the rotational pedal styles. While it was not noticeably faster than the others, it did seem smoother and required slightly less effort. At the same speed the rotational style required two rotations compared to the Mirage drive’s one stroke. The Hobie did give greater resistance per stroke, so we think for all day they might be equal in the long run. Another advantage of Mirage drive was shallow water. We could easily glide over rocks and debris when needed and then continue to pedal once clear. The Radar pedal drive did have the option to get over objects although it still required the use of a paddle. The Perception was more like the Native and others which required full stop and retraction for shallow water. The big advantage of the rotational style was an instant reverse motion.  While not as powerful while going backwards, it worked well enough. We did find the prop slowing us down as we coasted. The Hobie Mirage 180 drive has to be switched to reverse and we had issues with the timing of the pedals interfering with it, but it was a full-power reverse and did not slow us down while coasting, which was somewhat annoying with the others.


Andy Graham

Hobie Mirage Drive 180 upgrade for V2 drive systems

 This is no longer a option. Hobie has stopped selling parts needed.

This will use your existing Hobie V2 mirage drive. It will convert your V2 drive to a 180 Mirage Drive with reverse. 180MD parts will replace your lower half of Mirage Drive. It will not replace everything. Your existing drive will have to be in good working condition to use this kit. This will not work on V1 drives. Installation requires basic tools and can be done in less then a hour with one person. If you have anymore questions please call store 614-457-3620.

Parts Included in Kit: 
81499001 MD 180 Spine Assemby – One
81491001 Handle & Tendon MD 180 Reverse – One
81486001 Handle & Tendon MD 180 Forward – One
81504001 Mast MD 180 Turbo – Two
81501001 MD 180 Fin Turbo – Two

Hobie 180 Drive Parts








The tools you will need: 

7/16 wrench

Allen wrench set

Wood or plastic mallet (hammer could damage drum shaft)


Paper towels

This modification will use your existing Hobie V2 drive. The parts will swap out the lower half of your drive. I would suggest cleaning parts during your swap to get best performance from your drive.

We are going to start by locating and removing the 7/16 nuts attaching cables to the drums. Only one side needs removed and it will not matter which side it is. Take a picture or take note of how many threads are exposed below nuts for installment. Place nuts in safe place.

Pull threaded tips out of drum and pull through fins. You may remove fins to make things easier if needed.

You are now ready to remove Pedal Drum. Please be careful pulling off. Inside are small bearing rods. They can be a pain to reinstall. If they start coming out simply reach in with fingers or wrench and push back in while removing drum.

*You can take this opportunity to remove those rods and give a good cleaning and reapply lube to them. You can use the drum rod to help realign them once you have removed it from spine in next stage. Start with two or three rods then insert drum rod. This will help align reminder of rods around drum rod.

Use a marker to locate the center of the drum shaft  before removing, this will help replacing it later. Your will need a plastic or wood mallet. If you use hammer be sure to use piece of wood in between to protect drum rod. (I did not use marks in pic on right. It does make easier if you do. Otherwise you will have to measure to insure even.)

Using allen wrench remove set screw. This will allow pulley shaft to be pushed out. These parts will be reinstalled on new shaft. Please be careful, there are more rod bearings inside pulley. These can also be cleaned and lubed if desired.

Reverse procedure and reinstall pulley onto new 180 drive now. Sorry I didn’t take pictures of this part.

Now your done with old V2 drive spine. Reinstall Drum shaft into 180 Spine. Using marked lines on drum shaft carefully hammer in to new 180 Spine. If you didn’t use marked lines be sure to measure to make even on both sides.

Place Drum pedals back on shaft being careful not to disturb rod bearings. You will have to hold both sides on since the cables are only thing keeping them in place. Numbers will face the pull handles.

The most difficult part of the project is getting cables put back together. So take a breath and give it a go. I found it helpful to mark center of sprockets as well as center of chain. This helped to insure I had things lined up. It might help having a second set of hands. Wrap the two chain cables first then the pulley cable will go on last.

As you wrap first chain cable around remember moving the pedal shafts will change tension on chain. Use this to help get things placed correctly. You can opt to place 7/16 nut on a couple threads deep to hold cable. I waited till I had all three. Then place second chain cable on the other side.

When putting on pulley cable it will ride on outside of chain cables on drum. Be sure to check that all cables are around drum and not falling off. Again it might help to have an extra hand


Once the cable tips are inserted and cables are laying properly on drum install the 7/16 nuts if you haven’t already. Use earlier thread count reference or tighten till snug. NOT TO TIGHT. This will affect the drive if too tight.

When installing mast and fins you might see small plastic piece above grey thumbscrew. Remove that first. Insert mast and tighten snug. Does not need to be super tight

Once fin is inserted far enough you will start threading adjusting thumbscrew into fin. NOTE: This Grey thumbscrew is held on by LockTight. If it becomes loose it will not allow threads to screw into fin so be careful not to force on. As you tighten thumbscrew through window on fin you will add the 8-32 nut. This will help lock the thumbscrew. This will finish fins.

Last part is to install FWD/REV handles. Please be careful with these. This is the weakest link to new drive. Make sure you get tighten flush but do not over tighten.

You can now pull back on reverse/forward and see how they operate. You are ready to hit the water.

If you have any questions please feel free to give us a call 614-457-3620 or to email me at

Andy Graham


Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area

Local Backpacker James Gant from Hillard writes,

“Located on the far Western edge of Kentucky, Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake flow into Tennessee.  At a little over 6 hour’s drive away from Columbus, the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a beautiful 170,000 acre playground.  Because the LBL is in both Tennessee and Kentucky while also being National Recreational Area it is important to call ahead of time, since they have their own hunting dates that don’t necessarily line up with state dates.

I went backpacking there the last week of October.  The leaves had not quit changed yet but early fall was a great time to visit with amazing weather low traffic.  The trails are well marked.  Finding a map for backpacking proved a little difficult but you can purchase a decent map at the trail heads for $3.  The trails are well maintained and easy to follow.  Since the LBL is surrounded by water most of the crowds spend their time on the water leaving the trails clear of traffic.  While I was there I only saw a few people for the four days I was there.  The campsites are primitive but most of them are easily accessed by car so you may have some company at night.  The main North to South Trail is great but it is not a loop trail so you will spend some time going back the way you came unless you meet up with a friend you can park at each end of the 49 mile trail.

The LBL is an amazing place to go with the family and do some car camping.  They have two large bison herds that can easily be seen from your car.  The bison areas are not near the trails at all but you can get really close to them.  There is also an old 1800’s style farm to visit and a planetarium for the family to visit.  The LBL is also fairly close to Mammoth Cave National Park along with many other caves.

The Land Between the Lakes Recreational Area is well worth a visit.”