OR > Novice adventures in kayaking with the Sevylor Madison Kayak.
As we’ve always try to explain, camping for our family is also about the activities we can get up to whilst under canvas. We have set up camp in many beautiful locations and gone walking, hiking and exploring. One of the activities we got to experience this year was kayaking, using a Sevylor Madison kayak.
This article is not only about the Sevylor Madison kayak we use, but also about what else we needed (as complete novices) to be safe, dry and warm and where we went to have some fun. Hopefully you will find it useful, and if you have ever thought about going kayaking it may convince you to go for it and make a fun family investment.
We are a family of 2 adults, 3 teens and 2 dogs (and sometimes a boyfriend), so clearly we are not going to get a kayak that we can all fit in. With the Madison, we go out in pairs, the youngest teens go out one at a time with an adult as their swimming isn’t that strong. The eldest has been paddling with her boyfriend, and Mr & Mrs TentLife have been out (accompanied by one of the dogs too). That’s only so far, it’s been so much fun so far and the Madison is coming with us to Scotland so will get a lot more use.
So far we have used the kayak in the sea at Mawgan Porth (nr Newquay), on Bala Lake (Wales), on the River Wye (at Haye on Wye) and on Wastwater (Lake District). I have written about each if these trips a little more in the paragraphs below.
What is the Sevylor Madison kayak?
It's an inflatable kayak, with removeable/adjustable seats with backrests. It comes delivered including the oars, foot pump, repair kit and a robust holdall. It is really easy to set up, and you can be on the water within 5-10 minutes.
One big advantage of an inflatable kayak is the room that it doesn’t take up. Just throw it in the back of your motor and if you do happen to find yourself near some water, then you are good for a paddle. It doesn’t require any roof racks or have to be left on the roof of your vehicle.
Granted, it won’t be suitable for rougher waters, and is certainly not capable of white water rafting. But for spending quality time with family on calmer waters like lakes, rivers and canals, it’s difficult to beat.
Setting up the Sevylor Madison Kayak - Pull everything out of the bag, and unfold the kayak. The paddles are self explanatory, just push them together and adjust as necessary. With regards to the kayak itself, the first thing you need to do is fit the red fin to the bottom because you cannot do it after it’s been inflated. There are 3 inflation points, the bottom and 2 sides. The next thing you need to do is inflate the bottom, because if you leave it until after you’ve inflated the sides then access to the bottom becomes very difficult. The foot pump includes a pressure gauge, so it is easy to see when it has reached the required 1.5 psi. Finally inflate the 2 sides and then you can blow up and adjust the seats to each paddlers needs. The 2 seats are on Velcro strips so the positions can be easily adjusted independently if each other. Also, the back rests are adjusted by tightening or releasing the side straps. From unpacking to getting in the water only takes about 10 minutes using the foot pump to inflate it. On my recent trip to Wastwater in the Lake District, I did set the kayak up at the campsite, inflating it using an electric pump and then throwing it on the roof for the hour drive to our destination.
We’ve used this Sevylor kayak a few times now in different locations and environments. I must say that it seems very robust and very well made from strong and durable materials. This does inspire confidence in the Madison, especially when you are entrusting it with the safety of your family. Not something you should cut corners on.
Putting it all back in the bag is straight forward and I’ve not experienced any problems fitting everything back in. Just open up the valves on all 3 pieces of the kayak and lay it on it’s side (folded in half). Roll the deflated kayak towards the open air valves to help all the air come out and then just pop it into the bag. There are straps inside the bag for holding the rolled up kayak in place and then you can put the rest of the stuff (oars, foot pump) inside and zip it up – job done.
Safety and wet gear – We knew that when we got this kayak, we wanted to be able to use it safely in many different environments. Granted, we were not going to be doing any white water rafting but we did want to ensure that we would be as safe as possible so we could have as much fun as possible. We don’t go out onto the water without buoyancy vests, and neither should you or your family members. As I mentioned, our youngest teens are not the strongest of swimmers, Mrs TentLife has a spinal condition and Mr TentLife goes into shock if the water is below 25 degrees. I will write a little more about choosing buoyancy vests below.
The idea is always to stay inside the kayak and as dry as possible, but where is the fun in that. Also, because we would probably be using the kayak at cooler times of the year we would need something to keep us as dry and warm as possible.
You might look a bit of a prat in a full wet suit in the middle of July on your local canal, where clearly a teesthirt, shorts and buoyancy vest would be more than adequate. What I’m saying is that the wet gear you’re going to need should be relevant to where you are kayaking and what you are going to be doing. I have a full wet suit, as does Mrs TentLife and the 2 younger teens. They are relatively inexpensive nowadays, I’ve even seen them for sale in my local supermarket. There are bargains to be had on eBay and Amazon, my full wetsuit only cost £20 from Amazon and so did the teens versions.
Mrs TentLife has progressed onto wearing a cag (cagoule), because getting into a wetsuit was just too painful because of her back. The cag is a waterproof jacket with tight seals around the neck, wrists and waist. It won’t keep her dry if she goes for a dunk, but she would have to endure some serious splashing to get wet and cold out of the water. She wears shorts or waterproof trousers on her lower half dependant on the weather.
The best advise we have been given (by a number of kayakers) is to dress for the water and not for the weather, the temperatures can be vastly different.
Another thing that should be considered is footwear, I would strongly recommend something to put on your feet to protect them from sharp and slippery rocks. Some old trainers should be fine, but better to go for some ‘wetsuit shoes/boots’ or ‘water shoes’. It just helps to make launching the kayak easier, and keeps your feet warmer too.
Buoyancy vests – I would never consider taking members of my family out in a kayak without everyone wearing some sort of buoyancy aid. After all, we are in this for family fun not for the risk taking. You might be a strong swimmer, but if you have to rescue someone else from the water then you will face a whole heap of different challenges. A buoyancy vest could make all the difference, so where do you start when choosing one.
I will be brief as this is not a definitive guide to water safety and you should do your own research as we did. Saying that though, buoyancy vests come in different values of N (newtons), and this is a measure of how much lift they offer in the water. The greater the N rating, the greater the lift they offer in the water. We purchased 2 adult 70N YAK buoyancy vests, and also found a 100N Helly Hansen vest for the youngsters to wear. Buoyancy vests are designed to help you swim, and life jackets (more expensive) are designed to make you float (i.e. if you get knocked out). Shop around as there are plenty of bargains to be had.
So where have we been so far?
Mawgan Porth (Early April) – Not too far from Newquay, we found this sheltered coastal bay whilst on an 8 mile hike from our campsite (Tregurrian) to Newquay and back. We decided when we saw it that it would be an excellent place to use the kayak for the first time, so we planned a return visit with the kayak. As it’s coastal, you need to make sure that you are there are the right time otherwise there will be no water or the tide will be going out. We arrived mid afternoon and the tide was well on it’s way in. You can actually park at the top of the beach, so there was no distance at all to carry the kayak. Just pull it out of the vehicle, pump it up and go have some fun. I went yakking in the sea with my middle daughter, and we both loved it. We were both wearing wet suits, which kept us adequately warm in the April sun and sea (not that we went for a swim).
Bala, Wales (Late April) – We camped at Glanllyn Campsite, a beautiful site right on the bank of Bala lake. This site is actually ideal for kayaking as you can drive right down onto the foreshore to launch via a gradual descent into the water. Again, myself and middle daughter wore our wet suits and when Mrs TentLife went out for a paddle she just wore normal clothes due to her back pain.
HAY ON WYE
Hay On Wye (Early May) – This was the place that TentLife held their Charity Camping weekend (Racquety Farm). We had brought the kayak with us on the slight chance that we were able to get out on the water. Right next to the campsite was a canoe hire business (canoehire.co.uk) with great access onto the River Wye, the lovely owners who said we could launch from their place. So whilst the rest of the family started a picnic on the shore, whist testing come camping equipment, my eldest daughter and her boyfriend went and had their first-time kayaking experience. Now the river Wye has quite some current on it, and usually the canoe hire business sends people off to paddle down stream and be collected by van further down the river. Our two virgin kayakers were allowed to have a paddle around and not go too far away incase they couldn’t get back to the launch point. They both thoroughly enjoyed paddling in the sunshine and the Madison Kayak coped brilliantly against the current of the river Wye. They both wore their normal clothes and just the adult buoyance aids,, they can’t wait to go out again as soon as possible.
Wastwater (Late May) – One of the many lakes in the Lake District (obviously), we were staying at Whinfell campsite in Lorton which is about an hours drive from Wastwater. We have been to this lake before when we came to the Lakes in 2016. Wastwater has some glorious views and is surrounded by mountains, in particular Scafell Pike which is the largest mountain in England. Wastwater is about 3 miles long and there is a road that runs along one side of it with plenty of places to park and launch your kayak from. On the day we went, Mrs TentLife wasn’t very well so middle daughter and myself took to the water for a brief paddle around. We didn’t venture out too far from the shore as we didn’t want to be too long, and whilst we were out there another kayaker went paddling by down the middle of the lake. If you want to kayak where there are some spectacular views, then this is a a most excellent choice.
Other suggestions? Take a set of dry clothes and a towel with you if you are going to be paddling in your normal clothes. It's amazing how much water gets inside the kayak and onto you (especially I you are intentionally splashing each other!!).
So that’s where we are at, as of June 2018. We’ve been bitten by the kayaking bug and are just looking for any excuse to get out on the water. I’ve joined a couple of great groups on Facebook that are really helpful and informative (here's a link to one of my favourites). The kayak is coming with us to Scotland, so it should be finding it’s way onto Loch Lomond and any other suitable waters we can find. We are also seriously considering purchasing another kayak so we can all get out onto the water together for more adventuring.
I hope this article has been informative and given you some useful advice and we hope to see you on the water soon.
I’ve put together some videos of our kayaking adventures so far, you can find them on the TentLife YouTube channel here.
Stay safe and have fun xx