Being a frequent boat builder (I expect to launch my 16th boat this spring) and the father of four kids who love to go kayaking. Just getting the whole family of six, in the car, with water bottles, snacks, sun screen, bug repellent, towels,etc. is bad enough. On top of that, it is up to me to get the van loaded for the trip. With all the logistics involved, I know how important it is to have all your gear at the launch spot. I still remember the time we got to the boat ramp, and discovered I'd forgotten the canoe paddles. At least we weren't that far from home, and could return in time to enjoy the water.
That was for only three paddles, now I have a fleet of boats, and six or seven paddles to account for, along with boat seats, life jackets, cushions, lights, bailing sponge, etc. Not only is forgetting something a major pain, but just carrying all the gear from the car to the water can really become a juggling act! No matter how well you think you have the bundle of paddles in your arms, one will start to slip out, then the next will fall and trip you, meanwhile two more will slip out the other way. You end up leaving a trail of paddle halves, and other assorted gear.
I was lucky enough to find a life jacket bag by the road once, and wanted a similar easy way to carry my paddles in one bundle.
Step 1: Finding the Right Bag
I'll stop here to let everyone know the difference between a cheap awning and a durable one. The awning in the first picture is a commercial grade EZ-up. It costs over $200, but has a frame made of thicker steel, and a structure that has lasted for many uses. The trick is cross braces that make a plus shape inside the top of the awning, the very peak is supported by one vertical pole in the middle, instead of four folding poles running up from each corner.
Each of these failed awnings left me with a bag and canopy fabric. The bags turned out to be the perfect size!
Step 2: The Great Paddle Bag
Since all of my paddles separate in the middle, it is easy to take each paddle, snap it apart, and slide it into the awning bag. I have a blend of standard length paddles (210 cm) and a couple longer ones (9 feet I think). All seven paddles fit just fine, as long as I alternate the blades as they go in.
With the paddle bag, what was once an annoying struggle to carry around, and a worry that I might miss a paddle half, has now become a simple grab and go task.
Back when I had a canoe and a bunch of kayaks I even had a blue bag for kayak paddles, and a green bag for canoe paddles, making it easy enough to instruct one of my kids without worrying they would forget something or bring the wrong gear.
I also find keeping all of the paddles in one bag, reduces the chances of one getting slammed in a door, stepped on, or dropped in a bad spot. It is very easy to do an inventory as the paddles go in the bag, and know they will all be there for the next trip.