As a sea kayaking coach I see lots of kayaks & gear on the water each year. I have the opportunity to see how students actually use their gear, how it works for them and how sometimes it really fails. Take these Cam-Clips for instance. I’ve ranted about them in the past, but they never seem to go away either. They’re like a bad dream that just lingers in your memory and ruins your day. Why? Well, the first time I was introduced to these Current Design’s hooky-strappy things, a student was working on a layback roll. When they rolled the kayak, they put their back against the hull, slid a bit, and hooked the shoulder strap of their PFD under the cam lever! They were stuck. It was a really scary moment for them and not a very pleasant introduction to rolling a kayak either. Even after I rolled them up, they couldn’t just sit up. They had to slide back off the clip, (after we figured it out.) then sit up. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that under duress and upside down, a person may never realize they have to slide to their left to get free.. Then what?
From this angle (pictured above) you can see more easily how something could get caught under the latch. That’s the issue that bothers me most, but it’s not the only issue. Another is that they don’t seem to do a very good job holding the hatch covers on the kayak in the first place, unless under the strictest set of circumstances. They hold for a time, but seem to loosen up with use. My experience has been that most every time a student brings their Current Designs kayak with these latches to class, they are regularly struggling to get them strapped down (Not to mention keep them that way!). Most often they loosen up or come off during rescues, cowboy recoveries and others situation where they may be working on their back decks. On thing is sure.. you don’t want to be fiddling with open hatches in the middle of a rescue situation!
Of course, I wasn’t the only one seeing the problems a few years back and soon came another odd solution. They put a snap in the cam lever. Doesn’t this seem like even more crazy engineering? What’s more, the snap won’t stop the issue with folks getting hung up on the end of the clip, or prevent the straps loosening over time.
Now even if the problems that I’ve mentioned weren’t showing up in the research stage, they should have known something was a foot when they had their copy writer work on the manual. You can learn a lot about a product, when you look at what it takes to tell someone else how to use it!! Just compare the amount of steps (and text) that are needed to explain the act of closing the hatches compared to a standard rubber cover for instance. A kayak hatch should go on and off with as little “ceremony” as possible. What’s more, to adjust them, you have to release the cam, adjust the straps then re-secure them to see if they’re tight, if not, undo & redo.. It’s fiddly to say the least. You should never have to disengage something to adjust it if at all possible. Imagine when strapping your kayak down to your auto-rack if you had to completely undo the straps to tighten them, then try again..
There are already fine ways to create and secure flush-mounted hatch covers that are much less apt to catch on the paddlers clothing or come loose in rescues. I’m sure there was a good reason why CD went through all the trouble of reinventing their own wheel here. But the problems seem to outweigh the benefit. Listen, today’s blog was inspired by me watching two students struggle with these hatches just yesterday. Two people, two boats, same issues. They shouldn’t have to struggle with their gear when they are there to learn.
That said, there is nothing wrong with Current Designs Kayaks on the whole. They make a wide variety of boats to fit a wide variety of people, they seem well-made and durable.. but those straps… they really need to go… Ugh!