We made our annual visit to Canoecopia this weekend and spent surprisingly little time and money this go around (save for the cost of actually attending). Our main goal was to check out the new gear and gadgets highlighted in this year’s guide.
First stop, Goal Zero, where we checked out the Guide 10 Plus which is a solar-powered charging unit. It’s a pretty nice setup but based on the show price for the bundled package (Guide 10 Plus & Power Pack) for $119.00, it didn’t seem worth it when REI’s big 20% sale starts in a few weeks (and it’s already priced at $120.00). Goal Zero has a lot of great products and we were unexpectedly drawn to the Rock Out speakers, (especially when daisy-chained). But the sound wasn’t big enough from one speaker to beat our current setup so we’d all have to buy one to really make some noise in the wilderness. It’s important to note that none of Goal Zero’s products are waterproof. We were told/warned that they’d stand up to the elements but don’t take a bath with them.
There was another vendor at the show that changed our thinking and considered set of charging devices. Mophie makes some really great little battery packs and chargers they call the PowerStation. They’re really slick in design and can charge your iphone/ipod or (most any) USB device. For us, this seems ideal since we only really ever need to keep our phone and GoPro charged when out on the water.
Next, we checked out Astral’s pfds since I personally had my heart set on a replacement vest. The Seawolf almost, almost got me, but I couldn’t fathom spending $185 on it (essentially putting a dollar amount on my own life).
We also looked at two of the newer waterproof iPhone cases (ya know, because we had an incident this year). The Life Proof case was nice but we deemed it too bulky for our current pfd pockets (especially the LifeJacket).And then there was the Cascade Designs E-Case which seemed like the way to go but zip-lock style closures always make us nervous, so we passed.
This year’s show kept consistent with its layout and vendors. There were a couple stand-up paddling vendors and GoPro showed up this year with a surprisingly underwhelming display but we already bought the camera and stocked up on add-ons after last year. Then there was Capital brewing which was serving beer inside the show (a new twist) with a new flavor on tap (the first, post-Kirby?). But the show-stopper of the new venders were the custom headlamps made right in front of you. If we didn’t love Petzl so much, we’d be all in.
We caught two of four planned presentations and a couple of demos. Two of the speakers we were really looking forward to were overly packed which precluded us from getting in (unless we body surfed over and into the room).
So we didn’t leave with a fulfilled wish list, in fact, this is probably the least amount of money we’ve ever spent at the show. But I personally scored a Rutabaga t-shirt (sorry, I got the last green Jolly Roger t-shirt folks but I’m sure Rutabaga will have more soon), a towel and some Grower’s Cup coffee to test out (I say “test” because I’m quite partial to our camp coffee setup). The Grower’s Cup folks were incredibly nice. They only brought two of the four mildest flavors to the show so I’ll probably be hitting up Rutabaga to grab the other flavors.
I spent about $30 so I didn’t even break even in the grand scheme of things (grand scheme being $25 for a 3-day pass + $18 parking ($6/day) = $43.00). Simple math means, to take advantage of that 15% discount, the average canoer and kayaker has to spend $287.00 to break even (not including food at the show).
But cost aside, Canoecopia is absolutely worth attending if you’re in the market for a boat. You can’t beat the discount (especially if you’re within a few hundred miles from Rutabaga which makes exchanges must easier if the rig you picked out isn’t quite what you expected once you get it on the water).
If you’re only looking for gear, it’s a great place to window shop but the discount alone doesn’t justify a gear-only plan of attack with REI’s annual sale coming a few weeks later (which saves you 20% on any single item (but in reality, you can keep reusing that discount on multiple items)).
Cost completely aside, the speakers are quite possibly the best reason to take advantage of Canoecopia. Plan to stake out a spot early if you really have your heart set on hearing somebody specific speak.
For overall dollar-value, the big show is turning into an every other year event for us. We had a good time but it’s really difficult to justify the cost per paddler, especially if you’re a newbie and only mildly curious about this fantastic sport. The speakers are really the highlight, if you can get in. And you can’t really put a price on camaraderie. But unless we’re buying another boat (which would be awesome), we’ll probably keep our options open next year.
Timothy Corcoran BauerMarch 13, 2013 at 10:59 pm
Just a quick and friendly follow-up…
I'm a pretty frugal guy, so I purchase my wristband/ admission pass to Canoecopia early, which shaves off a few bucks from the price of paying at the event on the day of. I also ride my bike there (this year in the pelting rain), as I am loathe to pay for parking. (I suppose it goes without saying that I have no intention of buying a boat when I attend Canoecopia, though I am not without experience attaching a kayak to a bicycle and shuttling forth (albeit carefully…and clumsily).
I am not much of a gear or gadget guy, so the sellers' pavilion part of Canoecopia doesn't appeal too much to me. (That said, it's always fun sauntering around all those boats, paddles, maps, trinkets, etc! And I usually do pick up something or other, thanks to the 15% discount.)
I go for the presenters/presentations. For the cost of only $12 I learned about the Buffalo River in the Ozarks (a must at some point), the Apostle Islands (ditto), the river-equivalent of the Appalachian Trail from upstate New York through to Maine, sea kayaking the northern coast of Celtic France, canoe-camping in the Caribou National Park in Canada, and much more!
It's fun, entertaining, and inspires excitement to start planning trips, perusing maps, making plans. It's exhausting, to be fair, but that's only because I'm frugal and plan to squeeze every penny out of my admission. Go at your own pace; it's a great time and tradition.
Happy paddling everybody!