airCap

airCap is a solar-powered, high-accuracy pressure gauge for inflatable kayaks, canoes, whitewater rafts, IKs, SUPs and RIBs. It is a perfect match for Innova kayak and people who like to follow air pressure all the time.

It measures up to 20 psi and is available in two different versions: airCap LF for Leafield C7/D7 valves and airCap HR for Halkey-Roberts, Summit2 and most ¼-turn valve styles.

  • Efficient, solar-powered, battery free, long-life operation
  • Performs in low-light at dusk, dawn and by headlamp
  • High-visibility, easy-to-read LCD displays pressure to one hundredth of a psi
  • Two versions compatible with C7/D7 orHalkey-Roberts style valves
  • Make-before-break seal prevents air escape during installation

Read more about it at: https://www.triboutdoor.com/

­The airCap Story

Innovation is often spawned by moments of inspiration. The story of airCap is no different. Well… it’s a little different in that two completely separate events converged to become the inspirational ‘moment’ behind the product. And as it turns out, these entirely separate events happened on two different river trips, but on the very same stretch of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in central Idaho.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon is located deep in an otherwise inaccessible part of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area. For whitewater rafters this is a highly coveted six-day trip in one of the most remote wilderness areas in the United States. This stretch of the Salmon is known as the River of No Return, eventually descending into a deep canyon with insurmountable sheer granite cliffs. Once you embark, it’s virtually impossible to leave the river until it finally reaches the confluence where the canyon opens up and you spill into the Main Salmon. It’s an amazingly beautiful trip full of wildlife, epic landscapes, hot-springs and rich history.

But this stretch of river isn’t exactly the best place to have problems. On day two of a mid-season trip in July, we stopped for lunch and pulled our flotilla of five rafts, one inflatable kayak and two hard shell kayaks partially out of the water to start prepping our meal. A few moments later a loud explosion, something like a shotgun blast, echoed across the canyon. One of our crew jumped up frantically and ran over to investigate. His inflatable kayak had just exploded on the beach leaving one chamber shredded and unrepairable.

A few years later, in early September, we were fortunate to visit the Middle Fork once again. This was a late-season trip and as such expected to be cold and possibly rainy. The water runs low this time of year, so launching at the regular Boundry Creek put-in wasn’t an option. So, the crew flew on a small single-engine Cessna to a place called Indian Creek about 25 miles downriver. This remote airstrip requires a steep, white-knuckled descent into the canyon before touching down on a dirt runway next to the river.

The first two days of the trip were warm, sunny and filled with cliff jumping and splashing around in the river. But on the morning of day three we awoke to an overcast sky and chilly weather conditions which persisted for the rest of the trip along with random bursts of rain. But hey, let’s keep it all in perspective; even the worst day on the river is better than the best day at work. This sudden shift in the weather created a bit of an issue for the inflatable kayaks. At the beginning of the trip, people fought to take turns running the IKs, and now with the colder conditions, it was less a popular notion to be drenched in water while punching through waves.

Choosing adventure over warmth, two of us accepted the challenge to navigate the remaining river miles on the two IKs. The problem was that one of the IKs had a leaky floor, and unfortunately, I was sitting on it. Once deflated, the IK’s floor sank below the water line and left me sitting in four inches of very cold water with no sun to warm me up. The first time this happened, the floor went from pumped to completely deflated in a matter of minutes, leaving me no time to fix the problem.  So, what started as an uncomfortable but manageable experience quickly became so untenably cold that paddling, or even moving, was difficult. This is not a good situation for navigating rapids. When we stopped we would pump the floor back up, but something funny was happening. Sometimes the floor would stay inflated for hours and sometimes it would need to be re-pumped after only thirty minutes. I now realize that the reason for this is that the chamber was never properly inflated. You might inflate a chamber a lot or a little, but you can’t really tell the pressure by hand. You can punch the boat, or push on it with your thumb to guess the pressure, but that’s about as useful as putting your hand out the car window to tell how fast you’re driving.  Every time I got back in that IK I kept wondering; how long until this thing deflates? It was a ticking clock counting down to pure misery. Why do these things not have a pressure gauge? Why can’t I just glance down and know the pressure before getting in? Shouldn’t each boat just have its own pressure gauge?

But let’s get back to the first trip with the exploding inflatable kayak. This was a costly, yet preventable situation. And what’s worse, this could have happened to one of our larger rafts where it would have been difficult and potentially dangerous to get all of our rafters down the river and back home safely.

So, we were left to wonder, why is it that everyone owns a pressure gauge, but nobody uses them? The answer we discovered is quite simple. Pressure changes… frequently. You can check the pressure at put-in and the minute the boat hits the water the pressure changes. When the sun comes out and hits your boat, the pressure changes. When you go up or down in elevation, the pressure changes. It’s not entirely obvious to most people, but if you take an inflated boat from the shade to the sun the pressure can easily double or more. So the only way a traditional dial gauge is truly useful is if a user perpetually goes around to each chamber checking pressure. We realized that the burden of using these traditional gauges does not outweigh the benefits, and that’s why most traditional pressure gauges live in the bottom of boaters’ ammo cans next to the expired lip balm.

What we really need is a durable, whitewater-ready, easy to read, easy to use, waterproof gauge that lives on the inflatable boat/SUP/IK and just works all the time. This was the goal for airCap, and we nailed it. As one reviewer put it, “airCap is simply awesome!”

After lots of thought, countless design hours and solving hard engineering challenges, the best reward is feedback from users who say airCap “just gives me peace of mind and makes my trip more enjoyable.”

We wanted to create a product that any user could easily retrofit onto an inflatable they already own. And now users from around the world are installing airCaps on standup paddleboards, rafts, IKs, water bikes, and even huge inflatable water parks.

When you consider the cost of most inflatables, and the cost of repairing damaged tubes, the money spent on protecting your equipment with airCap is trivial and easily worth the investment.

Many boaters are used to the idea of never measuring pressure. They use the slap test, thumb test, knee test, pebble drop test, etc. These methods don’t work, not even close; go grab a gauge and see for yourself. People that use these methods often hit the water in an underinflated (and underperforming) boat and on occasion stress or rupture a seam, or tear out a baffle.  Properly inflated boats handle better. Over-inflated boats can suffer damage. But what’s most important is that knowing the right pressure and knowing what you are doing every single time you hit the water gives you peace of mind and confidence to have a great experience. And we think that a great experience is what it’s all about.

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