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Gear Test: Cadac Safari Chef and Coleman Fastback Kayak

October 13, 2008
Filed under Camping Gear, Sporting Goods, Stoves & Cookware

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Cadac Safari Chef

By Rich Johnson

Always on the hunt for the perfect portable grill, we think this time we’ve come pretty close to finding it. The Safari Chef grill is manufactured by Cadac SA in South Africa and marketed in this country by the Portable Grill Store. What makes it so attractive is the combination of easy portability and versatility. It’s an entire cooking system in one compact bag.

When the grill arrived, we unpacked the box and found there was a lot of stuff to play with. The stove body features foldaway legs that provide a very secure tripod and position the base of the unit high enough off the ground to eliminate danger of heat damage beneath the grill. A 16.4-ounce propane canister fits vertically beneath the grill, and a control knob allows precise burner adjustment. The only thing missing, and the only thing we think keeps this product from wearing a halo, was a piezo-electric igniter. The rest of the Safari Chef’s design and functions were so good, however, that we forced ourselves to overcome our disappointment, pulled out a match and fired it up.

The stove body has a myriad of options, including a bottom deflector plate, a reversible grill plate (one side ribbed and the other flat), a top heat-deflector plate, a wire grate, and the oven dome/wok. We needed to take a tour of the owner’s manual to figure out how it all worked.

By rearranging the pieces, we could barbecue on the wire grate; grill steaks on the ribbed side of the grill plate; fry bacon and eggs or make pancakes on the smooth side of the grill plate; boil water, make soup, cook rice or pasta, do stir fry (all in the oven dome/wok); or use the dome to turn the unit into an oven. An optional roasting pan can be purchased separately. The whole thing fits tidily in a canvas bag with carry handles and a mesh side pocket holds the propane canister.

The grill plate is made of lightweight cast metal that is treated with a non-stick coating. Before the first use, we seasoned it with a light rub of cooking oil and medium heat for two to three minutes. After cleaning, treat the surface with a light coat of cooking oil. This is very similar to the treatment you would give to a cast-iron Dutch oven.

Our first outing with the Safari Chef was a roaring success. The grill was effortless to set up and it came up to prime cooking temperature quickly. The top deflector plate below the wire grate spread the heat evenly across the entire cooking surface, so nothing burned and drips were caught on the plate for cleanup later on. We were impressed with the ease of setup, takedown, cleanup, and most of all, the versatility of cooking methods offered by this single unit. MSRP: $99. Portable Grill Store: 800/593-8244; /portable-grill-store.com/.

Coleman Fastback Kayak

By Jack Ballard

Camp near a lake or a lazy river and the addition of a canoe or kayak to your gear adds a whole new pleasurable dimension to the outing. The problem is, unless you’ve already invested the cash for a suitable roof rack for your vehicle or have some other means of hauling it, transporting a traditional craft of this type is often less than practical.

However, inflatable, paddle-powered kayaks are becoming increasingly popular. The immediate attraction of inflatables is their portability. Most of these fold down to about the size of the typical camp cooler. Recent improvements in design and materials have rendered the new generation of inflatable kayaks both durable and surprisingly efficient to paddle. Last year, the Coleman company introduced an inflatable kayak to its extensive line of outdoor products. After numerous test runs for fun and fishing, here’s what we found.

At nearly 11 feet in length, the Fastback Kayak is designed for a solo paddler with plenty of leg room and multiple compartments for gear storage. We found the storage compartments especially handy for stowing tackle while fishing. A mesh compartment on one side of the retractable spray skirt provides quick access to smaller gear while a clear, water-resistant pouch on the other side is perfect for stowing maps, a first-aid kit or electronic gadgets sensitive to water. A larger, zippered storage space is found behind the seat. This compartment is sufficient to accommodate a small cooler or duffle bag.

Along with ample gear storage, we especially liked the innovative hydration system designed into the Fastback. Two zippered compartments in the back rest accommodate hydration bladders, with ports that place the tube and mouthpiece within easy reach of the paddler. This system makes it possible to drink on the go without the need to pull out a water bottle.

On the water, the Fastback Kayak handled well for an inflatable craft of its length. Although shorter inflatables don’t track as well or paddle as efficiently as longer kayaks with a rigid hull, the Fastback’s performance was better than adequate. The boat was paddled comfortably for nearly two miles on a mountain lake, returning to shore without muscle soreness or back strain. The kayak is also very stable in wind and waves, though not intended for extreme conditions.

At less than 30 pounds, the Fastback can be transported a short distance from vehicle to water by the average adult. Inflation and deflation of the multiple air chambers is simple via large inflation valves. Though an electric pump makes the job easier, we inflated the kayak easily with a hand pump. Adjustable foot rests/braces customize the craft for persons of various heights, from youths to large adults.

At around $250 from discount retailers, the Fastback Kayak offers good value for the money. However, it doesn’t come with a paddle—our only complaint about this otherwise highly functional craft. Coleman: 800/835-3278; /coleman.com/.

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