Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valley Hatches - the original & still the best

Prompted by a bit of feedback from paddle mates & customers, it seems there is a small but noisy back channel campaign being run against the iconic Valley hatch here in Australia. We're not surprised about the source of most of the misinformation, but I thought I would set the record straight in a public way. As always when negative information is spun about a product, ask yourself the question, who benefits from any damage done to the brand? 
When sea kayaks were first mass produced, watertight bulkheads were a revolutionary safety feature but only as good as the hatch that was exposed to the full force of the elements. Valley  embraced  a pioneering idea employing a custom-built rim & hatch together, engineered with a unique 'double seal' as the best chance of maintaining a water tight compartment.
A kayak at sea is being pitched & rolled, sometimes at the same time, & a hatch needs to have some flexibility built into the design to accommodate this tremendous contrasting force. So successful is the Valley design at providing this seal that it's necessary to drill breather holes in the bulkheads to alleviate the air pressure within the compartment & prevent the hot air from within the cavity 'blowing' the hatch on a hot day. Of course no hatch system is perfect & it's folly to suggest that any one will remain intact for eternity, especially in the dynamic environment of the ocean.
The hatches are a rubber blend which has  undergone a number of subtle ingredient mix changes down the years aimed at combating the tendency of any form of rubber to succumb to UV light & degradation. Despite what is being pedalled, the current incarnation of the Valley hatch cover is the most UV stable Valley hatch produced to date.  If you hear that they have made a change to the mix which makes them more susceptible to UV, please consider it nothing more than a bit of malevolent mischief. Seriously, can you imagine a company with such lasting integrity making a decision to weaken an industry leading product? 
When we sell a Valley boat, we recommend a liberal application of a plasticiser like Armorall or T303 once every couple of  months to ensure the hatches live out a long & functional life. If you don't take this small maintenance precaution, you'll likely be facing a replacement far sooner. 

If you have a Valley hatch that seems to degrade prematurely, it's most likely an old hatch. Ask your manufacturer about the production date, because even when not exposed to UV, storage in hot warehouse conditions will create a shelf life for these & any other rubber based product.
As with all mass produced products, there have been the rare batch down through the years where one or two hatches seem to have degraded prematurely, but our experience with Valley since 2008, selling many hundreds of boats, would suggest this is less than 1%. It's sure isn't a replacement rate that has us questioning the integrity of the product, & is dead in line with rates of replacment due to UV degradation & other issues like delamination on the other hatch system we supply.

Our responses to negative industry campaigns are always the same. We won't ever be drawn into the double negative of berating another product to try to elevate our own, instead reinforcing the positive aspects of a particular craft or accessory, based on our own experiences of using these products in the most demanding environment of all, the sea.
If you'd like more detailed information about the Valley hatch system, please get in touch with Rob or Mark.

2 comments:

  1. A timely post, having just replaced my Valley lids after 5 years of abuse! I think you are right to point out that maintenance is paramount, do we really expect things to last forever? I find Armourall to be an excellent treatment & yes it does the trick in keeping the rubber 'hydrated'. Had I been more diligent with my own maintenance I would probably still have the old faithfuls.
    Valley hatches are heavier, expensive and they are distictive in their clunky appearance, but having paddled boats with many hatch system down the years they are the best, or at the very least the least bad of the lot!
    Enjoying the blog,
    Phil Ticehurst

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  2. Least bad…? Hey Phil that might just be a new marketing campaign - "Buy this, it's the least bad of the bunch'!
    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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