May 25, 2011
Golf cart enclosures are a popular way to mitigate the effects of cold weather for winter golf cart users. The obvious application is for winter golfers, but these enclosures also find usefulness in other applications like security patrols and simple transportation around small areas like retirement communities or even studio lots.
There are many varieties available: 4-sided enclosures that fit over the roof, 3-sided enclosures that attach to the support frame, and custom pieces designed specifically for one’s model of golf cart. I’ve mentioned these different types of enclosure in order in terms of their cost and design complexity. 4-sided enclosures are typically the simplest enclosures, and thus the least expensive, while custom pieces are typically the most involved, and thus, more costly.
4-sided golf cart enclosures are the most common enclosure one will see. Made of a durable vinyl or polyester, these pieces basically fit like a box over the top of the golf cart, with zippers at each corner and usually one down the middle of each side. These enclosures are very easy to attach. They will fit over like a cap and will typically have adjustable straps with hooks that will do under the frame of the golf cart. The user will tighten these straps until there is no slack. These golf cart enclosures are best for those who use different golf carts, as portability and ease-of-operation are high and they are nearly-universally compatible. Disadvantages of this type of enclosure include what for most users will be a redundant front window, obscuring visibility, and a relatively loose fit that is vulnerable to flapping in windy conditions. The windshield panels of these enclosures can typically be rolled up for improved visibility; however, this will reduce stability as most manufacturers mount their front attachment straps to this section. This will mean that the side flaps will not be attached in the front and will move about a great deal in wind or at speed.
3-sided golf cart enclosures eliminate the problem of the redundant front windshield, as, obviously, they only cover 3 sides of the enclosure: each side and the rear. This is accomplished through increased complexity in attaching the enclosure; it does not go over the roof but will instead feature sleeves that will go around the frame that supports the roof. This increased complexity means that these enclosures take longer to put on, generally about 15 to 20 minutes. While not prohibitively long, this delay, coupled with the method of attachment, means that these enclosures are best suited for those who operate a single cart for the majority of the time. Advantages of this type of golf cart enclosure include excellent visibility, high wind protection and very good stability with little to no flapping. Disadvantages include length of installation, a more complicated attachment system that makes them incompatible with some models, and higher cost.
Custom golf cart enclosures have come down in price quite a bit just in the last year. Manufacturers are making model-specific enclosures that are the equal of any enclosure from the cart maker’s factory, and in some cases, these manufacturers have taken over that role, making OEM parts. Selection is generally limited to the most popular golf carts at semi-custom prices. These models include the market-share leaders the Club Car Precedent and the Yamaha Drive. These enclosures are usually the most expensive of the three major types of golf cart enclosure, landing in the $200 – $300 range. For many this cost is well-worth it, as the enclosures are designed to fit like a glove and eliminate many of the annoyances of the universal-fit covers listed above. The windshield portion will typically be removable or will zip open and won’t affect the stability of the enclosure. Entry zippers will be arranged towards the rear of the passenger compartment so that users can enter the cart without having to negotiate the steering wheel. Doors can be unzipped and rolled to the rear for increased ventilation if the weather changes. Overall, these custom enclosures ensure a more positive operating experience and advantages include superior fitment with negligible flapping, improved access to seating and clubs, and excellent visibility. Disadvantages are limited to cost and inflexibility of fitment. If one has a single cart that is used extensively, a custom golf cart enclosure may be worth the investment.
May 18, 2011
Float Tubes, or belly boats as some call them, are inflatable floating chairs used for fishing and recreation on the water. They are light, maneuverable and surprisingly comfortable. Most will have a number of features designed for fishing, including rod holder(s), stripping aprons and pockets for other fishing equipment. Some are designed to be carried on the back while out of the water and include straps for easier portage.
Most float tubes will have a weight capacity of 300 lbs. or more, with most not exceeding 350 lbs. Obviously, the more weight that is in the tube will affect how it handles and rides in the water, so larger people may want to consider something at the 350lb capacity mark.
Most float tubes have an open front design for ease of entry. This simply means that the shape of the tube is akin to a chair; you simply sit in it, strap the stripping apron over you and you’re good to go. Other float tubes have a closed front design. This means that the tube is basically a ring with a backrest and that one needs to step into the tube, taking small steps out into deeper water until there is enough room to sit down, or of course, you can hold it around your middle. Closed-front tubes typically mean that more of a user’s body will be in the water, usually up to the waist. Open front tubes can keep a sitting person out of the water up to the knees if buoyant enough.
Float tubes are also offered in different shapes. Some will have what are effectively short pontoons with a seat in the middle. This design usually refers to the seat as a “stadium seat,” meaning that the backrest is supported by straps that attach to the bottom of the seat and that it will fold down and flatten, if necessary. This design is typically the longest float tube configuration, and offers the most lateral and front and rear stability due to its wide stance in the water. If there is going to be moderately rough water where you are going, this may be the design for you.
Another design shape would be the typical U-shaped float tube. This tube is exactly as it sounds, a U that conforms around the user, joined in the rear and open in the front. Typically, this float tube shape uses the bladders and inflatable volume of the tube to form the backrest, so that you are leaning against the tube itself. This is different than a “stadium seat” which has straps attached to the base of the seat to provide support, like some camping chairs. These float tubes are typically shorter than the “stadium seat”-style of tube, but will usually ride higher. This is due to the fact that the bladders on these types of tubes are larger in volume as they also form the backrest. These types of tubes are recommended for larger users, those who plan on carrying a bit of gear, or just want to ride as high above the water as possible. Please note that all of these designs will get much of your legs wet!
The ring design, or closed front float tube design mentioned above, is the oldest out there and seems to be waning in popularity. It is exceptionally stable. Unfortunately, the reason it is stable is because it uses the rider’s weight pulling down in the middle against the ring as the primary stabilization force. This means that you are getting pretty wet, probably the most of all the different models. Imagine a tube with a very large and strong pair of underwear sewn in the middle of it and you’ll get the idea. These tubes are also usually the smallest of the three main groups, so for portability, they’re not a bad way to go. But, for overall comfort, I would not give them the highest marks.
When choosing a float tube, be sure to explore all of your options and look at what you’ll be using it for. With enough research, it is hard to make a bad decision.
May 13, 2011
Patio furniture covers get dirty. That’s kind of the point. But as Morgan Freeman said as God in Bruce Almighty, “No matter how filthy something gets, you can always clean it right up.” So, how do we clean your patio furniture covers? It depends on the material, of course. Patio furniture covers come in a several different materials, the most popular being vinyl, nylon, polypropylene, and polyester. Let’s start with vinyl.
Vinyl patio furniture covers take me back. To flannel, Nirvana and Viennetta ice cream on my birthdays. Vinyl is the grandfather of all patio furniture covers. It is basically water-proof, has great tensile strength and is pretty cheap. A decent combination. Never mind the cracking in the sun or the annoying flakes you had to clean up. Vinyl was pretty much all you had. It is also the material that usually comes with whatever you bought that you need to cover, so who can blame you? I digress. How to clean a vinyl cover? Wipe it down with soap and water. Obviously, do not machine wash it. Do not saturate the cover with water, but use a brush, pad or towel. Dry the water off. Pretty simple.
Nylon covers are becoming increasingly rare due to the high cost of the material. Nylon is one of the strongest synthetic textile materials out there. A nylon rope can last for decades, for example. You can actually machine wash your nylon cover, something you cannot do with other materials. Just make sure you don’t wash it with anything else, use cold water and use non-chlorine bleach, if any at all. Regular laundry detergent should be plenty.
Polypropylene is one of the weakest materials used for patio furniture covers, but is also the cheapest. A single-layer polypropylene cover can really only be expected to last a single season if exposed to any sunlight at all. These things will disintegrate before your eyes. With that said, no one wants a dirty patio furniture cover, even if it is a mediocre one, so feel free to clean it up. Just be sure to be careful when doing so. Use a towel or cloth. Don’t use a brush, even if it’s soft. There is a decent chance you will weaken the material and accelerate your cover’s demise. Fortunately, these covers are so cheap that replacing them is easy. Which is what most people do every year with a polypropylene cover.
Polyester has gained in popularity over the last 10 years and is now the most popular patio furniture cover material on the market. Tough, water-resistant and more rot-resistant than duck or cotton canvas, polyester covers nicely combine durability and economy in a single material. There are also varying thicknesses available, commonly measured by ounce, or the weight of a square yard of a material, or denier, basically a measurement of the thickness of the thread used to make it. 600 denier is about the thickest polyester one will find used in covers, and it will be similar in weight and feel to a backpack or reusable shopping bag. Most of these polyesters are coated with a layer of plastic, usually PVC, or acrylic material to improve UV and water-resistance. This is the rub. If your polyester cover is not coated with anything, then it is machine washable using cold water and non-chorine bleach. If it is coated, machine washing will degrade the coating and is not recommended. Nor would I suggest using a brush as this, too, can damage the coating. Similar to polypropylene, simply use a cloth and mild soap. If you have to scrub too hard, you’re probably going to degrade the coating. This is unfortunate, but its better your cover take the brunt of what the outdoors has to throw at it than the furniture piece itself. Patio furniture covers are made to be broken.