Review: He Spins! He Rolls! He Stays Dry!

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, April 1999

Review: He Spins! He Rolls! He Stays Dry!
By Andrew Rice


Just as whitewater kayaks have become shorter and more sculpted to better suit rodeo maneuvers, so have some of the sport's accoutrements started to change shape. But there's also still a need for clothes and accessories designed for good old-fashioned downriver kayaking. With this in mind, here are ten of the best items you'll find, no matter which discipline you prefer.

On hot days, Mountain Surf's Cruising Shell ($60; 301-746-5389) is the next best thing to going topless. The simple, waterproof ripstop nylon T keeps wind and spray off your trunk, while the short sleeves and blousy cut at the shoulders leave plenty of room for you to bust big moves. On colder days, the Stohlquist Gore-Tex Gripp dry top ($310; 800-535-3565) will appeal to traditional river-running boaters. Although the waterproof shell does taper toward the waist, it's cut roomy enough in the chest and shoulders so that you can layer to handle the conditions du jour. A rubberized mesh chest pocket grips the inside of your personal flotation device to prevent it from creeping up, and the wide waistband is lined with sticky neoprene to form a tight seal with your spray skirt. For the acrobatics involved in rodeo boating, you'll want to don the four-way-stretch waterproof fleece Kootenai Dry Top from Wyoming Wear ($220; 800-996-9327). The fuzzy interior means you can wear it directly against the skin, without any bulky underlayers, while the rubberized exterior allows it to stretch any which way your body can. Be warned, though: The slim fit that lets you forget you're wearing a top also makes wriggling into and out of this jacket something of a circus trick.

Personal Flotation Devices
A PFD may be a necessary evil, but it doesn't have to interfere with your style. To wit: the Lotus Sherman ($87.50; 888-554-8155), a PFD with most of its bulk distributed conveniently across the base of the ribs. The result is that it won't inhibit your shoulders' range of motion ù so don't blame the vest if you can't pull off a cartwheel. For an extra level of safety, regardless of the type of boating you do, there's the Kokatat ProFIT ($153; 800-225-9749). A metal O-ring at the back can be used as an anchor point for wading rescues, and the chest harness releases from the vest, in case you start to get dragged downstream and need to cut bait, as it were.

The Das Boot from Salamander ($59.50; 541-388-1821) looks like a cross between a neoprene dive bootie and a pastel Air Jordan. Fittingly, it's equally versatile in and out of the boat. The thick rubber sole is sturdy enough for portaging yet supple enough for cramming into a tight rodeo kayak, and a ratcheting plastic strap on the cuff keeps your bootie from being sucked off in the river. If you prefer open-toed freedom, Chaco's Z2 5.10 river sandals ($100; 970-527-4990) are the best bet. They grip tenaciously on slimy boulders, thanks to soles made of sticky rock-climbing-shoe rubber. A single strap threads through the footbed to adjust to your podiatric peculiarities, so there's just one buckle rather than an array of hook-and-loop closures, which can come undone in water.

It may seem like a dry bag is a dry bag is a dry bag, so long as it keeps the water out, but True North has challenged that assumption with the Stormsafe ($34; 800-873-5725). A shoulder strap makes it the ideal tote for side hikes, and it's lined with a layer of dense padding to coddle valuables like cameras and sandwiches. One thing you won't want to pack away is a foldable knife for cutting yourself free of stray fishing line or coiled throw rope. The nice thing about Spyderco's Rescue Jr. ($63; 800-525-7770) is that its blunt tip is forgiving of clumsiness. Its serrated edge is tough enough to saw through most anything, and a strong clip means it'll stay put on your vest's lash point. Equally convenient is Wildwasser's Tow & Throw Belt Bag ($75; 303-444-2336). Wildwasser puts its safety device at your fingertips ù rather than in some dark nook of your boat's hull ù in a neoprene fanny pack, so you can toss it to a flailing swimmer in a flash. A carabiner and elastic cord in another pocket serve as a quick-release towing system for lassoing a drifting paddle or boat ù allowing you to hone your skills for that other kind of rodeo.

Photographs by Clay Ellis

Filed To: Skeleton

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