All the Right Stuff for Whitewater

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1999 Family Vacation Guide, Don’t Spare the Bubbly

All the Right Stuff for Whitewater
By Steve Shimek

Rule number one of river travel: Rafters have more fun if they’re toasty warm. On a scenic Class I float, that may just mean staying dry. But if you’re taking a ride on the white and wild side, you need to think about
staying warm while drip-drying.

If the water or air is cool, a neoprene wetsuit is your best initial defense. An outer layer of nylon laminated to the neoprene will make the suit more durable but not as warm; look for wetsuits with an outer layer of nylon only at the wear spots — the knees and butt. O’Neill wetsuits have been keeping surfer kids and adults warm since before the Beach Boys.
Check out the Epic 3/2 suits ($200) for both juniors and adults. Not as warm but more versatile is Perception’s line of HydroFuzz tank tops and shorts ($43.50-$82) made of a thin fleece laminated to a close-fitting stretchy waterproof shell.

Now start layering. If the air or water is relatively warm, you can skip the wetsuit and begin with a quick-drying fleece top — a simple pullover is best. Kokatat offers a full line of paddling-specific clothing and has the only complete kids’ collection. The Kokatat PolarTec PowerDry underwear top ($44) is a super-simple
long-sleeved crewneck next-to-skin layer. Add the waterproof Kokatat Super Breeze splash top ($85) or the very simple NRS Rio Top ($29.50), and you’re boosh-proof.

For the feet, wetsuit booties are warmest. The NRS Paddlers Pull-On ($27.50) is a good basic choice. For more traction, consider the Five Ten Maverick booti ($52) soled with climbing-shoe
rubber. In warmer conditions you just can’t beat the age-old favorite, the Nike Aqua Sock II ($35) — available for infants to adults — for cost and solid protection. If you’re a leather curmudgeon, take a look at Rockport’s Hydro Surf XCS for adults ($90).

To keep extra layers from getting soaked, bring along a dry bag large enough for your daily necessities and at least a sweater. The Watershed Chattooga ZipDry gear bag ($90) has a fast, convenient, and totally waterproof zip closure. Seattle Sports offers bags of every size and dimension — the
size-large Clear Super Delta Sack ($27) is good for day trips, and the River Pack 4.2 ($66 for extra-large) can handle longer expeditions.

PFDs must fit snugly to do any good, and fit is often a problem with kids. Lotus makes the most durable, best-fitting PFDs for paddle sports — the new Half Pint ($66) fits kids from 50 to 70 pounds, and the popular Lola ($88) is available in unisex extra-small. For half-pint-sized kids, the Stearns Heads-Up and Watersports vests ($20) work well and even come in fun graphics. Kokatat, Perception, and Lotus all offer a large selection of PFDs for adults.

Photograph by Clay Ellis

Copyright 1999, Outside magazine

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