Summertime in the Rockies is quickly coming to an end. The melt has slowed to a trickle, and lapping low water Pine Creek / Numbers after work is getting old. Time to fire up the Tacoma, download a Waylon Jennings mix on Spotify, and point the compass East to the Dirty South – for some warm weather huckin’!
Colorado and the Rocky Mountain states demand their own gear essentials; a solid GORE TEX dry suit, pogies, skull cap, and a slippery hulled creeker are almost mandatory for anyone who is planning on firing up many of Colorado’s classic runs.
The Southeast has a whole other list of essentials that need to go in the gear bag, or roof rack. Here’s a list of a few items that would make a SE paddling trip a heck of a lot more fun:
1.) Dagger Axiom
The Axiom’s an amazingly well rounded boat that will confidently get you down class III to IV+ rivers – you can creek in it too if you have the skills. It will also surf, squirt and throw ends in the deep water, and make a stellar big water boat.
You can think of the Axiom as an RPM with more primary stability, a modern planing hull for surfing, and the best outfitting in PaddleSports. It’s available in 4 sizes, which means that anyone from children to the Clydesdale 200 lb + club will fit like a glove.
Bottom line: The Dagger Axiom has Mamba like primary stability, but with a stern that is able to catch / squirt in eddylines. It’s fast, comfortable and wants to replace your RPM.
2. Werner Powerhouse Fiberglass Straight Shaft 1 Piece Paddle
This is the highest quality “do it all” paddle on the market. It’ll scrape down 400 feet per mile of mank with you, it’s got a nice smooth stroke that is fun for downriver paddling on the Gauley, New, etc….you can even take it to Rock Island and play boat – the blade has a lot of power, which is nice for pulling slugish playboats through big eddies, and onto large play features. The best part about the Werner Powerhouse is that it is made in the USA with pride.
Bottom line: Coming in just under $250, the Werner Powerhouse straight glass is just about the best value in the paddle world. It’s versatility, supreme durability and smooth stroke are what separates it from the pack. And let’s not forget that it is made in the USA!
3. Immersion Research Rival Short Sleeve Paddle Jacket
Short sleeved semi dry tops are pretty much meant for Southeastern paddling road trips. It’s nice to feel warm river water on your forearms, keep it out of your boat, and be almost as dry as you would with a latex neck gasket style dry top. The BEST part about using semi dry tops is definitely not having to deal with a latex neck gasket. This shorty top goes on and off just like a paddle jacket – you also do not have to take care of it like you would a traditional dry top. The neoprene neck is bomber and does not risk ripping apart like latex does.
Stuff it in your gear bag, wear it on warm weather / warm water days, and hang it out to dry at night.
Bottom line: The Immersion Research Rival Semi Dry shorty costs under $200, and will keep you as dry as you need to be. It’s more comfortable than a traditional dry top due to the fact that it has a neoprene neck – which also needs a lot less maintenance for the long term. If your paddling in the South this Fall, count on having one of these in your gear bag.
4. Astral Brewer’s
Need we say more? Astral’s Brewer shoe has gotten to be as common place in kayaking, as an RPM on the roof of a pickup, or Dagger Nomad or Jefe Grande at the put in for the Green. The Brewers have sticky rubber soles that ANY boater will appreciate. Whether it’s scouting on slipper rock next to class V, hanging out on the shore at Rock Island, or kicking it at the bar in Asheville on the weekend – we guarantee that you will not wear another pair of shoes if you own a pair. They are comfortable, dry quickly, and stay on your feet if you come out of your boat. And for that reason these kick ass shoes ABSOLUTELY NEED TO BEE IN YOUR GEAR BAG.
Bottom Line: There is no better way to spend $99 in the whitewater paddling world. The Astral Brewers offer enough support and grip for creek missions, will fit in mid sized and large play boats (for the right paddler), and are cool enough to be worn at the bar at night. And they come in rasta!
5. Shred Ready Gear Bag
If you have gear (and all kayakers do!), then you need a quality gear bag. The Shred Ready Gear Bag is a solid choice for those looking for gear storage / kayak cockpit cover combo. The bag is big enough to contain the essentials (skirt, dry top, splash top, river shoes, helmet, etc) and then fits on the cockpit of your boat (with the help of a double bungee). It’s a simple and clean system that will get your gear to the put in.
Bottom line: The Shred Ready Gear Bag is priced right (MSRP is $49), large enough to hold all of the necessities, doubles as a cockpit cover, and is durable enough to withstand the abuse that kayakers will dish out. This item is a no brainer.
Honorable mention. Other pieces of gear that we cannot live without:
Sweet Protection Shambala Shorts
Bottom line: With equal parts function, style, and steeze- these capris shorts have a knee length neoprene lining that will appeal to kayakers as well as SUP’ers.
Immersion Research Guide Shorts
Bottom line: simple and functional – that’s the name of the game. They fit well, and will last forever. I have about 10 pairs of these shorts, many of which are so old, that I do not even remember buying them.
Shred Ready Standard Full Cut Helmet
Bottom line: Priced right (MSRP is $99), solid coverage and overall protection, heaps of style – that pretty much summarizes a Shred Ready helmet. You can creek in it, SUP or play boat – the Standard Full Cut is a legend.
Immersion Research KlingOn Empire Skirt
Bottom line: this is the most well built and driest skirt that CKS sells. The apron style perimeter keeps water out, and the massive bungee holds the skirt on your boat in all but the gnarliest of whitewater. And even in the V+ it will may still stay on your boat and keep you dry. If you are looking for the ultimate skirt – check out the IR KlingOn Empire.