Boating shorts are boating shorts right? All board shorts are created equal? Well, not really... While there are plenty of great options for kayaking trunks, there are also some important features that often get overlooked when shopping for an item as simple as shorts. The Sweet Shambala's are the Mercedes-Benz of PaddleSports apparel. They have lots of features that make them comfortable and durable, and also have some well thought out components that equate to enhanced river safety. In the words of North Fork veteran Mike McKee, "you gotta be true to your crew", and proper boating gear is essential. Even features as simple as a neoprene lining, can make the difference of being able to stay in the water a few minutes longer, in the event of an untimely river rescue in the middle of the summer. Here are the specific details that set the Shambala's apart for the rest of the pack:
The shorts have articulated legs (i.e - a slight curve), and are built for sitting down in a kayak. This is great, because they are little bit longer than most shorts. The added protection is a huge bonus, and being comfortable while sitting down is a really nice touch. This is a great example of the the justified price tag ($117.95) that goes along with them.
Articulated legs to compensate for the knee bend while sitting in your boat.
The added length of the shorts provides protection against thigh braces of boats. The neoprene lining (more on that below) also creates a soft barrier. Older model boats with foamless thigh hooks can dig into your legs...The Shambala's will give you a comfortable ride.
The extended neoprene liner is AWESOME. There are a few different neoprene river shorts out there, and they all provide good warmth and comfort. The Sweet's extend below your knee a little bit, which keeps even more of your core warm, and also protected from the elements. These are by no means "creeking shorts" that will keep you unscathed in a swim in an OBJ slide or some infamous Colorado mank, but for most down river paddling, play boating and Stand Up Paddling, it is awesome to have. Again, the neoprene extension is nice and soft against older knee wells, and meat hooks in kayaks (especially sans foam).
Full neoprene legs (down to the knees). One thing to note... because the neoprene protects the outside of the knee too, paddling in older boats without new school outfitting is not nearly as unpleasant. Places where skin would typically rub on plastic, is now protected.
The high back gives good abrasion resistance from back bands; perfect for play boating in summer.
The double Velcro closure was adapted from mountain biking shorts. There are also 2 buttons and a Velcro fly. There's lots of adjustment for a pair of shorts.
Double Velcro closures. The Shambalas will stay on if you take a swim, and we are all in between swims.
The semi dry pocket with a drain is good for small essential items that you may need for a day of boating (car keys, lip balm, etc). It's not waterproof, but will keep them within in arms reach.
The shorts are built with a Polyamide exterior with DWR treatment. The Stitched Yamamoto neoprene liner is also top shelf. In short, these shorts will put you out just over $100, but will last longer than any others out there (and also have every feature you could want in a pair of boating shorts). Compare these suckers to DH mountain bike shorts, except they are specifically built for paddling.
The perfect application for the Shambalas would be for summertime paddling here in Colorado, on The Arkansas River. Typically, the air temp is pretty warm, but the water is almost always chilly. A standard day on the Ark may consist of an AM Numbers run, and some river surfing or play boating at the park in the afternoon. Dry pants are overkill, and board shorts come up a little bit short (no pun). I find myself frequently wearing a union suit under my shorts for a little extra warmth and leg protection. This works well, but why not have the layer under your shorts give you even more warmth, and a more tailored fit. Winning.
As with pretty much every Sweet Protection item, the price point is not "entry level". Just like any high end sporting good (carbon foam core paddle, race ready mountain bike, light weight AT ski set up, etc), you are going to pay for quality, good design, style and performance. At $117.95 they may be some of the most expensive river shorts on the market...At the same time they also may very well be the best out there. Again, when being compared to mountain bike shorts, the Shambala's are very reasonably priced.
These shorts are not intended to replace dry pants. They do offer protection and warmth, but if you are thinking of wearing the Shambala's instead of something warmer, and are in doubt if they will be warm enough, opt for the pants. Be safe. Be overkill, not under dressed and hypothermic at 10,500 feet on a cloudy day in Crested Butte in the summer. Shit happens, so be ready.
3 words...Ultimate river shorts. The long articulated legs, neoprene lining (that goes just below the knees), beefy closures and shell material (updated for 2011), mad style and highest level of construction make the Shambala's worth every penny of the price tag. Mountain bike shorts cost this much (or more in some cases), most of which are not built with the same keen eye to detail. The next time you go shopping for boating shorts, put the Shambala's up against any other river short out there. You will immediately notice the difference. If it's the best that you want, these are the ones.