Well, here we are again. The water levels are starting to drop, the days are getting shorter, and the ever encroaching fall season is getting closer. However, don’t let the winter blues settle in just yet! Gore season (at least mortal flow season) is upon us and if you’re serious about your whitewater recreation, then you’ve started planning out the annual pilgrimage to the Southeast or South of the border. With that said, it may be time to up your gear for the Class V gnar-fest awaiting you. Here are a few essential pieces of gear that have seen me through this runoff.
I’m a fan of all sizes and shapes of boats (and lord knows there’s a bunch of models to choose from out there,) but the one kayak you need to have in your arsenal if you plan on running the sh*t, is a creek boat. This year has been a good one for new creek boat designs, so take your pick! Personally, I’d roll with a Pyranha 9R, 2016 Dagger Nomad, or a Dagger Mamba, depending on your style of boating.
The Nomad doing what the Nomad does best. Photo by Cody Beach.
Astral is one of my favorite companies in the whitewater game. They continue to pump out quality products and are the best when it comes to customer service. The Green Jacket is a staple of the Class 5 community. Always solid and always stylish. After retiring my 1st generation Green Jacket, it was a no-brainer to buy the new model. It’s a huge upgrade as well, with a newly designed clam shell, a fleece-lined hand-warming kangaroo pocket, and the skirt clip-tab (my favorite feature.)
The new colors for 2016 improved on an already great design.
It will never let you down, will last until it becomes a red Q-tip, and you’ll never look like a beater. That is, of course, until you start carping roll after roll in front of all of your friends. I think the most important aspect of the WernerPowerhouse is the price point, though. Definitely on the lower end of paddle prices, losing it or breaking doesn't hurt the wallet as much as other paddles on the market. Plus, you don’t want to scratch up that pretty Odachi you just bought for the Gore Race.
This one is a little tricky, but it’s a top piece of gear for sure! Again, depending on where you plan on spending most of your time on the water, you need to decide what to use. For years, while on a dirt-bag budget, I wasn’t able to afford both a top and suit, so I just stuck with one or the other. First came the Kokatat Rogue, then a Kokatat Meridan (GMER). I spent most of my time either here in Colorado or in the PNW, so a suit was “suit-able.” However, I believe in Colorado you can get by all season with only a dry top. Choosing to go with a suit year-round made for some extremely hot hiking and put tons of extra wear on this expensive piece. The Kokatat Idol is another option that allows you to choose dry top or drysuit, based on weather conditions. Either way, I highly recommend Kokatat. They're made in the USA and have a bomber repair service. If you do it right, one suit or top can last you many years.
Choosy paddlers choose Kokatat. Photo by Fred Morrsion
Finally, the most important piece of gear on this list. A piece of gear that I hope I never go without again. Not only is it stylish, it's also practical and convenient. Salamander has the visor game on point. Sure, you’ll see many of the pros rocking their Sweet helmets with the hard-plastic Sweet visor. If you truly want to be an OG, then get with the Salamander program. For starters, they won’t break on you. I’ve broken a Sweet visor in the past and have heard harrowing stories of people being blinded mid rapid because it folded down in front of their face. If I’m ever blinded by my Sally, you best believe I’m ripping it right off the Velcro and finishing the rapid with 20-20 vision! And you won’t have to cry about it later because it’ll cost you under $20. Plus, did I mention how stylish you’ll look?! Get yourself one and keep the splish-splashes and sun off your face.
Tyler showing off the classic "Rowdy Beak." Photo by Lauren Dyer
There it is. My Top V Class V things you can’t go without whether you’re out charging big-water or waterfalls from the Southeast to Patagonia. Stay safe out there ya’ll, and keep the charge alive!!