I was cleaning up my gear recently after a 3-day, 2-night paddle and got to thinking about the kayaking gear I and other 5-Star Yak Pak members have settled on over the years. So here are some of the items that we love and which have stood the test of time for us.
Stohlquist BetSea PFD
Our favorite PFD. Designed for “curvy” women, it comes in 3 sizes. It has multiple straps to get the correct fit. 2 pockets for safety gear and 2 lash tabs for an emergency light and a river knife. And the bottom 1/3 of the back is mesh which is more comfortable with a lot of the high-backed recreational seats.
Tula Lifeguard hat
Our favorite hat because of the 5-inch wide brim for sun and rain, the chin strap for the wind, and the palm fiber material that floats. If it gets crushed, just get it wet and re-shape it. If you wish a slightly narrower brim, the Gardener model has a 4-inch brim and the Outback model has a 3.5-inch brim.
Werner Camano (kuh – may – no) paddles
At 27 oz, the Camano is a performance low-angle paddle. With a carbon blend shaft and a fiberglass laminate blade this paddle has a low swing weight and provides a good balance between stiffness and flex as well as light weight and $$$. It also comes in two different shaft diameters (regular and small) which means it fits people with small hands better. And it is available with either a straight or a bent shaft. The ferrule is quick and sure and we have had very few problems with it, as long as we remember to wash the ferrule off with fresh before and after each trip to remove any sand or salt.
Sea to Summit Eclipse paddling gloves
4 sizes means you can find one that fits your hand. They are UPF 50 for sun protection (and your hand are always exposed to the sun). The spandex back means they flex with your hands and the synthetic leather provides a non-slip surface even when wet. Best of all, in all the pairs we have bought the area between your thumb and forefinger, where the paddle rests, has always been smooth so there is no irritation in the spot where the paddle rests. They machine wash well and one pair will last you several years. In fact, we generally lose them before they wear out.
Stream Machine water guns
For the narrow spring runs and non-white water rivers that we paddle the vast majority of most of the time, we have replaced our bilge pumps with the water guns. Not as efficient as a bilge pump (a bilge pump empties water on both the pull and the push stroke, while a water gun fills on the pull stroke and empties on the push stroke) these are lighter and a whole lot more fun. And unlike a lot of water toys, these are well built and lost a long time.
Half-skirt, spray-deck, sun deck
For the narrow spring runs and non-white water rivers that we day paddle most of the time, we usually use half-skirts rather than full skirts. They keep the sun off our legs and the paddle drips out of our laps yet allow a lot of ventilation in our hot and humid weather.
Luci Outdoor solar, inflatable, water-proof lantern
These little lights scrunch down flat for easy packing, then inflate to about 5 inches tall, providing you with enough soft lighting to cook or read by after dark. They can recharge during the day stuck under a deck bungee, then shine all night. It’s available in clear (our favorite), frosted and several soft colors. Great for camping or even emergency use at home.
303 Aerospace Protectant Spray
The best stuff out there to protect your rubber, vinyl, fiberglass and plastic gear from UV degradation. Warning: It can be really slippery if you use too much, so we suggest spraying it on a cloth then wiping the surface down, rather than spraying directly onto a surface then wiping dry. We’ve also found that if you use it to wipe down the seals on your rubber hatch covers it keeps them easier to put on and remove. Since you use it sparingly, a 12 oz spray bottle is enough for several years, even in sunny Florida.
Sink the Stink
An amazing bacteria fighter developed by a SCUBA diver that is great for removing that awful mildew smell from neoprene, nylon, fleece, silicone, and rubberized gear as well as synthetic sponges and leather. Just soak your gear (5 minutes to overnight, depending on the level of stinkiness) in a bathtub with a capful of Sink the Stink then hang to dry. And it’s 100% natural biodegradable, hypo-allergenic, and non-toxic. Mirazyme by McNett is a similar product, but we much prefer Sink the Stink.
Princeton Tec Tactical Quad Headlamp
Florida requires non-motorized boats to carry a white light that can be displayed as needed at night. Having a waterproof headlamp that will meet that law as well as help guide you into camp in low light situations and that can be used around camp is a big plus. Despite it’s militant name this is a great headlamp, waterproof to a meter so it can handle heavy rain and splashes.