paddle apparel

Ok, so I see cool splash jackets and semi dry tops and all this cool stuff. and I like to look the part as much as I enjoy to do certain activities (the more i enjoy one the more i want to have cooler stuff). I also, odd as it seems with my above statements, am for the most part a minimalist. I just like to have the right tool for the job. So I see these jackets and such and wonder about them.

I don’t roll. I may someday, but as of now my canoe doesn’t roll and I have an OT Rush. I understand that when I get a different kayak and I learn rolls and the like like I will get more waterproof clothing most likely (also I don’t paddle in the cold or if I THINK the water is cold). So is a semi dry top better than my rain coat I wear? would it be good for me to invest in some of the pricier clothing? My rain coat is for cool, splashier, or rainy days. the fabric is waterproof, but fairly breathable.


and on a similar note I have a question about PFDs. I have not yet taken a quick water rescue course. I am always looking for that near perfect PFD. one that is a little more comfortable, a little more manuverable, a little more boyant, the one with a better pocket for my smokes, a better placed lash tab for the knife I don’t have…you know always looking. Well I like some of the rescue ones and they normally have a cross on them. If I got one would it be like false advertising? Saying I have this rescue PFD, but for heaven’s sakes don’t ask me to do a Z drag. would it be really wrong or would not one notice…I am just curious. I am still in the camp of I don’t do rescue so I don’t shop their section. I just wondered today.

I find the splash jackets and semi drop tops are a little more streamlined than a raincoat, but at the same time cut for more movement in the shoulders and torso. There is no comparison between the comfort of a nice fitting top versus my raincoat (though your may be fine) Shop sales and you should be able to get a good deal.

Splash top
I’ve been pleased with my splash top (from nrs) which is surprisingly “minimalist,” plenty warm - at least here in the southeast, and didn’t cost a king’s ransom.

I’m less happy with my PFDs (I have four). Am I missing something - or do they all come in either extra-small or extra-large (I am neither)?

I started out paddling …
with a waterproof/breathable rain coat. It’s fine except in colder weather when water runs up your sleeves. I have a drytop, drysuit and splash jacket, but do not own a semi-drytop. The drytop and drysuit are overkill until you need them (e.g. paddling in bigger conditions, colder water, learning to roll, etc.). This summer I picked up a Kokatat Tropos material splash top. I really like it for several reasons:

  1. It’s very light weight and stuffs up small

    (not unlike the rain coat).

  2. It is cut for easier movement (unlike the rain coat, but not unlike a drysuit/top).

  3. The cuffs and neck seal with a neoprene like material and velcro closure. It is comfortable around the writs and neck (more so than a drysuit/top), and provides a surprisingly good seal. If I seal it carefully I can even do a few rolls with only a little seepage. It keeps splash and drip out much better than a rain coat.

  4. It is a pullover style and is cut large enough to fit over my pfd, so it can be donned when needed on the water with little fuss.

  5. It has a pocket on the sleeve :slight_smile:

    The rain coat should work fine until you need to be in a drysuit/top, but a splash top designed for paddling may be more comfortable.


A neat piece of gear
for you to try out is a Mustang Survival float coat. It’s a warm, comfy jacket that’s also a PFD. It’s a niche item in my kit. If I’m paddling on a cold drizzly day I wear it over a North Face fleece top and stay real comfy. On nasty days I go with a dry suit, nice days a wetsuit. The wetsuit is also good in combination with various layers. This is stuff I use sea kayaking. What I really like about the float coat is the big pockets and how comfortable and easy to paddle in it is. It also has a nice big collar that stands up to keep the wind off your neck. A truly terrific piece of gear. The USCG uses orange ones but mine is a dark blue color. Mustang Survival also makes the suits sailors don when their boat sinks.

The complete outfit.
Just thought I would explain the complete outfit I mentioned above and the conditions in which I wear it. The base layer (underwear) is a Under Armor expedition weight top and bottom, then I wear North Face fleece pants and a long sleeve top, and the float coat. This works great between 35 and 55 degrees farenheit or so with a water temp above 40 degrees. I usually wear a fleece hat that covers my ears as well. Fleece is good at keeping you warm even when it’s wet. I have rolled a time or two wearing this and it kept hypothermia at bay. The Under Armor is terrific at insulating even when it’s wet. The fleece dries fairly quickly as well. It doesn’t hold water like cotton at all. When it’s below freezing I don a dry suit, even though I find them restrictive and uncomfortable. A dry suit is a real lifesaving piece of gear when it’s necessary. However they’re so uncomfortable for me I came up with this alternative to a wetsuit under the conditions I described above. Basically I use a dry suit when it’s really cold and stormy on the water. When it’s warmer out I use a wetsuit. In between I use the fleece and float coat.

I haven’t seen very many other kayakers wear this so maybe I’m starting my own little trend.

I wear an under Armour cold gear top or similar base layer underneath my drysuit. For bottoms I have a pair of duotherm? tights ($10 at Marshalls). I combined this with a Spyder Balaclava on my head with an additional beanie and I am plenty warm paddling in ~20-30F weather with water near freezing. The key is gettign a base layer that “sticks” to the skin with no air in between. Compression is the key in my book.

Two considerations

– Last Updated: Dec-30-07 10:38 AM EST –

First one is that once you go dry, like as in a drysuit, you'll likely find wetwear a lot less comfortable in anything other than pretty warm conditions. There are exceptions but most do. So you may want to hold off until you are working for the roll, stash your cash for a drysuit rather than have a pile of thicker neoprene that'll rarely see use again. IR has one out, just looked the other day, new for 2007 that comes in at $700. Pretty decent looking.

Second is about the rescue PFD. WW folks tend to go for PFD's with a leaner profile than long boaters, which means fewer places to stash those cig's and other stuff. It may be a good idea to start really looking at the various ones now to figure out what trade-off's you are willing to consider.

Under Armour
I am all about it. I work at T.J. Maxx (we own Marshall’s) so I have a few shirts from them. you can pick it up there for about 20 bucks. That is way better than the sporting goods stores!

Actually your outfit sounded like you shop at Marshall’s quite a bit.

I make jokes all the time that I only paddle in Ralph Lauren and Under Armour.


Rescue pfd…

– Last Updated: Dec-30-07 7:16 PM EST –

I don't know a thing about you; so any comments I make are not directed to you personally, but are general comments. In other words, I am not trying to pull your chain.

I have a rescue pfd, and was certified as a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor, Wilderness First Responder, and Lifeguard Instructor for many years.
When I was certified; if I was going to be paddling whitewater, and I considered the risk factor to be higher than normal, because of the weather, or the river level, I wore it. Friends I paddled with who had rescue pfds, and had the "same" training as I did also wore theirs. There were reasons we did so; the "cool factor" was not one of the reasons. We were prepared to take higher than normal risks to assist each other in an emergency situation. We were aware of the possible natural consequences of taking those risks, whether we were wearing a rescue pfd, or not. There are inherent risks in attempting swiftwater rescue techniques; there are also inherent risks in using a swiftwater rescue pfd in whitewater.

You don't "need" a rescue pfd. Forget about the "cool factor" of wearing a pfd designed for swiftwater rescue. The fact that you can buy one & have the money to do so, should not even enter into the equation.

Why buy a rescue pfd if you have no swiftwater rescue training? Why wear something that might set you up for experimentation in a situation where you will be out of your element? Don't wear equipment that might create the impression that you know more, and are prepared to attempt more, than your experience can back up with action.

Whitewater solo canoes, fully outfitted, have a somewhat cool look, but you'd look like a real dork paddling one on a class 1 river, wearing a rescue pfd, a whitewater helmet, neoprene gloves, and a drysuit.

An excellent pfd can be had much cheaper than a rescue pfd, and will in all liklihood be more comfortable to wear, and will probably be more suitable for your needs. My wife's Lotus pfd has flotation equal to, or higher than the flotation value of my Stolquist rescue pfd.

Other examples of "cool gear" that offer people opportunities to get into situations they would be better off avoiding are; expedition style first aid kits, Z-drag systems, tow systems, river knifes on pfds, and throw ropes/bags.
In the hands of "wanna bes", and those who have no experience, or training; those items are likely to create "additional" problems for those attempting to use them, and the persons actually "needing" them.

Rescue pfds do not make the wearer drownproof.

The river doesn't care if you look cool or not!

I sure there are others with more experience/training than my own;
so others opinions may vary.


Whoa there…

– Last Updated: Dec-30-07 11:28 PM EST –

I understand where you're coming from, but it really sounds like you're discouraging people from carrying throw ropes, river knives and other safety gear. I agree there is little need for most folks to have a rescue PFD (though I'd argue it would make sense if all PFDs were lift rated...might make the rescuer's job easier), but if you mix water and rope, a knife is a must. I think carrying (and knowing how to use, which doesn't take much training) a throw rope should be *mandatory* on any moving water.

Honestly, if I feel like taking my flotation equipped OC-1 on a class I+ river on a warm, sunny day while wearing a river knife and helmet, I could care less if peoople think I look dorky. Maybe I'm going to practice surfing on a shallow water standing wave that's surrounded by jagged rocks. We aren't all paddling dieties, us plain ol' mortals can be prone to stupid mistakes even in the most benign of circumstances.

Even on the sunny day slow rivers, I carry my knife and throw bag. Not for myself, but the folks around me.


now this is what I am talking about!
Here is a bit of spirited discussion.

Have no fear I don’t take anything on here too personal, and when I ask for opinions I know I will get them here!

and actually, it is funny, my canoe is out fitted with float bags and I DO NOT do WW. I like enjoy freestyle and do not enjoy emptying a full canoe! So I am on a big open lake with float bags. Sometimes they are in when I am on the river.

I should have thrown in some questions about which Knives people like.

Thanks so much for the input, I hope this continues on.


Gerber River Shorty…
…is pretty much the standard. Blunt tip version to minimize the risk of stabbing yourself or others. Inexpensive too.

If you do nothing else, be honest with yourself about your skill level with the equipment you use and carry.


Whoa yourself, mere mortal…

– Last Updated: Dec-31-07 12:18 AM EST –

Don't try to put words into my mouth, or twist what I was attempting to say into something else.

I'm a mere mortal too.
But I am also an observer, and I've seen a lot of dumb people,in fancy gear, doing a lot of stupid things they shouldn't have been attempting.

I emphasized that my statements were my "opinions?. They won't change. Read on.

If you are an experienced paddler "you know "exactly" what I'm talking about in my initial post". Particularly, if you are an experienced whitewater paddler.

I am not attempting to discourage anyone from wearing a knife on their pfd(I do), from carrying a throw rope(I do), a Z-drag system, or a first aid kit(I do).
I "am" attempting to discourage paddlers from buying a lot of rescue gear because "it's cool".
Yeah! It is "cool"; if you know what to do with it. Buy the gear, practice, get some training, practice & then carry it. "Cool" should "not" enter into your decision to buy rescue gear in my opinion.

Personally, I don't want 4 or 5 people who have no experience, throwing a throw bag to me. They have probably only increased my chances of entanglement, making my out of boat experience worse than it already is. Ever see a person trying to hold onto a paddle & a solo canoe, in class 3 water, and getting covered up
by a spider web of 5 different throw ropes. Or someone getting swept into 4 or 5 ropes downstream, because the throwers had no experience, or accuracy with their "cool" gear.

The last guy I pulled out of a raging creek(from atop a boulder) with my throw bag, called for me to do so(with pleading eyes), after the girl in the kayak, who eddied out to rescue him, threw her new throw bag into limbs of the tree she was standing under....."twice". Her technique was to grab the loop on the bottom of the throw bag & attempt to throw the bag; "after" she had opened the top of the bag, turned it upside down, and spilled 2/3 of the rope length on the ground.
That is a prime example of what I was addressing previously.

Want somebody pulling a cervical collar out of a fancy, first aid kit(have no training) that they just bought last week, and using it on you?

Does the guy with the new knife know what will happen, if he starts whacking at your thigh straps with that knife to "help you" with your foot entrapment, he punctures your bow air bag, the bow fills up with the water the bag was displacing, the canoe shift with the current, and then rolls over on top of you?

You want a person with "no" training, swimming out to where you're entrapped in a boat, to hook up a haul line that is attached to a z-drag on shore that they rigged? How do they know how, or where to attach tha line to your canoe? Did they rig the Z-drag right? Will the brake on the system not work corretly at the wrong time?

Safety/rescue gear is good; it's cool, it's a life saver in some the hands of someone who has experience with it's use, and training. In the hands of "Joe Cool", who has no experience & no training (but has lots of money & cool gear), it can often make a bad situation worse.

For all I know, the original poster may be a whitewater rescue guru, he may be a troll, or maybe he just likes "cool" gear? Don't much care; my opinions have not/will not change.

If you want to go out on class 1 river & play in the standing wave, in a fully outfitted whitewater boat.......your option.


P.S. I love it when I see Joe Cool; headed downstream, using his high dollar, carbon fiber, bent shaft paddle.... with the blade backwards. No joke!
He is not endangering anyone; probably doesn't know better, or care, and might be having one hell of a time.......


– Last Updated: Dec-31-07 12:13 AM EST –

I wasn't trying to put words in your mouth; not my intention in any way. I agree with you for the most part; taking safety gear because it "looks cool" is silly at best and dangerous if the sh*t hits the fan. Maybe the "look like a real dork" comment pushed one of my buttons....we dorks are a strange lot.

Read again the part where I said, "It sounds like", which should be construed as, "your words could be interpreted as", not "you said".

To be honest, I have no experience using a knife to cut myself out of an entrapment situation and if I have my way, I never will. I'm not even an experienced whitewater boater (give it time, I'm learning), but I understand the value of safety gear and knowing at least the basics of how to use it. Perhaps I'm giving the general public too much credit?

Put it this way, if I saw you floating by towards a rock garden or worse, a churning low head dam and had no way to render assistance, I wouldn't be able to live with myself (selfish in a way). Heck, I practice with my throwbag, but I still might be the guy to hit the trees...but at least there's a chance. And as cruel as it sounds, I wouldn't let you drag me in though; the fire dept. doesn't need two bodies to recover... I suppose that's also part of knowing how to use your gear.


We’re on the same page…

– Last Updated: Dec-31-07 1:16 AM EST –

You're right about knowing when to say NO;
when to NOT make the situation worse than it already is.

Part of that knowledge comes from having common sense & intelligence. That knowledge can also be enhanced with experience, practice, and training.

Awareness of natural consequences will definitely assist in making well reasoned decisions.

Happy New Year/Paddle Safe 08.



P.S. Funny story/remotely associated with "cool gear".

Quite a few years ago; I was in a swiftwater rescue instructor class on the Spring River in Arkansas. My instructor trainer was Wayne Sundmacher, co-author of the Whitewater Rescue Manual. We had been practicing freeing boats from pins, beneath a small waterfall upstream from our campsite. We were in whitewater boats with airbags, wearing rescue pfds, helmets, knifes on pfds, the works; Sundmacher demanded it, rightfully so.

We finished our class & headed downstream to our camping area. Tall cool ones awaited us there. As we paddled downstream an aluminum rental tandem canoe pulled close to some of us. It's occupants had nothing on except cutoff jeans; both of them were absolutely, totally blitzed. They looked us over for a while, but said nothing, as they paced us downstream.

You could tell a question was coming & we quietly waited, smiling knowingly. One of the drunks could stand it no longer; he just had to know.........

"What are you guys; a bunch of half-assed astronauts"????????

Guess who had their aluminum tandem rental canoe filled with water & jammed between 2 boulders downstream? Guess who said, "you'll never get that canoe loose buddy", when we stopped to help, smiling knowingly.

Five students locked arms, and lined up above the canoe,creating an eddy.. Sundmacher walked over, picked up the canoe with one hand & lifted it loose. We got back in our canoes, smiled knowingly & didn't say a damn word as we paddled on downstream.

Later, sitting in the river, drinking a tall cool one, a student commented something about......."The elusive Spring River Dorks"!
"You'll never get that damn canoe loose buddy"!

Oh - OK, and second try

– Last Updated: Dec-31-07 1:26 AM EST –

For whatever reason I got the impression that you were thinking about moving water, as in whitewater. That changes my comments about rescue PFD's.

We looked at a couple, just checking them out since it is likely our current PFD's will be due for replacement in a year or two. One of the things that we had been mulling over is whether, for sea kayaking including working for our BCU 4 star assessment, a rescue PFD with a built-in set-up for a tow belt was more or less useful than out current ones.

At this point, the answer is no. First, we discovered that the rescue version of our current PFD's actually has one less pocket. By the time I am trying to keep a small medical kit, laser flare, boat repair material, signaling mirror, supplement like Gu, compass, often a camera, whistle, Sea Snips, noseplugs, yellow C-light, eventually a smaller clip-on VHF radio and whatever else I forgot on my person in pockets or stuffed behind the bladder in my PFD hydrator, the last thing I can afford to lose is a single pocket or lash tab.

Second, a built-in tow belt can't be used to switch towing between people as easily. With a waist-mounted fully separate tow bag, you can just switch the whole bag to another paddler. Ideally of course everyone has one and knows how to use them, but there are scenarios where it'd be much better to do the switch on the rescuer end rather than having to go in and clip onto the boat being rescued.

So - unless you are planning to be a Guide where you might frequently be towing someone, I'm not sure that a rescue PFD gets you anything but a higher price tag.

Stolquist vest

Have you had any problem with the webbing deteriorating on your Rescue vest. I don’t know if it was the water that I paddle in or something in the webbing but the webbing on the vest started to come apart. Sent it to Stolquist and they said they couldn’t do anything about it. They did offer me a discount on a replacement vest. Their newer Rescue vest didn’t have the loops on the back for the throwbag so I bought a Lotus touring vest as I don’t paddle as much WW as I used to.

I’ve been paddling WW since '73, often
paddle alone, though usually on hard stuff I’m with a group.

There have been several occasions where a throw rope has been useful, though I’ve never had to set up a Z-drag.

I feel as if I >should< carry a knife, and sometimes I have, but in all these years I have never needed one. This isn’t an argument for not bothering with a knife, but I seldom hear about anyone else needing a knife either.

On the other hand, I have, more than once, personally benefitted both from wearing a motorcycle helmet, and from wearing a seatbelt, though not on a motorcycle.

Rescue vest…

– Last Updated: Dec-31-07 3:18 PM EST –

No, mine is showing no signs of damage at all.
Was just looking it over the other day.

I never wore mine unless I was doing whitewater some place that I didn't know the river very well, or if I was involved in teaching a swiftwater rescue class. Would have sold it years ago, except for involvement in fire department search & rescue team.

After every use I spray it off with clean water, checked it out, and hang it up to air dry(no UV exposure to dry) inside my garage. Probably haven't used it more than 35 times.
I typically wear one of two different Lotus vests I have, in addition to the Stohlquist.