The end of summer and the beginning of fall can be a difficult and exciting time of year. Lower water and solo runs as shuttle buddies head back to school, work or wherever they go after Labor Day. You might want to consider packrafting.
You probably have most of the gear already. Add these specialty items to open new doors to backcountry opportunities that packrafting offers. No shuttle buddies? No problem. Hike in, bike in or get dropped off and you are all set to go.
1. Sunski Unisex Taravals Sunglasses
$58 | WWW.SUNSKI.COM
Come blazing sun, overcast, cloudy or just because you want to look badass. Sunski advertises all their models as unisex. Multifunctional gift giving baby!
The Taravals come in two color options, Black Aqua and Frosted Lava. All Sunski lens are thermally coated to help protect them from scratches and the inevitable scrapes. The are also polarized to further protect your eyes from glare and help you see rocks and fish below.
The frames are super lightweight and the fit is comfortable and reassuringly secure. Sunski’s frame warranty covers dog bites and melting from Deet or exposure to lava… pretty much anything, really.
2. MTI AdventureWear Thunder R-Spec PFD
$224.95 | WWW.MTIADVENTUREWEAR.COM
The Thunder R-Spec is probably the beefiest PFD in MTI AdventureWear’s line up. This class V rescue-ready vest available only in this Kermit green color which is fine with us— stylish and helps you stand out on the horizon line.
The frontzip entry makes this PFD easy to wrap around a variety of layers. Two fleece hand-warming pockets are hidden under interior pockets that fit a variety of ditch kit items.
This new PFD has increased flotation and a US Coast Guard-approved rescuer’s harness built into it. Reflective trim and a built-in quick-release buckle will help keep your mind and your river buddies’ minds at ease.
3. Werner Paddles Pack-Tour M
$335 | WWW.WERNERPADDLES.COM
Werner created the Pack-Tour M specifically for multi-sport pack rafting adventures. The shaft has a simple push-button system that breaks apart into four easy to stow pieces. There are two length options: 200cm to 215cm and 210cm to 225cm.
Confused? The two sizes adjust depending on the width of the boat or if you’re in moving water or touring mode. Broken down, the longest section of the longer paddle is only 31.5 inches. The high-angle blades are 615 square centimeters is size which is roughly the same as Werner’s Cypress high-angle touring blade.
For me the Pack-Tour M is a bombproof expedition-kayaking paddle. But if you’re truly only running the gnar, go with one of Werner’s four-piece river running paddles giving up handy adjustability for increased whitewater durability.
4. Kokatat GoreTex Radius Drysuit
$1,295 | WWW.KOKATAT.COM
If you are looking for a multi-use, full-dry piece of essential paddling gear check out Kokatat’s Radius touring dry suit. The SwitchZip zipper is placed to separate the Radius into a complete top and bottom. The top can be worn independently as a dry top with a fold-down hood that can be removed entirely.
The pants are not tight fitting and can be worn comfortably around camp or hiking or biking to your put-in. It took me a few times to get the hang of lining up the zipper and screwing down the latch but the two-piece convenience offsets the learning curve.
One of the best parts of the Kokatat Radius? Going to the bathroom doesn’t take an army to get me unzipped and unwrapped—perfect for solo packrafting adventures.
5. HANZ USA Chillblocker Waterproof Gloves
$55.95 | WWW.HANZUSA.COM
I first tested these Chillblocker Waterproof Gloves on a late November adventure, rather appropriately eight days after the region’s first snowstorm. Seven hours on the water, my hands were still warm. Hanz USA uses a three-layered membrane to help create a waterproof barrier.
The internal wicking layer helps move sweat away from your hands. Consistently an XL in ski gloves, I found these to fit slightly larger than other brands so I was okay with just a large. The palms and fingers of the Chillblocker Waterproof gloves were very helpful in keeping a steady grip on my icy paddle. And dexterity was not an issue for frozen zippers, buckles and lighting stoves for a mid-day lunch.
6. SealLine Bulkhead Compression Dry Bag
$27.48 | WWW.SEALLINEGEAR.COM
AIRE’s packrafts have webbing loops between the floor and sidewall gunwales. These new SealLine compression bags attach nicely into those loops to rest between your legs or knees.
But here’s the best part. Once you’ve rolled and clipped the bag like a regular dry bag you can now compress and expel even more air. How? SealLine has created what they call the PurgeAir waterproof valve. As you compress the bag and synch the straps tighter, you can push in the valve and let out more air.
This clever innovation creates a compact dry bag that is easy to pack, stow, carry and most importantly keep your valuables dry. The Bulkhead series is available in four sizes and three colors—the trendy green is available in both the small five-liter and large 30-liter options.