Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gear Picks for 2012

Yep, this old school girl tried out some new boats and gear this year.  Here are my top gear picks for 2012 and a few thoughts on some of my tried and true favorites.

Sterling Reflection (1" cut) Sea Kayak - Lightweight and highly maneuverable the Sterling Reflection is my top pick for a playful sea kayak.  It is stable yet very responsive, durable yet lightweight, and even better yet custom built in the US.  The Reflection is 15 feet but handles like a whitewater kayak.  Sterling Donaldson, the builder of the Reflection continues to develop his boats to be tough and lightweight.  We were impressed with the latest version that we paddled this fall.  It held up to a few hits that would have broken other boats.  One also has to appreciate that Sterling Kayaks are custom made in the United States.

Saltwood Paddle - I grabbed Jeff's for a private lesson that I was teaching and fell in love with it.  I love the balance of the blades.  They have a very smooth entry and a good balance of power and comfort.  The wooden shaft has a lively feel and the small shaft fits my hands perfectly.  After snatching Jeff's every chance that I had, I finally got my own this fall.  We have lengths appropriate for sea kayaking and rock gardening.  I hope to try a shorter one in my whitewater and surf kayak.
Captain Jeff

Keen Gorge Boots - The best paddling boot that I have found so far.  These boots are comfortable, supportive, and durable.  What I like best about them is their rugged, supportive sole.  This makes a huge difference when carrying to the put in or take out, scouting, portaging, or scrambling on rocks or up slot canyons.  I feel that they offer good protection from rocky terrain and excellent traction even on slippery surfaces.  I could almost make these my everyday hiking shoes.  Rarely do a pair of booties last me a year and these are still going strong after a lot of use.  My only wish is that they would make the top of the boots able to cinch tighter at the ankle to keep cold water, gravel, and sand from getting in over the top of the boots.

The Bomb Drytop by Bomber Gear - Its DRY.  I like the long inner tunnel.  The lightweight material and length of the inner tunnel make it a perfect match with my Kokatat Bibs.  Bomber uses the best latex gaskets that we have found in terms of durability and fit.  I tend to like bright colors for visibility when guiding but got the black for winter boating warmth.  I don't know if it is the black or the material, but this top is way warmer than others tops that I've used.  I'm impressed with the build quality of the Bomber drytop.  The seams are all taped and there are no loose threads or unfinished edges.  I've had the top less than a month so we will see how it wears over time but so far I am sooooo happy that I have this for our winter boating season.

Custom Neoprene Gaskets - Last year Jeff started making neoprene gaskets for our drytops and drysuits.  They are so much warmer, more comfortable, and more durable than latex gaskets.  Of course knowing that they are custom made with love adds to the warmth value.

Not new but here are a few of my tried and true favorites:

NRS Ultra Jane -  As we do more swimming and coasteering in our ocean rock gardening adventures, I have become a wetsuit fan for comfort and protection.  I like the NRS Ultra Jane for all day comfort. The relief zip is perfect and allows me to modestly pee without peeing in my suit or having to take my suit off.  I have had this wetsuit for 5 years and it is showing some wear but still works great.

 Eskimo Diablo (built in 2000) - This is your load on Sunday and paddle all week whitewater kayak.  The German plastic is solid - so solid that they didn't build these boats with center pillars.  This means lots of room to store gear.  The narrow build and lower deck of the older Eskimo kayaks are great for us smaller paddlers and very easy to roll.  The outfitting is simple and sparse by newer whitewater kayak standards but is comfortable.  I paddled our Eskimo Diablo on our 2011 Eel River Expedition and on our 2012 Grand Canyon Trip.  Where shall we take her in 2013?
Cate in Upset Rapid in the Grand Canyon.  Photo by Tricia Melosh

Necky Jive - I started in a Jive and continue to try other boats but come back to it for ocean surfing and rock gardening.  It definitely isn't perfect.  My biggest issue with the Jive is that it is HEAVY.  I like the low deck of the Jive and its planing hull and edges (almost rails) for surfing.  I find the Jive easy to roll and FUN to surf.

Werner Sherpa Paddle - tried and true.  This thing has lasted me 5 years of use and abuse.  Throwing it in the truck now for a surf.

My personal gear forecast for 2013 coming soon.

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