Paddling sports are a varied lot and it is requisite to have a handle of the gear before you head to the river, lake or ocean. Each discipline, be it sea or whitewater kayaking, swift or flat-water canoeing, or rafting, has its own specialized gear. Fortunately, much of the gear is variable and there are a handful of gear essentials that any paddling enthusiast has in his/her gear bag.
We break the gear essentials into two categories: soft and hard gear. Soft gear is literally soft and is specific to clothing, footwear and outerwear. Hard gear is the vessels themselves, as well as paddles, pfd's, first aid kits and the like.
Soft Gear: it's the clothing and outerwear that keeps you dry, warm and happy…
This essential piece comes in the form of Drytops, Drysuits, Splash Tops and Paddling Jackets and are often sport specific as well as climate specific. Drytops and drysuits are used for mild to cold-weather whitewater kayaking and expedition sea kayaking. Splash tops are a great option for recreational sea kayaking, canoeing and rafting as well as warm-weather whitewater kayaking. Paddling jackets are “teck-ed” splash tops and are used for advanced and expedition level sea kayaking. They boast hoods, wrist semi-gaskets, have a longer cut and provide pockets for maps, GPS, compasses, etc. Kokatat and NRS are the industry standards and provide top-shelf designs that cover each category of paddling top. Make sure to read Altrec.com's thorough product descriptions and customer reviews to find the paddling top that matches your needs.
The clothing you wear with or without a paddling top is somewhat universal with subtle nuances for each discipline. For wet pursuits, namely whitewater kayaking, rafting and surf kayaking, a good supply of neoprene will keep you warm while wet. For colder conditions, head-to-toe neoprene is often requisite. This can be achieved by a full wetsuit or independent pieces that include neoprene booties, pants, shorts, tops, vests, gloves and even a skull-cap. We suggest a pieced-together neoprene uniform as this allows for maximum flexibility for a variety of conditions. For anything and everything neoprene, look no further than Northwest River Supplies (NRS). NRS makes the best neoprene on the market and provide a variety of designs and thicknesses for variable conditions. For warm weather whitewater kayaking, rafting or surf kayaking, rash guards provide protection from the sun, from light wind and are an effective warmth piece as a base-layer. Hurley Rash Guards, Billabong Rash Guards and Quiksilver Rash Guards capture the essence of a versatile, supple and comfortable next-to-skin base layer.
Once upon a time water shoes lived only in a whitewater kayaker's gear bag. Fortunately for us, this genre of footwear has grown to include a gaggle of shoes for any wet occasion. Whether dropping waterfalls, sea kayaking along the coast or fording creeks, wet shoes protect your feet while increasing stability. Altrec carries a variety of water shoe options and be sure to read product descriptions and user reviews to find your match. Look to brand such as Chaco, Salomon, Timberland, Teva, The North Face, Merrell and Keen for water footwear options that fit your endeavor.
Hard Gear: sometimes soft, mostly hard, this gear is what you need to be on the water…
Paddling any where at any time with out one of these is ill advised. When a situation goes sideways, a good PFD is your first and best line of defense. Altrec.com only carries Type III US Coast Guard approved PFD's (with one youth Type II option). Type III PFD's are intended for continuous use and are the best option for the paddling sports we cover. PFD's are specific to paddling discipline, however, many options have cross-over capability. Whitewater paddling PFD's are low profile and carry buoyancy close to the waste while sea and recreation kayaking PFD's carry buoyancy evenly from waist to shoulders. Look for Patagonia, Extrasport, Astral and NRS for the best in the business. Each brand designs PFD's for different endeavors and all will provide maximum buoyancy, comfort and range of motion.
Boats are obviously specific to endeavor and vessel categories include canoes (lake and whitewater), kayaks (sea, surf, recreational and whitewater) and rafts (fishing, recreation and whitewater). At Altrec.com, we stick to inflatable kayaks, rafts and catarafts and have a varied selection that focuses on flat and swift water. The inflatable kayaks we carry are for one to two people and our rafts and catarafts are for up to six paddlers and can be used with an oar frame for a single rower. Whether surfing waves, fishing lakes and streams, bouncing down a river boulder garden or paddling across a lake on a sunny day, our selection has you covered. Look to Aire, Innova, NRS and Tributary for the best inflatable kayaks and rafts. Boats aren't cheap and we encourage you to research all our options. Inflatables may all look the same on a website, so when in doubt, give our customer service team a ring or log on to our live chat to find the right boat for you.
Paddles are to boats as ski boots are to skis. A cheap paddle can't pull water just as a cheap ski boot can't carve a turn. This is not an area to cut corners: your paddle or oar provides control, power and stability and is your primary contact point with the water. We carry a host of canoe, kayak, raft and cataraft paddles and oars for paddlers of all capabilities. Innova, NRS and Carlisle are our main players for canoe and kayak paddles and they provide options for all price points. For raft oars, oar shafts and oar blades look no further than Cataract and Carlisle. Paddle and oar lengths vary with use: please feel free to reach out to us with questions on paddle and oar lengths.
For hard-shell whitewater and sea kayaks only, spray skirts are fitted according to the size of the vessel's cockpit. Know your boats cockpit size before ordering - simply measure length by width at the widest points. Sprayskirts are principally nylon (for sea kayaking) and neoprene (for whitewater) and have either a shock-cord or rubber rand to seal the lip of your boat. For whitewater look to NRS and for sea kayaking, look to NRS and Kokatat. NRS makes the top line of sprayskirts for either discipline and they offer a variety of sizes and designs to match different conditions.
First Aid Kit: paddling sports have their share of hazards and a trusty kit should always land in your gear bag. We carry first aid kits by Adventure Medical and Atwater Carey and to keep the supplies dry you can throw it in our Pelican waterproof boxes.
Dry Bags and Aquapac Cases:
Use dry bags by NRS, Outdoor Research and Sea Line to store an extra warmth layer, food and or other gear. For electronics, Aquapac makes waterproof phone, camera and waterproof Ipod cases.
The gear outlined above aims to provide a quick list of paddling gear essentials. This is just the first step – read our product descriptions and customer reviews for greater detail and feel free to log on to our chat feature or pick up the phone to speak with our knowledgeable customer service team. They can help you make the right choice for the gear that will ensure a safe and exciting paddling adventure. And with FREE Standard Shipping available on most orders shipped within the lower 48 U.S. and our 30-day guarantee, Altrec.com will do you right.