From comfy boardshorts to a techy paddle fitness tracker and a sleeping bag built for two, here are seven items for summer paddling fun.
Nemo Tango Duo Slim sleeping bag
Couples will rejoice to discover there's a new, expedition-worthy sleeping bag for backcountry paddling. At least, my wife and I were thrilled by Nemo's Tango Duo Slim sleeping bag. For years, we've shared a single mummy bag, quilt style. It's a compact option (two sleeping bags for the weight of one) but can be drafty. The Tango Duo Slim imposes a minimal weight penalty on comfortable cuddling. Our tester came with a clever bottom sheet to keep our sleeping pads together. (The system is optimized for Nemo's sleeping pads but works fine with other brands.) The sheet then clips to the quilt to eliminate drafts. We were surprised by the Nemo's roominess and impressed by its lofty, water repellent down fill, which is rated to 35 degrees.
United by Blue Stillwater boardshorts
The Stillwater is a stylish, comfortable boardshort with awesome environmental cred: For every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from the world's oceans and waterways. The quick-drying design fits true to size.
Outdoor Research Realm jacket
For its Realm shell, OR rolled the dice on AscentShell, a wispy waterproof/breathable fabric that features a bit of stretch for comfort while swinging the paddle. The Realm kept me dry during a three-day rain on a recent canoe trip, and held up to the rigors of portaging and working around the campsite. It had just the right number of pockets and managed perspiration well, even without pit zips.
Motionize Paddle fitness tracker
Motionize is a fitness tracker for paddlers. This unit, which pairs with a smartphone to deliver real-time analysis of your paddling stroke, is more than just a newfangled heart rate monitor and stopwatch. A paddle-mounted sensor tracks the length of your stroke, allowing you to fine-tune paddle entry and recovery to maximize efficiency. These metrics made it a popular item at the recent Pacific Paddlesports sea kayak symposium in Victoria, B.C. A free app (available for iOS and Android) pairs the unit with your device. However, Motionize's waterproof phone case is purpose-built for iPhone 6, which some Android- and late-model iPhone users found disappointing. The company has developed a base "Edge" model ($299) that does not include a waterproof case and uses aftermarket kayak deck mount.
SealLine HP Waterproof map case
I've been a short-term user of waterproof map cases for my entire paddling career. To date, every map case I've used has failed—usually on account of a blown seam—after a summer's use. I've come to terms that the map case is an annual purchase. But SealLine's HP case gives me hope. Its clear plastic construction seems suppler and its roll-down Velcro closure is simpler and failsafe compared to the typical zip-lock. The jury's out till summer's end, but after a month of use the HP looks like new.
Reed Chillcheater Waterproof Wading Socks
True, they look a little goofy. But when it comes to keeping your feet warm and (especially) dry on a sea kayak or canoe trip, UK-based Reed has you covered. I wear mine under my paddling shoes on a canoe trip. The knee-high design keeps me dry on the muddiest portages and for wading the canoe in shallow water. The added bonus is bug protection and a great way to keep your feet dry on a rainy evening in camp. I'm looking forward to dry feet on my upcoming subarctic canoe trip.
Thermacell Scout Mosquito Repeller Camp Lantern
I’ve always been wary of mosquito repellant, preferring to cover up with long sleeves rather than slather myself in DEET. When I moved to the southern Utah a year and a half ago, I thought the climate would be too dry to harbor mosquitos and gnats. I was wrong. And since the desert heat makes layering up an impractical repellant against the clouds of insects in the summer, I’m glad I found the Thermacell Scout, a lantern which emits a synthetic, practically odorless version of a natural insecticide emitted by chrysanthemum flowers. The quiet lantern works to provide light and repel blood suckers from small areas. (The best testament to the chemical’s effectiveness comes from Jim Baird who kept finding his dog taking refuge next to a Thermacell emitter while canoeing in Quebec last summer.) It runs off of AA batteries and lasts roughly 10 hours on the highest setting. — Zak Podmore
–Check out C&K's Guide to Summer Gear, Part I