Summer Kayak Gear Review
JACKSON DAY TRIPPER
L: 12 ft., W: 30 in., 49 lbs.
Grooves in the keel for tracking render a rudder unnecessary, which, along with a roomy, open-air cockpit, make Jackson Kayak's new rec boats perfect for family outings. Nifty extras include a sliding tray table in front of the seat and mesh stow shelf in the back.
EXTRASPORT XPEL H2O short-sleeved splash top
Extrasport's twist on a warm-weather paddling staple—the shorty—is part of a new technical clothing line launched this summer. The Xpel H2O is constructed from a superlight, stretchy breathable fabric with adjustable Velcro on the arm cuffs. It's great for rafting or summer splash trips, but lacks a tunnel for a skirt that playboaters love during into-the-evening surf sessions.
KOKATAT DESTINATION PADDLE WEAR
(varied prices, www.kokatat.com)
Looking for a comfortable, stylish alternative to greasy sunscreens and the dreaded "missed spots" associated with them? Kokatat's Destination Paddle Wear line offers just that—quick-drying nylons and ultra-soft polyesters infused with UVA-stopping agents that won't wash out. The Paddling Trunk ($49) is long enough to cover scorched knees while sitting on a raft, and the Destination Sunwester hat ($37.50) is the perfect companion on desert float trips.
SMARTWOOL MICROWEIGHT CREW
Merino sheep could don a drytop with nary a thought about a baselayer – their next-to-skin insulation comes standard. Until humans evolve to sprout soft, wooly coats, however, paddlers will appreciate this pared-down version from Smartwool—the quickest-drying, temperature-regulating long undies for hot or cold weather. Bonus: even after five days on the river, it sports no sign of polypro funk.
No more worries when rolling out camp in the prickly high alpine desert at dusk — Thermarest's newest sleeping pad features a layer of foam between the air cells and the ground to guard against thorns and other pointy intruders. After a few sans-groundcloth Sierra nights, spiny leaves stuck out of it in all directions without a leak. Rolls up a bit bulkier than Thermarest's older backpacking pads, but features springier "self-inflation."
COLEMAN FOLD 'N GO camp stove
All the trusty cooking power of Coleman's time-tested camp stoves now comes in a slick folding package — the twin Fold 'N Go propane burners prop easily on the tailgate and stow swiftly in the gear box. Watch out—like its clunky retangular counterparts the simmer function on this cooker takes a light touch.
PRINCETON TEC APEX PRO headlamp
Extreme racers might need their headlamps on the water, but, for the most part, the rest of us hope we never do. Princeton Tec's durable Apex Pro is waterproof to one meter just in case, and runs for 150 hours on two
Lithium CR123 batteries. Five LEDs deliver two different beams and four light levels—though switching them on requires Mortal Kombat button-pushing prowess.
ARC'TERYX THETA SL rain jacket
When it comes to impenetrable yet lightweight and non-clammy rain gear, Arc'Teryx rarely disappoints. The Theta SL jacket is no exception, weighing in at about 400 grams. It features PacLite GORE-TEX cut longer in the back for soggy canoe seats, watertight laminated zippers, and reinforced shoulders and elbows.
With impact-resistant, anti-fog, glare-cutting performance for less than half the price of most techie shades, the slightly Terminator-esque Threat is one of the hottest summer deals going. The lenses block light from above and say "hasta la vista, baby" to horizontal glare.