You asked, we schwaged. Behold Paddling Life’s unequivocal haphazard roundup of assorted gear we put through its paces this boating season, from portable blenders to packable boats (yes, an actual kayak in a briefcase).
We took it all camping on multi-day river trips, day outings to local lakes, and even pond side BBQs to celebrate mid-week humpdays. Bonus: send in a picture of you using all the below gear in one photo frame and we’ll send you…more schwag from our illustrious schwag closet!
Looking for a bomber, eco-friendly full-length 3/2 wetsuit for SUPping, surfing and more? GO with the new Equation line from France sustainable outdoor apparel maker Picture. An eco-friendly collection for environmentally conscious adventurers, the suits are made from its new Eicoprene, a blend of recycled nylon and polyester as well as, believe it or not, bio-sourced and sustainable oyster shell powder. It’s 100-percent made from waste, including oyster shell powder, tires, fishing nets and other discarded plastics, and more. Just as important, it offers both insulation and unrestricted movement, guaranteeing uber-sweet sessions in the surf. They come with a WPF lining, fully-taped seams, front chest zipper, watertight seals, fuse cut finish, drain holes, key pocket, knee pads (go ahead and kneel on that SUP if you want to) and more. https://www.picture-organic-clothing.com/en
The Oru Lake: A Kayak in a Briefcase
Remember those origami projects you did as a kid? Well instead of making a tiny Pterodactyl, now you can use the same principle to turn a briefcase into a life-sized kayak. Weighing just 17 lbs., and recently released ahead of scheduled thanks to a $2.2 million Kickstarter campaign, the new Oru Lake assembles in less than a minute (once you get the hang of it) and is one of the lightest kayaks on the market. Made from 5mm double-layered, custom-extruded polypropylene with a 10-year UV treatment, the 9-foot-long craft is stable with a 32-inch width, beginner-friendly and great for all ages. It’s also the company’s most accessibly priced model ever at $599. We tested it on Hahn’s Peak Lake in northern Colorado and turned heads as well as trout. People asked about it at the boat launch as we assembled it, and again on the water as we used it to fish, swim and paddle to rope swings. It passed with flying colors on all marks—especially for carrying gear for all the suppers in our party. And don’t be afraid of over-using it, which you’ll want to: It’s warrantied for more than 10,000 folds, far more than you’ll likely ever take it out. Best yet, when not in use, it folds back up into a 42″x10″x18″ briefcase complete with handle that you can stuff under your cubicle’s desk. It also comes in the Lake+ at 18 lbs. for larger paddlers. https://www.orukayak.com/products/lake
Astral Webber River Sandals
A former raft guide on the Chattooga, Astral founder Phillip Curry (remember Patagonia’s Lotus Designs?) knows what works for both PFDs and footwear. His latest creation: the Webber and PFD sandals, which are raft guide tough. “I knew it was time to create a unique sandal that had the same foothold, grip, and worldview of our shoes,” he says of this spring’s launch of its first two entries into the sandal realm. Decades in the making, they’re made in the least toxic, lowest impact way (100% post-consumer recycled polyester webbing and canvas straps and bluesign®-approved PFD-grade buckles), with “shoe -like fit” via webbing and adjustable straps from Astral’s PFD line.
A zero-drop Level Footbed™ combined with a roomy toe box respects the foot’s natural alignment and provides balance and ground feel for those awkward hops off rafts onto shore. Astral’s proprietary rubber compound (G.ss Rubber™) and siped Flex Grip sticks to wet rocks and conform to undulating terrain, and for those 18-day trips on the Grand antimicrobial, closed cell, EVA foam midsoles protect against foot funk. We tested the Webber on both multi-day raft trips and also as street footwear on a trip to Europe (bonus: easy to slip on and off at airport security) and they passed…swimmingly. Watch vid here: Astral
Bajío Palometa Shades
Want a pair of sunglasses whose optics you can appreciate the moment you put them on, whether you’re in a sea kayak, raft or fishing the flats? Look no further than the medium frame Palometa from Bajío. A sized-down version of its popular Bales Beach shades, the Palometa features a wrap-around style with built-in side coverage for sun protection and light blocking. But best yet—whose clarity we whooped about as soon as we donned them on the Colorado River’s Ruby Canyon—is their ultra-clear, polarized, color-enhancing lenses. They key is proprietary LAPIS™ technology, which blocks 95% of blue light combating haze, glare, and eye strain—all of which you find on the water. The line features thirteen lens options: seven colors made from lightweight polycarbonate and six made from glass. Hint for kayak anglers: try the rose lenses for sight fishing flats or the green/blue mirror for farther offshore. Molded with Bajío’s proprietary bio-based nylon, they also have an uber high strength-to-weight ratio (but still avoid dropping that ammo can on them), bio-based, non-slip nylon nose pads, and rubber temple tips for no-slip fit (and staying on even when you roll). They’re also scratch resistant with an oleophobic coating for easy cleaning of salt, sweat, sunscreen and shaken-up beers. Click here for info
SPJ Daybreak3 Tent
Want beef in a tent that you can still take rafting, canoeing and sea kayaking? Try the new three-season, SPJ Daybreak3, whose simple three-pole configuration allows for ample living space while still being quick and easy to set up. Where’d we test it? The Middle Fork of the Salmon (seven nights if you count the put-in), where it withstood gales, hail and semi-drunken set-ups in the dark from not getting our camp-setup act together quickly enough. What we liked: A single door and vestibule simplifies the design; a full-coverage fly (all the way to the floor) keeps all the water out; and the 12.5-square-foot vestibule can be configured into a shaded porch area with some trekking poles…or, in our case, sticks. (Apres at our pad!) Its beefiness comes from its 40.25-square-foot footprint and 83x69x44.5-inch dimension, in as well as 40D Polyester No-See-Um wall material, 66D Polyester 1200-mm mesh floor material, and the full coverage fly, made out of hefty 66D Polyester 1200 mm. All this gives it a weight of 8 lbs 6 oz., which you might not want on a lightweight self-support, but if you have a canoe, sea kayak or raft, it’s as comfy a crib as you’ll find—especially at its price of just $139.95. Bonus: bring the whole famdamily; it’s available in 2-, 3-, 4-, and 6-person versions. https://sjkgear.com/daybreak-3-person-tent/
Flylow River Gear
For this, we went to our man Back East, Drew Simmons, who put FlyLow’s latest summer apparel and gear to the test on none other than a raft trip down the Green’s Deso/Gray Canyons. Despite most likely getting a hangover, horseshoe ringer and horsefly bite or two, he also got the beta on the below from our California-based buddies over at FlyLow:
Flylow Bandit Shirt ($80) LINK
This is the loose, stretchy and comfortable sun shirt that checked all the boxes on the river. Super light so you can wear it in 100 degree heat? Check. Quick drying so you can go in and out of the river? Check. Long-sleeved and hooded and 30+ UPF? Check. Check. Check. But probably the best part (and the part that kept me married) was the silver-based Ionic+ antimicrobial treatment that kept my shirt from smelling as bad as I did. Materials are 92% polyester, 8% spandex.
Flylow Safari Short ($70) LINK
These are my favorite shorts for everything…swimming (and skinny dipping), running, ultimate frisbee, biking … and were absolutely perfect on the river. They are so light and quick drying, but they also are good looking enough to go out for a breakfast burrito. They’ve got a couple hand pockets, which was key for clipping on my river knife. And they also have a zipper pocket, which is always key—especially for doofuses like me to keep jumping into the river with stuff in my pocket. Materials are Intuitive™ IQ fabric, which is 89% polyester, 11% spandex.
Flylow River Cowboy ($25) LINK
These big broad straw hats are a fixture on any river trip…but only Flylow makes one that says SKI BUM across the front. It’s a huge hit everywhere it goes—especially on a river trip, whose medium was the snow everyone likely skied on.
Flylow dirt glove ($30) LINK
This is an all-purpose glove that was originally designed for mountain biking, but was perfect for day three of all-day oar duty. For those of us who don’t have the oar calluses already built up, a pair of lightweight and quick-drying gloves is a lifesaver.
BOTE Zeppelin IK
BOTE has literally gone overboard with its latest and greatest paddlecraft, the Zeppelin. Almost as gamechanging as the airship blimp patented in 1895, this IK is half SUP/half IK, meaning you can stand on it for casting and jumping off, and sit for paddling to your favorite cove. OR, in our case testing, take it to our buddy Dan’s houseside lake and paddle out, catch rays and quaff brews, then fly cast to rainbow trout. Some combos work and some don’t, and this one h its it on all cylinders. The company calls it the most versatile kayak in the BOTE arsenal, with a self-draining hull, removable floor chamber, and optional second seat to go tandem or solo. And it’s uber-stable, thanks to the dropstitch inflatable floor and side tubes that come up around it like curbs on your street. And, you can roll her up afterward and stash it in your closet back home (where your friends hopefully won’t find it to borrow).
Zeppelin Aero 10′ | $1,149
- Capacity: 300 LBS
- Weight: 37.5 LBS
- Construction: Inflatable AeroBOTE Technology
- Travel Bag Dimensions: 7″ H × 18″ W × 11″ D
- Loaded Bag Weight: 46 LBS
Zeppelin Aero 12′6″ | $1,399
- Capacity: 600 LBS
- Weight: 41 LBS
- Construction: Inflatable AeroBOTE Technology
- Travel Bag Dimensions: 6″ H × 28″ W × 14.2″ D
- Loaded Bag Weight: 50 LBS
Sea to Summit Hydraulic and Compression Dry Pack
Want to keep gear dry on the river or ocean? Sea to Summit will see you there with two new offerings. Its new Hydraulic is a heavy duty dry pack, with a removable, EVA foam/air mesh harness for ventilation portaging small or large loads. For keeping water at bay, it’s made from 600D TPU laminated heavy duty, UV-resistant, PVC-free waterproof fabric, designed to withstand the sun and cold temps of any canyon bottom. A TPU roll-top closure with an innovative interlocking profile secures everything inside, while welded seams keep every last drop out where they belong. Bonus: its 7075-T6 anodized aluminum buckles are tough as nails. Proof in the pudding: It survived a raft flip in Westwater Canyon, with everything staying bone dry. Available in 35-, 65-, 90- and 120-liter sizes, $149.96-$224.96. https://seatosummit.com/products/hydraulic-dry-pack
Want something smaller? Sea to Summit’s eVent Compression Dry Sack is made from 70D Nylon waterproof fabric in the body and lid, with an eVent® waterproof/air-permeable base that allows air to be pushed out of the sack. No need for a purge valve, making it lighter and simpler. It comes with double stitched and tape sealed waterproof seams, a waterproof hypalon roll-top closure with lid and 4 straps for compression, and reinforced stitching on all stress points. What we love? The ease of forcing all the air out the bottom for a super tight package. Why didn’t we think of that? Available in 6-, 10-, 14-, 20- and 30-liter sizes, $34.95-$54.95. https://seatosummit.com/products/event-compression-dry-sack
Hest Foamy Regular
So long, Paco Pad. Paco Pads are great and all, but Jack down at Jack’s Plastic Welding hardly corners the market on them. Case in point: the Hest Foamy, a 78″x25″ (or a Wide 78″x30″), which offers two layers of enhanced memory foam—the top providing plush body contouring, the bottom layer delivering support and pressure point relief—serving up uber-comfort even on those rocky shorelines. Other features include no inflated air or pump needed; a removable, machine washable cover; integrated compression straps; a durable, waterproof base; a compression harness that doubles as a welcome mat; a handy phone pocket; and connector clips on the sides that let you link up to other Foamie fans. $299, https://hest.com/products/foamy
And finally, one bringing a taste of home (or your favorite Mexican joint) to your boating trip. Like blended drinks (ahem, like margs) on the river? The portable BlendJet makes that a riversides reality. Just add your liquid, throw in your solids, fasten the lid and press the power button to blend for one 20-second cycle. With its own iUSB-C cable, charge it with most USB charging sources (it takes about 1.5 hours to fully charge and lasts for 15+ blends). It comes with three easy-to-use modes: Blend Mode, Pulse Mode and Lock Mode. If you’re familiar with the original BlendJet blender, its upgrades include 33% greater jar capacity; TurboJet tech with offset blades for better blending; easy-to-read measurement lines; larger base and motor; and single-button operation (so your hand’s free for your drink!). https://blendjet.com