Last fall, Mark Cramer took a helacious swim during a solo attempt on Canada’s mighty Stikine River, but PL found Cramer far from cavalier about river safety: He’s more concerned than ever about making it back in one piece. Especially considering the missions he’s been on: 2005 saw him complete a first descent of Alaska’s Susitna. The following year he completed the only known and verified descent of Selway Falls and ran Jacob’s Ladder on the North Fork of the Payette at the highest level recorded for a raft –3300 cfs. To cap it off, he stomped the ridiculous Exit Rapid on Washington’s Tumwater Canyon – a gut-wrenching three times.
We take a look at the gear that has carried Cramer though the maw:
Lid: Old Pro-tec with foam lining “A good helmet is the number one piece of gear. I need to upgrade my helmet. Mine is old but I keep it for sentimental value.” He doesn’t have one but recommends a chin bar for facial protection.
Flotation: Extrasport Swiftwater Rescue “If you’re trying to rescue someone in the water without buoyancy you’ll also become a victim,” he says. Under this PFD Cramer wears a Mustang inflatable jacket, which he can inflate with a CO2 cartridge in the event of an emergency. He’s never had to use it.
See the Mustang vest
Drysuit: Kokatat Gore-Tex “I do recommend spending more for Gore-Tex; if it keeps you warm and dry it’s worth it. Mine is pretty worn out–there are 100 pieces of patch tape inside it.” His customization: “Diving into rocks is a problem so I had the idea to wear catcher’s pads on the outside of my suit and it looks like someone took a chisel to ‘em. Outside body armor has so many advantages: you protect yourself and you protect your suit, and it allows you to be very aggressive when scrambling onto a rock.” Kokatat Goodies.
Craft: Aire Wave Destroyer “Al Hamilton and I designed it , and modeled it after a squirt boat. It took three years to get it where we wanted it.” Cramer likes the price and quality construction of the Wave Destroyer but his favorite feature is the ten-year warrantee.
Check out the Destroyer.
Frame: “There are some really good frames that are light and act like a shark cage to protect you when you’re upside down. They have a lot of features and a lot of people may not understand what they’re looking at when they buy one.” Cramer likes MADCATR. “I think they put out the best frame out there.”
Visit the MADCATR site.
Booties: NRS Extreme Search and Rescue “A long swim can easily turn into a long walk.” Cramer prefers 5.10 rubber soles over Vibram for traction on wet rock.
Throwbag: NRS “I’m a firm believer in carrying two bags, and I’ve found a really wide mouth ‘biner can make it double as a tow line, raft-to-raft. If you throw someone a bag on an upside-down boat there’s nothing to clip it to, it doesn’t work, but with a big ‘biner you can clip it anywhere.” “Ask someone in the climbing department about ropes, knots, etc.” Cramer practices throwing and retrieving the bag.
Special Rope Gear: Cramer carries climbing cams on 20 feet of rope. “You can just slam ‘em into any crack and get yourself stopped.”
Safety First: On tough trips Cramer wears a belly pack containing emergency medical supplies and keeps a SAT phone and EPIRB on a thigh pack. In his PFD he stores a large canister of spare air—enough to give him 72 breaths. He also carries a food procurement bag containing two small snares, a wrist rocket, fishing line, water purification tabs and salt pills.
This dude is ready for anything.
– Sam Weiss