Accessory Review Category

Immersion Research Klingon Sprayskirt

Immerson Research Klingon Sprayskirt Review
by Ethan Boswell

Rogue River

Ethan Boswell at Rainie Falls on the Rogue River. Photo by Andrew Romanelli

I recently decided that I needed a new spray skirt. There aren’t too many options on the market, but I had been impressed by the designs coming out of Immersion Research. To my eyes, it seemed as though IR was the only brand innovating in the skirt department.  So, I decided to give them a shot. I was originally going to pull the trigger on a Lucky Charm sprayskirt, with its rubber rand making it the most implosion resistant skirt in their lineup.  However, a little bird told me that the Lucky Charm was not the driest skirt that IR makes. That position belongs to the Klingon sprayskirt, which surprises many people considering that it’s a bungee skirt.

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Waterproof Duffel Bag by Ortlieb

You can add the Ortlieb Waterproof Duffel Bag to your list of gear “needs.”  Rugged, Waterproof, and Versatile, this zippered drybag can be carried like a duffel or worn like a backpack.  I recently used it as a checked bag with all of my paddling and camping gear (60L).  When not being used to keep its contents dry, I’ve been using this duffel to also contain wet and dirty gear.  Replace that Rubbermaid bin with a large duffel that’s easier to carry and won’t break!  Coming in at 3 sizes, 4060110L, this bag won’t fit INside a sea kayak, but it’ll hold a Coleman 2-burner stove wonderfully!  Perfect for SUPs, canoes, sit-on-tops, rafts, IKs, and recreational boats, bring your beach towels, lunches, and cameras with the assuredness that everything will be dry.  Ortlieb Waterproof Duffel Bags, in addition to the rest of Ortlieb’s drybags, come with a 5-year warranty to further put your mind at ease!  Duffel-style entry makes packing and finding gear an ease!

What are you waiting for?  You can buy Ortlieb drybags HERE!

Andrew Romanelli

Ortlieb Waterproof Duffel Bag is perfect for keeping your important gear dry and keeping your wet gear contained!

Ortlieb Waterproof Duffel Bag is perfect for keeping your important gear dry and keeping your wet gear contained!

Kokatat Goretex Knappster

For your warm-weather paddling, the Kokatat Goretex Knappster is a secret weapon against the PNW’s cold water.

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From mellow sea kayak touring in the San Juan Islands to Class V creekin on the Green Truss, Kokatat’s Knappster is a versatile, short-sleeve splash top.

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Made with Goretex Paclite, the Knappster packs down smaller than a grapefruit and has no zippers or latex gaskets to maintain.  In the San Juans, it hides easily in my day hatch, and on the river, effortlessly rides in the back of the boat or in a small drybag.  As a Goretex product, this splash top breathes only like Goretex can!  Why swim in your own sweat, only to get cold when you stop paddling for lunch?

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Short-sleeves helps me stay comfortable with the added bonus of soaking up Vitamin D!  Punch-Through cuffs at the arms and cinch-able neoprene neck keep most of the water out of the top, even when rolling in the surf zone!  Double tunnel lets this top pair with your spray skirt, keeping the cockpit nice and dry.  Throw a pair of Sweet Protection Shambala shorts on for some quick-drying shorts with thin neoprene to keep your bum cozy!

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The Kokatat Knappster is my secret summer weapon for paddling in comfort and style in the Pacific Northwest.

Andrew Romanelli

Immersion Research K2 Union Suit

Let me just say that comfort is pretty darn important for anything, and the Immersion Research K2 Union Suit is my new favorite base layer for paddling.  Sure, I wore it like pajamas the day I got it, but it’s even better on the water than on the couch.

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Coming from a mid-weight fleece onsie previously, I was skeptical about the warmth of the K2 suit.  It’s thin and light weight, but it’s still cozy warm.  This lightweight Polartec dries fast and insulates efficiently.  No zippers on it translate to less bulk under your suit.

It was about 40*F when I took it for a casual float down the river wearing my K2 suit, wool socks, and an extra mid-weight top.  I was cozy all day without ever raising my heart rate.  (IR’s Lucky Charm sprayskirt also kept my boat bone-dry, which helped, I’m sure, but this is one comfy fleece!)

Climbing in through the neoprene neck/yoke is strange to me, but I don’t notice it climbing into the suit anymore.  Even with wide shoulders, getting in is easy.  Getting out is a little trickier, admittedly.

If you’re in the market for some new base layers, Immersion Research’s K2 products are amazing.  Tops, bottoms, and union suits, K2’s will keep you cozy.

-Andrew Romanelli

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Immersion Research Lucky Charm Sprayskirt

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I learned something new this year:  Not all sprayskirts are created equally.

For a while now, I’ve wondered why I would buy a $200 sprayskirt when my $100 skirts work just fine.  I’m here to tell you this:  you get what you pay for.

It’s the difference between any roll-top drybag and a Watershed drybag.  It’s the difference between a proprietary, waterproof material and Gore-Tex.  The Immersion Research (IR) sprayskirts are a premium piece of kit, and I didn’t think I could be so excited about a skirt.

I’ve recently purchased the Immersion Research Lucky Charm sprayskirt.  IR bills this skirt as being their most implosion resistant due to the rubber rand.  IR’s “dry” skirt is the Kling-On, a bungeed deck instead of the rubber rand.  That being said, the implosion resisant Lucky Charm is the driest skirt I’ve ever used.  Gone are the days of two inches of water inside my boat (unless I forget my drainplug).

So after two years of hemming and hawing, I made the move and bought the Lucky Charm.  This is my first rubber rand skirt, and it was definitely time to try something new.  I wasn’t just pleased with the skirt, I was floored!

What makes the Lucky Charm so dry?  A lot of it is the “three-fin” style rand.  Each “fin” channels water away, providing 3 lines of defense.  The extended fabric on the deck further helps deflect more water, resulting in the driest ride I’ve ever had.  Add the abrasion resistant nylar tape and you’ve got a dry and durable skirt!  It’s a little cheaper than the Royale, which has kevlar instead of nylar.  Personally, I’m not using my skirt to rassle bears, so the kevlar was a little rich for my taste.

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Other upsides:  IR is a company founded, designed, and run by paddlers.  Support local, and support small!  Their customer service is also through the roof!  So patient, informative, and all-around nice, helpful folk.  The new grab loop is easy to grab, even with gloved hands.  It might be a tiny detail, but it’s a big deal!

Downside:  The smallest deck size they currently offer is a large, which is too big for my sea kayak (Valley Nordkapp).  But that’s ok.  Maybe that’ll change in the future.  For now, it’s a strong reminder of how awesome sprayskirts CAN be!

Now I know what #IRdry means, and you should too!

-Andrew Romanelli

P.S.- IR tunnels fit different than, say, Snapdragon or Seals tunnels, and their deck sizes are based on cockpit circumference.  Check out sizing info below
IR sizing

Kokatat Maximus PFD

Kokatat Maximus PFD review!

Kokatat Maximus PFD

Kokatat Maximus PFD

The Kokatat Maximus is my first PFD and so far I’ve loved it. I bought it with the intention of only running whitewater, but thus far I’ve used it in a wide spectrum of water and have been pleased with the results. The Maximus has been easy to adjust, and it’s extremely comfortable. The neoprene shoulder straps allow for easy paddling and maneuverability. Also, the side entry feature negates the problems people have with the front zipper. It’s sleek without a lot of add-ons so it’s mostly recommended for short trips, but the Maximus PFD does allow lots of extra attachments for longer trips. So if you’re looking for a lightweight, comfortable, and affordable life jacket, the Kokatat Maximus is a great choice.

Zachary Ellis

Get one for yourself HERE!

Adidas JawPaw Lace paddling shoe

From wading through the slippery rocks of the Upper Clackamas, to everyday-wear as I teach Basics Skill Classes the Adidas JawPaw Lace water shoe has been treating me very well.  They accommodate a neoprene socked drysuit booty quite comfortably and solidly, and also feel great bare foot.  Their low profile fits well into snug cockpits though is hardy enough to protect from stubbed toes on slippery rocks.  These shoes are light and dry quickly.  They do retain sand to some extent; which will remind your feet of the good times they’ve just had.  My pair of JawPaw Lace water shoes have passed the trials of Spring and will be my footwear of choice for the Summer to come.

-Alex Lanz

Check out these sweet water shoes HERE!

Adidas Jawpaw Lace

Adidas Jawpaw Lace

Dry Bag Comparison

A thorough dry bag comparison
by Meloy Ady

 

On the surface, all dry bags seem fairly similar. But in actuality, they are not all cut from the same waterproof cloth. With so many intents and purposes, it can be tough to tell what will work best for you, and more importantly, what will keep your gear safe.

 

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack

dry bags comparison

Lightweight Dry Sack

Kayak camping requires some optimization of your gear, and the space available to store it. The Lightweight Dry Sack is made of 70D nylon, which is extremely malleable for easy storage in the small crevasses of your sea kayak or backpack. While there are lighter weight options out there, we find that the Lightweight Dry Sack is plenty compact, with moderate durability and abrasion resistance as well. Keep in mind that no roll top dry bag is truly submersible, so it’s advisable to stow the Lightweight Dry Sack below deck.

 

Sea to Summit Stopper Dry Bag

dry bags comparison

Stopper Dry Bag


The Stopper Dry Bag is quickly becoming a favorite with whitewater paddlers in the Pacific Northwest. The 210D Nylon material is coated with TPU to quickly shed water, provide solid abrasion resistance, and prevent damage from extreme cold. The oval design helps prevent the bag from rolling around, making a great choice for canoe’s, rafts or any other open boat. For those of us who tend to abuse gear, the Stopper features a buckle that can be easily replaced in the field. While not entirely submersible, the Stopper does feature a dual seal which greatly improves its performance in whitewater and surf.

 

SealLine Baja Bag

dry bags comparison

Baja Dry Bag


The tried and true Baja Bag sets the industry standard for durability. The world class toughness is achieved with the use of heavy duty vinyl, reinforced with scrim (a natural textile that prevents stretching, puncturing and bolsters overall strength). The Baja Bag is perfect for whitewater camping trips where your gear might get tossed around on rocky terrain. The dual strip seal has generous vinyl flap that forms a much better seal than your average roll top dry bag. The SealLine Baja Bag can withstand shallow submersions, and will easily float high and dry if you leave some air trapped inside. The one and only downside is the negative environmental impact of producing vinyl. That being said, if you only need to buy one dry bag every 10 years, the carbon footprint is minimal.

 

Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag

dry bags comparison

Big River Dry Bag


The Big River Dry Bag shines as an example of how to make a high quality, ethical product. 420D rip stop material is extremely abrasion resistant, and prevents tearing if punctured. The Hypalon roll top closure forms a good seal, thoroughly protecting against splashes and waves. However, it is not intended to be submerged. For best results, it’s advisable to stow the bag below deck, especially if you’re carrying valuable equipment. The cost of the BigRiver is only slightly higher than a run of the mill dry bag, but it’s made without the use of PVC, with a long life span to boot. PVC production accounts for 40% of the United States chlorine consumption, causing serious adverse effects to our ozone layer. While buying one BigRiver dry bag won’t stop global warming, it’s certainly a step towards the right consumer mindset.

 

Watershed Ocoee

dry bags comparison

Watershed Ocoee


Watershed has a lasting reputation for serious over engineering, and the results are spectacular! The Ocoee features the ZipDry Seal, (think super industrial zip lock) and rolls down for added waterproofing, and compact storage. Unlike any other dry bag on this list, the Ocoee is totally and completely submersible! If you are carrying cameras or other expensive electronics, there is absolutely no substitute for a Watershed bag. The highly durable, abrasion resistant and tear resistant material is designed for years of use in demanding environments. You might be wondering, why would I buy anything else? well…the Ocoee is four times the cost of most 15 liter dry bags. However, I cannot emphasis enough the immense build quality and waterproof properties of any Watershed product. They are indefeasibly the best of the best!

Werner Powerhouse Paddle Review

Werner Powerhouse  (The “go to” unit)

The Pacific Northwest has so much to offer all types of paddlers.  I often find myself grappling with a familiar decision as I stand, staring blankly yet again into the rack of blades in front of me.  Between the two of us, I think my wife and I have accrued some dozen or so paddles that all hang vertically near the base of the basement stairs waiting for action.  Short surf and freestyle blades, burley creeking ones, slalom, long light weight sea touring paddles, canoe, carbon, glass, wood and all the rest…The perfect paddle for every occasion if I could just manage to fit them all on my back like a quiver of arrows, able to pull each of them out as the perfect situation for their use presents its self.

It’s been a dry summer so the rivers have been low.  My plan was to head out to the coast for a little long boat surf session and perhaps a tour around to check out the caves and arches on the outside of the break as the tide drops out.  Before I know it, I yet again find myself reaching, almost reflexively at this point, for the same one.  My trusty 200cm bent-shaft Werner Powerhouse.

It’s tough as nails for the surf and rocks and still light enough to crank some miles without taxing my shoulders too much.  The full carbon shaft is super comfy with great ergonomics and shape making it easy to feel not just where my hands go but what the blade angle is without looking.  The glass blades tend to wear down over the years but crack and chip less than any carbon paddle I’ve ever owned.  It’s just at home dropping into the maw of a towering curler on the sea as it is on the creeks and rivers it was designed for.  If you boat whitewater, be it salty or not, be sure to check this one out: the Werner Powerhouse.

Paul Kuthe

Stopper Dry Bag by Sea to Summit

Sea to Summit’s Stopper Dry Bag is my new favorite.

stopped dry bag

Stopper Dry Bag

It’s no secret that Sea to Summit makes some great stuff.  Their kayak and canoe carts are great.  I rely heavily on their compression sacks to protect my sleeping bag and bulky fleece layers from water.  The Big River dry bags have done well for me, but they’re finally wearing out.  That brings me to the Stopper dry bag.

DRY is the key word for these bags.  I’ll follow that up with RUGGED and REPAIRABLE.  If you abuse dry bags like I do, then you too have taped and glued your share of holes and tears in a variety of bags and materials.  Tear-aid aside, what happens when the buckle breaks?  Not that the buckles on your dry bag ever get stepped on or closed in a car door, but Sea to Summit has (finally) created a proactive solution: replaceable buckles.

I haven’t experienced the bag feeling “sticky” like some other rugged dry bags, binding against each other or inside my kayak.  For such a tough bag, the Stoppers aren’t bulky – an issue with thick, vinyl bags.  Easily my new favorite.

For the canoeists and rafters that need the ultimate in ruggedness without concern for bulk, check out Sea to Summit’s Hydraulic Dry Bags – a Stopper dry bag on steroids.

Andrew Romanelli

Immersion Research Royale sprayskirt

IR Royale Sprayskirt

Immersion Research Royale Sprayskirt

For enthusiast paddlers that demand the most from their kit, the Royale sprayskirt from Immersion Research is a must have item.  The design, technology and performance of this heavy duty sprayskirt is unmatched in today’s industry and provides an outstanding level of dryness and reliability out there in the water.  The Royale utilizes IR’s proprietary “fin” shaped rand that provides maximum contact between skirt and cockpit, making the Royale a super secure fit that will not end up in your lap if you happen to miss a boof stroke and spend some time throwing those “unintendos” in a stout hole.  Another benefit of the “fin” shaped rand that surprised me was how easily it goes onto my kayak compared to other traditional rubber rand skirts; the added flexibility of the fin makes it stretchier even when the temperature drops, meaning less frustration at the put in and no more fighting with a cold, stiff rand.  An extra lip lock flap of neoprene helps to fill in all the little gaps underneath your cockpit coaming, helping the Royale sprayskirt stay super dry even on those odd shaped cockpit rims (I have extensively tested this skirt’s dryness by spending LOTS of time upside down), and every seam on the Royale is stitched, glued and taped to insure that the inside of your boat stays dry.  Rounding out the amazing set of features on the Royale sprayskirt are 4-way stretch kevlar panels that protect the highest wear areas of any sprayskirt, meaning this ultra rugged deck is built to last.  The Royale is truly an amazing piece of gear that separates itself from everything else in its category, and with its premium combination of features and well deserved reputation for durability and performance in the harshest environments, this latest and greatest design from IR is well worth the investment!

David Trageser

Check one of these sprayskirts out HERE!

Astral Brewer shoe

Astral Brewer shoe

Astral Designs, in their pursuit of premium paddlesports gear, does footwear!  I’m a huge fan of a “do-it-all” sole they make: the Astral Brewer shoe.

Astral launched their footwear in 2012, and it’s more than a pet project, it’s a mission.  Since then, they have not only expanded their shoe line, they’ve already made improvements to their Brewer shoe.

I loved my old Brewer shoes.  I used them for sea kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddling, hiking, biking, you name it.  The Cordura and AirMesh upper, same stuff from their PFDs, is not only rugged, it also dries fast!  The heel is built to fold down so I can quickly use them as slippers for padding around the car looking for my other pogie or taking the trash out.  Small drain holes in the sides and a drain port at the heel keep large debris from getting in and let water and sand out.

The sole itself is loaded with sneaky features.  Last year, Astral used FiveTen’s Stealth rubber on the Rassler boot and the Brewer shoe.  The new and improved Brewer shoe now uses Astral’s very own G.14 outsole!  This new, rubber sole already provides great traction, but by adding siping, Astral has a competitive proprietary sole.  That’s just the rubber.

The Astral Brewer shoe uses a Balanced Geometry midsole, shaped to ensure stable and predictable footing in uncertain terrain.  There are even plumbed drains to let water out in the midsole around the toe.  Wider in the toe box, these shoes are super comfortable without socks by allowing your foot to spread out naturally.  As I sit behind a computer typing this, I can tell you that the Brewer shoe is also comfortable with socks!

On Thursday, I wore my Brewers whitewater kayaking.  On Friday, I wore them to bike to the bowling alley.  On Saturday, I wore them to the Roseland for a show.  On Sunday, I wore them to teach canoeing at the lake.  Today I’m wearing them at work.  Tomorrow I’ll wear them to teach sea kayak stroke refinement AND work in the shop.  Wednesday they’ll be on my feet running errands around town, and Thursday they’ll be on my feet when we’re running waterfalls.

Ladies:  Check out the Brewess.  Fellas:  Get some Brewers.

I’ll definitely be buying a pair of Astral’s Rassler boot this spring as well.  I only buy new shoes when the old ones have fallen apart, and I’ll be stocked and stoked on the Astral Brewer shoe for quite some time.

Andrew Romanelli

Pogies: NOT a glove story

Photo: Dave Slover

If you haven’t heard of pogies before, your cold hands will appreciate this.  No, they aren’t Polish raviolis.  Snapdragon’s Hyper Hands pogies are an excellent alternative to gloves!  Kayak, canoe, or SUP, there is a pair for you.  Not only are pogies very warm, they have a few advantages over gloves:

-Buy them ONE time
Booties and gloves wear out due to abrasion.  Thanks to the design and function of pogies, normal use will not wear through the material.  This means they last for season upon season.  The only reason I bought a second pair over four years was because I lost the first pair.  (Leave them on your paddle if you misplace things like me.)

-They’re WARM
Pogies are wind-proof, and any water you scoop drains immediately.  Like mittens, your fingers help warm each other.  Unlike mittens, you can quickly access dry bags, zippers, use your phone, and, well, use your fingers independently.

-EASY on/off
Anyone who has experienced wet neoprene knows what I’m talking about.  Pogies Velcro around your paddle’s shaft, allowing them to spin and slide freely as you adjust your grip.  Essentially, your paddle wears the pogies, and you hold your paddle!

-Immediate contact with your PADDLE
Better contact translates to more control.  With my hands in immediate contact of the paddle, I can be more aware of indexing and blade angle.  Further, I have more accurate awareness of the pressure I am applying through the paddle.

Snapdragon's Hyper Hands pogies

Come on in and try a pair!  As long as you hold onto your paddle, your hands will be toasty warm!  If your fingers are particularly notorious for getting cold, pair your pogies with a thin, neoprene glove like the NRS Hydroskin glove to get the best of both worlds!

Take a look at all three styles: Hot Hands, Hyper Hands, and Canoe/SUP.

-Andrew Romanelli

Astral Buoyancy Rassler review

This October, a few of us from Alder Creek explored the lower reaches of the White Salmon River from Northwestern Park to the Columbia River for the first time and had an absolutely gorgeous day (emphasis on GORGE) exploring a section of river that few have seen in the past hundred years.  Since it was a new section of river for all of us, we carefully picked our way down and did more than a little scouting and scrambling over slick, wet rocks inside the beautiful basalt gorges of this jewel of a river.  Despite a few nerves about what lay just beyond every blind corner and horizon line; I’m happy to report that my footing could not have been more secure thanks to my brand new pair of Rasslers from our good friends at Astral Designs.  Astral has once again raised the bar for quality and style in the paddlesports industry and set a new gold standard for technical creeking shoes with the Rassler, taking a huge step forward from the already solid and superb design of the Brewer shoe.  The Rassler is a high top boot, which not only makes it a more secure fit on your foot (particularly over a drysuit sock), but also provides extra protection for your ankles when you have to bushwhack it down to the river or scout that next drop.  The Rassler also features a much beefier outer layer that has been re info rced around the toes & heels to combat abrasion and extra wear, making it an ideal option for any weather and even the roughest terrain.  As the walls closed in and we came to Steelhead Falls , I had no problem scrambling out of my boat and over some seriously slick rocks to set safety as we took turns blasting through the entrance rapid and over the ledge into the gorge below.  I watched with delight as each group member styled the drop, and then took the loneliest hike of my life back over the rocks up the river bed to the small eddy where my boat waited for me.  Thanks to the secure fit and outrageously grippy soles on my Rasslers, I easily traversed the route and jumped back into my kayak to run Steelhead.  Fortunately, I styled the line and blasted through the gorge below, but fear not, if you’re superstitious about your swims the Rassler still features a vent/drain in the heel that I imagine would be great for a bootie beer (if you’re into that sort of thing).  A word to the wise: the fit of the Rassler is a bit different than the Brewers so I recommend visiting us at Alder Creek to try on a pair before you buy, and then stop worrying about your next step on the river and start thinking about the next paddle stroke or move you’ll make out there!
-Dave Trageser

Take another look at the Rassler HERE!

Thule Get-A-Grip paddle holder

Thule Get-A-Grip paddle holder

The Thule Get-A-Grip paddle holder accessory makes my life a little easier.  So far, I have carried up to 5 kayak paddles at a time, but I’m confident I could securely fit a sixth!  When I’m already transporting boats, gear, and bodies, it is far more convenient to carry all of our paddles on the roof rack.  Nobody likes hitting the back of their elbow on a sharp blade when shifting gears, and very few passengers actually enjoy squeezing themselves around a bundle of paddle shafts cutting across their seat.

Not only does the Get-A-Grip paddle holder make the drive nicer for driver and passenger, this accessory also locks!  When I go for a post-paddle bite and beer, I know that all of our paddles are locked to my roof rack.  Having gear stolen before, I am interested in making any further theft as difficult as possible!

A plastic-coated steel cable (with paddle-friendly rubber guard) cinches your paddles securely.  Locking the accessory prevents someone from releasing the cable.  At the same time, it locks the thumbscrews that secure the Get-A-Grip paddle holder to your roof rack!  Voila!  This accessory will work with Thule and Yakima crossbars, as well as most factory crossbars.

I carry mine upside down (shown above) to make more room for more boats, but you decide what works best for you!

I love my Thule rack.  Though it took quite a while to save up for it, the limited Lifetime Warranty means I’ll have it for a long time.  And the Get-A-Grip paddle holder is one of Thule’s least expensive accessories at a mere $64.95 (in 2013)!!!  Which means you get a lot of bang for only a little buck.

Check it out on Alder Creek’s website HERE, or call 503-285-0464 to order one.

-Andrew Romanelli