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Water Sports Gear

Time tested goods we can't live without.


Photo by Dave Cox

Get ready to hit the water with two foldable kayaks, a PVC foam-free PFD, a Sweet Protection helmet, a carbon paddle, a 15-ounce throw bag, and a new soft-sided Yeti.

Folding Boat Company K-Pak


Field Test: Explore hard-to-reach waterways with the K-Pak, which collapses into a backpack-style case slightly smaller than a crash pad. The nine-foot, three-inch assembled boat takes shape from the inside out: Eight metal sleeves lock out rigid bow-to-stern tubes, much like shock cord in tent poles. Two aluminum crossbars clip in to complete the skeleton. A small-volume pump inflates four full-length baffles, plus a pillowy seat, and in five minutes a boat takes shape. The trim, 21-pound package stays on course in calm conditions and responds quickly to paddle direction. One gripe: Water seeps through the cockpit zip. Why It’s Timeless: The K-Pak sits low and stable in the water. —Olivia Dwyer

Oru Beach Kayak


Field Test: The Oru looks like an origami crane that knifes through lakes and slow moving rivers. Shoulder the padded strap for a painless schlep to put-in. Now, get crafty: Fold double-layer plastic along preformed creases, wedge in dual bulkheads, deploy seat and footrest, cinch 13 straps with buckles. Then preen—you just built a 12-foot, 26-pound, open-cockpit kayak. Oru claims three minutes for setup. With practice, I still need 10. On water, I hit full throttle with a few hard pulls. Why It’s Timeless: Two cockpit handles make the assembled boat an easy solo carry. Made in the USA  —O.D.

Adventure Technology Oracle Carbon Paddle

$400 (bent) and $340 (straight)

The Oracle features less dihedral (the angle between the highpoint of the blade and sides) than most touring paddles, allowing it to slice through lakes or slow moving river water efficiently, while offering better stability when bracing or rolling in choppy conditions. The blades are carbon, ensuring a crisp and efficient stroke, while the carbon fiber shaft makes it incredibly lightweight. It’s also adjustable: make it longer or shorter to suit different paddlers, styles, or conditions.  —Tracy Ross

Sweet Protection Strutter


Field Test: Over two years, on rivers ranging from the Salmon to the Payette to the Colorado, the Strutter has been my go-to helmet. At just over 17 ounces, it’s lightweight but sturdy, made of carbon fiber reinforcement polymer and long fiber thermoplastic for superior strength and stiffness. Modeled on a baseball cap, the Strutter offers a low volume fit and a curved brim for ample sun protection. It’s also forget-you’re-wearing-it comfortable, thanks to smartly positioned padding above the temples and brow bone, as well as a dual adjustment dial. Why It’s Timeless: It looks cool when I’m punching through Class 5 waves in my kayak.  —Greg McFadden

NRS Wedge Rescue Throw Bag


The Wedge is a compact 15-ounce bag, so there’s no excuse for not carrying it. Although it’s smaller than a sourdough round, it’ll hold 55 feet of rope length, with a maximum load of 950 pounds.  —T.R.

Yeti Hopper 40


Although the Hopper isn’t specifically designed to be a raft cooler, that’s its calling. Completely leakproof, this burly, soft-sided hauler—its materials are sourced from hazmat suits and high performance whitewater rafts—preserves ice for days and can fit 36 cans of beer (at a 2:1 ice to beer ratio). It stores easily in the stern of the raft, amid kids, dogs, and stacks of Nerf Super Soakers.  —T.R.

From our Early Summer 2016 issue.

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