1. MSR Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set & Flex 3 System
This is what I love about MSR: they don’t do anything half-assed. When they decided to put a knife in their Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set, they made it a super sharp mini chef’s knife that’s better than most in my kitchen drawer. Quality is on point for all items: fold-up cutting board, quick-dry PackTowl, two mini squeeze bottles, a fold-up spoon and spatula, dish scraper and brush, teeny salt and pepper shaker, corkscrew and a small plastic cheese grater that doubles as a strainer (hey, what’s the point of car camping if I can’t have freshly shredded cheese on my chili?). Zip up its handy carry case and pair it with the Flex 3 cooking set and you’re well prepared for gourmet meals on the go. Three insulated mugs with lids, three bowls and a 2.3-liter non-stick pot all nest into a larger 3.3-liter pot and are held in place by a strainer lid and click-inplace folding handle.
Flex 3 system: $129.95 | Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set: $54.95 www.cascadedesigns.com
2. Adventure Technology AT2 Standard
As our gear gets more and more specialized (page 49), our quivers of paddles are growing. We have paddles just for racing, paddles just for creeks and paddles just for freestyle. If you have to choose just one to take along on a whitewater road trip, it’ll be hard to beat the AT2 from Adventure Technology’s Elite Series. The key here is versatility. It is lightweight, very stiff and integrates both freestyle and river running paddle features to make it as close as you can get to one stick that does it all. The combo of carbon, aramid and fiberglass in the shaft makes the AT2 durable, so you can count on it when you only have space for one blade on board.
$440 | www.atpaddles.com
3. Immersion Research Devil’s Club Dry Top & Shawty Dry Suit
IR got serious about new outerwear this year. The Devil’s Club series takes its name from the nasty, spiny Pacific Northwest plant that’ll tear your gear on hikes to and from the river. Now you can go ahead and bush crash. The dry top’s outer shell uses heavyweight fabric that puts durability first. Of course this means the top is heavier than most—maybe not the best choice for soul surfing on a sunny summer day—but if you’re venturing off trail, the Devil’s Club is a bomber choice for durable protection and waterproofness.
On the women’s side, I couldn’t wait to try IR’s new Shawty drysuit. Once I got over the name (Urban Dictionary: “Fine ass woman. Sup shawty, how you doin?”), I was nothing but stoked. Across-the-shoulder zippers are my new favorite entry method thanks to the ease of movement they allow, and the Shawty has a hard T-shaped pull that makes it easy to do up myself when I don’t have a friend to help me out. The adjustable buckle at the waist is a simple sizing solution that lets me dial in fit, and the fabric is supple enough that it moves smoothly with my body so I don’t feel like I’m in a spacesuit. It’s clear that IR put time into tailoring the fit—the Shawty works with my curves without being awkwardly wide in the hips. The waterproofness is bomber and the fabric feet are reinforced for added durability. The front relief zipper means you should bring backup base layers if you’re accustomed to a drop seat, but I promise your stand-and-pee skills will come with time.
Devil’s Club Dry Top: $398 | www.immersionresearch.com
4. Coleman FyreChampion HyperFlame
An amazing on-the-go stove. Powered by a 16.4oz propane cylinder, the FyreChampion’s two burners roar to life with a flick of the easy ignite button. Each burner has a small, removable no-stick griddle for perfect pancakes, and the control knobs let me regulate temperature with precision. I can boil water with unprecedented speed. The open lid is an effective windshield with an arm to hold it in place. The whole unit closes up to contain the burners, griddles and screw-apart propane regulator for a slim suitcase-style kit with a carry handle that’ll easily slip under a seat in the car or between bigger storage bins.
$179.99 | www.coleman.com
5. Astral Loyaks
Other than the fact that they come in my favorite shade of turquoise, comfort is the best thing about the Loyaks. They’re incredibly light, flexible and low profile, and I can wear them for an après paddle beer without feeling like I’m in clunky river clogs. Their flexible sole minimized the foot cramps I get with stiffer shoes against my open canoe foot pegs. Astral’s proprietary rubber means they handle well on rocks in and around the water and drain well so I don’t end up with sloshy puddle shoes. Don’t plan to wear these just anywhere—slim design means limited support so they’re not suited to treacherous portage trails, but they’re my new top pick for grab-and-go paddling.
$79.95 | www.astraldesigns.com
6. NRS H2Core Lightweight Hoodie & Pants
Snuggly soft on the inside with a smooth brushed exterior, these insulating layers are warm and versatile. They’re surprisingly cozy for how light they are, which is a bonus for wearing under drygear—none of the annoying restriction that sometimes comes with warmer base layers. I’m happy wearing them under my suit for spring paddling or in my sleeping bag on a cold night (not on the same day—gross). The top has a panel of lighter fabric under the arm and partway down the torso to combat underarm chafe and keep things breezy for the seriously sweaty among us.
Hoodie: $64.95 | Pants: $49.95 | www.nrs.com
7. Canyon Cooler Prospector 103
Gigantic and seemingly indestructible, this is the cooler for serious rafting adventures and tailgate parties. For on-the-water adventures, it has six tie-down points to thread cam straps through, and fits perfectly into our AIRE 156R and 143D rafts. It has two drains, one on the front and one on the end, so I can access one of them no matter how the cooler is tied in. Both the drains and the three rubbery latches that hold the lid closed are recessed into the cooler’s rectangular shape so they don’t get damaged or cause a snag. At 37.5 by 21.25 by 18.5 inches, this cooler will take up some serious trunk space, but it stores enough food and beer for a long trip or big bash and keeps everything perfectly cool.
$410 | www.canyoncoolers.com
8. Yakima Round Bars & Q Towers
These tried and true roof racks have taken my boat and I all over the map. I’ll admit that the initial set up was a little intimidating—I opened the box to find several smaller boxes inside, and in them, what felt like a million tiny pieces. Luckily, Yakima made it absolutely idiot proof. Their step-by-step instructions guided me through the assembly, and the best part is, it was a one-time job. Since then, I’ve popped them on and off my car a hundred times with ease. The Q Towers have a simple knob in them to adjust on either side for a perfectly balanced clamp on my naked-roof car—no need for factory bars. The instructions also walked me through finding exact placement on the top of my weirdly curved hatchback to make sure they were the right distance apart, and positioned with perfect symmetry. I was nervous about the home installation, but once they were on my car it felt like they had been there all along. Solid and reliable. Little locks on each clamp mean that only I can undo them. Yakima makes newer, more aerodynamic crossbars, but the RoundBars are a proven choice and better on the budget. Use Yakima’s website to search the make, model and year of your vehicle,and it’ll spit out all the roof rack options for your ride.
Round Bars: $135 | Q Towers: $555 | www.yakima.com
This article was originally published in Rapid, Volume 18 • Issue 2. Read this issue.