Dip In: Latest Paddling Gear

Our picks for the latest, greatest paddling gear will get you out exploring and enjoying those long, sweet summer days.

Dermatone Sport – Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

Don’t mess with the sun when you are out on the water at altitude. The Sport formula (we go with the highest SPF we can) goes on easily and provides moisturizing for your mountain-dry skin and, most importantly, it’s resistant to water and sweat (but reapply frequently). $19; dermatone.com

Dragon – Flare LL H2O Polar

With big lenses and frames these polarized shades offer up plenty of protection when you paddle. But the big benefit here is that they float. That means you can confidently wear them without the annoyance of a retainer strap and not lose them if they slip in the drink. $209; dragonalliance.com

Astral – The PFD Sandal

Here’s a boating shoe that was specifically designed for the needs of river guides who spend all day standing in the water and navigating random terrain. Webbing straps (the same as Astral’s famed PFDs) batten down for the perfect secure fit and a proprietary rubber sole grips to wet rocks and logs. It’s the technical shoe you need for that big river trip but you will want to wear everywhere. $115; astraldesigns.com

Blackfin – Model X

Designed specifically for SUP fishing, this big, stable board (35 inches wide and rated up to 450 pounds) is the perfect deck not just for fighting beefy trout in the middle of the lake but also for taking off on overnight adventures on the far shores. Two cargo areas hold plenty of gear and it’s fully compatible with a fishing rack attachment that will give you the ability to manage multiple rods. Oh, and it’s also just fun to paddle. $800; irockersup.com

Body Glove – Performer 11 Inflatable 

Thanks to a new wider tail shape, this inflatable tracks easier and provides a lot of stability out on the water, making it a nice option for beginners as well as experienced paddlers looking for a reliable ride. And here’s an upgrade we really appreciate—an electric pump means you won’t feel beat by the time you get on the board. And paddle easy: For each board sold, Body Glove donates a tree to reforestation nonprofit One Tree Planted. Want more? If you are a Costco member, look for it at select stores where you can grab the board for a killer deal at $399. $999; bodyglove.com

Kokatat – WKNDER

This front-entry PFD puts comfort foremost. The back works with the high setbacks of many new canoes and kayaks and the wrap-around fit is easy to adjust to any body shape. Bonus: The hand warmer pockets are a simple innovation you will wish were on every PFD. $139; kokatat.com

Werner – Nomad Raft Paddle

The tapered blade shape on this one-piece fixed paddle means it can handle a wide range of adventures—from digging into whitewater with your team to high adrenaline creeking. It’s available in a beautiful silhouette pattern of Split Rock on Washington’s Skykomish River or a more basic translucent red. $190; wernerpaddles.com

Kokopelli Nirvana Self-Bailing X 

Big and beefy enough to take on major endeavors, this self-bailing pack raft can run whitewater and haul a bike or backpack but it’s still easy to hike the boat into remote spots. It rolls down to just 14 inches by 10 inches and tips the scale at an impressive 16.2 pounds with key accessories. Don’t worry that this packability makes it any less of a performer on the water—the Kevlar construction on the floor and up the sidewalls can handle a lot of abuse. $1,499; kokopelli.com

Stio Women’s Hylas Hooded Pullover and CFS Board Shorts

Shading yourself from the sunlight is paramount when you are spending the day on the water—but you don’t want to cramp your style. Mountain-town brand Stio has you—literally—covered. Providing UPF 50+ protection but still light and breathable, this stretch nylon pullover also dries in a hurry, making for the perfect SUP top. The shorts complete the set with the same protective and quick-dry super powers. $89 pullover, $89 shorts; stio.com

Hobie Mirage iTrek 11

This easy-to-transport inflatable kayak provides pedal power via a zippy drive system that allows you to get around the lake in a hurry—and remain hands-free, ideal for fly fishing or kicking back and enjoying the view while your legs do the work. It weighs in fully rugged at just 28 pounds, making it more versatile than big boats with similar drive systems. $2,799; hobie.com 

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman 

Here’s the craft of choice for the dedicated angler. Super stable and smooth on the water, this canoe features a burly three-layer hull that can withstand the bumps of sleeping into small spaces. A kayak style set offers up comfort for paddling and casting and there’s plenty of room for gear in the boat. $1,100; oldtowncanoe.johnsonooutdoors.com

Advanced Elements AirVolution Drop-Stitch Kayak

This solo or tandem inflatable kayak features drop-stitch construction, which is more common on SUPs, and gives it all the guts and performance of a hard-shell boat. Injection-molded nose caps bolster the front and there’s even below-deck storage. Add it all up and you have an inflatable that’s easy to store and transport but just as reliable as a bulkier boat.  $1,700; advancedelements.com

Level Six King Sprayskirt

Stitched, not glued, for the best stretch in all conditions, and built with new thinner rand profile for a better fit on all styles of cockpit rims, this is a sprayskirt we can count on. Plus, burly neoprene panels give it longevity and lots of abrasion resistance. $160; levelsix.com 

Columbia River Knife & Tool Minimalist Persian

Based on a badass 17th-century Persian design, this compact fixed-blade knife could be a lifesaver on the river (or just a handy tool in camp). The ergonomic handle makes it easy to grasp and use even when wet. $40; crkt.com

Share this post:

Discover more in the Blue Ridge: