There are plenty of paddling jackets on the market and many borrow features from one another so there isn’t much that obviously differentiates them at first glance. The latest generation of the NRS Stampede separates itself from the field by becoming the first, and so far only, semi-dry paddle jacket made with welded seams.
The Stampede Jacket features a waterproof/breathable 3-ply laminate with a rugged 210-denier nylon face fabric. We found that breathability was quite good when worn for many hours on chilly days and it certainly keeps the water out.
The neoprene neck seal was rather tight at first but loosened up after a few uses to an acceptable snugness that still keeps most water out. If this jacket had a latex neck gasket it would be totally dry (as opposed to semi-dry) but also very uncomfortable to wear. Most paddlers will find the Stampede suitable for all but the coldest water.
The latex wrist seals are indeed totally dry, so kayakers won’t experience that chill of water running down the sleeves. Since latex isn’t the most durable of materials, this jacket features Lycra cuffs to protect from abrasion and UV. For greatest longevity, it’s a good idea to occasionally apply 303 Protectant to any latex seals, no matter the brand.
To keep water from entering at the waist, the Stampede has an inner tunnel of coated nylon with an elastic drawcord. The bottom hem of the outer shell is a 3-inch wide neoprene waistband with Velcro adjustment tabs. This double tunnel system seals well with either a sprayskirt or waterproof pants. The design isn’t unique to NRS, of course, but it is a nice implementation. If someone is only rafting or canoeing and doesn’t need total protection, he or she may wish to cut out the inner tunnel for easier donning.
The previous version of the Stampede Jacket had a panel of stretch fabric across the shoulders that really didn’t do much except increase cost. The new Stampede has eliminated the stretch material but, thanks to a sophisticated pattern, it still offers superb freedom of movement without being overly baggy. There are also no seams under the arms to minimize chaffing. We did find the Stampede runs about a size small, particularly if you will be layering insulation underneath, so purchase accordingly.
The other major difference from the old version is the switch from sewn to welded seams. This new construction reduces bulk, sheds a bit of weight and makes the jacket at bit more comfortable. The seams still are taped on the inside for durability, but the jacket is narrower and overall less stiff than before. Not a huge difference, admittedly, but still a nice improvement that is likely to become more popular in the future.
The only complaint we have is with the outer pocket. The location on the chest places it under the PFD, so access is difficult at best. Furthermore, if you forget to fully close the waterproof zipper, the pocket becomes a bucket. We also suggest some reflective patches on the sleeves for better visibility in low light.
Despite the minor nits, the new Stampede is an exceptional paddle jacket and, at $175, a good value for this level of protection. It does everything a paddler needs it to, plus it's comfortable and should last a long time.
SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $175
For more information:www.nrsweb.com