This year, it was hard to discern an overriding trend with paddling apparel, but we did sense that companies were still conservative and rolling out fewer new products. There was good stuff -- just not a whole lot of it. But we saw some real energy in PFDs, with companies addressing the stand-up paddling market, as well as new regulations and growing consumer demand for rescue vests. Speaking of the SUP trend, we saw fewer new paddles for that market, but there were new takes on accessory categories that have needed attention, like deck bags and boat carts.
Apparel for all occasions
There’s not really any single trend running throughout paddlesports apparel -- well, except for the fact that hand-warming fleece lines nearly every pocket these days. No, this year we saw a little bit of everything.
A newcomer to the market is Season Five, which debuted a paddling top (MSRP under $100, photo - right, www.seasonfive.com) that’s ideal for days when the air is warm but the water’s cold. Filling the gap between a neoprene wetsuit and a non-insulated rash guard, this top has a waterproof/breathable membrane, DWR coating and soft Atmos fabric.
As for industry veterans, Kokatat turned 40 this year, and in recognition of that introduced a specialty piece, the Trinity dry top (MSRP $380, photo - left, www.kokatat.com), which is mostly a shorty version of the Rogue. It also launched a lightweight Gore-Tex paddling suit (MSRP $744) for the growing number of people who want something more comfortable and less fussy than a drysuit. It has a nice zipper that’s more flexible and easier to slide than the type you find on a typical drysuit. Also, check out the Super Breeze (MSRP $109), one of the redesigned tops made from Tropos fabric. It has a more fitted cut, plus improvements like better zipper pulls and one-handed pull toggles that don’t increase the cost.
Level Six introduced the Reign (MSRP $380, photo - right, www.levelsix.com), a new dry top for creeking and expedition paddling that should be exceptionally watertight. Openings throughout the piece have latex inner gaskets with adjustable over-gaskets, plus there’s an extra-long adjustable inner tunnel.
NRS has seen demand for dry pants really pick up; thus, it rolled out the new Free Fall pant (MSRP $160, www.nrsweb.com). It’s cut with a straight leg for comfort (and a stylish appearance) and there are latex ankle gaskets.
PFDs to the rescue
We saw several new rescue vests this summer, and that’s partly due to the fact that PFD manufacturers have worked with the Coast Guard to create new release-load and weight-bearing standards for these types of products.
Meeting the new standard is MTI’s Thunder R SPEC (MSRP $140, photo - left, www.mtiadventurewear.com), which provides 16 pounds, 8 ounces of buoyancy and has a Quick Release Harness Belt System, plus a raft of other impressive components. Oh yeah, can’t forget to mention the fleece-lined handwarmer pockets.
The folks at Astral Buoyancy say their GreenJacket rescue vest (MSRP $225, www.astralbuoyancy.com) is actually a best seller for the brand, and it has been updated with pockets that have white lining material so that it’s easier to locate things. The company also retooled the knife pocket and switched to a side-opening compartment for a folding knife (which guides seem to prefer).
Another new rescue product is Extrasport’s Swiftwater Tactical PFD (MSRP $225, photo - right, www.extrasport.com), which is available in size XXL to fit over a drysuit.
Other PFDs of note include MTI’s Fluid Belt Pack (MSRP $100, www.mtiadventurewear.com), one of the few flotation products being targeted toward the SUP market. Because stand-up paddleboarders prefer to not wear a traditional PFD, belt packs such as the Fluid with inflatable flotation devices might turn out to be their product of choice.
Also, Stohlquist made a significant style upgrade with the women’s Betsea PFD (MSRP $120, photo - left, www.stohlquist.com), which comes in good-looking colors like powder blue and sage, and includes touches of embroidery.
Kokatat’s updated the Outfit Tour PFD (MSRP $147, www.kokatat.com), which suits people with long torsos and has a couple of nice details, like a knife garage and a new top-loading pocket that prevents things from spilling out easily.
New paddles & accessories
AT Paddles completely re-branded its product line with updated logos and product names. But the coolest thing we saw was the new Synapse Ferrule with SmartSET Technology. OK, the name is ridiculously long, but the concept is simple. Basically, you can pull two paddle pieces apart, twist them and set them to a new angle, in 15-degree increments -- very clean and easy. It will be available on all AT touring paddles (www.atpaddle.com).
Here’s a no-brainer -- Harmony launched a portable Kid’s Seat (MSRP $45, www.harmonygear.com), which has a no-skid bottom to stay put in just about any boat. Plus, a kid can carry it to the shore and have his or her own kid-sized chair.
Probably the most versatile paddlesports accessory we saw was North Water’s FourPlay Paddle Float (MSRP $90, www.northwater.com). With foam pads divided into sections, it not only serves as a paddle float, but also can be unfolded to serve as a pad to beach your boat without banging it -- or you can fold it to function as a kneeling pad, sleeping pad or camp chair.
NRS has launched a series of three deck bags -- the Big Haul, Over Haul and Taj M’Haul (photo - left) -- in three price points (MSRP $40-$90, www.nrsweb.com) to suit everyone from price-conscious folks to high-end consumers. They’re well designed, with all the bells and whistles you’d want, including a plastic insert to hold the bag’s shape. Also, the Taj M’Haul includes a hydroloc bag -- a very cool Ziploc-style dry bag.
Sea to Summit rolled out an impressive collection of paddling accessories, including a new carrack, boat carts, gear bag and deck bag. The Dry Mesh Duffle (MSRP $120/medium, $140/large, photo - right, www.seatosummit.com) has a lower dry bag compartment and upper open compartment made of mesh, so you don’t have to mix wet and dry items. The new Kayak Cart (MSRP $100) basically takes boat-hauler design to a new level with a product that’s not only lightweight but also likely more durable than many competing products.
Sea-Lect Designs realized that many paddle dealers have no central place to hold all the boat hardware that typically gets strewn about a shop’s back room. Its new Spinner Display can hold 99 SKUs of individually packed and barcoded items, from rivets to rod holders, and adds up to more than $2,000 in retail value. (www.sealectdesigns.com)
We all know how airports wreak havoc on luggage. Well, Watershed has heard from many people who want a large bag to hold dry bags while traveling, so it rolled out the Tramp Mesh Duffel ($55-$84, www.drybags.com) available in three sizes (2,500, 5,500 and 9,900 cubic inches). It’s made of trampoline material that’s plenty tough, and you can’t see through it.
For stand-up paddleboarders, Sawyer has introduced the QuickDraw S.U.P. (MSRP $350, www.paddlesandoars.com), a lightweight paddle (with a carbon shaft) that quickly adjusts to lengths from 63 inches to 90 inches and locks with a cam device.
The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.