This is a grab bag of assorted goodies that make the trip more enjoyable. Some are really important like water and protective clothing. Some are for safety like the whistle. Others are for comfort.
Water (or Beverage)
Most paddling trips are between 4 and 6 hours. In this region, we can paddle all four seasons. It is obvious why we need some type of beverage on a hot summer day. Even in the Winter, we still sweat a great deal and we also need water to regulate our body heat. Besides losing water, we also lose various salts through perspiration. Most of us can get away with plain old tap water and replace electrolytes at lunch with food. As we get older, some may need a sports drink like dilute Gatorade to avoid cramping - I know I do. You should carry at least one quart for a full day of paddling. It doesn't hurt to stash a second bottle in the back of the boat just in case or to share. Here is a great article on dehydration: Dehydration.
Many paddlers forget to pack some food. Whitewater paddling can be very strenuous, especially for novice paddlers. As you deplete your energy reserves, paddling will not be as enjoyable and you can't perform at peak efficiency. In the Winter, you need food and water to maintain body heat. Boating food needs to be simple and ideally water resistant - forget the PBJ sandwiches on white bread. Energy bars, trail mix, firm fruit like apples or dry fruit work quite well. I like to bring along some nice dark chocolate and maybe some dried cranberries. Food can also help in treating mild hypothermia. Although most of us are not diabetic, heavy exercise can lead to symptoms very similar to Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar.
Decent whitewater shoes are important for boating. Your feet are your foundation; if you slip and turn an ankle you can no longer safely boat and need assistance. In the course of various whitewater trips, you may need to portage over rocks and boulders, end up swimming (need those shock absorbers), or encounter snakes or yellow jackets. Later on as you gain more experience, you may even be involved in rescue work. A good boating shoe needs to provide great support, great sole protection, and a reasonably grabby surface. Many boaters paddle in bare feet or use sandals. Neither of these are suitable for whitewater boating. Sandals can easily get snagged on underwater objects and provide no protection for your ankles. Play boaters have far more limited options for footwear. One option is to stow more sturdy footwear in the back of the boat.
Whitewater shoes are the ideal choice and there are many brands and models to choose from: NRS Whitewater Shoes. Whitewater shoes provides excellent foot protection and many have soles that are somewhat resistant to slipping on wet rocks. Prices range from $40 - $130. Another good choice is the 5.10 Canyoneer which costs around $126. Another great choice is the 5.10 Water Tennie. Finally, I've had great luck (and excellent customer service) for Astral Brewers.
The following video from Fergus Coffey provides an excellent advice on Selecting Rescue Shoes.
When starting out, good sturdy tennis shoes are far better than bare feet or sandals (may lead to foot entrapment). NRS carries decent river booties for reasonable prices ($25 on up).
Sun burn can happen any time of the year and water acts like a great big reflecting mirror. Fortunately, a large portion of our bodies are covered with various boating gear which will block out the sun. Under Armour and many other companies make great rash guards that wick away moisture and block the sun's harmful rays. Other portions of the body like the face and especially the nose need water resistant sun block. Sun block comes in both solid sticks (my favorite) and the standard creamy stuff. It is a good idea to pack a small container in your dry bag so you can reapply after your lunch break. Here is a really good article on why you need sun protection: Sun Protection Research Report.
This really isn't a major concern in our area unless you plan to paddle at Assateague in late Spring (not likely). The most important ingredient to look for is DEET, more is always better. When I am canoeing up in Canada, I prefer to apply 100% DEET to my clothing instead of my skin. This works well in a canoe where you can stay high and dry. Kayaks have a habit of going through whitewater and are anything but dry. Fortunately when we are on the water barreling down rapids, the bugs leave us alone. Pick windy spots for lunch breaks as this keeps the bugs at bay as well. Whatever you do, avoid any bug repellent with a perfume scent. Floral scents actually attract some bugs like black flies. Here is a nice article on this subject from the EPA on DEET.
Just like you need UV protection for your face, you also need similar protection for your eyes. There are several ways to provide some eye protection like collapsible brows for your helmet and of course sunglasses. Any sunglasses you purchase need sturdy construction and should be inexpensive. They also need to be adaptable to some form of eye glass retainer like croakies or chums. Some helmet shapes make it difficult to wear sunglasses. Here is an example of some sun glasses made especially for kayaking or surfing: Sample Kayak Sunglasses. If you can't fit sunglasses under your helmet, go with the collapsible neoprene head gasket. Here is a nice article on choosing Surf Sunglasses.
Our eyes are critical to whitewater boating. Unfortunately, many of us have less than stellar eye sight. There are a number of ways to overcome this challenge:
- Lasik Eye Surgery - Many boaters have gone this route and are quite happy with the results: Lasik Eye Surgery.
- Soft Contact Lenses - Make certain you carry spares and saline solution in your dry bag.
- Sports Goggles - These work quite well but are subject to fogging.
- Prescription Eyeglasses - Expensive and they need some sort of retainer. It is still a good idea to carry an older spare in your dry bag.
Protective clothing for heat or cold
In our region, we paddle all four seasons. Most of the time, we are concerned about being too cold since that may lead to hypothermia. In the summer time, we also need to be concerned with over-heating. Most of us carry a variety of clothing to handle all types of weather conditions. The following article covers this topic in more detail: Clothing.
A sponge is nice for removing small amounts of water after draining your boat. Few boaters these days carry a sponge and haven't had any issues. They are pretty inexpensive costing between $5 - $10. Most are difficult to secure and are often lost when you end up swimming unless stowed behind your seat. Here is an example from NRS: Sponges. Mason sponges (like the ones used for tile work) are also excellent.
Most hats do not work well under a kayak helmet. One that does is the simple ball cap. This is an alternate and safe way to get some shade for the eyes. The ball cap also protects the top of your head from sunlight when the helmet is taken off at a lunch break. Few paddlers bother to carry a hat.
The Safety Whistle is an important piece of gear you should carry. Whitewater is a very noisy environment so we need other ways to communicate like hand/paddle signals and the safety whistle. When purchasing a safety whistle, go for the loudest one you can find (the Fox 40 certaionly meets this requirement). The NRS Storm Whistle is a good one and only costs $8.