Here’s what you’ll need for a great weekend on the river.
If you don’t have a boat or are looking for an upgrade, consider this upgraded classic, the Mad River Canoe Explorer 16 FGX . A 40-year-old design, the Explorer was the second boat that the Mad River founder Jim Henry designed and it’s now available with FGX layup which makes it even more durable. At 64 lbs. (with wood trim, 3 pounds lighter and a little cheaper if you opt for just aluminum) it’s not super light but at 16’3” and 14.5” deep, it can carry you and a friend and probably an additional 600 pounds of gear and paddles beautifully.
Before setting out, you’re going to need a lifejacket. The Maximus Centurion ($239) by Kokatat is a great creeking/whitewater/multiday kayaking PFD as it has multiple storage options. These include the quick release Belly Pocket with three pockets for organizing essentials, including a pocket for a VHF radio. The jacket is super comfortable thanks in part to the Dynamic Suspension System, which features wide, contoured shoulder straps that allow an independently suspended front flotation panel to move with each stroke.
A sunny, warm day is any paddler’s dream, but it also means a lot a of UV exposure — especially on the head and face. Shelta’s Osprey Performance Sun Hat ($65.50) is among the best we’ve found. With an Ultra Violet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50+, the highest rating given, these hats also provide the most comfortable fit we’ve found. The brim narrows on either side so it’s not too droopy, it has a no-sag headband visor, it has a drawstring to secure it and best of all, it floats.
At put ins and take outs, you’re likely to find zebra mussels, sharp rocks, broken glass…who knows what rests on the bottom of the river. One thing is for sure that a cut foot is sure to dampen your adventurous spirit. The comfy, fast-draining, quick-drying Astral Water Shoes (men’s and women’s Loyak or Hiyak) are a cool (in all senses of the word) way to protect your feet.
You also want to protect your gear and keep it dry and portable. To do so, we like to use Sea To Summit’s Hydraulic Dry Packs ($119). Their bombproof construction resists UV damage and cold temperatures while the permanently-sealed seams keep out leaks. The harness can be removed for storage and then clipped back on for a portage. The company also makes lightweight dry sacks available in seven different sizes, starting at $12.95.
All that water around you might not be the cleanest and you’ll need something to clear out any particles or microorganisms that would like to make your gut a home. Katadyn’s BeFree ($39.95) bottle filter is a great option for its size and efficiency. This .6 liter flask has a teeny, but powerful hollow-fiber filter that features an EZ Clean membrane technology, specific to Katadyn, that allows you to swish and shake it clean, instead of backflushing.
When it comes time for a meal, The Optimus Elektra FE ($94.95) will get you hot food, real quick. This high-performance wonder can boil water 20-percent faster while using close to 30 percent less fuel.
Photo courtesy Vermont River Conservancy