With the end of a great 2013 season comes the second annual edition of the KayakDave.com Gear of the Year Awards! We had the opportunity to review all sorts of mind-blowing outdoor products throughout the year thanks to our many generous sponsors. As always, these awards represent the most exciting, innovative and utterly amazing paddling gear that we were able to get our hands on! Without further ado, here is the “Gear of the Year”:
Kayak of the Year:
Lincoln Chebeague LV
There was one kayak that stood out above all of the rest for our staff this year and frankly it was a huge surprise! The new-for-2014 Chebeague LV by Lincoln Canoe and Kayak blew both Alex and I away when we got the chance to give her prototype a whirl at the EORA show this past summer!! This 14ft-long, 37lb (32lb kevlar) light touring kayak echoes the brilliant, hand-laid hull found on the classic Chebeague with a slightly lower deck and updated key-hole cockpit layout. Smaller paddlers should rejoice as the Chebeague LV was made for those of you looking for a classic, Maine-made day tripper that behaves as well in the flats as it does on edge. Alas, a kayak in the Lincoln line that fits wee paddlers well!!!
Paddle of the Year:
Aquabound Stingray Hybrid Paddle w/ Posilock Ferrule
The Stingray Hybrid by Aquabound may not be the lightest or most flashy paddle on the market but it may just be the best bang for your buck at $140.00 MSRP! This paddle is an excellent choice for the average, everyday paddler thanks to its lightweight construction (30.5oz), moderate blade area, and smooth-padding blade shape. However, the feature that really blew us away was the updated posilock ferrule system. This may be the best ferrule on the market due to its ease of use and minimal failure points (zero metal parts)! This paddle is so all-around awesome that we almost had to give it a “Gear of the Year” award!
Bending Branches Balance SUP Paddle
SUP is all about being one with the water. In a sense, you’re literally “walking” on it which invokes a sense of connectedness and appreciation for this surreal experience. All of this may seem a bit existential to some but, trust me, the Balance paddle lends itself to this perspective. This paddle really has it all; a strong carbon shaft, a nicely balanced feel in hand, and blades that are beautifully-handcrafted from black willow and red alder. It’s everything that you can ask for in a SUP paddle and we’re thoroughly in love with it!
Paddling Apparel of the Year:
This may come as a surprise to those readers and clients who have heard me rant and rave about how much I love my Astral Greenjacket! I figured that the Greenjacket gets plenty of love and it’s time that another great PFD receive some of the “Gear of the Year” spotlight. This year, the award goes to the MTI Slipstream. This is a great choice for men and small-chested women who are interested in an athletically-cut lifejacket. When it comes to fit, everything (mesh airflow system, z-straps, ect) adds up to make the Slipstream incredibly comfortable to the point where you forget that you’re wearing it. We were also impressed the assortment and layout of accessory features; especially the inclusion of a radio pocket as this is something that most “high-end” PFDs lack!
Astral Brewer Water Shoes
Astral also deserves some love in the form of a KayakDave.com Gear of the Year award for their amazing Brewer water shoes. Most water shoes are down-right awful; few are made for walking in, most let all sorts of sand in to violate your toes, and the vast majority make you look like Goofy! The Brewers defy this trend and are by far and away the best water shoes that I’ve ever owned. They’re wicked comfortable, highly functional, and have style to boot! So far, I’ve been most impressed with the durability of the Brewers, the gripiness of their “stealth rubber” soles, and the fact that they actually keep the vast majority of sand and muck out. The Brewers are the type of water shoe that will make even the most fashonista of teenagers think that wearing water shoes is cool!
Paddling Accessory of the Year:
GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
GoPro cameras have changed the way that we view the world by providing us with vivid imagery from the once-elusive Point-of-View perspective! We were lucky enough to get our hands on a Hero 3 Black Edition toward the end of the summer and it has made paddling that much more exciting for me! Rare are the days that I leave the GoPro behind. Bringing it along means that there’s a good chance I’ll capture that off-beat moment in vibrant colors and high frame rates. In the very least it gives me the chance to share my adventures with our readers in a way that a brick and mortar trip report never quite could. I doubt that even the sky is the limit when it comes to shooting with a GoPro! Check out our videos category to see what we’ve been up to so far.
Full Review of the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition is in the works
Camping Gear of the Year:
Power Practical PowerPot V
The PowerPot V by Power Practical represents a quantum leap forward in backcountry power generation technology. This little pot is unlike any pot that you have ever seen before; it’s really a thermoelectric generator disguised as a regular old backpacking pot! Simply boil water in the PowerPot and it will convert heat into electricity to charge your small electronics including cell phones, GPS, iPods, and battery packs via a standard (5V) USB port! It’s by far the most stable and reliable power generation unit that we have tested and should be a big hit amongst tech-savvy outdoor enthusiasts and kayak campers!
Thus concludes our 2013 Gear of the Year Awards! We’re always looking for exciting and innovative outdoor gear to test out and review for our readers so if you have any ideas feel free to send them our way!
Happy New Year!