Life on the water moves at a different speed. You need to take in a lot of considerations for aquatic adventures, because the risks can hold more gravity than terra firma ventures. A relentlessly beating sun reflecting off the water’s surface can also ruin a trip in a jiffy, but it’s also important to check forecasts when venturing into the wilderness, as weather can turn nasty fast, upping the danger if you’re not prepared. To get the most out of your time recreating on the water, it’s important to outfit yourself with reliable paddling gear.
These well-made, smartly designed essentials will pace (and protect you) on your next paddling venture, whether floating down a roaring river or paddling across a salt marsh.
Durable Paddling Gear for Kayaking, Whitewater Rafting, and Everything in Between
1. Danner Rivercomber
The soft, channeled Vibram soles keep soaked feet steady on wet rocks. The enclosed Cordura bootie-like upper stays secure while water drains through both the mesh construction and footbed.
2. NRS Titanium Neko
Featuring four edges varying straight to serrated and a corrosion-resistant blade that won’t rust—this is an ideal one-handed knife that’s a paddling must, ever ready to cut line across the river, or spread peanut butter on wraps.
3. Astral Ceiba
The kapok tree filling in the front panel isn’t just buoyant, it’s ridiculously plush, making a life vest as comfortable as it is environmentally forward, completed with recyclable polyfoam and a Bluesign-certified shell.
4. Kokatat ŌM Dry Top
To mark 50 years at the forefront of paddling outerwear, Kokatat launched a legacy line highlighted by the ŌM Dry Top—both a nod to founder Steve O’Meara and an intro for paddlers to Gore-Tex Pro—the new, lighter, more rugged successor to the game-changing fabric.
5. Fishpond Lowcountry
Big days in the sun call for big hats. Stitched strips of Guatemalan palm create a 4.5-inch, wraparound brim that shades head and neck from frying over long summer journeys.
6. Immersion Research Penstock Shorts
A zip-fly closure—paired with a lace system—brings practicality to boardshorts by keeping them snug, while more-traditional front pockets carry you off the river.