In My Gear Bag

Tracy N
October 20, 2009

The river is primed, rain is in the forecast and it looks like the Missouri whitewater season is set to begin! If you are looking forward to your first season, I am excited with you! Welcome to the tribe!

As the weather grows cooler, you may be wondering what gear you need to be looking for to get ready for your first season on the Saint. There are many choices out there, but here’s what’s in my gear bag as a suggestion for those starting out.

The Big 5

1.Whitewater Kayak- Okay, not technically in the bag, but definitely on the list! Be sure to outfit it securely and safely, including floatation bags.


3.Spray skirt It needs to fit your boat and you, and you must be able to release it for a wet exit. Whitewater skirts are made of neoprene.

4.Helmet-A helmet designed specifically for whitewater.

5.PFD-You need a good fitting (that means snug) type III or Type V (rescue vest).

Okay, so you probably already had the Big 5 figured out. Here’s the rest of the stuff in my gear bag:

Drysuit- This is the best option for our winter and spring boating season. A wet suit is an option if you don’t plan to boat through the entire season. If you are wearing a wet suit, you don’t need underwear(see below) because it is designed to be worn against the skin. If you choose a Farmer John style, you will want to consider a dry top.

Underwear- If you’re headed to Victoria’s Secret, turn around and head to the Alpine Shop instead. If you plan on boatin this winter, and that is when our season is, you’re going to need a few layers of long underwear. I like to carry two or three thicknesses or weights, that may be layered on really cold days. My favorites are Smart Wool Midweight crew/pants, and Patagonia’s Capilene which offers a variety of weights also in pants and crew tops. Wool and synthetics are great, but avoid cotton. For really cold days you will want to add layer of polypro or fleece. Paddling companies make layering pieces designed for paddling, but anything that will keep you warm with relatively low bulk is great, my pieces come from climbing, skiing, running and bicycling so look in your drawers first!

Important: **Dress for the swim**, dress warmer than you think you might need to at first, and bring an extra layer in your drybag. Hypothermia is serious and preventable!

Pogies- Warmer than gloves.

Booties- There are many options, the NRS rodeo sock is frequently sited at the take out because it is comfortable (even in a playboat) and reasonably priced.

Head Warmer- Inexpensive, and a significant way to hold heat. Kayak specific styles are made of fuzzy rubber. Wear it under your helmet to help ward off ice cream headaches.

Dry Bag-Get one that is small enough to fit in your boat and large enough to carry a winter hat, an extra fleece top and some high energy snacks.

Everything ready for your first run? Great! Now you just need to keep an eye on the message board

and watch the gage, waiting for the perfect level. While you’re waiting, go ahead and send your membership application and $15 to the MWA to support the club. Among other things, this small fee keeps the website up, and also includes a membership directory both of which are great for getting and keeping in touch with other area paddlers.

Membership page

When that’s done, relax and enjoy this essential reading:

The American Whitewater Safety Code:

See you on the river!

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