We push the paddling season pretty hard and each fall it gets a little easier. Sure, there are the big things, like wetsuits, drysuits, gloves and boots. But sometimes it's the little things which make the difference between enduring a trip and enjoying an outing.
Buff: I was initially dismissive of “Survivor.” Who wants to watch starving people humiliate themselves for food? More than a decade after it first aired, I am forced to admit that apparently the answer is millions. Similarly, I’ve always thought that Buff’s were useless colorful decorations foisted on loyal “Survivor” fans. But after years of attempting to solve my competing desires for warm ears and a wide brim shading my eyes, I finally purchased a Buff at Epic Sports. And you know what, it’s pretty good. It folds down to almost nothing, making it easy to shove into a life jacket pocket. I keep it in the same pocket which holds my camera. If I get on the water and the wind picks up, out comes my buff to perform hat, ear band or balaclava duties. Quieter than a neoprene hoodie; it’s snug enough to keep wind from slipping in and it’s warm enough for 35 to 50 degree days. Plus it’s thin enough to go under my floppy hat. I like to think that the results are reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, and even if you disagree, I'm delighted to finally have a quick way to warm my ears.
The other items were for Mark. There’s no doubt that Mark, with his traditional paddle has more problems with late season paddling than I. With no drip rings, every stroke drips water over his hands and lap. A challenge, but also a constant reminder that we need to dress for water temperature. This fall we’ve made two purchases to improve his life.
Boot Dryer: Mark needs waterproof gloves; and somehow, thorough a combination of pinholes, hand sweat, or who knows what, the insides of the gloves get soaked each day. It used to be that he’d warm damp gloves in the microwave. Yuck! But what are his options? Gloves take days and days to dry. Waterproofing means they need to be turned inside out to dry them. Two problems: turning a thick waterproof glove inside-out takes forever, and it wears down the seams, shortening glove life.
Heading out with cool damp gloves makes it likely that his hands are cold and numb before he starts. Once hands are numb it’s hard to get them warm.
Enter a boot warmer. This one from Field and Stream has four nozzles and a timer; it runs for up to three hours and shuts off.
Mark has two favorite pairs of gloves, he runs the boot dryer every time we go paddling, so the gloves get six hours of dry time. As a result his gloves are mostly dry when he starts. The down side: the smell of drying gloves; think melting rubber with a hint of old sneaker.
So I guess the boot dryer is a good thing, but only if he keeps it in the laundry.
Kiwi Waterproofing Spray: Maybe everyone else already knows about this, but let us confirm, it’s good stuff. Mark uses a nylon Seal sprayskirt, which used to be waterproof, but started dripping in October. Having spent his equipment budget on a boot dryer, we purchased a can of waterproofing spray, and gave the skirt a coat. And amazingly, it worked pretty well! Next test; his older, leaky, formerly-waterproof neoprene gloves. Again success! Yay!