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Old 09-09-2008   #1
Longmont, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 3
Looking for a helmet, PFD, and rashguard

Hey guys, I've been boating for a few years now (slalom in Golden mostly, some river running (III-IV) and playboating), but have always borrowed gear from other people. I figure with this season coming to a close, its time to hit up the clearance sales. I'm looking for a helmet, PFD, and rashguard.

For the helmets, the Pro-Tec Ace Wake and B2 Wake seem pretty sweet (I like the foam ear coverage), but I hear ABS plastic with EVA foam isn't as safe as composite. Shred Ready is the only company in the States that I've found that make composite helmets, and they're damn expensive. But if they're safer, I don't mind spending the money. Can anyone give me some pointers here? I know there's WRSI too, but it seems like they use ABS plastic too. Here's the article I read indicating composite is better than ABS.

For PFDs, Astral and Patagonia (Lotus) are the two names that come up over and over again. I like the fact that the Astral ones have the internal hand warmers. They seem to have more pocket space than the Lotus ones too. A pocket is a must, which is why I'd rather not get a Peak UK.

As for rash guards, I know NRS hydroskin is the standard, but there's the Kokatat Outercore and the IR thermoskin and polarskin out there too. I get cold VERY easily (I wore my long sleve NRS dry top just about every day this summer and I was comfortable), so the warmer, the better. I figure I can always flip over for a bit if I get too warm. I guess neoprene is the way to go, but it seems like the OuterCore and Polarskin aren't made out of neoprene? What's the deal here?

Also, I should mention that I'm miles from the nearest kayak store. I'm in the middle of nowhere NY for school until December, so I don't have the option of going down to Alpenglow or something to try stuff on.


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Old 09-09-2008   #2
Meng's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 787
I'd suggest a WRSI helmet (super safe and affordable) and Astral PFD - any of the layering pieces work great.

Call or email CKS - they love to talk to you in detail about all this stuff and answer any questions.

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Old 09-10-2008   #3
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 15


Just a heads up all PeakUK PFD's do have pockets. There was a time when the Airlite (Playboat, slalom PFD) did not have pockets, but they do have a pocket now.

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Old 09-14-2008   #4
Longmont, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 3
Hey Ken, thanks for the heads up! I'll put PeakUK back on my list. Astral is still pretty enticing though because they've got the internal handwarmers, and the Tempo 200 even has a pocket for a water reservoir!

I emailed CKS but they haven't gotten back to me yet... Anyone else have any input?
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Old 09-14-2008   #5
Fort Collins, Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 69
Ravi, that handwarmer in the astral PFD isn't worth buying it over something else. Love the astral vest but I've never used that thing to warm my hands.

WRSI helmet is better than other plastic ones as it has two shells so you have to have 2 catastrophic hits to end up paddling with a useless helmet. Still possible but unlikely. The composite/fiberglass ones are much less likely to break from a single hit.

The layering is fairly simple. Most companies make thick and thin ones. I fyou like thicker buy one company's thick one. There isn't much difference between them.


P.S. Shouldn't you buy a boat before you worry about all this anway
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Old 09-14-2008   #6
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Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 260
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Shred Ready helmets are bomber, that's what I went with.
University of Denver Kayak Club
Got a boat or gear to get rid of? PM me and donate!
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Old 10-11-2008   #7
Greensboro, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3
Check out They make the lightest, strongest, and least expensive composite helmet available. Composite is definately the way to go if safety is at all important. Plastic helmets shatter on a big impact. Composites will absorb the energy rather than direct it into you head.
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Old 10-11-2008   #8
Highlands Ranch, CO Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 482
FYI plastic helmets shatter on impact by design that is how they dissipate energy, most composite helmets claim they dissipate energy but they don't. Sweet helmets are the only ones that I have seen the test results from that show varying directional weaves of composite materials dissipate the energy and even they will tell you to buy a new helmet after a good blow to the head because it has now weakened.

There are way too many people out there paddling with helmets that should have been retired years ago but don't because they don't see cracks, even though the integrity of the helmet has been compromised by previous hits.

With a plastic helmet when it shatters you know it worked and it is time to get a new one for the next impact.

It is only your brain you are trying to protect..

P.S. other composites might do the same now but I have not seen the test results on them as I don't do what I used to that enabled me to see those.
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Old 11-08-2008   #9
Greensboro, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3
I disagree with you on the Sweet Helmet. I had a buddy that was wearing a Sweet while playing in a wave that has a shallow rock. He hit his head on the rock with a Sweet helmet. It just caved in, leaving him with a huge stawberry on his forehead. Fortunately, there wasn't any more damage to his head, but everyone who was there that day won't wear a Sweet anymore. Definately not worth $200 for a helmet that caves in so easily. I've hit my head many times with my J3 and have never even had a headache. With any helmet, after a big hit you should consider replacing it. Most companies recommend replacing your helmet every 3 years even if you don't have a big hit.

As for composite versus plastic, there is plenty of research showing that carbon-kevlar composite is the stongest and most durable helmet material out there. Plastic is not even close. The military uses a kevlar composite in their battle helmets for a reason. I haven't seen too many marines running around with plastic helmets.
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Old 11-08-2008   #10
funkins's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 438
Folks will argue plastic vs. composite for days, but getting a good fit is probably the single most important factor.

Find a helmet that fits your head and will stay in place while you are upside-down on the river. The helmets that have a strap system for the back of the neck seem to work really well...

Drew J.
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