Setup for a Beginner... - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-04-2005   #1
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 18
Setup for a Beginner...

Questions for all you seasoned pros....

I am just starting kayaking and am slowly aquiring the gear necessary. I have a few questions that maybe you could help with:

When choosing a PFD, is there anything really important to look for, or just get a good one that is confortable like a Lotus, Astral, kokatat, or Stolquist?

For safety equip, (i know it only makes things dangerous if you don't know how to use it) but what about dive tools and throw ropes? Is this even something a newbie should think about for the first couple of years?

On the Poudre, is there anyone who paddles with just a wetsuit top instead of a full-on drytop splash shirt or is it to frickin cold?

Is it a good idea to start with a super cheap ($100) Aqua-Bound paddle from REI? (it only weighs 39oz and with REI, if it ever breaks or is not good enough - no worries)

Or, should I just get the Werner Trip?

Does anyone out there just wear chacos, or are booties a must?

I know a lot of these things are personal opinion, but I figure personal or not, an experienced opinion is better than mine. Thanks

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Old 08-04-2005   #2
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,408
Yes on the pfd, i like stohlquist. If you carry a rope, carry a knife. Just be careful with the rope and dont cause more harm than help. Explain the paddle more, it sounds like a touring paddle, is it? Whats the offset? The chacos are a personal choice but the downside of them would be cold, wont fit in small boats, straps could snag(small chance).
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Old 08-04-2005   #3
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 36
There aren't really any secrets to picking out your first set-up. I think the best advice is to get the gear you feel comfortable wearing or holding after a few minutes with each item in the store.
As for your specific questions:
PFD - There are no secrets here. Just get one that fits well, and has a bit of room to adjust to both a bigger and smaller size. Not tons, but just enough so you can wear it on super hot August days in the desert, or those first days in April and May when you have to wear more layers.
Wetsuit - I started paddling on the Poudre a few years ago. I went back this year after a few years paddling on the Colorado and was shocked by how cold that river is. That said, I've never paddled with just a wetsuit, but I know enough know that I wouldn't want to. Wetsuit botoms are nice to have, but I've never seen anyone paddle cold water with just a wetsuit up top, and I think there's probably a reason for that.
Paddle - I started with a cheap paddle (nylon blades, metal shaft) and it worked well for the first season, then broke the next. Then I moved up to a Werner Creeker (I think its called a creeker. It was $225 if that helps). There is some wisdom in buying a cheap paddle when you're starting out because you'll probably take a few swims and may not always find your paddle afterwards. I'd say buy a cheap one just to be cheap and after you loose it or it breaks buy a better one. You'll eventually want a nice paddle, but you've got bigger issues your first season.
Booties - Chacos are generally too bulky to fit in your boat. Foot room is precious and booties take up less space. That said, I'd buy something with at least a thin sole on it, for running around the put-in and for protection during swims (i.e. don't just wear a rodeo or neoprene sock). Also, you will be warmer in booties.
Rope and dive equipment - Ropes can be dangerous in inexpreienced hands. I paddled a few years without one and didn't ever need it, that's not to say you won't. I think the best thing to do is to buy one and carry it just to get in the habit of having one with you. Also you may come across someone who knows about ropes and rescue that needs just a bit more line. You could provide that. If you have a rope you definetly need a knife in case something goes wrong and the only way out is to cut the rope. But I'd be pretty cautious about throwing your rope out there until you get a few tips on how to use it safely and have some practice on the bank and in the river.
I think that covers it. I went in totally ignorant on my first set-up and most of the gear I still use. My paddle and boat lasted a year. My skirt lasted three, and I still use my helmet, pfd, drytop, and booties four seasons later.
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Old 08-04-2005   #4
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 18
The paddle is an Aqua-Bound Shred paddle

Shaft - aluminum (one piece)
Blade - Fiberglass-reinforced polythalamide
- Asymmetrical dihedral
- 7.75 x 18 inches
Feather Angle - 45 degrees
Weight - 39oz (198cm)
Cost - $100

You can look at it at -
justinlk is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-04-2005   #5
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 58
(Not a seasoned pro but a guy that is still learing from some mistakes)

PFD: Any of the brands that you mentioned work well. When you look at them/try them on take into consideration how you will feel you need to get into your set up postion and roll. Some are shorter than others and make it easier to bend over. In my opinion the Astral vest have allow for the most movement. I use a Lotus P-vest and it does not hinder my roll either. You could also get a rescue vest but dont really need to. If you plan on taking a SWR class then it may come in handy. Dont try to use the rescue features until you have been shown how though. You can perform 90% of the skills/tasks asked of you in a swiftwater rescue class without the rescue vest. It is nice to have one and someone that knows how to use one in the group though.

Safety Equipment: Get a knife, a whistle, a couple locking biners, and a throw bag. Take a class and learn how to use them. In the interim its good for you to have the items just incase your group needs them. Don't try to use them with out the proper knowledge. You can get the basic knowledge from your paddling buddies. If none of your paddling buddies have the basic knowledge to share with you, its time to add someone to your group that does.

The Poudre can be paddled with out a dry top on warmer days but do your self a favor, Get a dry top. Your season will be a lot longer

If you learn with the cheap paddle then the good paddles will just be that much easier to use. Its your own personal preference but just remember, you get what you pay for. Keep a spare

Sandals or booties: Just remember, there will be a higher chance of catching the straps on something while you try to wet exit and you dont have much protection on your feet during those swims. Depending on what boat you get and the size of your foot you probably wont be able to get your feet in there with chacos on anyways. Sandals/footwear that have items that can snag are not really a good idea.

Think about color also: I spent a long time chasing down an all black paddle. It was quite difficult to see. My paddle is all black also, After that day I put a bunch of white and yellow tape all over it just in case. (And more importantly I hold on tight to it). I am all about getting the brightest equipment I can find now. A swimmer in a black or dark green PFD and drytop are hard to spot. If you are stuck out there in the water for some reason, you will be happy you bought that bright yellow gear.

You didnt ask but I will throw this in there also. Get a good helmet. I bashed the shit out of noggan several times and the Greatfull Heads helmet took it like a champ. I am sure I would have been through a couple of those cheap plastic helmets by now. Its also very warm. I haven't needed a skull cap yet. I have also heard good things about the SWEET and ShredReady hemets. Get one that fits tight and is made of carbon fiber. I personally put the helmet as your number one purchase.

Hope this helps.
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Old 08-04-2005   #6
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,408
The paddle will work.
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Old 08-04-2005   #7
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 18
Thanks guys,
And yeah, CorryD, I do have a helmet. Even if you ignore the fact that it protects your brain from all those nice soft rocks hidden in the water, it still is a good place to tie a nose clip to - something that is invaluable to my role!
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Old 08-04-2005   #8
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 305
First off Shop your local kayak shop instead of a big box store....

The shread paddle is used by alot of shops for classes and rentel as it is a good starter and not very pricey. confluence Kayaks sells them for 95.00

Your PFD should be the one that fits you reguardless of the brand I had my heart set on a P-Vest till I sat in a boat with it on and it hit me in the chin, So put on a few different models and sit in a boat like the one you want to paddle.

Booties=no straps to get caught and in most boats Teva/Chaco's don't fit so they are not on your feet when you need them.

Get a throw bag and a knife and learn to use them before you need to use it, take a self-rescue swiftwater class, Your paddle buddies will be glad you did.... and like Corey said a good whistle

Helmet my choice is one of the full plastic ones, they provide more coverage which I have used. I look at the gouges and think if this was a low cut these would be on me.... Get one of the nicer ones once you have quit dragging your head on the bottom.

A drytop will extend your paddling/learning season I am currently paddling Golden in just a Hydroskin neotop and it is warm enough and plan on wearing it under the drytop once the snow flies.

Not a pro of any type........
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Old 08-04-2005   #9
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 112
If you all ready haven't purchased a boat get a M:3 so you can be cool like me. I'm just kidding....
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Old 08-05-2005   #10
Front Range, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 274
okay, I'm still clocking in under my first year of paddling too, so one newby to another, I guess....

We're short on paddle shops where I live (the southeast), but we do have an REI-- most of the crap REI sells is just that, crap for the whitewater enthusiast, great for flatwater paddlers. You can get your neoprene there and whatnot, but the vests and paddles they sell are generally the touring variety (I don't know what it is with REI and this whitewater discrimination crap! ). That said, any of the IR splashtops can go either recreational or whitewater, but i'm guessing you probably already had that part figured out. I get most of my gear from shops out in CO, or Rock/ Creek Outfitters out of Chattanooga. Also, I believe Colorado Kayak Supply has an eBay store, so you can at least get some cut rates by checking there. Search for the store name, though, not the equipment. It may just be me, but I'm a little wary about buying gear-- especially when it comes to things like skirts and PFDs-- from perfect strangers on eBay.

You might want to check into paddle or conservation clubs in your area for swiftwater rescue classes once you've got your basic paddling skills downpat... for some folks, this is 4 months in, some others, 6 months to a year. Alot of times, either river enthusiast or conservation groups will have paddle clinics (or hell, even shops where you guys are), and many will offer a couple of swiftwater classes to intermediate and advanced paddlers several times a year. My advice would be to wait until you've taken one of these classes, or spent plenty of time with a seasoned pro (at least you have that option out there! LOL) who can show you how to throw a bag, etc., before you start investing in safety equipment. I always carry a first aid bag in my drybag, but I've also had basic responder courses and wilderness rescue/ first aid. It's always nice to have an extra swab for bee stings or patch for blisters on hand for the minor stuff, though, and I recommend everyone carry at least a small first aid kit. And the whistle is a must.

On PFDs, what you need to look for is fit and color. I totally concur with CoreyD about the color of vests above. If something happens, it's alot easier to pick out a bright yellow or red vest in the water or on the shore than it is to spot a navy blue or dark green. Also, when you're draining the boat and getting your gear together at the end of the day, you're gonna be alot less likely to leave that PFD on the rocks at the takeout if it's bright and yellow instead of black, just because it's alot easier to see. And try on several vests before you plop down the $$-- your local paddle shop can be a great resource for this, and don't be shy about asking the folks there to help you out. Stohlquists don't fit me for crap, but the Lolitas by lotus are cut perfectly for my body, chest, range of motion, etc. It's all about figuring out what works for you.

Finally, on the booties... you're gonna wanna go ahead and grab booties, not just chacos or Keens. Keens are great to have around at the end of the day, I love 'em for kicking around the put in and takeout, or back at the campsite. But the fact is, they're bulky and sticky and won't fit in the bulkhead of most playboats. And I've personally tried paddling in my Keens before, got my toes all squished up in the front of the boat, then flipped and had to swim, and thought my legs were staying in when I kicked out of my boat. I don't think the straps caught on anything, I think my toes really were just wedged, and when I had to kick out, my ankles were in an awkward position to begin with. Take it from me, though, panic & stuck feet do NOT make for happy additions to your worry list when you're trying to pick up a new sport!

And on the note of swimming-- do make sure you have a good helmet, just like everyone else has said. Corey mentioned the SWEET helmets, and they're awesome-- pricey, but awesome. You have to play with the pads a little, but once you get the right fit, it's as if the thing was custom designed just for you... and when you roll or smack your head, it absorbs the blow to the point you can't even feel an impact. Aside from your boat though, make your helmet your other "big" investment. Both you and the folks who like ya will be thankful for it later!
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