Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy New Year and Welcome, Guest Blogger, Chris Ryman

Well, after being knocked out by the head/chest cold thing going around, we have joined the land of the living again.  HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our friends and colleagues!  We wish you a year full of EPIC, fun and safe adventures.

I am excited to welcome our first guest blogger of 2013, Chris Ryman of Endless Adventure

Chris, his wife Andrea and their daughter are based out of Castlegar, BC running their shop in Crescent Valley and their adventure tourism company, Endless Adventure International down in Ecuador.  Please check them out.

Chris reports from Ecuador on the Kokatat Jackson Collection - Hydrus 3L Mythic Shorty Dry Top

Over the last five years I have been testing out equipment in the most harsh conditions on the planet, Ecuador.  Kayaks break often, skirts leak, helmets change colour, and drytops de-laminate.  If gear can survive the intense UV rays, humidity, and the jungle hikes of Ecuador top marks are awarded in my books.  I generally paddle eighty plus days during my stay in Ecuador, everything from class IV/V creeking to class III big volume.  Our tour company, Endless Adventure International, generally visits two paddling areas:  The Napo Valley, a hot and humid amazon jungle rain forest and the Quijos Valley, a cooler climate cloud forest.  Paddling in the Napo Valley does not necessitate the use of a full  drytop however, a shorty is a solid option if you want to keep a dry boat providing your skirt is still intact.  Since my first year in Ecuador I have tested three different shorty dry tops-- The Level 6 Chochee, the Stohlquist Swicx, and the new Kokatat Jackson Mythic.  I will use my  experience with all the models to compare and contrast to the new Kokatat.  

Kokatat Watersports Wear and Team Jackson Kayak have teamed up to introduce a new line of PFD's and dry wear.  The new line is bold and bright and made in the USA with top quality fabrics.  In classic Jackson style the colours coincide with the JK brand- Yellow, Orange and navy blue.  The shorty is complete with neck and bicep gaskets, skirt tunnel, but no fancy zipper pockets or unnecessary bling. Top quality latex gaskets are covered with light-weight neoprene providing protection for the latex and comfort for the paddler.  The shell is made of a breathable three layer fabric called Hydrus 3L, even on the hottest days in the jungle the top breaths avoiding the “OMG I am wearing a garbage bag” feeling. Kokatat has scored huge with this new fabric as it is lighter and dryer than both the L6 and Stohlquist.  Thus far with over forty straight days cooking in the sun and rustling through mysterious jungle plants the top looks brand new. 

The fit of the Mythic is perfect.  I am 6 feet tall (182cm) and a slender 175lbs (80kg) The medium fits just right but I could probably go for a large if I were to layer underneath as the top JUST fits.  Roomy in the shoulder area and slim in the torso with enough room for rotating the design is made for hours of play boating at your favourite spot.  Large velcro tunnel adjustments stay intact even while throwing your body about completing huge loops and twisting cartwheels.  Other tops I have tried will creep up on your lower back exposing you to leakage after aerial moves, the Kokatat remains in place most of the time. 

Yes, the colour of the new line of tops may seem a little ah “gaudy” but I personally am all about being seen on the river.  I am well aware that there are numerous Star Wars/ninja fans out there that insist on wearing black in hopes of looking like a force-less Darth Vader swimming out of their kayak.  This top may not be for you but I offer this piece of insight-- when your crew is searching for you after a unfortunate swim do you want to look like a rolling log, rock or garbage bag or something that screams out “save me now”!!! I have been waiting for years for function to take over style with river gear, gone are the days of plaid drysuits and dark colours.  Unless you are sneaking through private property to access some whitewater goodies camo has no place on the river.  When I am expedition kayaking I want gear that can be see from google earth if the shit hits the fan.  Not to mention dark green, black, and blue suck for photos, ask any photographer the brightest colours are yellow, orange, and red.  Lead guiding a river trip? Wrap yourself in the new Kokatat gear and tell your duckies to follow the light to safe lines!

So far so good with durability while other brands have slipped the ranks from my go-to top to “sure I have a top you can borrow” you will not pry this one from my hands.  Lightweight, excellent fit, bright colours, awesomeness. I give this piece of gear a good ol' nine out of ten, only losing one point for the occasional disturbing flashes of light I experience as my arms pass my peripheral vision and the blur of neon reminds me of my university disco days. 

Thanks for the good stuff Kokatat.

See ME on the river,
Chris Ryman

***now all we have to do is get Chris into the new Maximus Prime PFD and he'll be set!!!!***

Green River, UT

Green River, UT
Photo: Shawna Franklin