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The Best Paddling Gear for Summer 2021

Here’s the lowdown on the best boats, accessories, and apparel to get you out on the water.

hala fame kit kayaking gear
Stio Product Photo

Hala Fame Kit

Designed to be stable and reliable, the 11-foot, 30-inch inflatable Fame can handle anything from casting for largemouth bass to hauling gear for an overnight adventure. Nice and wide at 36 inches across at the middle and built with a square tail and progressive rocker, the board can navigate rapids, and a retractable fin helps you ease it into the shallows. Bonus: All that deck space and stability makes it the ideal choice for adaptive paddlers. The kit includes a paddle, pack, hand pump, and a rolling carry case. $1,349;

body glove kayaking gear

Body Glove Tandem 15′ Inflatable Paddle Board / Kayak Package

Why SUP alone when you can enjoy the water alongside your bestie. This tandem package will get the two of you out exploring the waters on an inflatable 15-foot board that includes removable kayak seats. In either configuration it tracks well and remains stable, even if the two of you get out of sync. The full package includes the kayak seats, two paddles (that convert from SUP to kayak), pump, leash, and a handy cell-phone dry bag. $1,499;

hobie ieclipse pedal-powered stand up paddleboard

Hobie iEclipse

Not only are pedal-powered standups a blast, they also give you a gym-worthy workout out in the fresh air instead of the stank of the indoors. The problem is that they are not easy to transport—until now. Hobie’s new inflatable packs down and blows up (via an included high-volume electric pump) for simple set-ups, and the MirageDive Pedal Propulsion System will motor you all over your favorite body of water in a hurry. And put any hesitation about getting on one of these aside—it feels like a human-powered jet ski on the water. $2,299;

alpacka raft kayaking gear

Alpacka Raft Ranger

Alpacka designed this raft to hit the sweet spot between lightweight and carrying capacity, making it the perfect vessel for big, gear-heavy adventures. Tipping the scales at just over 10 pounds in the 210d option (the more durable 420d version weighs just over 12 pounds and costs $50 more) and compressing down to 18 inches by 10 inches, it’s easy to haul in a backpack. Inflated, it has the ability to haul up to 750 pounds of paddler and gear and has the space to bring your pup along. $1,500;

old town kayaking gear

Old Town Sportsman 106 Paddle Kayak

Ready to fish from a kayak? This versatile boat will slip you into spots other anglers can’t reach, whether you are out for freshwater bass, red fish, or stripers. Stable—you can easily stand on the deck to make casts—and maneuverable, the 10-foot, six-inch boat includes adjustable foot pegs and a comfy chair that’s a godsend when you are spending long days hitting the water. Plenty of hull storage space means you can even load it up for a short overnighter. And built-in cupholders make it easy to enjoy a beverage on the go. $900;

oru kayak

Oru Kayak The Haven

This packable tandem kayak is just the ticket for those who have limited space to store and transport a boat. Don’t worry, just because it assembles like origami doesn’t mean it won’t perform like bulkier boats when you get it out there. Plus a QR code printed on the boat gives you instant access to the user manual and set-up videos. Beefier footrests increase comfort and fresh screen prints reflect a more refined aesthetic. $1,999;

Six Moon Designs Flex Pack PR

The beauty of this pack built specifically for hauling a packraft into burly terrain is that once you are on the water it holds a 50L dry bag (included) to your boat with built-in straps. It’s a godsend on river trips with big portages (it’s built to hold a portage barrel) as well. The smart little details—including a stash pocket that fits your paddle and removable water bottle pockets—proved to us that it’s been tested in the field. $280 (100d robic nylon), $350 (X-pac VX21 fabric);

kokatat dry top paddling gear

Kokatat Ōm 

Iconic paddling brand Kokatat celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and this dry top pays homage to its founder Steve O’Meara, who pioneered the dry suit for expedition paddlers in Alaska in the 1970s. $539;

astral fisherman vestt

Astral Designs V-Eight Fisher

Created with kayak and SUP anglers in mind, this sleek, safe vest places a premium on ventilation with plenty of mesh and contoured foam. Bottom line: It makes wearing a PFD effortless. $130;

sweet protection strutter helmet

Sweet Protection Strutter

A version of this lid has been keeping playboarders and serious river runners safe since 1997. Weighing just 14.1 ounces, it’s low-volume and slick style, with a brim that keeps out glare, make it a guide favorite. Make it yours too. $200;

Driftline Drifties Wetsuit-Lined Boardshorts

Driftline Drifties Wetsuit-Lined Boardshorts

One problem with boardshorts is that you really need to wear something underneath, too. Not so here. This 4-way stretch, quick-drying short comes with a 0.5 mm neoprene liner built in. That combination keeps you looking cool and cuts down on chafing for comfort. $89;

stio women's sun hoodie
Stio Product Photo

Stio Women’s CFS Sun Hoodie

Yes, you love to worship the sun but, damn, too much exposure out on the water can spoil your day and cause lasting harm. This quick-drying hoodie serves up UPF 50+ protection but stays light and airy—the perfect summer combination. Plus, the front pocket includes a secure pocket to keep your valuables safe. $139:

nectar sunglasses

Nectar Chucktown

Straight outta Charleston, S.C., these shades prove the East Coast can deliver just as much cool as the West. The polarized lenses cut the glare on the water, whether you are casting for fish or just trying to look the part. $50;

Outdoor Research Upsurge Fingerless Paddle Gloves
©Earl Harper

Outdoor Research Upsurge Fingerless Paddle Gloves 

There’s a lot of protective gear to think about when you are headed out paddling. Don’t forget to take care of your hands. With just the right amount of padding in the spots that take the most abuse, these gloves help keep you out longer. $37;

Lilo Collections Paddling-Themed Necklaces

Lilo Collections Paddling-Themed Necklaces

Add a bit of flair to your SUP outfit with these classy charms that are handmade in Midlothian, Va. They’re the creation of Spanish-born artist Lilo Navales, who has created a line of active jewelry that stays out of the way when you are in action but adds a bit of style when you’re off the boat. $33; 

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