A comfortable back-zip drysuit at an appealing price point
If you know about Durable Waterproof Repellent (DWR), then go ahead and skip down to the second paragraph. DWR is a coating applied to all breathable fabric. In paddlesports, we typically see Gore-Tex or other brands using nylon or polyester fabric with similar membranes. These garments come coated with DWR, a hydrophobic agent which makes water bead on the fabric surface, allowing moisture to move from the inside of the fabric to the surface where it can evaporate. A wet or clammy feeling in dry-wear happens when the DWR wears off.
Environmental regulations have been made stricter in the last decade. While that’s a good thing, it has made life a little harder for DWR applications. Straight from the factory, the new DWR coatings just don’t last as long. Typically, the user will need to reapply several times during the lifespan of the product (if they are concerned about breathability in wet conditions).
One other aspect rarely talked about is dry time. A drysuit with working DWR will dry in less than half the time of a drysuit with its DWR worn off. Something to think about if you are camping or doing a multi-day adventure.
Nikwax’s TX.Direct is unique in that it does not require high temperatures during application—that’s key for the fragile latex gaskets on dry-wear. This new version is also PFC free. You can read all about that here if interested.
Before writing this review, I was critical of aftermarket DWR coatings. In the past I’ve tried a variety of DWR products and was unimpressed because they simply did not work. I even began to suspect that my five-year-old Gore-Tex drysuit couldn’t receive DWR reapplication due to UV damage.
TX.Direct Spray-On is simple to apply. Spray the garment evenly from 6 inches away. Mop up any pools with a damp cloth. Then let the garment air dry.
I applied the TX.Direct to the left half of my drysuit. The next time I paddled, I was impressed. The water beaded up like it was new. This is on a drysuit with ~200 days of abusive kayaking on it.
I continued to paddle the drysuit every day, observing how the TX.Direct held up in use. The comparison photos, above and below, show a week of use. The DWR worked very well for about seven days. But it faded quickly after 10 days, at which point both halves of the drysuit appeared similar when wet.
A small bottle of TX.Direct Spray-On will provide enough coverage for two drytops, two upper-halves of a drysuit, or one entire drysuit top to bottom. If you consider from a weekend warrior perspective, that’s about $7 a month to keep a drytop or drysuit in top performance condition. If you’re living in a van by the river and paddling every day, this is could get rather expensive. That’s the only downside about the product; in a high-wear situation the need for regular reapplications could be cost prohibitive. For most people, it should be a no brainer. Just using TX.Direct a couple times a year will keep your dry-wear performing like it was designed to.
Nikwax TX.Direct Spray-On. ($15, nikwax.com)
Check out more Field Tested reviews from McQuoid.
Reviews by Conor Mihell
In case you haven’t noticed, tents have become seriously light in recent years. These days, it’s easy to find two-person backpacking tents that weigh less than four pounds. Innovation in fabrics and design has brought on the change, and paddlers might have the most to benefit. That’s because we (mostly) rely on canoes and kayaks to carry our gear, so we can justify an extra pound or two of a larger tent. It’s never been easier to upsize to more luxurious accommodations.
We tested a trio of three-person tents on spring sea kayak and canoe trips. Here’s how our samples fared.
Big Agnes Happy Hooligan UL3, $449.95
Big Agnes was one of the manufacturers that kicked off the ultralight tent revolution. Its shelters are often favored by backpackers, but there’s plenty for paddlers to like in the four-pound Happy Hooligan UL3. This tent pitches quick with a single, dual-hub pole creating a frame and a small spreader pole adding headspace across the ridge. The entire inner canopy is mesh, making it cool and breezy—an obvious asset in warm weather. This is a big tent, with 43 square feet of floor space and dual vestibules, which are large enough for footwear and a few stuff sacks.
The Happy Hooligan performed well on a soggy Memorial Day trip. It was a dry sanctuary in an all-day rain, with vents in the rainfly adding to the ventilation. Generally we liked the design, though the doors on the fly and the inner tent were somewhat frustrating. Both need to be opened all the way to allow entry and exit, which allows plenty of time for bugs to get in. Maybe this issue could be alleviated with practice. Overall, the Happy Hooligan UL3 is a lightweight, reliable option for warm-weather paddling trips.
Hilleberg Anjan 3, $675
With high-tech, gossamer fabrics and old-fashioned attention to detail, Hilleberg makes spectacular tents. The Anjan is one of Hilleberg’s lightest, tipping the scales at barely four pounds and compressing to the size of a small loaf of bread. The manufacturer calls it a three-season tent because copious mesh in the inner canopy and less coverage in the rainfly (both serve to increase ventilation), but the Anjan is still built to withstand harsh conditions.
The Anjan is a tunnel-style tent. Two poles run on the outside of the tent, creating a culvert-like shelter. Like a suspension bridge, this tent relies on guy lines and secure staking for stability in strong winds. It’s a compact 36 square feet inside—that’s ample room for two adults but virtually impractical for three. However, the vestibule is large (and seriously massive on the GT model) and the side entry keeps its contents dry.
The knock on Hilleberg tents has always been the price, but if you’re passionate about backcountry travel the Anjan is a great investment.
Sierra Designs Flash 3, $299.95
Sierra Designs is a disruptor in the tent world, creating unique shelters with practical features. The Flash is no exception. Like the Hilleberg, it relies on an external frame, meaning that the rainfly and inner tent go up together, saving time. Notably, Sierra Designs scrapped traditional entry vestibules on the Flash, replacing them with two large doors and enclosed gear closets on either side of the tent (accessed from inside the tent). This makes the Flash is easy to enter and exit with remarkable cross ventilation.
The Flash feels much bigger than its 41 square-foot floor suggests. It’s tall and has near-vertical walls, making for plenty of headroom. There’s easily enough space for three adult campers in this tent. The Flash has a modular rainfly that can be rolled up for stargazing on clear nights. At 6.5 pounds, the Flash isn’t superlight but it is in well within the realm of most paddlers. Overall, it’s a well-built, cleverly designed shelter with an attractive sub $300 price tag—perfect for those looking for a spacious tent on a budget.
— Also check out his recent interview with Canadian modern-day voyageur Mike Ranta and photographer David Jackson.
By Nick Hinds // Photos by Mike Hagadorn
Sometimes you fall hard for a new kayak, like you might for a snowboard, bike, or possibly even a significant other. The boat is what you dream about. It becomes who you want to spend more time with, who you dance with on the water. The first time I saw the Large Pyranha Machno in person I thought, ‘Maybe this could be something that could last.’ Maybe.
My four and a half-year relationship with a Pyranha Everest ended well, followed by two years going steady with a Dagger Mamba. Most recently, I had some flings with the new Dagger Nomad and Pyranha’s 9R (both size large), depending on the paddling event.
Yes, there have been others in my creekboat quiver, with colorful appearances by the Wave Sport 93 Recon, not one but four Prijon Embudos, two Jackson Mega Rockers, a Liquidlogic Jefe, Wave Sport Y, even a Dagger CFS for good measure. Is 12 too many rocky relationships for bumping, boofing or beatering down countless Class IV and V rapids over my 18-year creeking career? I say no. When it comes to the delicate balance of buoyancy and performance, of speed and control in tough rapids, boat design is a true art that I can endlessly appreciate.
Back to that first sight of the large Machno: I knew there was something to be desired. Especially with my, shall we say plus-sized, 6-foot-4 frame that demands plus-sized foot room and ample volume. On tougher whitewater, the large 9R still felt a little to gamey for my 220 pounds, while the large Nomad didn’t show me enough carving or edging. So I was looking for a certain type of new boat in my life: One that could both bring alive the Class III-IV and yet help me handle the V’s with confidence. I had also come to the conclusion it didn’t exist. There were only two kinds of creekboats: One that is really confidence-inspiring; or, a fast river-runner. I wanted to be dialed in my boat when it was time to step on a Class V, but I felt most dialed outside of rockered bulbous creekbats, zipping around in sleeker vessels with harder chines. The solution, if there was one, was to go steady with one creekboat.
The magical unicorn arrived with the Machno, a single creekboat that got me excited to rip around the river, hitting eddies, carving a bit, surfing some, but ready to rip into some big, frothy whitewater. I eased into the boat with a trip on Washington’s Skykomish River at medium flows, making mental notes on needing some more padding on the new and improved thigh hooks, which comes provided. (Peel carefully, just enough to sneak the thin foam under and around the entire new thigh pad for added comfort.) After gluing in the bulkhead foam and shimming out the hip pads, and I had a solid fit in a well-outfitted cockpit with a solid front plastic pillar. The front bulkhead is also easy to remove for multi-day packing space, or for filling with a small front float bag to keep the river gods happy and ward off swims. I also added two rear floats, a throw bag, and a pin kit for a total, all-in dry weight of only 57 pounds.
Day Two test-float was on Tumwater Canyon of the Wenatchee at around 4000 cfs. Launching into some pushy big water was a stellar start to putting this boat through its paces. It did what I asked, was very predictable and held a line well. Even though it is a very buoyant kayak, the nose is shaped in a way that pierces holes well, punching with momentum and coming out the other side stable. It rides high with 98 gallons of float. Dropping an edge and traversing around features worked well too, with last-minute corrections still easily make-able.
While the 9RL punched holes a bit cleaner while holding an edge a degree better, it was harder to correct angles set, leaving me feeling less confident. On the other end of the spectrum, the Nomad would get floated farther off course when punching a big feature or easily spun out when trying to ferry in pushy water. Corrections were easy, but you had to keep an active blade in the water at all times to keep cruising straight. With the Machno, I expected the big water to push me around. However, I found that I could wait a little on strokes, cruising with a more-planing hull and performing in an unexpectedly pleasing way. It rose to the occasions again and again, running some bigger lines that cleared up any doubts about this boat’s performance on higher-volume runs.
The third and fourth dates were the same, classy fun times on Tumwater, then a quick lap on the Upper Green, my local Seattle-area Class III-IV gorge. More paddling, more pleasure on easier rapids, practicing creek lines all the way down the river. I had a blast boofing, hitting tiny eddies, surfing some, and generally enjoying myself. Maybe this one will last!
I decided me and Machno we ready to head back to my favorite Seattle-area Class V section: Robe Canyon of the Stillaguamish River near Granite Falls. The level was 5.65 feet at the stick gage — a medium to large level, depending on who you ask, but either way, a true test of whether the Machno was really the one. The first few rapids went well. I felt good as the boat took care of my usual lines quite smoothly. Finally, I was paddling with more confidence, in a crisp boat that stayed on top of the water to help me get where I needed. The one issue I had out was likely user error, though it yielded a quick roll to avoided hazards downstream. The rest of the 7-mile run flew by with the Machno skipping out of drops, the wide piercing bow propelling the nose up and the gradual front rocker profile planing to push the boat up and over drops. On steeper boofs and tougher lines, my stern stayed afloat but didn’t push me off lines. I got off the river feeling strong.
The wait was over. I had my new go-to creeker.
The Machno and I are now exclusive.