Claire O's top 5
In 22 years of kayaking I have come along way from my wild water bucket helmet, ribbed panel life jacket, borrowed kayak and paddle and a funky thick wetsuit. Looking back to be completely honest. I loved that gear. That gear was awesome. It was my gear. It was warm, it kept me safe and more than anything it meant I could join my friends out on the rivers around Yorkshire paddling two or three times a week.
But now, 23 years later, I look at the gear I have and wow I couldn't be more impressed. I have been lucky to be sponsored by several major kayaking companies for many years but I am also lucky to be in a position where I can and have chosen to paddle exactly the gear I want. I have also had the chance to really test all my gear I have chosen and use in a range of amazing places across the world.
One of the teams i've been super proud and privileged to be part of for over 15 years is Peak UK. Having tested out and used almost the entire range of Peak gear here is my ultimate list, my Top 5 Favourite Peak UK items for 2020!
1. Peak U.K Custom Topdecks - Deluxe or Semi, Long sleeve or short sleeve, K1, C1, Keyhole or Bigdeck they are all awesome!!! You can choose your top deck to suit your paddling adventure and with the custom graphics you can even match your personality and mood for the day. You really can't beat these top decks for comfort and style. Used hard (3-6 times a week) they should still last you a full season. You can custom them completely which is also an added bonus. But it's the shape and freedom of movement that really make these my gear of choice. I can't stress enough how comfy they are and how much freedom you have in these cag decks. I have a full collection and literally take them everywhere. They are my number one piece of kit for a reason. They are awesome!!!
2. Peak UK custom racer pro - for freestyle this vest is perfect, super lightweight and comfy it sits low so it doesn't interfere on tricks and, if I need it to, it floats. Not only that it can also be custom designed to fit with your boat and kit. Easy to adjust with the side straps and secured in place with the waist belt. It's really easy to slide on and off in your kit and the straps are even long enough to use to hang it up to dry.
3. Throwline - Peak UK Throwbag. Perfect for the river and an essential piece of kit. Wether it's the 20m or 25m make sure you have a well kept, good condition, long throw rope. This is literally a life line that may well save you or the friends you paddle with. Don't underestimate the importance of safety gear and professional rescue training out on the river. This well designed bag is easy to throw and easy to pack making it an absolutely essential piece of kit to carry with you everyday.
4. Peak U.K. One Piece - after a lot of years of pestering Pete he came up with an awesome set of One Piece suits to keep us dry, safe and warm on the wet, cold, rainy, snowy days. Or even just the sunny, but windy or glacial run days. Really easy to get in and out of and made of the same super lightweight, comfy and easy to move in material as the rest of the Peak UK range these one piece suits are brilliant. I am lucky to have a couple in my collection. A deluxe shoulder zip suit which I recently wore on an expedition in Alaska andabsolutely loved with its super soft shoulder zip and soft material it felt like I was just in my normal gear. But the added warmth and safety it gave me on Glacial heli runs and rainy Alaskan days were where it came into its own. Then I have my super duper onesie, a 'topdeck one piece combo'. A whitewater one piece with its patented leg zip with a whitewater deck attached like a topdeck but on a onesie! A completely custom piece of gear that Pete made specially for me many years ago. Initially designed to allow me to train hard and session Hurley in the middle of winter without having to add any extra layers it is absolutely brilliant. In many ways I would say I would recommend it to anyone but actually unless your a hardcore winter freestyle addict the normal Peak UK whitewater one piece (rather than the one with the skirt attached) would probably suit you much better as then you can add your own deck and have the safety to river run / creek in it properly. I have actually mostly used mine for coaching in the Lake District in winter for the last 8+ seasons. It is so easy to put on and use, I love it and it makes a quick pee stop (for girls especially possible) and you have no zip across your shoulders which for some is a bonus for sure.
5. Sky's Peak UK Kids Zip Sproglet - Tiger. Talk about an awesome piece of kit. Our 9 month old daughter is a little adventure baby already. Super active and a massive fan of the water. Since she has been tiny we have used her Tiger Kids Zip pfd to keep her warm and safe around water. She obviously can't swim left and is always in our arms / in our reach but her kids zip gives her that floating feeling and is already getting her used to the safe practice of wearing a pfd in river and water environments. She recently wore it swimming in Australia at the Great Barrier Reef. Her favourite part of course is the whistle as well as the big eyes on the collar. She loves her adventure buddy. Talk about making safety fun!
So this completes my 'Top 5' Peak UK gear that me and Sky will be taking on adventures all over the world in 2020. The result of well over 20 years experience, extensive testing and research in the river environment. I hope you find your perfect kit that allows you to maximise on fun whilst staying safe and comfortable out on the rivers.