Augustine Product Reviews–Kokatat

Hi, my name is Steve, and I’m a gearhead…

Yep, no news there for those who know me but I did want to get that admission out of the way. There’s nothing I’m more guilty of than wanting to replace an old item with its newer, shinier version.

Having said that, after 20 years of paddling and 13 years of guiding, I can say that I’ve pretty much separated the chaff from the wheat when it comes to my kit, and it takes a  lot these days to get excited about something new.

However, during last year’s project in Alaska there were a handful of items that truly stood out. I’d like to share my thoughts on these items with you; some of this gear was sponsored, some we purchased ourselves, but either way, I’m not going to ‘pad’ any of my reviews. If I didn’t think highly of something, I just won’t write about it. One of our major expedition sponsors was Kokatat. Kokatat gear is capable and dependable in every situation, and it proved its worth early and often last summer.

The first items that got my attention were our Expedition Dry Suits. I wasn’t so much surprised with the functionality of the suit as I was with the comfort; I own many different Kokatat pieces of outerwear and they all do an outstanding job of keeping me dry and warm. Still, I’m usually ready to get out of them by the end of the day.

West Augustine Island

Steve in his Kokatat Expedition Dry Suit on West Augustine Island. (Photograph by Steve Weileman)

One feature of the suit that I genuinely appreciated was the hood. We had more cold, wet and windy days than I care to remember, but slipping on the hood instantly made it feel as if the ambient temperature rose by 15 degrees and with the felt lining, I never got tired of wearing it.

The best thing I can say about this dry suit was that, unlike other suits I’ve tried, which tend to be the first item of gear to get shucked aside after getting off the water, the Expedition Dry Suit stayed on through camp set-up and beyond and was often one of the very last things to come off.

Augustine Island

Ken in his Maximus Prime PFD and Tributary Rear Pocket (Photograph by Steve Weileman)

Another piece of Kokatat gear I came to love was the Maximus Prime PFD. I’ve been a user of the Guide PFD for so many years now that the mango color has turned the hue of pale beer; it’s old but it’s comfortable and I wasn’t so sure how I’d take to a new PFD. (I will admit that a few colorful words passed my lips the first few times I caught my nose as I’d pull it off. Because it’s a no-zip, pull-on over the head vest, the donning process caught me off guard a little at first.) But the learning curve is steep, and I loved the ease of intuitive adjustments on this model as the straps pull forward rather than to the rear. Brilliant! And, the level of comfort was incredible, never an issue regardless of how long we were in the boats.

Alaska Peninsula

Ken in his Kokatat Expedition Dry Suit and Maximus Primus PFD (Photograph by Steve Weileman)

Finally, one quick word about the Maximus Prime Electronic Sling: It’s a simple add-on accessory pocket made for electronics, nothing really earth-shattering there, but what sets this particular accessory pocket apart from the others is that it’s padded. This feature might not make a tremendous difference on a day paddle, but having a padded pocket for your electronics on an extended trip can make the difference as to whether the electronics actually survive to the end of the trip.

More to come…


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