Whitewater canoe, Gallatin River


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Mike England

Gearing up for spring snowmelt. 

Few activities combine the holy outdoor trinity of skill, thrill, and terror like whitewater canoeing. The elegance of a well-executed cross-draw; the gleeful triumph of a clean run; a wide-eyed tumble downstream, paddle in one hand and gunwale in the other as you bounce off rocks while gasping for air—it’s an experience that’ll leave you breathless, quite often literally, and make you want to both do it again and quit forever. In order to choose the former, a canoeist needs the right gear—for safety, confidence, and comfort—while paddling the frigid meltwater of a Montana spring. 

The NRS Explorer drysuit offers all-day comfort in the coldest conditions. Lightweight and comfy, with room inside for thermal layers, the Explorer provides protection without restriction. Enjoy full freedom of movement as you bounce downriver—neck included, with its forgiving GlideSkin neoprene gasket instead of the usual constrictive latex. $800; nrs.com.

With 17.4 pounds of floatation and a streamlined fit, the Astral Norge PFD gives your arms and shoulders plenty of mobility without sacrificing buoyancy. A large front pocket holds small essentials, while large pull-tabs on the side and shoulder straps allow quick entry and exit. Fleece hand-warmers near the chest come in quite, well, handy. $140; astraldesigns.com.

Aquabound’s Edge paddle is all you need to make powerful, precision strokes in roaring whitewater. A full carbon shaft combined with a curved, carbon-reinforced nylon blade mean this puppy is at once light, responsive, and burly; it’ll be there for you when you need it, without wearing out your arms in the process. $120; aquabound.com.

When it first came out, the WRSI Current helmet set a new standard for brain-bucket safety, and the snug, comfy fit—not to mention the company’s strong connection to Bozeman (a la Nick Turner, the renowned kayaker whose family started WRSI)—means it’s still a local paddler’s favorite. $90; wrsisafety.com.

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