Best of NRS, 2018


Every December we boast about having the best year yet. Then we raise the bar a little higher, with hopes to meet or surpass those goals. Once again, we outdid ourselves and have no problem saying that 2018 was a big year—for conservation, for gear, for storytelling.

2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and a culmination of our years-long effort to fight for free-flowing rivers with American Rivers and other outdoor industry brands. We celebrated new designations and shared your river stories with the world.

2018 brought updates to five of our best-selling jackets and two brand new PFDs. Our technical layering line grew more comfortable and attractive than ever. And we continued to push our kayak fishing line to become one of the most comprehensive in the industry.

Lastly, in 2018 we shared stories of kayakers pushing physical and mental limits and having a blast along the way. We learned (and hopefully taught others) how to make it in the guiding world as a rookie (or a female), the not-so-best approaches to teaching kayaking, and to always have The Talk with our boating friends. We’re ready to watch the final sunset of this year because we know 2019 is going to be even more exciting.


The Long Stretch | On the early morning of May 10, 2017, three Idaho kayakers pushed into the Middle Fork of the Salmon River at Boundary Creek put in. Their initial intent was to set a 24-hour high water speed record 300 miles away at the confluence of the Snake River. The Middle Fork is known for legendary paddlers and boatmen pushing themselves purely for the passion of it. Although the team knew the levels weren’t quite high enough to secure a record-breaking descent, they chose to paddle on and forge a new bond with the river that taught them how to paddle. Read Smitty’s full feature, “Pushing Limits on the Salmon River.”

Shred for the South Fork | An old open-pit mine site has sat dormant at the headwaters of the South Fork Salmon River for decades. Now, Midas Gold wants to reopen two massive open pits in the former mining site and a third pit for mining gold and antimony. What’s a stake? In the words of Kyle Smith, a fourth-generation Idahoan: “The heart of Wild Idaho.” This film follows nine passionate kayakers as they put together a stout overnighter to showcase how incredible this place and watershed is because sometimes the only way to protect a secret is to tell the whole world about it. You can also read Smitty’s full feature here.

Into the Klinaklini | This three-part series follows Maranda Stopol, Darby McAdams, Jo Kemper and Jordan Slaughter as they navigate the Klinaklini Gorge, an ‘unrunnable gorge’ that paddlers first attempted to descend 20 years ago. On day one, the four kayakers loaded up a Beaver and Cessna with four kayaks, camping gear and nine days of food. Their goal was to become the first female team—the first team period—to paddle the entire Klinaklini River, which flows from British Columbia’s central plateau, through the Coast Mountains, to Knight Inlet in the Pacific Ocean. Just before the river meets the ocean, it carves through a series of class V gorges, which have never been successfully run. You can also read Maranda’s “Into the Klinaklini: The Aftermath.” 


Sayan | The NRS Women’s Sayan PFD has a seven-panel design and an anatomically sculpted chest to effortlessly wrap female paddlers with comfort and protection. Thin back panel minimizes bulk and our Cool Flow System (CFS) maximizes ventilation on warmer days. 400 denier ripstop nylon fabric construction is guaranteed to protect your jacket from snags and tears throughout the season. Features a front-entry zipper, two large zippered pockets, lash tab, reflective accents and six adjustment points for a customizable fit.

Riptide Jacket | The NRS Riptide Jacket is a fully-featured splash top built to deliver versatile, waterproof protection in less-than-ideal conditions. Lightweight HyproTex™ material provides waterproof-breathable protection that’s flexible for paddling and easy to stow. Punch-through neoprene wrists offer more flexibility and comfort than latex gaskets. Features two splashproof, zippered sleeve pockets for small essentials, and reflective accents for open-water safety. With an articulated storm hood, quick-venting adjustable neck and a kayak overskirt, it’s as versatile as it is protective.

Women’s Pivot | The NRS Women’s Pivot Drysuit is purpose-built for female paddlers featuring a dropseat relief zipper and a sleek, back-entry design that eliminates bulk on the front for all-day waterproof comfort. Waterproof breathable 4-layer Eclipse™ fabric locks water out and the supple polyester microfiber shell delivers superior resistance to puncture and abrasion. 5″ wide neoprene band overskirt with double-pull hook-and-loop closure fits over your sprayskirt tunnel to complete a watertight seal. Neoprene neck and wrist overcuffs protect the latex gaskets and adjustable hook-and-loop polyurethane overcuffs protect the Eclipse fabric socks. Single-seam legs eliminate wear points. Features TIZIP® waterproof zippers, a small splashproof chest pocket and reinforced seat and legs.

Guide Shirt | The NRS men’s Guide Shirt combines the easy-going comfort of classic guide attire with the superior performance of modern materials and intentional design. Nylon/polyester blend stretches with your movements, delivers UPF 35 protection and dries quick. Ultra-breathable H2Core Silkweight fabric panels under the arms and back ensure comfortable paddling and rowing with added ventilation. Features two chest pockets, articulated sleeves with angled cuffs and pearl snaps down the front. Available in both long and short sleeves for men and long sleeve only for women.

Raptor Bibs | Purpose-built for recreational anglers, the NRS Raptor Bibs deliver the same unique comfort and utility as the Sidewinders in a more affordable and streamlined design. Built with time-tested waterproof, breathable 2.5-layer HyproTex™ fabric, the Raptor Bibs are reinforced with Cordura in the seat and knees for maximum durability and feature Eclipse fabric socks. Adjustable and fully removable wishbone suspenders stay put when the fish put up a fight. And like the Sidewinders, the Raptor Bibs can be mated with a drytop for all-weather protection.


“How to Have the Talk with Your Boating Friends”This is it. One of the most awkward conversations of our adult boating life. It’s the conversation we all love to practice but hate to preach, but for the sake of our beloved rivers and lands, it has to be done on. every. trip. Far too often, we, as otherwise mature, responsible grown-ups, dance around the topic of Leave No Trace with the dexterity of a Russian ballerina avoiding Legos on a spiral staircase. But how do you talk to your boating buddies about Human Impact Disease, or HID, and how to prevent it? With wit and hilarity, Lindsay suggests how to have the talk using the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.

“How Not to Teach Whitewater Kayaking” | One of the best parts of coming into your own as a paddler is becoming confident and proficient enough to share the stoke of kayaking with others. It doesn’t take long to realize that going kayaking and teaching kayaking are two totally different skill sets, and being good at one doesn’t necessarily translate into being good at the other. That would be the case for Lydia, now a full-time kayak instructor, when she casually dipped her toe in the waters of teaching more than four years ago, she wasn’t great. Growing and improving as an instructor means making mistakes, and she’s made her fair share to learn the important lessons along the way. Looking back on her blunders, Lydia offers some insight into what not to do.

“Lochsa River Madness: Whitewater and Debauchery” | Somewhere beyond Lolo Pass, Highway 12 meets and parallels the Lochsa River, which, at first, appears to be a large creek. But it picks up water mile after mile as the snowpack slides off the mountains in roaring gushers and joins the creek, which at some point becomes a river, and then becomes a big ass river. And then becomes a scary, big ass river. In fact, the Nez Perce recognized its ‘big-ass-ness’ by naming it Lochsa, meaning rough water in their language. A fact also noted by Lewis and Clark who decided that this was not the best route to the ocean. This rough water has become the impetus for one of the more (irresponsibly) fun whitewater festivals in North America—Lochsa River Madness, second only (probably) to West Virginia’s Gauley Fest.

“A Guide to #VanLife for the Weekend Warrior”The #VanLife craze has taken over: Quit your job, convert a sprinter, travel the country and post it all on social. But what about those of us who want to keep our jobs and live in our ‘vans’ on the weekends? #VanLife for the weekend warrior may mean sleeping inside your vehicle or organizing it in a way that allows you to store your seasonal gear to be ready at a moment’s notice so that you’re less worried about whether or not the right gear made it into the rig and more focused on the day’s adventure. Either way, the more efficient you get at making the most out of your weekend warrior-mobile, the more time you get to spend soaking up your playgrounds. Lydia offers some basic tips to create a temporary adventure vehicle for charging hard on the weekends that reverts to the basic functionality of normal transportation Monday-Friday.

“Surviving your Rookie Season as a Female Raft Guide” Carmen survived her first year as a raft guide with minimal beer fines, and mostly good experiences, leading her to continue as a raft guide for six seasons. Throughout her time as a guide, she learned a lot about herself, my her and working with others. She flipped 12-man rafts. She swam big, gnarly water. She got a lot of shit for sloppy lines and poor cleanups. But she developed a deep respect for, and broad knowledge of, whitewater. And to date, it’s still her favorite job. Based on her experience and the warnings she wishes she had been given, here are a few tips that might help rookie raft guides—of any gender—but specifically girl guides, learn the ways of the raft guiding industry.