One of the most commonly asked questions I am asked is: 'what are those pants I see you using on your kayak?' Most commonly asked of my now retired Mountain Hardware shell pants (which served me very well for years, originally for hiking, then motorbiking and then kayaking), some were also curious about the green coloured Kokoda waterproof pants, which I've been wearing recently.
I'd picked these up from a bargain bin somewhere for $30 odd dollars and they served reasonably well for a cheapy. But better suited for land-based activities, they were far from ideal for pedalling a kayak. Whilst my old Mt hardware pants were a pretty good solution, I never truly felt as if they were perfectly suited either - whilst they did a reasonable job of stopping wind, water would penetrate the fabric liberally. So the search for the perfect pedal-compatible kayaking pants began. My criteria was as follows: windproof/waterproof, breathable, lightweight and with enough room to pedal comfortably.
After doing some window shopping online, I figured the best people to ask for further advice would be a kayak specialist based in a colder climate. And I knew from experience that Wetspot Watersports in Fyshwick ACT would be a good place to start. Sure enough, they had access to every style of paddling pants I was interested in and were able to suggest a few other possibilities to me as well. Chatting with both Scott and James about it all a few brands came up but eventually they suggested I look into the Immersion Research Zephyr, which ticked all of the boxes. Upon receiving them today I only had to spend a few seconds inspecting them to know that the boys had led me down the right path. After taking them onto the river for a quick test after work that was pleasantly confirmed.
The Immersion research Zephyr pants are a 2-layer permeable hydrophobic fabric (very similar to the Stohlquist drytop that I use) that are reasonably lightweight, but thick enough to be an effective wind shield. They also have a firm fitting neoprene waist and vecro-closing leg cuffs and are lined with a lightweight loose-liner anti-bacterial mesh. Comfortable enough to pedal in, I can see myself using these in conjunction with a core layer consisting of either Lavacore or Shark Skin pants in winter and likestyled shorts in summer. They'll serve as an excellent outer layer shell that will help protect me from the elements without restricting me or making me too hot. I'm looking forward to taking them out into open water for the real test. Once I've given them a thorough thrashing in various conditions I'll follow up with a full review.
Also on the table for consideration were several styles of pants from Kokatat and I also looked into the Stohlquist offerings as well. Most everything I looked at was discounted quickly due to their (warmer, heavier and more restrictive) 3-layer construction and the heavily reinforced knees of the Stohlquist versions didn't lend themselves well for pedalling. One of Kokatat's Gore-Tex offerings is available in a 2-layer style and I was very nearly given to that, stalled at the finishline due to it's significantly higher price (typical of anything boasting the 'Gore-Tex' label). I'm glad I chose the Immersion Research Zephyr and I have Scott and James to thank for guiding me in the right direction.