Phil Carr on Unsponsored
Yak are the paddling side of the Crewsaver company. In the past Yak have catered for the middle to lower end of the market with some fantastic kit for centre and club use. Although functional and hardwearing they didn’t have the same appeal as some of the more well known brands. Over the last few months I have been testing a few pieces of Yak gear including the Riwaka dry top, Chinook dry trousers and Hallertau PFD.
Yak Riwaka dry top
The Yak Riwaka in a very loud green has arrived at Unsponsored HQ. Now this is the third bit of gear from Yak that has landed here at the HQ in as many weeks and once again Yak have made a really good impression (I need to find out who is designing this stuff) – here’s why.
The Riwaka is a fully featured dry top that appears to be made out of a fabric that should stand the test of time. It feels tough without being too rigid. The cut has been designed for paddling and has clearly been tailored well. I have the large size and it fits me without any form of restriction or discomfort whilst at the same time it doesn’t have an excess amount of material flapping around.
Darts in the rear of the jacket allow greater freedom of movement. They also hide some reflective detailing. I am sure that it has some performance advantage but I would prefer them not to be included within the design.
The fabric is both waterproof and breathable as you would expect in a dry top that has a RRP of £200 (can be found for less online). There has been some careful consideration given to how the jacket is pieced together and where/how the separate elements come together. The taping within the jacket looks good and has been well executed.
Now the colour won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I do really like it. I have several bits of gear in GREEN but this has to be one of the brightest. The contrasting blue logos and detail works well and matches the new Yak PFD perfectly (as you would expect).
The top comes with both latex neck and wrist seals with additional adjustable wrist seals and a neoprene neck seal. The neck seal is pretty damn good. It’s formed by a cone and then joined to an additional band of neoprene at the top. The seal on my 15.5” neck is snug but comfortable and creates a really good seal. It’s a small design feature that I really like.
The waist has the usual Velcro adjustment and deep inner tunnel. Matching it up with a spray deck is very straight forward and initial impressions of the seal created is good.
The Riwaka has a couple of small pockets, one on the chest and another on the arm. Useful for storage gear that is OK to get wet. My car keys in an Aloksak dry pouch fitted nicely inside each of the pockets.
So initial impressions are very good. The fit and feel of the dry top really puts it up there with some of the best offerings out there. A couple of nice little touches help it stand out.
After a few months of very regular use the Riwaka is still as bright as ever and still performing well. Even after a couple of nasty portages late last year, the fabric is still holding up really well and the DWR treatment is still in place.
Yak Chinook Dry Trousers
The Chinooks come in a very subtle yet practical grey colour. – this is the only colour option. Both the outer waist and outer ankle seals have Velcro adjustment. whilst the Knees and bum are re-enforced with a 500d Cordura type material.
The inner waist band is taller than the outer and includes a deep elastic section with a series of silicon rubber strips, that should help keep everything in place. This twin waist arrangement should allow the Chinook pants to be paired with any twin waist dry top to create a pretty good two piece system. I have used the Chinooks with Yak’s Riwaka and Sweet’s Supernova dry tops without out any issue. In fact the seal between tops and the Chinooks was very impressive even whilst swimming. The double fabric knees even have built in drain holes as does the re-enforced seat area – a great idea that has been well executed without compromising comfort by using a grommet/metal drain hole. There is no chance of these grommets being ripped out.
Just like the Riwaka dry top the quality of the taping within the Chinooks is very impressive. Underneath you can make out that all joints have been double stitched before being taped over.
Throughout the winter, the Chinooks have been used extensively and have mainly been paired with the Riwaka dry top. Again the performance of the Chinooks as been impressive. The taping remains in place and the additional layers of tough fabric has allowed the Chinooks to stand up to some serious abuse.
If I had the chance to improve the Chinooks in anyway I would increase the height of the inner part of the twin waist and even include some sort of bib/straps. This in addition to a pee zip would take the Chinooks up into a completely different league.
Yak Hallertau PFD
The Hallertau is a top spec river running PFD with a quick release harness and all the storage options you could ever want. If I were to draw up a shopping list of all the features that a rescue PFD should have – then the Hallertau would have it covered.
The Hallertau has a large zip on the front and is put on much like a coat. This means that it is easy to get on even over bulky dry suit zips. The zip seems solid and the top of the opening is secured with a small plastic press-stud. It works well but can sometimes be a little fiddly to snap into place with cold hands.
First and foremost there is loads of storage. The Hallertau isn’t short of pockets at all. In fact Yak has gone as far as including little card cut outs showing what accessories could be stored in each of the areas. This includes a knife pocket with lanyard and a whistle pocket with lanyard.
The QR rescue harness is the same as the ones found on most other rescue PFDs and includes a steel ring for clipping into. The strap along with most other PFDs is almost completely hidden within the fabric and creates a nice clean look to the PFD and minimises the chances of snagging a strap whilst on or off the water. All other straps have slots in which the loose ends can be stored, thus once again reducing the chances of snagging.
The PFD has a great deal of adjustment and getting a secure fit is super easy. The Hallertau sits nice and low and has an incredibly low profile. Paddling and swimming in the Hallertau is very easy with no adverse signs of movement and certainly no hint of the PFD riding up.
One superb little feature is the shoulder padding. It works really well and has just enough padding to take away some of the discomfort suffered during long portages with a kayak on your shoulder.
Having been familiar with older Yak designs I was expecting gear that was functional at a very basic level, i.e. the gear would do its job well enough but would not compete with the big names in the market place. However I have been blown away by the style, fit and function of all the new Yak gear that I have tried to date. Aside from a few minor niggles the Riwaka dry top, Chinook dry trousers and Hallertau PFD are all well worth checking out.