By Scott Edwards
Almost all of us want to paddle all year long; in some places that’s very possible in others it is downright dangerous. As long as there is open water, one can dress for the cold water temperatures by donning a good dry suit and wearing suitable wicking layers underneath. As many layers as you’d like to keep you warm, that’s pretty simple. During the warm summer months, where bodies of water warm to almost bath tub temperatures, you’re going to be more worried about sunburn, than you are hypothermia.
There are though, those places where the air gets warm, but the water never does. My personal experience of this is in Maine, located in the very northeast corner of the United States. A place so beautiful that you cannot help but want to spend every minute in your kayak exploring the rocky coastlines, playing with the seals and dolphins. However, whilst summer air temperatures in Maine can range between 26-29 degrees Celsius (80-85f) and above, the water temperature averages are much lower at around 14.6 degrees Celsius (58.3f).
While that does give one ample time to affect rescue before hypothermia sets in, it’s still pretty cold. Add to that the North Atlantic’s strong currents plus the ‘rock bound coast of Maine’ and it adds up to an unpleasant situation. Your rescue skills must be practiced in colder temperatures so that you are prepared and your kit must reflect the large drop in temperature from air to water. That is where my friends at Reed Chillcheater come into play and have provided the ‘shoulder season solution,’ the Chillcheater short sleeve dry cag.
First and foremost what I like about this product is how truly comfortable it is. By using single, super stretch, water-repellant neck and cuff seals, they have eliminated the feeling of having ones circulation cut off, while maintaining a watertight seal. You also have the option of having an adjustable neck opening as well. Reed’s AquaTherm fabrics are also not as stiff as others, making them feel less bulky as well as being easier to get in and out of. It presents the best of both worlds, protection from colder water, whether it is in cooler climates or whether you are suffering from cabin fever as the winter recedes and you want to get out onto the water before anyone else!
The cag has a fully integrated inner tunnel to ensure a good seal between you and your spray deck, which is also adjustable. The outer shell features two tightening buckles to allow you to adjust it for your comfort and fit. That is a very important part of how Reed products are put together. They have truly thought of the paddler’s comfort, while not sacrificing the importance of dry kit. I’ve worn both latex seals and Reed’s seals and I must tell you I am a huge fan of the more comfortable Reed seal. Despite not being as constricting they keep water out exceedingly well. I also like the fact that the cag is wind proof as well, which keeps those early/late season bone chilling winds out, allowing you to be both warm and dry.
As one would expect with anything from Reed, the craftsmanship is top notch all the way around. All the external seams are both stitched and taped making this cag extremely watertight and strong. The AquaTherm fabric is also very durable – it is one of the things I envy about my paddling friends on the other side of the pond. Reed Chillcheater products can only be attained via overseas shipping. However, in my experience it has always been well worth it.
‘Boil in Bag’
My real concern was getting into my boat and paddling. We have all experienced the ‘Boil in Bag’ feeling of dressing for the water while being in far warmer air. I have to say I was pleased with how the top performed in regard to breathability and not overheating me. The ability to unzip the neck when taking a break was priceless, allowing even more air circulation.
This summer I had the opportunity to try the short sleeved cag out in the waters off the coast of Maine. Beautifully pleasant days but still downright chilly water! I donned my cag and dry pants and waded into the water, determined to see how it all worked together and how the cag felt on me in the water with my PFD over it. I was thrilled by how comfortable it was, I was able to swim easily, the cuffs on my arms did not pinch, nor did they leak. The fit around my waist was perfect, allowing maximum freedom of movement, while still keeping my core dry. So, in the water I give this cag an excellent 10 out of 10. Good flexible material, dry, with a comfortable inside.
I see myself using the Reed short sleeved dry cag quite a bit. I love to paddle all year long but have always felt over dressed and/or uncomfortable early in the spring or into the fall. This is a great top for making sure you’re outfitted properly and comfortable regardless of the air/water temperature difference. Once again, Reed Chillcheater has provided us with a must-have for many paddlers.