The end of summer is bittersweet. Fall brings cooler temperatures for mountain biking and camping, but summer offers time for tubing, paddleboarding, and jumping into lakes. I love that time on the water, especially where I live in the southern Appalachians, where finding the right place to take a dip makes all the difference in the sweltering heat. The good news: summer isn’t over quite yet. Here’s a list of some of my favorite water gear that helps me enjoy the remaining hot days, whether that’s taking a canyoneering trip or doing a lazy float with the kids.
Ten Thousand Set Shorts ($72)
Is this a pair of workout or swim shorts? Technically, the Set is both, and it’s become my do-everything pair, from running in the neighborhood to knocking out upriver miles on the paddleboard. The shorts are made of a quick-dry polyester, four-way stretch, and an athletic 6.5-inch inseam that gives them Magnum P.I. flare. I’m most in love with the liner, which feels like a comfy pair of boxer-briefs even when they get wet.
Sunday Afternoons Sun Guardian Hat ($20)
Sun hats have become a key in my summer wardrobe, and the the one I wear most is the Sun Guardian—a full straw number based on an old-school lifeguard design but updated with smart features, like a soft liner on the inside of the crown and a drawstring to keep it secure when it’s windy. The massive, 4.25-inch brim keeps my face and neck in the shade and has a UPF 50 liner underneath.
Astral Ronny PFD ($100)
Technically, the Ronny is an angler’s PFD, but it’s so versatile and comfortable that I wear it every time I’m on the river. The minimalist shoulder harness gives me full mobility when I’m stand-up paddleboarding, but unlike some minimalist models, the foam padding spans the entire back of the vest, providing a cushion when I’m sitting in a fishing kayak. It also has a built-in can holder, as well as a large pocket for a phone and a small fly box. The price is right, too: it’s half the cost of some other PFDs in the same category.
Yeti Sidekick Drybag ($50)
Keeping my phone and wallet dry is a top priority when I’m on the river, and while I have a handful of different drybag options, the Sidekick finds its way onboard most often because of its versatility. The purse-size bag is made with whitewater-raft-shell material and eschews the typical roll-top or waterproof zipper for a double seal using strong magnets and Velcro. And the Sidekick floats, which is just as important as being waterproof. Best of all, it attaches to nearly everything, thanks to the webbed panel on the back of the bag. I attach it to the cargo straps on the front of my paddleboard, my PFD, or the side of my soft cooler.
OluKai ‘Imaka Trainer Shoe ($150)
Most of my time around rivers and lakes is spent scrambling and jumping, so I like aqua-friendly shoes that perform like hiking shoes. Enter OluKai’s ‘Imaka, a new trainer developed with Hawaii’s lifeguards to handle rough terrain both in and out of the water. It’s basically a hiker with a mesh upper that drains well and dries fast. The ‘Imaka has the brand’s signature drop-in heel, which I like when I’m feeling lazy. The speed laces cinch tight for a secure fit and don’t flap around when I’m swimming, which is a problem with some similar models.
Free Fly Crossover Hoodie ($70)
Any sun shirt is better than no sun shirt, but I like the Crossover because it’s so damn comfortable. We’re talking baby blanket soft, thanks to its bamboo construction, which is blended with polyester and spandex for durability and stretch. It’s light enough to wear in the middle of the day here in the muggy South, and dries fast enough that I usually keep it on while I go overboard for a dip.