Wool, Wetsuits and Making the Most of a Bad Chinook.

Chi·nook
Pronounced:SHəˈno͝ok
Definition: A warm ocean-born wind that makes its way into the pacific northwest region and the southern Canadian Rockies. Commonly called ‘snow eaters’, these winds will break the heart of anyone who loves winter and deep powder.
Your winter can be going along perfectly; you have lots of snow on the ground, the temperature is well below freezing and ski or snowshoe conditions are great. And then BOOM. In rolls a Chinook and it’s all wrecked. Chinooks bring high wind levels and high temperatures. During a Chinook, temperatures can swing from -20 up to +10 in the matter of a day. The warm winds are drying and melt away or evaporate all of the snow, leaving the ground bare, when just days before it was a winter wonderland.
Now, this might not sound like something awful to you, getting above-freezing temperatures in the middle of winter. But if you love winter, your heart breaks a little every time a Chinook rolls through. While last week I was skiing on pristine xc ski trails, now there is dirt and grass and pavement poking through. The downhill ski slopes are icy and snowshoes are pretty much unnecessary unless you are at a high elevation.
So what do you do when a chinook rolls in? Well, my friend Tiffany and I decided to make the best of it.
Both of us love outdoor adventure in the mountains and are avid paddlers. So when we heard there was open water to be found in Canmore, we decided to spend our Sunday morning paddling it.
16142736_10211889347818814_2403277049120279804_nOne of the nice things about winter is that if you’re looking to do a sunrise hike or paddle, you really don’t have to get up all that early; Tiffany and I met up for breakfast at Rocky Mountain Bagel co (a pre-paddling tradition!) and headed out to the reservoir in Canmore. We found open water by the trailhead for Grassi Lakes, pumped up our SUPs and headed out.
It was an absolutely incredible paddle; the morning was beautiful and warm and it was fun to watch the ice climbers at Grassi while we paddled. We found a fairly large section of open water and managed to paddle almost all the way to the dam. We snapped a bunch of photos along the way; check them out here:
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SAFETY NOTE:
Tiffany and I are both very experienced paddlers who had the right training and right gear in case we went for a dip; we also had a chat about risks and what-ifs before heading out, so we had a game plan in place should one of us fall in. Paddling in the winter definitely isn’t for the inexperienced or unprepared paddler, so if you choose to find open water this winter, make sure you know what you are doing and are prepared for the worst case scenario.
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Paddling the Kan

At 4:38 today I got a text from my buddy Travis: ‘Heading down to the Kan if you’re in the area shooting.’

These were magic words to me; I had been trying to decide what to do with my evening (I’m trying to avoid having time to catch up on laundry 😉 ) so this was the perfect distraction.

I headed up to Canoe Meadows, knowing that Travis and the friends he was paddling with, Emily and Jodi, would be putting in upstream at the Widow Maker and making their way down the Kananaskis River towards Canoe Meadows. I grabbed my camera gear and hiked up the side of the river, nestling in among some boulders on the riverside to wait.

I didn’t have to wait too long before I saw the colourful canoes coming around the riverbend.

Canoes? I can hear you saying ‘But Chelsea, those look a lot like kayaks.’ and you would be right. These are known as C1’s. If you havent seen one before, they look an awful lot like a kayak, but the paddler kneels in a saddle inside and uses a single bladed paddle, making these very much canoes.

I had a lot of fun shooting the three friends on the Kananaskis River, these are some of my favourite photos from this evening:

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Photographic challenges:

I was losing light quickly while shooting. Shooting fast moving subjects when you want super sharp photos can be incredbly challenging. I shot most of this in manual, continually adjusting my ISO to the dying light, and keeping the shutter speed fast enough to freeze frame images.

Monday Morning Only Sucks If You Let It

When most people (myself included some weeks…) think of Monday morning, they are thinking of it grudgingly, and they are definitely not dreaming about setting their alarms a couple hours early in order to squeeze in an early morning paddle.

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This morning, the gold aspen were starting to make an appearance

But I am here to tell you that that is exactly what you should do. You don’t paddle? No problem! Get up a bit early and go for a walk, or a run or a bike ride. Get outside, get yourself a little bit of pre-workweek serenity.

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My friend Jenn introduced me to an every changing group of people who meet up in Canmore dark and early almost every Monday morning; they meet up at Rocky Mountain Bagel around 6:30am-7:00am, grab coffee and bagels and then head out to the Canmore Resevoir to stand up paddleboard.

I have made it out for a handful of Monday morning paddles, and each one leaves me feeling happy, relaxed and ready to take on the week. The water is always stunningly calm, the views are fantastic and everything is made better by the fact that the rest of the world is still asleep.There is just something so special about getting to experience such a magical moment, all because you got up that much earlier than everyone else.

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I need to make a point of doing this more often; it can be a struggle to drag my butt out of a warm cozy bed (that snooze button is awfully tempting!) but it is so worth it in the end.

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A Bow Valley Summer Tradition

Floating the Bow River is a long standing tradition for permanent and seasonal residents of the Bow Valley. You go out, buy some sort of floating device, hop in the river and off you go. This is lots of fun if you a)know the river and b)are okay with getting wet. But if you want to float the Bow in comfort and style, then Canmore Raft Tours is the way to do it.

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A locally owned company, Canmore Raft Tours can be found downtown Canmore at their Raft Shack during the day, located across the street from Rocky Mountain Bagel company by the Settlers Cabin.  They run 1 hour tours several times a day, as well as my favorite tour, the two hour scenic float every evening (Bonus: The evening tour features a hot tea or coffee as well as locally sourced treats). All tours start downtown Canmore and you get shuttled back to the starting point, making this easy for anyone to do.

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On these float trips, the Guide does all the work.

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You get to see a side of the Bow Valley that is only accessible from the river.

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There is lots of wildlife to be seen from the river!

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They even do dog friendly trips!

I am constantly in awe of the wildlife that they see and manage to photograph or film. A couple of weeks ago, a black bear swam across the river in front of the boat and just a few days ago, a coyote was on the river bank as they passed by!

Check out the video of the coyote here.

or

Check out the black bear video here.

Looking for a great way to enjoy the rest of your summer? Definitely give a float trip a try; I have gone out 3 times now and each time is better than the last!

To keep up with their amazing social media feeds, or to learn more, you can check them out on Facebook or Instagram (@Canmore_Raft_Tours).

Voyageur Canoeing in Kananaskis

Last night I got to live like a Voyageur! Well, without the whole eating-the-same-thing-for-years-at-a-time, or the back-breaking-hard-work-of-carrying-canoes-and-animal-pelts things. But you know, exactly like a voyageur other than those small factors 😉

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But in all seriousness, what I got to do was go on a Voyageur Canoe Tour with Kananaskis Outfitters. I very rarely get to be the guest on tours, especially with the company that I work for. But last night was a very special treat.

The Voyageur Canoe at Kananaskis Outfitters is 25 foot long canoe that seats 10 people (and a dog!). The guide steers from the back and all the guests need to do is paddle forward or backwards.

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The tour started out with a brief dry land session where Tiffany, our guide, showed everyone the proper way to hold the paddles and the basics of paddling. We then all climbed into the canoe and pushed off into Barrier Lake. Once on the lake, we practiced paddling forward and backwards, turning the boat in place (one side paddles forward, one side paddles backwards) and paddling as fast and hard as could (we got up to 7.5 km/h) all while the guide talked to us about the life of a voyageur. At about the halfway point across the lake, our guide broke into song (in french!) to demonstrate how the voyageurs would sing to keep the crew paddling in sync.

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We paddled from the Barrier Lake Day Use area across and up the lake to Jewel Bay. The sun was drifting down and the golden light on the mountains around us was absolutely breathtaking. After paddling across the lake, it felt like our group had known each other forever. We were laughing and joking as we relaxed on the beach at Jewel Bay and took in our surroundings. Jewel Bay is a great place to relax; there are no cars and few people, so you are surrounded by bird calls and the gentle sound of the breeze in the trembling aspen.

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We relaxed on the beach for about 20 mins and then it was time to head back. The paddle back was upbeat and relaxed, the water had almost no waves and was beautifully calm. Time flew on the trip, and before we knew we were landing on the sandy beach at Barrier Day Use Area again. The sun was setting and the clouds were spectacular shades of pink and gold. Mountain sunsets are definitely the best sunsets.

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Would I recommend this tour? Absolutely. Its a great way to get a larger group of people in a canoe (10 people vs the 3 you can fit in a regular canoe) and a nice, relaxing way to paddle. You will also learn a lot about the incredible explorers and adventurers who traveled on the original Canadian highway system: our lakes and rivers. The voyageur time period is a fascinating one, where the spirit of adventure was truly alive and well. If you enjoyed the movie The Revenant, this tour is a pretty incredible way to experience that time period in full modern day comfort. ***Bonus: The Revenant was filmed out in Kananaskis, so you might recognize some of the scenery!***

More information on this tour can be found at www.kananaskisoutfitters.com 

 

The Not-So-Pretty side of being an Outdoors Woman

The Hair.

Messy hair, don’t care? Good. Because when you spend every minute you can outside, say goodbye to blowouts and cute curls. You will find yourself embracing such classic styles as ponytails and braids. And sure, there is lots of play to be done with those basics, but anything but the tightest braid will soon be undone when you get above the tree line on a mountain hike. In my world, every bun is a ‘messy bun’ even if it doesn’t start out that way. I have not blow dried or straightened my hair on a regular basis in years, because…why bother? My favourite hair accessory these days? A hat.

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^Messy Mountain Hair

Good luck with a manicure.

I can spend an hour clipping, filing and painting my nails, meticulously painting on the layers: base coat, two coats of colour followed by a topcoat. And then sit around and not touch anything for the next hour to let the polish dry and harden. And no matter what I do, by noon the next day there will be chips and scratches. Nail polish is one of those things that I have given up on as part of my daily life. I used to be the type of girl who matched her polish to her outfits, now I’m happy when I can scrub all of the dirt out of my nail beds.

Lips that turn heads.

But not for a good reason. I have tried pretty much every lip chap on the market, and while some are better than others, none seem to be able to really quench my dry lips long term. So I do my best, and use an SPF lip balm whenever I’m outside, but my lips will never be described as sexily pouty and smooth. I try to avoid lipstick even on nights out because that just seems to make everything worse.

Tan lines.

Unless you go au-natural 24/7, you will collect an unusual assortment of tan lines over the course of a summer. All those super cute strappy performance tanks? Think of the total of all of those lines, from every tank you own, in a pattern on your skin. By the end of summer, that’s what I’ve got going on. No matter how many times you wear a strapless top or go out in a bikini, the tan lines will add up. Also, sock tans are a thing that happens. My feet are usually about 5 shades lighter than the rest of me because of wearing hiking boots every day.

Calluses.

On your feet, your heels, your hands… I once shook another woman’s hand upon being introduced and she looked at me shocked and asked what had happened to my hands. As an outdoors woman, a firefighter and someone who lifts weights, my hands have calluses to rival the grittiest construction worker. Sure I use hand cream, but these calluses are permanent. And as for my feet? You don’t even want to know. But I am going to tell you anyways. I live in boots; whether it be hiking boots for guiding or steel-toed boots for working at the fire hall, boots are what I am used to and what I wear day-in-day-out. When I’m off work, I wear my Blundstones because they are comfortable and at the end of a long day, that is pretty much all my feet care about. Someone gifted me with a pedicure a couple of years ago and when the poor woman looked at my feet, I swear she was ready to cry. I tried to convince her that she didn’t need to try and file off the calluses, but she tried… and I regretted it for weeks afterwards! Those calluses had been what was cushioning my feet and losing them just meant I had to get them back in the form of incredibly painful blisters in what had previously been my comfiest boots.

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<Thanks to my calluses, I can walk across rocks for the best spot in a hot spring like a pro

High heels? No thanks.

Don’t get me wrong; I love a pair of cute heels as much as the next girl. But put me in heels and I walk like a new born calf. Sexy, right? I am just so used to wearing comfortable, stable footwear with good ankle support that putting me in heels for any period of time is torture.

Crusty noses and bruises, scrapes and bumps:

I know what you are probably thinking: this article is getting grosser by the minute. Sorry? Not really though. This is the honest-to-goodness truth of being an outdoors woman that you sure won’t see on Instagram. When you are hiking, face into the wind up a mountain for hours, your nose is going to run. No matter how many tissues you have, or if your gloves have that lovely nose-wiper patch built into the thumb, when you get back to the trailhead, you will have a moderately crusty nose.

I don’t bruise bruiseeasily, but in the course of scrambling up mountains and hiking through wooded areas, you can almost always find an assortment of bruises and scrapes on me. I don’t mind, its all part of the experience. But between firefighting and hiking, I sometimes look like I got beat up. Add black fly bites around my eyes and I can be a bit of a hot mess.

<One of my more recent bruises

As gross as some of these things probably sound, any outdoors woman will tell you that it is worth every bit of pain and grossness to do the things that we do. When your nose is crusty from the cold or wind, you are too busy living life to notice or care. All of the calluses? They represent hours of hard work and fun. Every wonky tan line represents a great memory of a day in the sun. My lips may be chapped, but they are always smiling. The prettiest women are the happy ones, and nothing makes me happy like being outside living life to the fullest. And besides, wild is its own kind of beautiful. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m trying to wrestle my hair into a ponytail and rolling my eyes at the 7 different sets of tan lines on my shoulders 😉

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^Moments like this make every scrape, bruise and callus worth it.

P.S. I would like to note that most of us clean up pretty damn nicely when we have to. We would just rather be on a mountain than in a mall.

 

Outdoor Adventure Show Calgary

Sunday, March 20th was one of the nicest weather days of the year so far; the temperatures hit 15 degrees Celsius and the sun was shining brightly in a perfectly blue sky. Patios were open across Calgary and it would have been the perfect day to be out hiking in a t-shirt or paddling one of the newly open mountain lakes. On any other day like this, you would find me outside. But last weekend I had a pretty awesome reason to spend the day inside: The Outdoor Adventure Show was in town!

As an outdoor professional and a passionate adventurer, I am a bit of a gear junky and travel nerd. I have a list of places I want to go, trails I want to hike and things I want to try, but I am also always on the hunt for new ideas and inspirations. Thanks to the OAS, I have a whole bunch of new places in mind!

Walking into the show is a bit overwhelming at first, at least for someone who spends most of their time outside in relatively quiet places. All of the booths were brightly colored, and tempted people in with flashy slogans, gorgeous adventure photos and bowls of treats or swag to give away.

With displays that included African Safaris, Eco tours in South America and some closer-to-home booths from Parks Canada and Jasper Tourism, there was something for everyone. Whether you were looking for an elaborate and lavish getaway in a foreign country, or a weekend road trip close to home, there really was something for everyone.

In the summer, I spend as much time as possible on the water in a canoe or kayak, and last year I took up Stand Up Paddle Boarding. I am in the market for a new boat (either a flat water kayak or a solo canoe, I cant decide yet) so walking into the show and seeing rack upon rack of gorgeous watercraft was amazing! One of the big highlights of the show for many people is the big pool set up in the middle of the hall. There was always something happening on the water; everything from paddling beautifully crafted canoes, to SUP yoga and even a lesson on how to roll a kayak. I found myself constantly circling back to the pool to see what was new.

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^This is my favourite photo from the show 😉

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Watching the folks from Tofino Paddle Surf doing yoga on SUPs was by far one of my favorite parts of the show! I am pretty new to the world of SUPing. My first attempt was about 3 years ago with an instructor on Lake Superior. Lake Superior is a massive lake that behaves a lot like the ocean, so trying to balance on what is essentially an oversized surfboard in giant rolling waves proved to be more than I could handle. I was pretty disheartened at how badly I did that first time, but last summer, with the help of a good friend who is a SUP instructor, I decided to give it another go and I fell in love. As much as I love SUPs and yoga, combining the two is definitely way above my current level for balancing. But give me time, I’ll get there!

After hanging around the pool for probably waaaaay too long, it was time for the Abandoned Alberta Photography Seminar. Scott Dimond and Robert Scott had an incredible portfolio of photographs that they shared with their audience. The photography seminar booth was full, with people crammed in the back and sitting on the floor, all to hear these guys talk about their search for the perfect abandoned buildings (and boats!). They shared their individual stories, and then talked about how they had met and come together. Nowadays they teach workshops here in Alberta on photographing abandoned structures. Each year they pick a new location for the multi-day workshop and spaces fill fast! Their three workshops for this year are already booked solid, but they have started a waiting list and if there are enough people they will plan another one. Both Dimond and Scott have travelled extensively, with some of their most stunning photos coming out of Iceland and Germany. This seminar was well worth the time, and I will definitely look at signing up for an Abandoned Alberta workshop next year.

All in all, the Outdoor Adventure Show was a lot of fun and gave me lots of great ideas for future trips. Its so nice to actually be able to talk to experts from different companies and locations, one on one and ask all those questions that you can’t necessarily just Google. These people know what they are talking about and they have lived these experiences, and at the Outdoor Adventure Show you get to meet them all in one place.

I am excited for the trips I have planned this year, to which I have added some new stops since visiting the show and I can’t wait to visit the show again next year!

 

Dear Eddie Bauer

Anyone who tells you that a job cant inspire, or wont shape and change you is wrong. It is largely because of a part time job that I have become the person that I am today.

Dear Eddie Bauer (and staff),

I worked for your company for 6 years, off and on, and because of that job I have become the woman I am today.

I grew up in rural southeastern Ontario, in the middle of farm country where spending time outside, or going for a walk in the woods wasn’t an event, it was just part of life. I spent plenty of time outside growing up, but until about 8 years ago, could never have been described as outdoorsy. My family did not hike, and my mothers idea of camping is a Super 8 motel.

I grew up being told by everyone around me (although never by my parents) that girls were supposed to look and act a certain way, or be interested in certain acceptable things. I was fine with that, with those expectations until in grade 10 when I elected to take an Outdoor Gym class. In the class I got introduces to hiking and ‘real’ (backcountry) camping and I was hooked. The semester ended, but I kept finding ways to get outside and explore, hiking the different nature trails around my home.

That summer I visited Jasper National Park with family, and for the first time I did what I would now consider a real hike. There were hills, I got blisters, I was tired and I loved every second of it. It was so much more challenging and more rewarding than the easy strolling nature trails I had so far experienced.

Fast forward to spring the next year: I was looking for a part time job where I could work with good people in a fun environment. My mother has shopped at Eddie Bauer for as long as I can remember, and on one such shopping trip there with her, she pointed out to me the ‘Now Hiring’ poster in the fitting room. I applied and a few days later  I was sitting down with the store manager for a job interview.

I still remember that interview as clearly as if it was yesterday. The store manager sat me down in her office and told me what Eddie Bauer as a company stood for. The company values of quality and integrity stuck with me. As did the ‘Get Outside’ program for employees. The manager asked me if I considered myself ‘Outdoorsy’ and I eagerly told her about my recent introduction to hiking. I remember being able to name off every hike I had done up to that point (because I had done so few that I could remember them all individually…) and feeling pretty proud of myself. The manager must have seen something in me, because shortly after that interview I started work at Eddie Bauer in the Quinte Mall (Belleville, Ontario).

I started working at EB just before the launch of First Ascent, a brand new, groundbreaking line of mountaineering and technical gear. I remember the excitement in the store as the product started to arrive. A big flat screen tv was installed in the store and showed a continuous loop of daring adventures: climbing mountains, kayaking over waterfalls and all sorts of other incredibly inspirational footage. Watching this footage constantly, seeing the interviews with the guides and athletes made me want to push my boundaries. It showed me that there was a potential for non-traditional careers. It showed me that I could live a life full of adventure.

Working at EB also prepared me for a life of adventure. When I started there, I knew next to nothing about gear. I got a full education in technical fabrics and features, fitting backpacks, how to layer for any weather or any environment and I gained an appreciation for good quality gear and a company that actually stands behind their gear and backs it up with a warranty.

About a year after I first started with EB, I knew the time had come to start trying to find my own adventurous life. I applied for a job as a Park Ranger with Ontario Parks and got hired on at Bon Echo Provincial Park. I spent my summer hiking, paddling and exploring and after that point I knew there was no going back, I had found my passion.

But Parks is a seasonal job. Luckily Eddie Bauer was a place I could go back to for the winters. For five years I worked with Ontario Parks, travelling all over the province hiking and photographing and exploring, returning to the amazing team at Eddie Bauer when the weather turned cold. Throughout my career as a ranger, I practically lived in my Eddie Bauer gear and clothes. I have travelled from coast to coast and have worn my EB and First Ascent gear while hiking mountains, horse packing the mountains, canoeing northern lakes, exploring ice volcanoes and so much more.

About two years ago I moved out to Kananaskis, Alberta where I now work year round as a hiking/snowshoe/canoe guide and firefighter. I am outside every single day, no matter the weather and because of the layering and gear knowledge I learned at Eddie Bauer, I am always prepared.

I am truly living my dreams, sharing my passion for adventure, nature and exploration with people each and every single day. I spend my days paddling clear mountain likes, summiting mountains and exploring waterfalls.

Eddie Bauer really inspired my love for the outdoors and prepared me for my life and career as a professional adventurer. If my gear could talk, it would tell some incredible stories. I still have almost all of the Eddie Bauer gear I started out with, and have added on to it throughout the years. My original Little Tahoma backpack is still one of my most frequently used pieces of gear.

I wouldnt be who I am or where I am today if it wasnt for the inspiration I had while working at Eddie Bauer. It was a part time job that has lead to a life full of adventure.

Sincerely,

Chelsea Scott

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Spring Paddling

With all this gorgeous warm weather and sunshine, the lakes and rivers around Kananaskis have been opening up and I havent been able to resist getting out on the water. I have already been out paddling three times this season with plans to go out again this weekend. So where have I been paddling? My favourite open spots so far are at the Seebe Dam, in Exshaw and the Resevoir below Ha Ling in Canmore.

Check out the pictures below to see the best of spring paddling so far!

My favourite photo by far is this one:

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But I also love these:

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I often get asked ‘Any special gear for spring paddling?’

And honestly in the mountains, no. The water doesn’t change temperature a whole lot from summer to winter. The water is cold. You also should just always be prepared with smart layers. Depending on my likelihood of going for a swim, I wear a wetsuite or drysuit as well as an insulation layer over top and a shell if its windy. I have a pair of 3mm neoprene coldwater gloves from MEC that are perfect for Rocky Mountain water year round. And when its a little chillier, I love to bring a coffee or tea with me and my one-handed Stanley travel mug is perfect (my kayak even has a cupholder!). My go-to insulation layer this year has been my Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody. I lived in it all winter long and it has turned out to be a great spring paddling piece as well. Its cozy, warm, breathable and stretchy: what more can you ask for?

Stay tuned for more paddling pictures coming soon!