With whitewater kayaking using the right gear can be the difference between a great day on the river, and having a downright miserable one. It has to be said that for a good many years kayaking gear was, shall we say, less than sylish. Those who have been to any outdoor centre will attest to that!
However, having functional clothing that keeps you warm and dry comes ahead in priorities over how the gear looks on the catwalk. Or is it?
Earlier this year (2011) Palm Equipment revamped their entire range with a complete redesign. Not only were they aiming to make the kit more practical than ever, but they were also intending that it looked good too.
One of the flagship releases is the Atom drytop. Now you might be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t much to say about a kayaking drytop. After all their main function is to keep the wearer dry. But what Palm have done is to design their new tops with a number of factors in mind.
The first thing that you will notice if you have been using Palms previous gear is that they have moved to a smooth faced fabric. This is a subtle change, but it means that the gear now has a much cleaner look to it.
When Palm designed the new tops, the Atom included, they had to account for a few things. Firstly they had to make sure that the cags moved easily with all the positions the paddler might need to be in while paddling. In times gone by the lazy solution that manufacturers went for was to make the tops quite baggy. But with the new Palm range they have properly analysed the movements needed, which has resulted in a cag that can be much more fitted, thus using less material, while at the same time not restricting movement.
Palm didn’t stop there. Each panel has been designed with easy maintenance and replacement in mind, yet at the same time seams are kept away from places such as under the armpits.
So now that I have got the technicals out of the way, how does the Atom cag perform out on the river?
The answer is simple. It performs magnificently! With the gear I have used previously there is always some pull somewhere. With the Atom cag on the other hand I do not feel restricted in any way. The only tightness or pulling comes from any underlayers that I am wearing.
In fact so far I have been opting to wear the Atom instead of my drysuit precisely because of the ease of movement it allows.
Constructionwise the Atom cag is very well made. There is a lot of attention to detail. The drainage holes are laser cut and are surrounded with reflective detail. The velro fastenings also sport laser cut detail with a flash of colour beneath. While this might all sound a bit on the ‘poseur’ side of things, these details go a long way to show you how carefully Palm has considered the design. I always like to see a product that has clearly had some thought and care put into it.
The Atom cag also has a chest pocket that is large enough to take keys or a phone (in an Aquapac or equivalent) to save taking up space in your BA. There is also reflective piping around the arm, along with extra tough Kevlar® elbow reinforcement on top of the usual 330D style abrasion resistant material on the forearms. The inner skirt also has a very grippy inner rim to help it stop riding up during use.
All in all this is a very tough cag that should stand up to a lot of use. It is very comfortable to wear, looks great, and so far, kept me dry, as well it should.
The Atom cag is available in either Saffron/Jet Grey/Mist or Red/Jet Grey/Mist.If you can’t stretch to the price of the Atom, Palm also make the Surge drytop as well, which uses a slightly lighter weight fabric and lacks the Kevlar® elbow reinforcement, but keeps the active cut.