Boating is about a lot more than just the boat—it’s the time they allow us to spend together and the places they enable us to explore. Here are some of the newest pieces of gear that will take your boating adventures from good to great.
BOTE Rover Aero
Boats today are asked to serve more roles than ever, so why shouldn’t the same be true of our paddle boards? The BOTE Rover Aero can be equipped with a 6-hp outboard, rod holders, a bucket seat and/or a power pole, transforming this inflatable into a bona fide skiff. Leave those accessories home and you still have one of the most stable boards on the market. At 63 pounds and deflated to the size of an extra large duffel bag, it’s likely you’ll want to keep it inflated all season to avoid the hassle of storage. —D.H.
Grundéns Deck-Boss Ankle Boots
Confession: I still wear the same Grundéns fishing boots that I got back in the 9th grade. Sure, they’re a couple sizes too small, but they’re finally sporting the proper combination of scuffs, cuts and blood stains. The new Deck-Boss Ankle Boots I tested last summer lacked that patina but made up for it in style and comfort. I appreciated that the low cut kept my legs cool while performing chores like washing down the boat. And the grip they offered even on the slipperiest surfaces can’t be beat. Breaking these boots in? Now comes the fun part. —D.H.
Yeti Hopper Flip 8
It’s hard to gauge what’s better for Yeti—their copious name-checks in country music or being the generic trademark for a new breed of robust coolers tailored to outdoor enthusiasts. They are a brand that’s launched a thousand imitators and they keep innovating. The Hopper Flip 8 is their smallest yet still mighty soft cooler that’s ideal for day hike hydration and roadies for dinghy rides. —J.M.
Costa Vela Sunglasses
I tend to put sunglasses through the ringer, scuffing them up and often carelessly throwing them in my bag between adventures. But the Velas have stood up to my tough love. The durable construction, polarized lenses and snug fit make them a keeper. Plus, part of the proceeds fund OCEARCH’s white shark research expeditions, which I recently experienced firsthand. It’s a killer combination. —K.K.
GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel
Few things are as anxiety-producing as a nearly-dead phone when you need to call your buddy on shore to say you’ll be late for dinner, or worse, when you’re relying on it to track the crew’s MOB devices. The GoalZero Nomad 7 Plus solar panel can charge your phone directly, or charge a battery bank like the Goal Zero Nomad, for later juice. We found the Nomad 7 Plus to be trusty in bright sun, but keep an eye on it, because it’s easily knocked over by a gust. —K.K.
If you simply can’t wait to get where you’re going, the ePropulsion Vaquita has you covered. The electric motor attaches to the fin housing on most paddle boards and kayaks (make sure you have the correct adapter). On a full charge at top speed, it will cruise for 70 minutes using the wireless accelerator. Installation is a bit cumbersome, and there’s a learning curve for steering, but the Vaquita is a welcome tool when you need to get somewhere in a pinch. —K.K.
Simms Dry Creek Z Fishing Backpack
A dependable dry bag is a boater’s best friend. I’ve tried a few different brands over the years and recently came away impressed by Simms’ fishing backpack. First off, I liked the fact that everything was accessible by the buttery smooth, waterproof zipper: easy access, whereas roll-up packs make going for something every so often feel like a chore. It’s also fairly beefy for its size: to determine its waterproof level, we got all of a pillow to fit in there without issue. That reminds me: The entire bag is waterproof, even the straps—a fact I found promising. It’s ready for any fishing or boating adventure on the horizon. —S.M.
Simms Surf Shorts
There’s a lot to like in Simms’ laid-back surf shorts. The traditional fit—a fixed waist with drawcord—felt secure; no need to fear a particularly powerful wave knocking them off. Maybe it’s unfair to criticize board shorts for their lack of pockets, as the demographic they’re tailored to—surfers—don’t especially need them, but I find one pocket to be sorely lacking, even if it’s a zippered cargo pocket. That said, I’d still throw them on for the comfort alone. And the device on my arm? That’s the ACR OLAS Crew Tracker. It took about seven seconds to notify us via the ACR app that Jeff had jumped into the water while wearing his. —S.M.
GoLite ReGreen Windshell
After the folks at GoLite learned that green plastic bottles are not recycled—manufacturers pass over them as they can’t be dyed—they leaned in and created the ReGreen Windshell. Made from 100 percent recycled green bottles bound for the landfill, I found the stylish shell ideal for cooler summer mornings and evenings, sudden squalls and with the hood up, effective for midday sun protection. —J.M.
Pakayak Bluefin 14 Kayak
The first time I saw Pakayak’s nesting doll of a kayak, and realized the Assembly Required* nature of it, I immediately bet Krista that this thing was going to take on water. Paddling it close to the boat, I was thoroughly surprised. Long story short: It was dry as a bone. Designed and built in the U.S., the rigid Bluefin 14 with six sections that clamp together is in the mid-range of weight (59 pounds) for its size and is easily portable. The kayak comes in four colors and took us about 10 minutes to set up/break down. —S.M.
Yeti Boomer 8 Dog Bowl
I passed this test onto two of my most faithful companions. Salty (left, not to be confused with Simon at right) seemed to enjoy the nearly indestructible bowl that holds 8 cups of water well enough, but then again, she also seems content to eat her breakfast from a pan I picked up at Rite Aid. Simon, on the other hand, is what we call in the office a “breakfast connoisseur.” In a pinch out on the Vineyard he soaked up Life (the cereal, that is) with a cold glass of whole milk. I dare say he enjoyed it even more than Salty did. If he knew I had my dog test the Yeti first, he might have felt differently. Either way I give this bowl two-paws up. —D.H.
L.L. Bean Tropic Knitwear Hoody
There are a lot of sun shirts out there. This one, available in late December, might not be the most breathable or quick-drying, but it’s exceedingly comfortable and the hood is large enough to fit over a hat or just a big head. The UPF 50 and anti-microbial design are welcome for long days in the sun; I came away sunburn-free, and it still smells like new after several washes. It’s a perfect layer to throw over a swimsuit when you want sun protection without having to lather up. —K.K.
Sperry Bionic Boat Shoe
The oceans are full of plastic, and many brands are designing products whose proceeds purport to help solve the problem. Sperry’s Bionic line takes a time-tested shoe and ups the ante with material made from ocean plastics, which feels durable like a sail. According to Sperry, each pair of Bionic shoes—there are seven models in the line that range from loafers to deck boots—is woven from approximately five recycled plastic bottles. The color choices are bold, and it took a while to wear in the shoes, but they did the trick all summer long. Stylish shoes that help rid our oceans of plastic: That’s a comfortable combination. —K.K.
Body Glove PR1ME 2mm Short-Sleeve Spring Suit
I had Body Glove’s 2-mil suit on in record time. The super stretchy exterior secures with an over-the-head flap that zips and buttons across the chest. A bib cinch keeps it snug, and non-chafe seams and the GlideSkin neck and arm seals ensure all-day comfort. It’s my new go-to for SUP sessions and boat washdowns when the water temp hasn’t yet caught up to the warmer air. —J.M.
Mustang Survival Highwater 22L Weatherproof Day Pack
$100, mustang survival.com
Dry bags have one job. This 22-liter backpack does the trick in a lightweight, stylish design. The ripstop nylon is completely waterproof—we tested it during a Seabob race—and the exterior mesh pockets are ideal for storing a water bottle or sunglasses. It’s the perfect size for a day’s provisions, a towel and a change of clothes. To the beach! —K.K.
Tohatsu MFS5LPG Propane Outboard
All proper gear tests should include a wild card. This year’s was the 5-hp propane-powered engine from Tohatsu. I admit, I turned my nose up at first. “I don’t want my boat powered by the same fuel I use to cook hot dogs,” I may have mentioned. I would eat those words after a summer-long test of this engine. Once paired with a 17-pound Trident fiberglass propane tank, it sported a superior range to its gas counterparts. Look for a more in-depth look at propane outboards in a future issue. —D.H.
Smith Freespool MAG
In my experience with sunglasses, what you see is what you get. Smith’s Freespool MAG glasses flips that idea on its head. Polarized lenses combine with two pairs of interchangeable temples: one with integrated side shields to protect from glare on the water, the other leaner, hewing closer to the standard style you’re used to. When out fishing or boating, the versatility is appreciated. And the easy clip-on temples are so foolproof that you’ll justify changing them out based on the day’s given activity. That’s a win-win in my book. —S.M.
Seabob F5 S
We must have been quite a sight: a bunch of adults tussling for a toy. It was a classic summer day on Martha’s Vineyard. Families splashed at the beach, kite boarders carved turns through the mooring field and the ferry came in and out like clockwork.
My colleague Jeff Moser zipped up to the beach, dragging behind a neon orange Seabob F5 S. The jet-powered contraption, which can skim the surface or dive underwater, goes up to 12 mph and 13 nm. The user perches their chest on the device and holds the throttle, pushing a button to shift through the six gears.
Jeff was grinning as he slid off his goggles and dismounted the Seabob. It was decided that our boss, Marine Group President Gary DeSanctis, should go next. That seemed fair. I waited for my turn, noticing the other beach-goers squinting at the strange device zig-zagging through the harbor.
When my time came, I shifted through the gears and got going fast enough to be grateful that my shorts had a drawstring. I turned sharply and nosed the Seabob underwater, not sure what to expect. It pulled me gracefully below, and brought me right back to the surface when I gave it a slight upward tilt. I popped up like a seal and my colleagues on the beach cheered. This was shaping up to be a strange workday.
The Seabob F5 S weighs nearly 75 pounds. One of the company’s promotional photos shows an, ahem, chiseled lad carrying the device nonchalantly, one-handed. Realistically, it’s a two-person endeavor to move the toy from your boat’s storage area to the swim platform. The Seabob plugs into a standard outlet and charges for seven hours, which yields enough juice for an hour of drive time.
Paired with scuba diving equipment (and a diving license that shows your safety chops), the Seabob can be programmed to dive up to 131 feet. On our outings, the standard 8-foot setting was thrilling enough. And don’t forget your goggles.
The price tag on the Seabob F5 S—which is the mid-range model—is enough to knock your flippers off ($12,950), but this toy will be the talk of the town long after the party’s over. —K.K.