Equipment guide for canyoneering in washington state: part 2
This information is merely meant to be educational and not instructional. Seek out qualified instruction!
When planning a canyoning trip in Washington State, one of the most important things to consider is what equipment you’ll need. This post will walk you through the essential gear you’ll need for a safe and enjoyable canyoning trip.
If you’re unfamiliar with canyoning, it combines hiking, climbing, and swimming through narrow canyons. It’s a great way to explore the outdoors and exercise simultaneously.
To make the most of your canyoning trip, there are a few essential items you’ll need to bring. This post is part of a series on choosing appropriate canyoneering equipment.
Wetsuits are the most important piece of safety equipment in Washington State canyons. Canyoneers use a special canyoneering wetsuit that is very durable with protected rub points. It is possible to use diving wetsuits, but they will be more restrictive as you move through the canyons.
The gold standard in canyoneering wetsuits is the Spanish company SELAND. Their wetsuits are affordable and of premium quality. They can be difficult to find in the Seattle area, but you can order them online from Europe at barrabes or canyon zone. Expect to pay high shipping fees and import duties upon receipt of your wetsuit. Barrabes tends to ship faster and your wetsuit should arrive in a week.
Wild Sky Adventure Guides sells a limited number of Seland wetsuits every spring. Email us at email@example.com with any questions.
There are two types of Canyoneering Wetsuits: the two piece wetsuit and the one piece “steamer”. The two piece has the advantage of being more flexible and easier to move in, but it lets in more water than the one piece. Therefore the steamer is a better option if you plan on doing canyons outside of summer months.
Guide Preference: My preference is the Seland Verdon AZ with a pee zipper for men. For women the Luna is a great wetsuit that will fit your body better. For steamer wetsuits I recomend the Iguazu because it is thick in all the right places for warmth, but thinner in the critical spots that give you more flexibility.
If price is an important factor for you then I recomend the Seland ANETO. It is a quality wetsuit that will last many years without breaking the bank.
Don’t make the mistake of going into a frigid PNW canyon with a lightweight wetsuit! Cheaping out on a wetsuit can create the conditions where bad decisions accumulate and start to compound. A seemingly trivial mistake could end up costing you your life!
In whitewater canyoneering your backpack is an important link in the chain of safety. It securely holds your rope, all your safety equipment, your food and water, and your dry bucket. The backpack is a key tool that has many surprise uses.
Any canyoneering backpack should be made out of heavy duty PVC. Look for a bag with lots of drainage. The canyon bag should quickly fill and drain of water so that you don’t have to carry around additional water weight.
It is a fools errand to try to use a drybag as a canyoning bag. The canyon environment is very abrasive and you will eventually wear a hole into the bag, once water gets in the drybag is now a water bag.
The local PNW company NORHEX makes a canyoneering bag that has a very high build quality. Unfortunately it is often sold out.
Wild Sky Adventure Guides use bags made by RODCLE.
Rodcle makes several high quality backpacks that are ergonomical, functional, and practical. The Red Racer has a cult following due to its ergonomical shape, functionality, and lightweight design. It comes in many sizes up to 45 liters. For PNW canyons we recomend the 40 liter Lodrino.
Canyoneers have several different types of specialized canyoneering shoes to choose from. Here are things you should look for when choosing a Canyoneering Shoe.
Washington State’s canyons are slippery and full of running water. You should wear canyoning shoes with sticky rubber soles to prevent slipping in on algae or moss covered rocks.
Make sure that you wear neoprene socks when trying on Canyoneering Shoes before you buy. If buying online, you should buy shoes a half size too large to accommodate neoprene socks. You should prioritize shoes with good traction and drainage so that they don’t become waterlogged. Gore Tex shoes and large mountaineering boots are not recommended because they will become waterlogged and weigh you down.
You should buy shoes with a high ankle that will provide support and protect you from rolled ankles should your foot become entrapped in the river. The high ankle may very well save your ankles!
Guide Recomendation: I recommend the Adidas Hydrolace because they are lightweight, have stealth rubber soles, high ankle support, insulation, and great drainage! They are automatically sized for a neoprene sock. They can be difficult to find in the US, keep your eyes open for a pair, they are the best shoe around.
Canyon water in the PNW is cold. And your feet will be too if you don’t wear a pair of neoprene socks. 4-5mm socks are recommended for PNW canyons. There are various retailers who sell neoprene socks. Wild Sky recomends Seland 3 or 5mm socks.
Canyoneers use a typical rock climbing helmet. Canyon environments are by definition unstable environments. One of the objective hazards is rockfall so canyoneers wear helmets.
Guide Recomendation: I use the Black Diamond Halfdome helmet because it is inexpensive, functional, and durable.
Helmets aren’t just for protecting your brain. They can do double duty by securely holding your headlamps and emergency whistle!
Pro Tip: A light blue helmet is the most photographic color in desert canyoneering. A red or orange helmet takes the best pictures in whitewater canyons.
Whistle: A specialized marine whistle is a vital communication tool in swiftwater canyons. Local company Norhex sells a Marine Whistle for $2.00 plus shipping.
Lanyard: Your whistle needs to be connected to you with a lanyard. There are many types of lanyards to connect your whistle to your helmet. Find a system that works for you.
Guide Advice: Whistles are a vital communication tool but should be used sparingly and only when you lack visual contact with your partner. Noise pollution is one of the main impacts that canyoneers have on the canyon environment.
Wetsuit Pocket: Some wetsuits come with a whistle pocket. That’s a great spot to store your whistle.
Coming to Washington State to go canyoneering is a great idea!
Important: Canyoneering material can be difficult to get at short notice in Washington State. Therefore it is important to plan ahead and prepare. This series seeks to help answer questions about what equipment you need to go canyoneering and what questions to about the equipment before making any purchases.