Review: Jack's Plastic Welding River Gear

Paco Pad
The Paco Pad has long been a piece of gear glorified by boaters. After years of listening to them and sleeping on my little blowup pad, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was really worth all the hype. Well folks, the answer is “yes.”

The Paco Grande Pad ($409) from Jack’s Plastic Welding is a three-inch thick sleeping pad made from high-density foam. Whether I’m sleeping on the beach or a pile of rocks, my hips and shoulders don’t dig into the gravel and the thick foam keeps me insulated from the ground on cooler nights. With the river as white noise and the stars as a backdrop, I sleep better on this pad than I do in my own bed.

When not in use, a water-tight air valve allows you to compactly roll the pad up. It easily self-inflates when ready to use. The Paco Pad holds its own when it’s time to crash for the day, but also serves a purpose throughout the float day. Flexible and PVC-coated, the Paco Pad is easy to strap over a dry-box or cooler, perfect for the passenger princesses to hang out on while floating. Once at camp, throw it down by the fire and you’ve yourself got a comfy seat.

The Paco Pad is now on my list of requirements for rafting day trips and overnights, but it also makes the cut for car camping trips, or when cramming more people than the bed count at the Airbnb allows—shh!

Pooch Pad
When cowboy camping, my pup Scout usually makes herself comfortable on the bottom half of my sleeping pad. Yes, the Paco Grande is long, but I usually still end up sleeping in a curled-up ball because I don’t have the heart to kick her off. The good news is, Jack’s Plastic Welding now makes a Pooch Pad ($106) specifically for dogs.

Now, Scout has her own luxurious spot to camp and I can stretch my legs guilt free. PVC-coated just like the Paco, the pooch pad is easy to clean off and dries quickly, making it perfect for a wet and sandy doggo on the river.

It’s also great for adding extra cushion on board the raft, and the smaller size makes it easier to rig in more compact places. When not out on the river, I keep the Pooch Pad in the backseat of my car, so my trail pup has a place to hang out that’s easier to clean than my fabric seats.

Round Bottom Outfitter Bag
A multi-day river trip requires strategic packing. You need to bring the necessities, extra layers, sleeping gear, and don’t forget about the costumes! The Medium Round Bottom Outfitter Dry Bag has been a real luxury for river trips this spring.

The round bottom design optimizes storage, while also keeping the bag upright when digging through it to find items I mistakenly packed on the bottom (I thought Hawaiian shirt day was tomorrow?) The bag’s robust construction and welded seams keep all items dry amidst splashes and rapids, ensuring gear remains intact throughout the journey. The heavy-duty boat handle makes it easy to secure when rigging, and to toss around when assembly-lining gear off boats at camp. Plus, it comes in hot pink. Need I say more?

Roll Down Duffel
Whether you’re on a day float or a multi-day, it’s ideal to have a small, easy-to-access dry bag for snacks, sunscreen, first-aid supplies, and other frequently used items. The Small Roll Down Duffel ($218) fits the bill, and has an enclosure on the side so I can get what I need out quickly before going into a rapid.

It comes with a removable sling, so I can bring it along for a day hike or remove it when it comes time to rig. The three-fold roll down system keeps items secure and dry when navigating whitewater, or if it just happens to plop in the river while reorganizing the boat. Overall, it’s a worthy companion on any river trip.

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