Pack like a Pro: Adventure Kayaking with Emily Shanblatt

Pack like a Pro: Adventure Kayaking with Emily Shanblatt

PFDPaddle-Stefi Van Wijk

Emily Shanblatt lives in Asheville, North Carolina, but plays all over the world as a professional kayaker and backcountry skier. The 27-year old says she takes on lots of different jobs to help fund her outdoor pursuits, including working as a substitute teacher, outdoor guide and instructor, and mentor for Girls at Play.

Gear Institute: Good morning Emily. We know you are busy. What are you up to these days?

Emily Shanblatt: I just spent a month kayaking in Ecuador, and am currently taking a bit of time out of my kayak to do some backcountry skiing in BC while I nurse a sore shoulder. This spring I’ll be back in my home, Asheville, North Carolina, when creeking season kicks into full gear with (hopefully) lots of spring rain! This summer I hope to spend some more time developing my play boating skills on the Ottawa River in Ontario. If I can learn to nail a few big wave tricks, I’ll be happy!

PFD Paddle-Cameron Thacker

Gear Institute: Let’s talk about your gear. When traveling overseas, or even just getting out locally into the backcountry, you can only take so much gear. What items always end up going with you?

Shanblatt: I’ve been carrying a SteriPen Adventurer Opti with me at all times since I became a diehard fan on a trip to Nepal in 2013. It’s lightweight, compact, and super easy to use. You never know when things are going to hit the fan on a river, and you’ll find yourself faced with a long day, a grueling hike out, or even having to spend the night. Having clean drinking water is a game changer in these situations.

Steri Pen Nepal-Stef McArdle

I also rely on the Diva Cup (female menstruation cup). It is a total game changer for any woman when it’s her time of the month. It makes dealing with your period unbelievably easy when you’re adventuring, and is so light and compact that it’s a no-brainer to bring everywhere. That way, you’re always prepared for your monthly visitor, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

The Sony Alpha NEX-6 camera is the most compact, lightweight, and easy to use camera I’ve found. It allows amateur photographers like myself to take great photos with minimal training. I also fits in a small Pelican Dry box, with saves space is my kayak.


Gear Institute: So that’s the stuff you personally selected for use. But you get a lot of support from sponsors. Of all their gear, what are a few your favorite things made by your sponsors?

Shanblatt: I love the Adventure Technology Duraweave Hercules Paddle. This is the strongest and lightest whitewater paddle out there. These factors combined with the killer blade design, and super comfortable shaft (especially the small shaft for paddlers like me with small hands) makes it the obvious choice for whatever river I’m tackling. From creeking, to big water, it’s always my go-to paddle.

AT HErcules

I’m also a big fan of the Bomber Gear Palguin Drysuit. The Palguin features the latest and greatest waterproof material using Polartec NeoShell. It’s so comfortable and easy to move around in, I forget I’m even wearing it! Staying bomber dry after a long day on the water makes the comfort factor even better.


My PFD is an Astral Green Jacket. It offers the best combination of comfort and storage. The clam-shell front pocket lets me keep everything from my safety gear (knife, pulleys, prusiks, carabiners) to a healthy stash of Snickers. I trust it in the most tumultuous whitewater, and life all my favorite gear, it’s so comfortable I forget I’m wearing it.

Astral Green Jacket

My Ocoee drybag from Watershed Drybags is most like a purse, in that it comes everywhere with me. Especially on the river, the waterproof seal keeps crucial items bone dry, and is the perfect size to shove in my stern or in between my legs. On multi-day expeditions and overnighters, the Futa bag is definitely part of my system. Doubling as a float bag, the Futa allows me to pack ergonomically into each side of my stern, and maintain volume for air in the event of a boat rescue.


Gear Institute: When load up for your trips are there any special packing or gear-protecting techniques/tricks you use?

Shanblatt: When packing up for traveling, I try to bring as many multi-purpose items as possible. My favorite wool shirt in the field will also be what I wear around town – the trick is to not let things get too stinky. When flying, I always carry on as much essential kayaking gear as possible. You can’t do this with a kayak and paddle, but carrying on my drytop, helmet, spray skirt and PFD allow me to paddle as soon as I arrive in my destination, even if bags get lost in transit.

When in the field, I rely solely on my Watershed Drybag system of Ocoee and Futa drybags. I trust the watertight gasket with my most precious items, and know that not matter what happens on the river, I’ll always have dry clothes at the end of the day.

Watershed Bags-Shanblatt