Pack Like a Pro: Kayaker Chris Gragtmans Shares His Tips

Pack Like a Pro: Kayaker Chris Gragtmans Shares His Tips

Professional kayaker, author and motivational speaker Chris Gragtmans manages the Pro Team for Dagger Kayaks from his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He says he loves the paddling community and world-class waters of the southeastern U.S. 

RobGravellePhoto by Rob Gravelle

I caught up with Gragtmans recently to get his thoughts on his sports, and the gear he uses to enjoy them.

Gear Institute: What are you up to these days Chris?
Gragtmans:  I’m really enjoying carving out my niche in the outdoor industry. I’m paddling as hard as ever as an athlete, but also learning the backend and business side of things. One project that has been very fulfilling is my Live Your Dreams Speaking Tour. It’s a high school and university tour that uses paddling and adventure as an analogy for career success. My goals over the next six months are to get in the best shape of my life, nail version 2.0 of this speaking tour, and have two great wintertime paddling trips to China and the UAE. 

SpencerCooke EffortTV-1 Photo by Spencer Cooke

Gear Institute:  Sounds awesome. So tell us, what items—other than sponsor’s gear—do you always bring when heading out on a trip like that?
Gragtmans: I love my DJI Phantom drone. It really provides incredible perspectives on the world around us. I try to be very careful and respectful about when to fly it though, so as not to ruin anyone else’s nature experience. 


I also always carry a good med kit. There are some very light ones on the market now, and it’s good to be prepared. I’d go ahead and include a SPOT device in this category as well. Both of these items can save a life.

Spot receiver

Finally, Honey Stinger is my race food of choice. This Colorado company is very cool, and I’ve always liked their products. I use their gels before every race. 

honey stinger

Gear Institute: Right on. And what gear from your sponsors do you always carry?
Gragtmans: I go to some remote and gnarly places, and I rely on BFGoodrich All Terrain Tires. They have never let me down. A new addition for 2015 is the KO2. I had the opportunity to test this tire in Baja, and it is unbelievably tough and capable.

honey stinger

In the water, I stick to Werner Paddles. Werner is the undisputed leader in kayaking, and has been making a huge splash in the SUP world as well.  I’ve always just wanted to go fast, so I love the Shogun for kayaking, and the Gran Prix for SUP. 


I love my Smith sunglasses. Smith is a core brand that has always supported outdoor sports at a grassroots level. My current favorite shade is the Smith Optics PivLock Overdrive with interchangeable lenses. I use this for MTB, drone flying, and road tripping.


Gear Institute:  Perfect. So for packing, what special gear-protecting techniques/tricks you use?
Gragtmans: For me it’s all about keeping stuff dry. Watershed Drybags are my go-to for that (Chattooga and Futa StowFloat), and I use them for everything.


I use the Pelican iM2450 Storm Case to protect and transport my drones.


Gear Institute:  What’s one other product you are interested in right now?
Gragtmans: I’ll be honest, I’m pretty interested in this new collapsible camping hot tub. I might need to make an investment in that soon.

Gear Institute:  Ha ha, thanks Chris. Anything else you want to share?
Gragtmans:  I believe in saving diligently on things that I don’t care about, and spending extravagantly on things that I do. Gear is one of the things that I believe is worth it. When you jump on a dialed mountain bike, or have your helmet protect your noggin from a big hit, that investment quickly becomes worth it.