If you follow SUP racing, you’ve probably heard about the epic conditions at the 32 mile “Chattajack” race on the Tennessee River. Temperatures plummeted throughout the day into the 30s and 40s. Head-wind and freezing cold rain were almost always present. And many competitors had to drop out due to hypothermia. I was cold the whole time, but I managed to wear just enough to keep me going and finished with 2nd place in the 12’6” SUP category. It took me 5 hours and 48 minutes!
My VestPac is an indispensable part of my race day equipment.
This year I wore a second running vest over top of my VestPac to keep warm and add extra protection from the wind and rain. I figured I could easily remove it that way when I started to overheat. Only thing is I never got warm!
Luckily my hydration tube and nutrition were still easily accessible.
While many of my competitors are fussing with deck bags and pouches of various kinds, I’m able to quickly retrieve my Honeystinger nutrition from my front vest and get back to paddling, leaving them behind. I can’t imagine Chattajack without my VestPac.
For hydration at Chattajack the last 3 years, I’ve brought 2 large reservoirs (2 liters each) filled with water and either Nuun tablets or Tailwind added.
Another benefit of the VestPac system is how easy it is to switch out the reservoirs when one runs dry.
There are no zippers or anything to contend with. You just undo the buckle and switch them out. I haven’t yet had to do this. The extra reservoir is really just for emergency. But if I did run out, I’d rather be able to quickly change them out than have to pull over to an aid station for a refill or take forever to change them out.
Another VestPac pro tip: Use tri-glides through the straps by the buckles to keep them from loosening too much after hours of movement. My first year, the straps loosened up halfway through the race to the point where the straps would dangle off my shoulders depending on which side I was paddling. This doesn’t happen normally. But when you’re stand up paddle racing using your entire body for stroke mechanics, they may work themselves loose over the course of many, many miles. In that race, I was forced to drop out of my draft train. But because the straps are so easy to re-tighten, I didn’t get too far behind and was able to sprint back up to my draft buddies. Adding tri-glides will easily prevent that scenario from ever happening. Check out the blog post "Do Your VestPac Straps Come Loose" to find out how to get your free tri-glides to keep your straps secure.
Follow Matt Kearney on Instagram: @stokeonthewater