Articles - Canoeing & Kayaking Gear For Women - Palm Equipment

Palm Equipment Canoeing & kayaking Gear for Women
Palm Equipment Canoeing & kayaking Gear for Women
Canoe & Kayak UK Editorial - Images courtesy of Palm Equipment International - Posted on 14 Apr 2014
Let's face it, no matter what canoeing or kayaking discipline floats your boat if you want to be a regular paddler in the UK it’s going to mean getting out there in some pretty cold, wet and miserable conditions. These days that’s no problem if you’ve got good, suitable gear to keep you warm and as dry as possible but it wasn’t that long ago that female paddlers were faced with a pretty limiting choice of kit that had been designed for men and not surprisingly, generally fitted pretty badly. Not ideal.

The argument from the paddling trade was that there weren’t really enough female paddlers to make designing and manufacturing female specific patterns. Kind of a chicken and egg situation. As a women paddler it cannot of been very welcoming to find that there was no gear available for you, and equally off putting to find that badly fitting gear generally leads to a colder, wetter experience on the water.

And then like a tiny trickle that’s going to grow in to a trickle gear for women started to appear. For some early-adopters amongst the trade it was just a case of making an existing product a size smaller and making it pink! But for some like Palm Equipment they wanted to make gear that really answered the questions that women were asking of them. In response to feedback from female paddlers in 1991 they designed a version of their popular Canyon river running buoyancy aid specifically for the female form. It was used at the time by a woman only expedition to the Himalaya. Pretty ground bearing in itself at the Palm Gear for Women Canoeing Kayaking Kit  Female Specuific time. That design became the Canyon S and went on to be a best seller for Palm to female and male paddlers a like.

As the years have gone on Palm have continued to design and produce gear for women leading us in to the present day where they have a good range of really technical top-line female-specific kit to really give women paddlers a better experience on the water and more choice in their local canoe shops.

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather...
Only bad clothing as the ol’ Scandinavian saying goes. And that’s true! Canoeing & kayaking can be particularly demanding on kit, as even when it doesn’t rain you’re going to get wet. And the equipment that we all use has significantly improved for all of us, modern materials, such as breathable fabrics, and manufacturer and design have made incredible advances in the quality, function and durability of modern kit for all. This translates in to the fact that the modern paddler of all genders can enjoy a more comfortable, and therefore enjoyable, experience out on the rivers, lakes and seas than ever before.

More Gear Means More Women
Those advances already help make modern paddling kit better for women, but fundamentally women are different shapes and builds to men, so high-end technical materials are still only as good as the patterns they are cut to. And this is where Palm has really stepped up to the plate. Each garment is designed to fit the female form, combined with feedback from their team paddlers (they have some of the most experienced and skilled female paddlers around on their roster) and end users translates in to designs that provide fit, comfort, freedom of movement and protection from the elements than ever before, and that has to be applauded. The numbers of women participating in paddle-sports has grown year on year significantly and their are female paddlers mixing it up at the very top of all aspects of the sport, from coaching to whitewater extreme racing. Paddling canoes & kayaks is such an amazing activity that it was always just a matter of time before more and more women were drawn to its rewards, but having well-fitting performance kit to help on the journey must of plaid a significant part in quickening that process and swelling the numbers faster than may of otherwise been the case.




Palm Equipment Canoe Kayak Gear KitBarney Caulfield - Palm Product Designer
I’ve been working withPalm for 15 years working in research and development and been responsible for design of most of Palm’s products during that time - from buoyancy aids to surface immersion suits, inflatable kayaks to cam straps and everything in between!


How does a female specific design begin?
At the moment, we offer a lot more men’s gear than women’s so the aim is easy – to bring parity to the product line so we have equivalent key pieces for both men and women. The difficult bit is identifying which pieces to offer. The number of women participants is growing, but still much smaller than men, so we have to pick which pieces are going to be most successful in the market place. The more women take up the sport, the more pieces we can offer.

Is the process significantly different to working on a unisex or male product?Palm Kayaking Kit for Women - Canoeing kit for women - Kayak Gear for Women - Canoeing Gear for Women
Yes and no. We use all the same components and we aim to satisfy the same general design requirements – fit, function and safety - so the products are similar. The majority of women paddlers we talk to want exactly the same performance and function as the men’s equipment, they just need it to work for their unique physicality.

How do you gauge what women want? Are there any specific questions they want answered in a piece of kit?
We gauge what people want by listening to as many as possible involved in all areas of the sport and industry. All paddlers really want equipment that works for them. We try to achieve that by working closely with the Palm team, our retailers and everyone who attends our demo events be it men, women or kids.

What does the Palm design team hope to achieve with each new piece of women specific canoeng & kayaking kit you add to your range?
We want to encourage more women to canoe & kayak! If we can make the sport more appealing by offering well-designed products that improve comfort out on the water, we can break down some of the barriers associated with immersion sports participation. The more women take up the sport means we can make more gear specifically for them – it’s a symbiotic relationship.

For you as a paddling gear designer what have been the really breakthroughs in women specific kit.
What’s been really good from a technical standpoint is improving our understanding of women’s sizing. The more women we can get to use the gear, the more we can make the sizing better and more accurate. This naturally takes time, but we are at a point now were we are confident we can offer products that fit really well across the size range.

Specific product breakthroughs?
We continue to hear really good things from women customers about the Luna buoyancy aid (PFD). This was not an easy product to develop, a whitewater PFD by definition needs to include a certain amount of floatation foam. This is at odds with women’s requirements for a shorter torso, more room at the bust and a smaller footprint in general. We spent a lot of time trying to balance the foam distribution. It sounds like we got it right for the majority of users, which is very pleasing.

What’s in the pipeline? Are you working on expanding your existing range?
Absolutely! We are 100% committed to women paddlers and we are continuing to expand our range, watch this space.

Palm Equipment Gear for Women Kit Paddling Canoe KayakRowena Knight
Palm International Sales

I’ve worked at Palm for just over thee years, but well as my role within the business I’m also the daughter of Palm founder Andy Knight, so I have literally grown up with the Palm and seen a lot of changes over the years, including the introduction of women’s specific gear! I look after all our International customers making sure they are always stocked up with Palm kit! But I can also be found involved in anything from events, helping the team and product development and getting on the water whenever I can.

Palm was most certainly one of the first paddle-sport companies to really pioneer designing kit specifically for women, what prompted that move?Palm Paddling Gear for Women - Freestyle Kayaking - Canoeing Gear for Women
Pretty simple really. Growing numbers of female paddlers asking us for well fitting gear. We also saw the way things were going in the wider outdoor industry and also our own shopping habits. I don’t go into Snow and Rock expecting to buy men’s snowboarding gear for myself, so why would I want to do that for my paddling gear.

Compared to today the market was relatively small back then, so it was a brave decision. Is it something that you feel especially proud of as a company?
Definitely, we feel really proud, especially when we see women on the water wearing the kit and looking good. It’s great when we get feedback from women that are really happy with the kit and that they really notice the difference in comfort and performance the women’s gear gives them.

As a sport we’ve seen a really good increase in the number of women participating, right across the disciplines. Do you think the availability of good, specifically designed kit as helped that?
At Palm we think it definitley helps if you can find kit that makes you feel comfortable, confident and safe on the water, and hopefully it will also make you want to paddle more. Also the trend across all outdoor sports is for functional kit that looks great, so we feel we are really leading that trend in paddle-sports. I also think that credit must go to the achievements of paddlers like Justine Curgenven, Shannon Carroll or Freya Hofmiester for really pushing the level that female paddlers can achieve. Great inspirations to us all!

What role is Palm hoping to play in the further development of women in paddle-sports?
We’re increasing our female sponsorship, so that we have more women as ambassadors for Palm and within the sport of paddling. This is across all areas from touring to freestyle, rafting to extreme whitewater. We also attendinbg loads of events around the country, including a few female specific ones, so they're opportunities to talk to lot of women about gear whilst getting out on the water with them, to
help us continue to develop our gear for women.

Will you continue to expand and grow your
range of gear for women?

Absolutely, it seems there’s really good potential to expand the range with the current products selling really well and the number of females participating increasing. I think Barney is going to have a lot more work on his hands looking at the number of requests we’re getting and it’s also great we’ve now got a female designer in the company as well.

To check out the latest rage of Palm paddling gear for Women go HERE


Check out our reviews of the female-specific Palm Element Dry Suit 

Check out our reviews of the female-specific Palm Luna Buoyancy Aid (PFD) HERE





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