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Independent Playak Review: Peak UK Combi Topdeck.
Peak UK Cagdeck: "Combi Topdeck"
When it comes to comfort in paddling gear, there is nothing better than a cagdeck. The cag attached to a spraydeck eliminates the need for a tight seal, so you can breathe freely - especially good when you need all your energy to work your favorite playspot. In warmer conditions it's nice to have a shortie too. But then, short cags often aren't as dry as long sleeved ones and if it gets chilly while waiting in the eddy, you may prefer long sleeves again.
The PEAK "2005 Combi Topdeck" tries to address all these needs. It comes with the tried and tested PEAK Freestyle Deck (Riot or keyhole size). The cag has Latex arm cuffs with adjustable neoprene covers and on the neck a neoprene cone, supported by an elastic strap, which lets you tighten the seal as needed.
But the combi is not only a shortie, it also comes with neoprene arms, which can be worn if it gets colder. They are backed with nylon on one side only, the other side is titanium coated for additional insulation. The arms can be stored in a big mesh front pocket.
First, let's see what the Peak UK website says about the Combi Topdeck:
Construction / Cut: Articulated. Fully taped seams.
Fabric: Breathable and durable Taslan nylon.
Neck: Neoprene cone with Aquaout seal.
Arms: Double latex and opening neoprene with one hand tensioning.
Deck: Attached to our Freestyle Deck.
Features: Unique design with detachable titanium neoprene sleeves. Front mesh pocket for storing sleeves.
And in practice?
The cag is the most interesting part of this gear of course, but let's spend a few words on the deck first: It is the same as my old Peak UK Squirt Deck. It's stretchy like nothing else I know. Even though this is the Riot version, it fits on my Pyranha 7-o just fine. The other day I forgot my other deck and I could even use the Topdeck on my H3 245, which is definitely not known for its small cockpit... Sure, this is not what it is designed for and regular abuse like this may destroy it. But as the deck is attached to the cag, you may like the possibility to switch boats with your buddies quickly without getting into trouble because of the deck.
The seal is very good, thanks to the extremely sticky latex coating on the bottom. This can be a downside too, as I found out when I first tried it on a Riot Orbit. In dry condition it was so sticky i couldn't get it on. But when wet, and with the right technique it will go on easily. Also, the Latex loses some of the stickyness, which is not too bad in this case.
And now for the cag: normally I need size S or M, but this was an L. I feared it might be too big for me, but no, it was ok. As i put a bigger guy in it, it still worked (see photos). The neck is very comfortable, like most neoprene cones. Far better than latex with a neoprene cover (which does make a better seal of course). With the additional elastic strap, you can tighten it up, which improves the seal considerably, and loosen it up again if the action stops. Also, this neck is really easy to get into and out of again.
The latex arm cuffs rest somewhere around your biceps, depending on how you're wearing it. The seal is as tight as all latex cuffs and with the adjustable, very nice neoprene cover you can improve the seal even further. This tight seal on your upper arm has a down side too: while paddling, the biceps' have to work against the pressure from this excellent seal. To some extent it may be a case of getting used to, and you can widen the latex if you want, but i never really got used to it. Technically, the wrist is a better place for a latex seal. What speaks for the biceps position is, that the latex is less stressed than those on wrists and necks, and thus will last longer.
Again a good idea are the attachable neoprene sleeves. They are ergonomically cut and don't disturb your paddling when you store them in your front pocket. As you pull them on, you can attach them to a velcro in between the latex and the neoprene cover. With the arms on, the feeling on the biceps gets even more bulky and it takes some fiddling and adjusting until it feels right. This may be somewhat improved on the 2006 model, as PEAK changed the attachment system slightly. On some of our last paddling days here on the Vorderhein in Switzerland, with the weather getting colder and shadow throughout the canyon, the neoprene sleeves proved to be a good thing. I finally liked it more than I thought I would after the first dry testing.
As I thought about the Combi and showed it to friends, the most common argument was something like "well, here in the alps it is either too cold for a shortie, and I need a drytop, or if i go play, I like my shortie." But then, if you consider that with normal cagdecks you have less flexibility in gear combination (different cags, different size decks), the "Combi Topdeck" has some clear advantages.
The Combi Topdeck is especially good for people who really like the feeling of paddling shortie, but still have to admit that sometimes it is just too cold for it. Also, if you never bought a cagdeck before, because you were not sure about taking short or long sleeves, have a look at the "Combi Topdeck"!
Kayakstore.net (buy online)