Cold Weather Paddling
by Barbara Wendler
Okay, so it’s getting colder. That doesn’t mean it’s time to put away your paddles! Being on the water during the fall and winter months can be exhilarating and unforgettably beautiful, as long as you’re prepared! We want to pass along some tips to help keep you safe and comfortable.
First, plan. Check the air and water temperatures. If the sum of the two are less than 120 degrees, cold weather gear is a must. If the water temperature alone is less than 60 degrees, don your gear. The key is to protect yourself from heat loss, and the most efficient way to accomplish this is with layering.
Start with a “base” layer, which should be of a fabric that wicks moisture from your skin. These can be synthetics such as polyester, nylon and polypropylene. (Absolutely no cotton, which retains water and dries slowly.) The next layer(s) should help hold in your body heat but still allow you to move. Try synthetics, wool and/or neoprene. Your final “outer shell” layer is to protect your body from wind and water while still allowing for perspiration ventilation. This can be splash gear, a wet- or drysuit, or semi-dry wear. Remember – you’re on the water and exposure to water WILL happen.
Don’t forget about the other body areas, i.e. the head, feet and hands. Keep body heat in by wearing a neoprene or other synthetic-made helmet liner or fleece-lined hat. Neoprene is a common insulating material for gloves and socks, too. Put on liners first for even more protection. “Pogies” are terrific for keeping wind and water off your hands while still allowing for the skin-on-paddle grip. Neoprene booties complete your cold weather attire.
If you’re unsure that you’ve put together the perfect cold weather apparel, get in the water with it! Dress for the worst. And keep your body fueled with liquids and high carb foods.
Now, go out and play!