While most people might think of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding as summer recreational sports, cold weather kayaking is as adventuresome as any other outdoor activity. No longer limited to safe river banks and silvery beaches, kayaking in the winter offers a brand new challenge – navigating white water. Instead of simply paddling against current over pristine, snow-caped channels, in the winter your boat and you become part of the growing body of water moving against the current. In warm weather conditions, kayaks can still be difficult to maneuver through chunky ice chunks and slippery ice fields – but when currents take the form of waterfall flows and swift eddies, it becomes all the more exciting. There are a few simple tips to keep in mind when kayaking in the winter.
It’s important to have a good pair of drysuits for every trip, for multiple reasons. Drysuits help protect you from hypothermia, one of the primary dangers of kayaking in winter. Drysuits allow you to breathe easier when standing in the kayak, allowing more oxygen to reach the brain and body for sustaining alertness. They’re also helpful in other ways, including defense against nasty falls that could leave your paddleboard slopping around in the water. Proper protection of the body should be the first concern when getting ready for a cold weather kayaking excursion. Below are three must-have drysuits for winter Kayaking.
Wetsuits are one of the most important cold weather kayaking gear items. Like a jacket, a properly fitted wetsuit protects you from rain, wind, and cold temperatures as well as from physical contact with objects in the water. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a couple of different wetsuit sizes, so you have the option if you find one that doesn’t fit you right (which is bound to happen with cold conditions). The main types of wetsuits available for a kayak include neoprene and full-body wet suits.
Paddling gloves are another piece of cold weather kayaking gear that can make a big difference in your comfort and enjoyment of the water. Gloves will provide an extra barrier of protection between you and the water, preventing chaffing and frostbite. Because you’ll probably be hands-free, it’s a good idea to wear a full-face mask, which offers better protection from wind and snow. In addition to preventing hypothermia, a full face mask will keep unwelcome cold water from stinging your eyes, further reducing your discomfort while in the water.
As far as clothing choices, wetsuits and drysuits are probably going to be your top choices, although you may want to consider a few other options, depending on your circumstances. For example, if you live somewhere that gets really cold during the winter, you may want to consider taking an extra wool or other warm clothing with you. In fact, for anyone with sensitive skin, it’s probably a good idea to take along some extra moisturizer as well – although again, don’t forget your wetsuits and drysuits!
Paddling boards are a great way to keep your extremities warm, especially if you’re paddling alone. Available in a wide range of lengths, they are an essential part of any cold weather kayaking gear package. Of course, you will also need paddling boots, life jackets, paddles and possibly a sit-on-top kayak for transporting. Again, make sure your footwear is capable of handling the type of water you will be paddling in. Some boots can even double as surfing shoes!
If you do plan on kayaking alone in cold weather conditions, a must-have item is a blanket. It doesn’t matter how cold it is where you are – a wool blanket will keep you warm and cozy. For even more warmth, consider bringing along a thermal long-sleeved jersey. Other items that may be useful include extra socks and mittens, a hat, sun cream, face mask and sunglasses. If you’ve got kids along, be sure to take along a paddle and an oar, too.
Paddling coats are also important to bring along on any sort of cold weather kayaking trip. Again, it doesn’t matter if you are alone or with family. A good cold weather paddle jacket should have a few pockets that are deep enough to stash anything you need, including a camera, but not so deep that it becomes cumbersome. The jacket will also need a liner – ideally one that is waterproof and offers some windproofing capabilities so that you don’t freeze to death on a long hiking or kayaking adventure. Your other options include an extra undergarment to change into, and possibly an inner layer of insulation to wear inside the jacket to avoid getting cold.