Essential Winter Paddlewear
With the colder winter months approaching, the t-shirt and shorts you got away with during the summer need to be swapped out with more robust items of clothing better suited to keeping you warm and dry. Colder air temperatures combined with rain or stronger winds or the risk of capsize require us to think differently about what we wear. If we are engaging in a paddlesport that has a higher chance of regular immersion in water you may wish to consider a wetsuit or long john wetsuit and dry cag combination, though if you are more cautious in your paddling and falling in is an occasional affair you may be better suited to lightweight thermal clothing beneath a wind and waterproof cag top.
Recreational paddling tends to be more sedate than whitewater or canoe polo, so we need to apply different solutions depending on what type of paddling we are participating in and where we might be going when we paddle.
The worst-case scenario is that you are paddling a long way from civilisation, you fall in, you get wet which leads to you getting cold as you hadn’t dressed appropriately for the occasion. As your hands, feet and head start to get cold and you begin to shiver, your fellow paddlers need to curtail their activity and turn their focus to you before you become hypothermic….
Everyone paddling in the winter has a responsibility to dress suitable for the occasion so that in the event of a capsize you are not a risk to the remainder of your group.
Below we give examples of what you should be looking to wear so that you do not hinder the group or the activity that you were previously so keen to be a contributing part of.
You will see people wearing dry suits specifically made for paddling. These are expensive, and there are many other ways to keep warm…….
A base layer may consist of a short or long sleeved top and leggings.
Try to avoid cotton, choose a base layer made from polyester or polypropylene as these are better for warmth when wet than cotton. Depending on conditions you may want to consider wearing 2 thin base layers. Avoid thick fleeces/jumpers/cotton sweatshirts, should these get wet they are extremely heavy and cold.
Top Half – Cag Top
There are many designs specific to paddling, some keep you dry (dry cag or semi dry cag) others allowing water to creep in (cag with neoprene cuffs). Basically, they protect you from the wind.
Bottom Half – Wetsuit or Dry Trousers
Perhaps a Long John wetsuit, or neoprene trousers. Worn over a base layer either should be as close fitting as possible without being restrictive. Alternatively dry trousers could be an option for your lower half. Think about the practicality of what you wear – how easy will it be to go to the toilet should the need arise!
Choose neoprene booties or hard sole shoes especially for water sports. Or why not neoprene socks worn into the shoes? (normally need to buy one shoe size larger to accommodate the socks).
A lot of heat is lost through the head. Consider wearing a hat.
This can be a kayak helmet or a skull cap, or both.
Maybe a beany hat is your preference.
Essentially windproof mits that attach to the paddle and reduce wind chill.
There are many types out there specifically for kayaking and are not expensive. Normally neoprene designed to allow a layer of water in that heats up with body temperature. The kayak specific gloves are even shaped as if you are already holding the paddle.
Note – It will feel strange initially paddling with gloves, the glove thickness kind of gives less sensitivity, but like anything you soon acclimatize to this. Funnily enough when the warm weather comes along it again feels strange taking off the gloves, the paddle shaft feels so small in diameter.