We are often asked the question, “What do you wear for cold-weather paddling?” So we thought we’d give you a brief top line of recommendations that work for us.
The short of it: Layer up – that’s the key. A good wicking base microfiber polyester shirt underneath “soft” layers like wool and fleece, aka “insulating layers,” and then finally a “hard” shell top like a jacket – all these go a long way to keeping you warm. Or at least not miserably chilly. Also, intentionally wearing your PFD adds a little extra core warmth to your torso, not to mention safety. And if you have a spray skirt, why not wear that too? Not only will it provide another layer to your torso, it’ll also prevent cold air from entering an otherwise open cockpit. The essential thing is just to layer up in the right materials, and always pack a spare set of clothes in a dry bag in case of an accident.
Here are some more specifics with some examples you’ll find on Amazon (sorry we only linked to Men’s items – we are dudes after all – but if you have trouble finding the appropriate female version, let us know and we’d be happy to direct you to something).
The absolute minimum when water temps have fallen just below normal.
Knit cap (mostly for the ears).
Water-proof gloves or mittens or fleece mittens inside neoprene mittens.
If there’s a likelihood of getting wet (rapids, for example), then the outfit would be totally different and consist of the following:
The is the ideal outfit for any cold-weather paddling.
The “economy” option is wet suit materials, aka neoprene. The pricey but bomb-proof alternative is a one-piece dry suit, typically made of GoreTex or nylon. This, of course, would be paired with wool or fleece base layers. A dry suit is always preferable to a wet suit, especially in cold weather paddling, but we totally get that not everyone can afford a dry suit (including us!). That said, as a rule of thumb, it’s best to “Dress to excess or you’ll catch your death.”