What to Wear Cold Weather Paddling

It’s starting to get chilly, and I know you’re thinking, it is time to pack away the boat for the season. Well, you’ll miss the best paddling season of the year. Watching the leaves change, and enjoying the peace and quiet from the seat of your canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board, is magical. Don’t fear the cold water – as long as you are prepared, you’ll stay dry and warm. Here’s what you need to know:

The Basics:

1. Layers (Arrange by “wick, warmth, weather”) Start with light wicking layers, then warming insulation, like sweaters or fleeces, and add a waterproof outer layer.

2. Avoid Cotton (Cotton soaks up water and holds it to your skin – a worthless insulator in the cold and wet)

Drysuit or Neoprene?


Drysuit

In a nutshell, a dry suit allows you to wear whatever insulation you need and stay dry. It’s important to note, a drysuit does not have any insulating properties, it simply keeps you and whatever insulating layers you choose to wear, dry. A dry suit is typically made of a waterproof breathable fabric like Goretex, similar to a rain jacket. A dry suit is an investment, and requires care to the gaskets that keep the water out. You will however be able to paddle longer into the cold, wet weather, and maybe dare I say… year round!

Neoprene

It is rare to find a paddler in a one piece neoprene wetsuit, as it can restrict arm mobility and breathing. Should you choose a one piece we recommend the farmer John or Jane style for paddling. These sleeveless suits are designed to insulate your core, (aka the most important parts of your body) while leaving your arms free to paddle!

Many choose to buy neoprene tops and bottoms separately, which are more comfortable, and can be worn together or separately. Neoprene is available in several thicknesses ranging from .5 to 6mm. 3mm neoprene being the most common for paddlers, and 6 mm primarily for surfing. Neoprene acts as an evaporation barrier, allowing a thin layer of water to seep in between your skin and the neoprene, trapping it there. That water retains your body heat and adds to the natural insulation properties of the neoprene to keep you warm.

 

What about a Dry Top or Dry Pants?

Dry tops and dry pants have gaskets at the wrists, and ankles which are meant to keep water out and you dry. The pants and tops also break the wind when you are on the water, keeping you warm. Often these are made of waterproof breathable fabric such as Goretex.

Dry Top

Great for spring or fall paddling where you’ll want protection from splash but it is too warm for a full suit.

Dry Pants

Is ideal for kayak fishing where you may be using a sit on top kayak where you’ll want protection waist down but may not need it waist up.

 

 

Feet


Booties

Wet booties are your friend – they’ll give you traction, and keep your feet warm. These are made of neoprene and keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water and using your body heat to warm the water.

Hands


Pogies

Pogies are neoprene mitts that wraps over your fingers, but leave your hand in contact with the paddle.

 

 

 

 

Neoprene Gloves

Wetsuit gloves offer more warmth than Pogies, however they don’t give you as much control as Pogies.

 

 

 

 

Neoprene Mitts

Are a super warm alternative to Gloves, having your fingers together adds warmth. ​ ​Similar to the gloves, they don’t offer as much control as Pogies.

Head


Neoprene Caps

A warm neoprene cap will do the trick to keep your head warm, neoprene will also fit easily under a helmet.