Are you new to kayaking? Or maybe you're from the balmy south and wear shorties on the daily, looking to move to the great Pacific Northwest? Here in Oregon & Washington, we are pros at paddling snow melt. Like it's our job! Shoot - in some of our lucky cases, it literally is! Here to help you maximize your fun on those glacier fed rivers is our Top 5 List of What to Wear When Cold Water Kayaking!
1) Wet suits
Wetsuits use the insulating warmth of water to help keep the cold at bay. While it may seem like these neoprene outfits sit directly on your skin, they allow a very small amount of water to slip between you and the suit. Your body heat then warms that water and it serves as insulation against the water outside the suit.
2) Dry suits
While a wetsuit relies on your body heating the water captured next to it to help keep you warm, a drysuit focuses on keeping you dry. No matter where the water comes from, drysuits are the best when it comes to keeping you protected from the elements. Drysuits are commonly made using a nylon material that is then waterproofed using Gore-Tex. They are designed to keep any water from reaching your skin. Even if you capsize and spend time swimming, the latex gaskets and roll-up closers of the one piece suit keep the water off you.
3) Dry tops
Dry tops are made much like dry suits in that they include waterproof gaskets to prevent water from coming into contact with your skin, however, these suits only cover your upper body. The waistband is double layered and attached to your spray skirt. Most often, dry tops are paired with Farmer John wetsuits or dry bibs.
4) Insulation & layers
Underneath your wetsuit or drysuit, you may need another layer of insulation when things get very cold. Polartec® Power Stretch® fleece are a great choice and are designed fit perfectly under any protective clothing or worn separately. The fabric is abrasion-resistant to be soft next to your skin and breathable so that you don't get too hot.
There are a variety of accessories that help hold in the heat too. Helmet liners provide a warm fuzzy, water resistant barrier to keep the frigid water from hitting your head directly and it helps retain the heat coming off your head. Another accessory many of us find necessary, especially during the winter months when the air is as cold - or colder - than the water, is a pair or pogies or gloves. This is definitely an area of personal preference as some people don't like the constriction of pogies, which wrap your hands around the paddleshaft, or the lack of paddle feel you get from gloves, but both help retain that valuable heat your hands generate. Finally, don't forget your socks! Chacos are all well and good when you're paddling warm water, but for cold water, you're going to want booties with some warm neoprene socks underneath!
There's our top 5 recommendations. Want more detail? Visit our buyer guide! Or better yet, give us a holla and we can answer any specific questions you may have!
Labels: dry suits, dry tops, Hydroskin, immersion research, Kokatat, layers, nrs, Wet suits