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What changes Cooler Weather/Water

What do you change in habits, gear, setup, supplies, etc.
when the water cools down and the weather gets colder ?


  • Not too many changes
    I start wearing a wetsuit and change from water booties to mukluks. If it gets cold enough, I might wear gloves.
  • Likely a slow winter for paddling but...
    what we have done in the past reflects living in the northeast. By middle of winter water can be in the high 30's, where it isn't frozen, air 30's to teens.

    Drysuit, hood/wool cap, warmer gloves, I also usually switch to my thicker mukluks for footwear. Paddle with company. Stay on top of where launch points or stretches of quieter water are/are not blocked by ice.

    Always carry cag (or two) in day hatch, jug of hot beverage, soup rather tan sandwiches for lunch, more chocolate or equivalent sugar shock.

    Paddle from spots that leave you as close as possible to a good place for food and hot toddy when you get off the water. Like just up the street from the launch.

    (We live inland, so we aren't on the salty stuff when the snow flies.)
  • Head to a warmer area
    and still dress the same

  • For lake paddling
    I paddle until the lakes freeze, often on January 1. My system:

    -- Mukluks
    -- At least 2 pairs of gloves, often 3, in case one gets wet
    -- No long open-water crossings. Distance from shore proportional to air and water temperature.
    -- Emergency kit with shelter, fire, etc.
    -- Go out on calm days
    -- Choose best route to be out of wind and waves
    -- Don't take any unnecessary chances
    -- Extra clothing

    I don't use a wet or dry suit, so I'm a shore hugger in the late fall/early winter. Typically literally within 20' of shore. Yesterday returning from kayak camping there was a strong wind. I chose a route that was three times longer rather than make an open-water crossing.
  • More rubber, more surf.
  • Options
    Food sources
    -- Last Updated: Oct-20-12 12:39 PM EST --

    I like a mixed assortment of dried fruit for fuel
    and emergency backup when calories are crucial.


    Not a fan of the examiner format anymore
    - but the info still remains true

  • not so much here
    Dried fruit when it freezes is most unpleasant.

    Soup. A good mix of protein and carbs. Don't skim the fat.

    I try to remember to have a thick layer of clothing in the car as well as an extra thermos of hot liquid. Plus dry gloves.

    Putting a boat on a car when the boat and straps are ice covered is not much fun.

    We will fresh water paddle till freeze up. Watching fresh water freeze is really interesting. Yes dry suit and layers underneath. Even if we are close to shore..if our core is cold the blood will shunt quick and we will lose any hand and finger dexterity very quickly..that thirty feet could be too far.

    What else changes for ocean paddling is that if we can access the shore its often across crusty snowbanks. Sometimes we have to use microspikes.
  • Several changes
    Dry suit with polypropylene and merino wool underneath. Mittens plus a spare pair, plus liners. Dry bag with complete change of merino underwear and fleece outerwear including wool hat as well as several chemical warmer packets and large towel. Extra granola bars and chocolate. Very careful about length of open water crossings and weather conditions before any long crossing. Practice rolls close to shore and take-out as opposed to wherever, whenever when it's warm out. Bottle of single malt in car for immediate access after paddle. Paddles usually shorter than warm water paddles (8-10 miles rather than 12-16 during warmer days.)
  • Truth is I am growing weary
    of cold water paddling. For years and years we have taken all our local extended trips in spring and fall, mostly to avoid people, but also for water levels. Either that or summer trips in the arctic which can be warm at time but always seem to involve some tough days. Last time we took a fall trip in Maine we ended up pinned on a rocky steep emergency site for night on Chesuncook and got out a day late with everyone at home scared to death we were in trouble and it was one heck of a hard night. Cooking in the tent. Thermarest sprung a leak. Ugh. I long for a warm weather trip. Maybe next summer. Guess I'm getting soft in my old age.
  • Noticed the same thing this year
    I hate the heat of summer, the crowded waters and campgrounds, and prices. So I take trips in the spring and fall (kayak, backpacking, car camping, etc.). As I get older I have to make more and more changes to make the experience tolerable. Exactly how much fun is it to have to light a fire at 4:30 p.m. and sit in the dark for the next 5 hours? Or go to bed at 7:00 and huddle in your tent in the cold for the next 12 hours?

    But the alternative is even less appealing: to sit in your barcalounger getting old. So I keep doing it. I've come to realize that adventures and happiness involve some effort and hardship. When I get home I remember the adventure part and the beauty more than the hardship. So it's worth it, and I think you should keep doing it as long as you can, until it's really not fun anymore.

  • Get a SPOT
    -- Last Updated: Oct-20-12 10:34 PM EST --

    the darn thing wont keep you warm but it will save the family from panic. I took SPOT and issued several OK messages which kept the computer geek at home happy.

    I second the "what do I do with 13 hours of dark" when I am solo and it is raining.

    I quickly ran out of books on Junior Lake in Maine a couple of weeks ago. But you see I had had three months of too much togetherness with the retired other of 44 years and I am still in good enough shape to escape. So I did.

    The tent was warm enough..but I was bored. And you know how us old uns have to pee more than we want.

  • Have you paddled at Lake Powell?
    Fall there is not too crowded, and the water is still warm, days warm to hot, nights pleasantly mild. You can sleep under the stars (no bugs). Call out for echoes in many alcoves. Go swimming and hiking. Relax. It is a place I know I'll miss being (relatively) close to.

    If paddling starts to seem like a chore with all the "kit" and need for planning, pick places that have more margin of safety if you don't want to set alarms for your starting time. And avoid places with cold water when you're in that frame of mind. You'll still need to be careful about wind conditions in any body of water that is large.
  • thermos of hot water
    to warm up my neoprene gloves as needed. Drysuit, half poly sweats underneath.Mukluks. Towel, some clif bars, spare shirt and sweat pants in the drybag. Baggie of lint and a lighter.
  • Joints
    Plus it's terrible for old joints to be lying down in a tent for 12 hours straight. The trick is to go to bed as late as possible, which involves some labor-intensive hunting for wood and maintaining a fire. I like to read and write by the fire at night and in the early morning.

    Days are longer in the spring but then you've got bugs to contend with.

    It's all good. When you're out on the water on a fabulous fall day you're glad you went through that cold, long night.
  • Options
    Wetsuit...no more for me
    My awakening to dry suit heaven came after hanging
    my wetsuit in the sun only to wake up the next morning
    with it covered in frost. A cold clammy yucky feeling.

  • bottle of hot water ...
    Pour inside wet suit. Put on wetsuit. Ah nice and warm.

    Problem solved. Go get wet.
  • Mid 50's Water Temp...
    Still alternating between the 3/2 and 4/3. Don't think I'll switch to the 5/4/3 until after Thanksgiving.

    Wetsuits are for higher octane action on/in the water. Drysuit is for lillydipping. (Anymore than lillydipping, I am soaked in my "drysuit".)

  • I get out of bed later
  • thank you for saying that
    I own both. Among my wetsuits I have a jacket, shorty, and 3mm farmers. Among my drysuits I have a top and full drysuit.

    I probably wear the drysuit 20% of the time if that. If it's warm but the water is cold, I usually wear a wetsuit combo because in my drysuit I sweat like a pig. (I challenge the "breatheable" myth).
  • Options
    Hate wet and wind
    Never liked the idea of pouring water on a wetsuit;
    then putting on the wet wetsuit (usually outside)
    just to shove off into a stiff breeze.

    Much prefer starting dry and staying relatively dry.
  • I'm glad you said that
    Same for me. Problem is, with daylight hours getting shorter, getting up late cuts into available-light time.
  • What!?
    nothing like being among the first (and few) to greet the rising sun and surf a post nor'easter groundswell.


    Paddle surfing is a WET, adrenaline sport. It's fine as long as one is wearing the right wetsuit. ;)

  • Love your posts !
    they are right on!
    Are you heading to the Everglades this winter ?
    We just might bump into you in Nightmare or on East Cape

  • changes
    I go mtn. biking and skiing.
  • Rolling With Whatever...
    -- Last Updated: Oct-23-12 9:02 AM EST --

    last year, we were so deprived of nor'easters for swells and snow, that I spent most of the winter mtn biking and hitting the gym (well, the latter I do year round consistently...).

    Just rolling with the punches, as it were...

    Use it or lose it.


    PS. Oh I did a get one good winter session in in San Diego last winter. Thanks, seadart (val). :)

  • What I do
    I switch to a dry suit for day trips. I switch to wool(the scratchy military surplus stuff) with lite poly underneath from poly/nylon for tripping. I also stay real close to shore when tripping-more to see that way anyway. I bring more clothes,footware and a warmer sleep bag. A fire,which I often do without in warm weather,is great,so I bring I saw ect. and pot trivit and sometimes a cotton fly to put my portable stove under in the rain. I drink more hot drinks. Because of taking more stuff, I paddle my big solo(Swift Osprey) to hold it all. I bring a headlamp and books for the long night and sitting up watching the fire helps pass dark time.
  • you have the wrong hobby for that
    -- Last Updated: Oct-23-12 9:40 AM EST --

    It's a wet sport!

    Actually I hate being wet also, but only when I'm cold.

  • winter paddling habits
    I used to just stop paddling from November to March. The last few years I started trying to get out at least a couple of days each month. I pick my days according to the weather. I stay away from the high volume rivers (like the New) and more difficult runs and like to paddle small creeks. I carry a sleeping bag in my hatch for rewarming after a swim. Usually I wear a semi-dry suit, with fleece pajamas. I like to keep my hands warm. Sometimes I'll wear both Pogies and neoprene gloves. Very important to get all the wrinkles out of the sprayskirt on your stomache and back so water doesn't puddle up on you. I wear wool socks over my drysuit feet and put on booties. An old rug or mat is helpful for changing, standing on, so I don't mess up the dry suit feet. I always wear a beanie to prevent ice cream headaches if I should flip but that sometimes causes me to overheat. It takes forever to get dressed and undressed (I'm fatter, and slower in the winter) but it feels great to get out and now I actually look forward to winter paddling. In the winter all my paddling trips become short day trips but that's what I do most of the time, anyhow. The biggest problem I have is finding like minded folks to paddle with. Most of the whitewater crowd that paddle in the winter like harder runs. I definately step it down a notch. I've experienced a cold water swim on the New River 20 years ago and learned to respect how quickly cold water zaps you. I can't imagine doing that again- older, fatter but wiser.
  • Options
    Consensus seems to be
    -- Last Updated: Oct-24-12 11:52 AM EST --

    A.) Protect body with proper clothing for Immersion
    B.) Weather, wind, wave reports crucial
    C.) Thermoses, food, backup supplies of food
    D.) Survival Kits - shelter, fire, warmth
    E.) Planning Ahead - SPOT units, letting people know
    F.) Personal Responsibility - knowing what we can handle
    G.) Daylight Factor - it gets dark fast

    Plenty of Autumn fun to be had on the water.
    It just needs some pre-planning and thought
    before launching on a whim when the sun shines a bit.

  • I love fall paddling
    Water temps can hang on a bit longer than air temps before dropping.
  • cold weather paddling
    Good question. Agree with most others. Dress for immersion, bring lots of hearty food, be less ambitious in choosing rapids, and pay more attention to a cozy camp. I like a fire in front of a lean-to like the traditional old-style canoeists. It is cheery compared to 14 hours inside a nylon tent.

    I love the lack of crowds. We are headed to the desert in Feb.
  • Little changes...
    Since I always seem to be in cold water (
  • Options
    Ice shelf - take out after an excursion
    The concept of an old sealed tight bleach bottle
    on a string around a tree, overhanging the ice shelf,
    has helped tremendously getting out of a river, lake.

    What have you guys done when ice accumulates
    making take-outs a bit dicey ?

    It sounds a bit stupid and perhaps absurd, but I've
    seen people stay dry the entire afternoon, only
    to fall in at the takeout.
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