Cold weather clothes for in the boat

I bought this boat:

and would like to be able to get out with it sooner rather than later. I live in Chicago and pretty much only paddle flat water lakes and occasionally streams and rivers, but no whitewater. If you follow the links to video on the page above, you’ll see some videos by a guy in Finland who uses this same boat and looks to be wearing chest waders (and pfd), pretty much all the time when he’s in his boat. I asked over on one of the other forums and got a lot of naysayers regarding using waders in a boat instead of a wet suit or dry suit. Of all the replies I received, only one guy seemed to actually watch the videos and comment that the boat in question is far more stable than any typical canoe or kayak and thus, the idea of wearing waders might not be so bad given the stability of the boat. Ultimately, more people seem to agree that waders in a boat are a bad idea then I’ll likely just end up getting a wetsuit and wear some kind of shell layer over it to help stay warmer. Anyway, I just wanted to get some input from real fishermen versus the typical canoe/kayak folks.

A few thoughts
First, that looks like a really cool boat. I’ve seen those on e-Bay and thought they’d make a good fishing boat. Once you get it on the water, please write back here with a review (even if you post a review in the main part of the site).

Second, it doesn’t matter how stable your boat is. If you go in the water, you’re in the water. Cold water will kill you if you aren’t prepared for it. There are a LOT of misconceptions about waders. For some reason paddlers think that waders will fill up with water and sink you. I’m not sure why they think the water inside the waders will be heavier than the water outside the waders, but it won’t be. IF they fill up, there are two problems. The first problem is that you’ll be wet and cold and likely die in cold water. The other problem is that if you survive and get to the shore or back to your boat, the water in your waders will be a lot heavier than AIR when you try to pull yourself out. Both of these problems can be avoided by keeping water out of your waders. If you wear breathable chest waders, you can do that by cinching a wading belt around your waist. Fishermen do this for the same reason. I have worn chest waders with a wading belt in a safe area to test it. It worked well. When I put my PFD on over the top part of the chest wader and cinched it down tight, less water got in. When I tried chest waders with a wading belt, then a semi-dry top, then my PFD, I got a couple drops of water down my neck. That’s it.

Next, the danger of chest waders is entirely different from what most paddlers think it is. The danger of falling out of the boat while wearing chest waders - if you are wearing a snug wading belt and a snug PFD - is that they are difficult to swim in. Especially if you are wearing wading boots. Because chest waders are bulky, for paddling purposes I replaced mine with a pair of waist-high breathable waders. These have a wide (about six inch) neoprene waist that interlaces with my semi-drytop. Instead of boots, I generally wear a pair of heavy wool socks inside the neoprene booties of the waders and a pair of sandals. If I wear that get-up along with my PFD, I’m comfortable, dry even in full submersion, and can swim far more easily than if I am wearing chest-high waders and wading boots.

Finally, whatever you decide to use I would HIGHLY recommend to you to test your gear in a safe area BEFORE having to rely on it to save your life.

I hope that helps.

  • Big D

Thanks Big D
This is the kind of advice I’ve been looking for. I think there is a definite bias against waders because people have drowned wearing them, however in pretty much all of those cases the victim was not wearing a pfd or a waist belt. Anyway, I like the idea of the waist high waders. I’ll have to look at those and dry tops. It just seems to me that this type of boat is more likely to work better wearing gear like what you mention versus going with a wetsuit or drysuit. Thanks for the advice.

Cold weather cloths for in the boat …
… any type of clothing that keeps you warm enough is fine for “in the boat” .

It’s when you end up in the “cold” water that emersion clothing is important .

If you think you won’t ever end up “in the cold water” because you believe that about your inflatable and you’re certain you can be careful enough about where you take it and how you use it so you are always “in the boat” … then what’s it matter what you wear ??

But if you have doubts , that means you should stay out of cold water unless properly dressed for submersion , and being submerged in cold water is a scarey and dangerous thing even with proper submersion clothing .

I’d definitely never assume
that I wouldn’t end up in the water. No matter how stable the boat or how safe you think you are - stuff happens. I’m looking for clothing to insure that I will stay dry or even mostly dry should I ever end up in the water during cold weather.

what we do …

– Last Updated: Feb-11-12 7:33 PM EST –

...... the nephew and I are main stay fishing partners . Only other I fish with anymore is my sweetheart .

With her it will either be a few great shore spots , or some river wading , or we are out in the canoe . Shore 10% , canoe 90% . On rare occassion she will join nephew and I in either the Jon boat/jet or the 21' bay boat . She loves to go fishing and is quite accomplished at it now .

The nephew and I are in the Jon or the bay boat 100% of the time when fishing (though we used to take multi-day canoe trips together) . We wear regular clothing , but of course more of it in the cold weather , cause 27F. at 5am. , add a bit of NW wind plus the moving boat make for some darn cold wind chills ... but it warms up enough with the sun rise . It's for certain we have endured low teen temps. for several hours before .

Other than regular cloths , we all have top notch rain gear always at the ready when out on the water ... it goes everytime , all seasons , regardless if it will be needed or not .

The water temps. during winter avg. about 40F. , sometimes lower , sometimes a little higher . At 49F. water temps. we are beginning to concentrate on Smallmouth , hitting it more often and anxiously awating 53F.-55F. when they litterally turn on .

My point here is it's friggin cold air and deadly water temps. but we plan on "never" exiting the boat and swimming .

But with the canoe and my sweetheart it's a totally different situation . The water must be warm enough , 60F. I consider safe but use more caution as to were we'd be paddling . The warmer it gets , the more paddling place freedom is open to us .

So in effect I have given you how we do it ... and never once have we worn special submersion clothings , and we haven't and aren't going to fall into the water , we stay dry even in pouring rains at 40F./40F. .

There is absolutely no reason in the world for you end up swimming unless you allow it to happen . If you have enough water common sense to be careful , and even more careful in the cold waters , then you ain't going to take a swim . If that means stay off certain waters today , then stay off those waters and chose calmer waters .

Like I said about your inflatable , if you think it safe and you're 99% certain you aren't going to go capsize or fall out of it , then go fishing . If you think of it as I do with the canoe , then stay out of cold water . Drysuit , Wetsuit , chest waders , whatever ... I won't take a canoe out in cold waters .

A difference between you and I is that I "always" assume I will not end up in the water ... only thing that could put me there is my own stupidity , recklessness or the good Lord has willed it .

Staying "in" the boat , any boat , any waters , any season , is the 1st priority ... all else is a judgement call , decision making to achieve the 1st priority .

I always assume a swim.
But I think of 60F water as being warm enough to swim. I don’t just wear immersion clothes when I paddle cold water (which to me is below 40), I also take a small folding stove, fire starting material, a dry change of clothes in case I do get wet despite the semi-drytop and waist high waders, high calorie food (like a PowerBar or similar), a reflective space blanket, and usually a Thermos full of hot green tea with lots of honey. Calories are your friend if you trying to fend off hypothermia, and if you get wet in cool temps then hypothermia is not an ‘if’ but a ‘when.’

As far as my 40 degree water thing, I am aware that water even as warm as 70 degrees can trigger hypothermia depending on how long one is in it. I factor in how long I expect to be in the water, the water I’ll be running, how close it is to shore at the worst spot, who I’m with, etc.

  • Big D

Neoprene Waders are an option
In cold water down to about 50 degress I kayak surf in snug neoprene waders that are almost as tight as my old wetsuit. Because they are snug they offer no problems with swimming. The life jacket acts as a wader belt. But most often I have a splash top over the waders so very little water gets in when I am swimming.

I also wear this when swimming in the surf to take pictures of others surfing. You can see a picture of me wearing it here at the bottom of the page:

One the top of this next page you can see it looks like on land:

When it is really cold or rough I ad a neoprene type hood that helps keep water from flushing down the neck gasket and keeps me even dryer.

I also carry a hypothermia kit when it is cold incase the system fails and I get wet so I can change into dry cloths and get warm.