Cold weather kayaking questions???

Hello all! Just a few questions about possibly

kayaking in cold weather.

My “plan” is to kayak year round unless the lake

I paddle on is frozen over. Keeping in mind I am

still a “noob”…I am looking for constructive

criticism and/or ideas and knowledge about doing


I kayak for fitness. Just the exercise and get

in and out of the water pretty quickly. I am not

planning on staying in the water for hours at a



(1) I am thinking I need a dry suit. Is this

correct thinking? Advice on this is needed…

(2) Besides a dry suit what else do you think

I am going to need? Thermal underwear? Waterproof

shoes? etc…anything that I might not have even

thought of?

(3) Is there anyone on here that does kayaking year

round in the Northeastern USA? I am really looking

for “hands on” experience and thoughts from you…

Thanks for any input.

Go jump in the lake
before every paddle. It accomplishes 2 things, lets you know if your gear is adequately functioning and gets you a bit prepared for an accidental capsize. Drysuit is good, neoprene may also work for you. Think gloves and a head protection ie divers hood or some sort of neoprene like hat. If you go the drysuit route get booties already sewn on and wear some sort of fleece sock under it and some sort of shoe over it. Some sort of a fleece underwear as liner. Stay away from cotton. Gear will offer a good bit of protection but preparing yourself is key. Spend 5-10 minutes in the water before you paddle, keep warm dry clothes handy and make a point of practicing recovery skills.

Yes, dry suit etc…

– Last Updated: Aug-11-08 5:46 PM EST –

You will need to layer under the dry suit as the Gore-Tex keeps you dry but does not insulate. Good gloves (I like Deep See Comfort Dry Gloves), a hood that also covers your neck (the first time I rolled in winter with a hood that did not cover the back of my neck the pain was extreme), if your dry suit has booties, most any paddling shoes will do - remember you will need socks under your dry suit booties. I also wear a dive mask when rolling in winter.

Many of us in the Northeast paddle year 'round.

They about have it.
The last two posters have it.

I use a Goretex one peice dry suit.

I paddle all year.

I paddle salt water and can normally get out all year.

Reynards Syndrome slows me down and pogies solve that untill its time to get back to the car with wet hands then normal gloves kick in.

Good luck.

That last one is a Jamie Lewis photo and that is me in the background.

We paddle in the cold stuff.


I Thought It Was Alex…

– Last Updated: Aug-12-08 8:18 AM EST – the foreground of the second shot, hauled out for a lunch break...

Here are year round photos…

No wet/dry suit. Just polypropolene & fleece, with a paddle jacket & nylon overpants with good boots & SealSkinz socks.

Paddle easy,


Dressing Guide
Here’s an excellent series of articles on dressing for cold-water paddling, with a handy temperature guide. Your metabolism may vary, so err on the side of safety:

Up here in Wisconsin, we paddle whenever we can find spaces between the ice floes:

Good Luck!


Drysuit, boots, maybe a hood
(1) You may or may not need a drysuit (depends on water temps), but it is the most flexible option because you layer underneath to suit the temperatures.

(2) Definitely get waterproof shoes for winter paddling. Many people, including myself, like Chota Mukluk for the coldest paddles. A thin pair of wool socks inside will keep feet warm and dry.

For the shoulder seasons, you can use a full wetsuit but for real winter use, a drysuit is most versatile and potentially the warmest.

Love cold weather paddling
Something very peaceful about paddling along in a heavy snow watching it pile up on your deck. Everything seems so quiet on those days.

My advice is to keep your roll in tune and relaxed. (that is, if this is applicable - I don’t know what you paddle) I know you said you were new, but I also know I picked up my first kayak over a Thanksgiving weekend, and I had a solid roll by that mid February, so you may very well have that down. This entirely resulted from when I picked up my boat. They recommended Derek Hutchinson’s Sea Kayaking book. Yeah, yeah, I know many disagree with his paddle, his boat design, his forward stroke, etc., but that’s not why it was such a valuable book to read as a beginner. It’s valuable because he has done more kayaking in more difficult situations than most you will meet. His experiences and thoughts about kayaking gave me an awarenes of things (for example, cold water paddling) that led me to learn the roll before figuring out what version of forward stroke I wanted to focus on. In any case, I have hands on experience paddling year round in the northeast (I’ve since moved south) and that’s my two cents on cold weather paddling if we’re referring to kayaks designed with rolling in mind. If we’re discussing paddling with open-hulled boats, stamp it with a giant N/A.

A side note, I always figure that nervousness and panicky feeling that prevents people from tipping in the water to practice rolling and bracing is the same panic that will lead to their demise in a kayaking mishap. I think there are so many people who don’t learn and/or practice their 1st line kayak rescue because their nerves get the best of them when they couldn’t possibly be in a better situation to capsize. I encourage everyone to bite their lip when the thousand excuses come to mind, and always push it while the opportunity is there. I hope you all do the same. Have fun this winter!

Cold Water Workshop
What are you doing on 10/26/08? Have a Cold Water Immersion Workshop here at The River Connection Boathouse with Stohlquist Waterware.

Might give you your own “hands on” knowledge that you asked for.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Thanks…another question
Thanks for all the replies.

One more question:

Regarding the dry suit, many of you have mentioned wearing certain garments under the dry suit, should I get a drysuit that is one size bigger to accomodate the additional clothing I will be wearing underneath? Or is that not necessary? I guess the best thing would be to buy the underwear/socks and try the drysuits on already wearing that stuff, huh?

Look at manufacturer’s guidance
F’r example, Kokotat states that their sizing assumes one layer under the drysuit and they have a very complete sizing chart. Others may do the same.

Unless you have pretty big feet, the booties are usually on the generous size.

Swim Time
When I kayak in the winter I often only wear normal cloths or a light wet suit. overheating is a problem with a heavy wet suit. When there is ice on the edges of the water I tend to stay close to shore. That way time in the water would be minimal. On the other hand after 7 years of flatwater kayaking I have never capsized!!! Stuff happens. but the time my wife and I wore heavy wetsuits we overheated so much that it was not fun. We have considered dry suits but we don’t paddle in cold water that often. The last time in January we paddled out to watch the Sandhill Cranes at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. We did not wear wetsuits and just stayed close to shore. I guess that if we were going out a lot in open water far from shore the drysuits would be required. But again in 7 years neither me nor my wife have capsized doing flatwater paddling.

There are paddlers that have swam:
And there are those that will.

If you are in Cold Water in a kayak it behooves you to take care of yourself.

Not capsizing in 7 years is a great sign of care and caution but not experience.

If you are paddling in open water or the sea in cold water eventually you will get nailed with that wave, forget and loose your balance or have to rescue a friend and the confidence of a good dry suit on you may save him.

In season a wet suit is fine but if you paddle in ice it stops being fine and a paddling jacket with a wet suit is only so much help in a swim.

The last time a paddler told me “I Don’t Swim” he almost made it 2/3 of the way to the take out: Then the best rescue person we had became a casualty and a liability to what became a very stressed event using every asset we could muster to pluck people out of the water and get them (us) to safety.

This guy was likely the best kayaker in Eastern Canada at the time and perhaps still is.

Oh. You can’t roll with 2,000 lbs of boat planted on top of you.

The whole story is funny 9 years later.

So A dry suit with appropriate thermal layers is the only answer if you paddle in Eastern Canada.

Don’t be fooled we had the Coast Guard evacuate a casualty with a dry top and dry pants a couple of months back. Accidents do happen.

Welcome to my world…

Alex McGruer

St. John’s Newfoundland

Eastern Canada…

Where are you in Central New Jersey?
I’m out in Northeastern PA and I also paddle year round as much as possible. Let’s get together.

year-round in NYC
I paddle through the winter and spring in New York City, though shorter trips and closer to shore than when the water is warm, and with a stronger preference for having somebody with me who knows how to do a quick rescue.

Don’t miss the “spring” part above. The water is warmer in December than in April. Warm spring days tempt people unprepared for deadly-cold water.

I got a drysuit last year. Till then I used a wetsuit and a hood. I can happily swim around in my drysuit, which I couldn’t do with the wetsuit. But my wetsuit wasn’t nearly as high-quality as the drysuit and didn’t fit me that well. At least one poster on this board (Sing) says that a good, well-fitted wetsuit is as good as a drysuit (and better for his purpose: surfing), while being cheaper than a drysuit and more expensive than a cheap wetsuit.

– Mark

Yes, I have no problem with my wetsuit
in very cold water. Acclimation and trainning play a part in it also but it’s still deadly. Anyway, the Upper Delaware river is a blast in April.

I know lots of guys…
that paddle on ice. They break it all year round.

The best way to decide what you need
is to try them out. Even after you buy go to the water and dress like you think you should and then go float in the water for 20-30 minutes and see how you like it. If you can wait and rent a wet or dry suit at a shop go get wet and see what you like. I used to wear a wet suit and never had a problem in the winter but when I could afford a dry suit I bought one nothing like a day paddling and then just taking off the dry suit and go, nothing to change and if you dumped it was still the same off with dry suit and go home.

Kayak Academy
People are correct about trying out dry suits or wet suits. One of the best places to get a dry suit anywhere in the country is the kayak academy in Washington. They will ask for your specific measurements and tell you what size you need from there. If my memory serves right, they will also rent you a suit or sent you several to try on. They are fantastic.