Cold Weather Kayaking

DH and I are considering kayaking in the winter months when conditions permit. I am curious as to how much of the cold do you feel from the water through the kayak bottom.

On the seat in your boat.

More often it is a paddler’s feet that get cold. Some suggest thin foam on the floor of the boat where your feet rest.

I brace against foam in my boats and tend to wear dry suit with booties over good socks and kickers or Mukluks over the booties when the water is cold. As a result my feet don’t get cold.

Some of us use a pad
We find in very cold water the back of your legs ache where they touch the boat.

You can get 2’ x 2’ x 1/2" squares of black closed cell for about $8 at air conditioning supplier or use carpet squares. No matter what you use be aware of entrapment hazard if you flip.

It’s great out in the cold.

Good Luck


No profile. better consider a drysuit
hard to survive for two or three minutes in 40 degree water without at least a very good wetsuit.

The winter is the best but you need to be paddling a bit below your warm water level of exposure.

You don’t say where you will be …
paddling, but my wife and I paddle in 40 degree water in the winter and last year broke a quarter inch of ice one day.

Our standard dress is a light weight pair of polar fleece long johns, with a light weight pair of loose fitting cycling pants over them, and NRS boundary shoes with a pair of “smart wool”, or equal socks.

We are comfy all day long.



Jack’s different

– Last Updated: Oct-17-06 8:30 AM EST –

in that he never goes in the water inadvertently in the winter.

Those of us without that skillset have to wear more appropriate gear. Most of the rest of us who paddle through the winter tend to wear immersion ready clothing, preferably a drysuit (or a really serious wetsuit, or a tuilik). the nice thing about wearing immersion gear is that you really have no issues with ending up in the water, and so can push it during the colder months, when you might be inclined not to go out when there are waves, wind, etc.


where are you?
how cold is cold?

you don’t give us much to go on/don’t say

Well here in Newfoundland you would
be a true nut case to paddle without a drysuit and some real nice thermals under it. I paddle all year round and the water temps here are 40 in the spring. In the winter the water is very cold usually with many of the inner harbours frozen solid. I would suggest wearing a drysuit as I really believe that regardless of your skill level shit happens and anyone can end up in that frigid water. Too late when you are in, always dress for immersion not air temp. Here are a few images from last march.

That is because I don’t push the …
envelope like you do.

If I was paddling a ski, I would stay by the fireplace until the water temp was swimming temperature.

The question was “how much cold do you feel through the bottom of the kayak?”

If it was a question on immersion, I would not have responded.

Would that have made you feel better?



just tweakin’ you, Jack

– Last Updated: Oct-17-06 9:04 AM EST –

i've been known to paddle very cold water in the summer with nothing but shorts on, which clearly violates the "immersion law" as well. it's all a question of your personal comfort with varying degrees of risk, and a realistic knowledge of your abilities (i'm reminded of the story about derek hutchinson, who when asked what his favorite roll was, replied that question was like asking a 747 pilot what his favorite parachute was- meaning of course, that his skillset was such that he never had to roll!)

i do think that you are able to push your own envelope a bit more when you have no fear of the consequences of going in the water.

be well,



Thanks in that case you are
back on the upper part of my list of fast paddlers whom I have admired.

Man, I am forever revising that list !



I am here
I think we would stay close to home, the Huron River through Livingston and Washtenaw counties. We would kayak during the winter months (which in Michigan is when the orange construction barrels go into hibernation).

chem packs!
Well, those $1.00 chemical packs have been lifesavers for my toes and hands for winter paddling and other sports. Along the lines of automobile seat heaters, they ought to manufacture the packs in an extra large version as a bun warmer. Put it on the seat and paddle away.

Depends partly on the boat material
My first kayak was a rec kayak, an OT Castine. I swear that foam-and-plastic sandwich was less cold than regular plastic.

My S&G kayak (wood core) seems to insulate well, too.

Regular roto plastic a bit less so.

I’ve been told that glass boats conduct heat away fastest but I have not paddled a glass boat in winter conditions so I cannot vouch for that.

If you feel cold, you need to modify your clothing. A drysuit is easiest to adjust insulation, and it is the most comfortable. Keeping feet, head, and hands warm will also boost overall heat retention.

Paddled today - Oct 17, 2006
Beautiful Day! Overcast, snow spitting. North wind 14-22 mph. 27 degrees F. Partner and I spend 45 minutes; about 4 miles on our local puddle here in NW Wyoming; at 5000’ in the shadow of the Rockies. Both boats are Dagger Cortez 16.5 footers. There was ice in the bottom of mine when launching. But it melted by the time of take-out. Water temp is 46F today.

Only my cheeks (the ones on my face!)were a little cool. I wore: 1 mm neoprene top and bottom (NRS Hydroskins), splash jacket, “dry” pants, neoprene boots (Warmers from REI), thin neop. gloves inside poggies, topped with a thick wool/poly cap with ear flaps. My boat’s seat is original stock hard plastic, no pad.

Ice was forming on our paddle shafts; but there was sufficient heat in the water not to be forming on the deck… Concern is: top heavy… invert… Question: can one roll up if the kayak flipped because of ice on the deck? I would guess, “Not very well!”

Got a little cool taking out and loading up. But then hot coffee was waiting 5 minutes away at home. Sorry you couldn’t join us!

George in Cody

Around Ann Arbor?

Cold Bottoms
I was also concerned about cold from the bottom of the boat seeping up to my bottom. Very untechnical, but I folded up a fleece blanket and put it between my bottom and the boat’s bottom. Comfy, and warm! Winter paddling is nice - so quiet - enjoy!

More Insulation
from a quarter inch of minicell pad. Or go, to walmart and buy one of thos blue ensolite pads for ten bucks. Cut it too size to fit your butt. Slow the large piece in your hatch. Makes a good warm, comfy seat on a shore break.


Northeast of Ann Arbor
Not sure if we would make it to Ann Arbor. We usually put in at Island Lake State Park. We might try Huron Meadows Metro Park to start.