Cool weather paddling

I want to extend my paddling season to November, and short of a dry or wet suit am wondering the best way to dress for cool to cold weather paddling. Any suggestions?

you’ve sort of eliminated the options…
I’m going to assume by cool weather paddling that you also mean cold water paddling as well (I’m not sure where you’re located). As the rule of thumb is to dress for immersion, water temperatures below 50 degrees require a drysuit and whith water temperatures in the 50s a wetsuit would work fine. There are many more knowledgeable people than me on this forum but could you provide more info? What type of paddling are you doing, where are you located, and what will be the water and air temperatures?

We paddle pretty much…
…through out the year, and in the colder weather, we just wear polar fleece or polypro long johns and long sleeve T’s, with a ski parker or a Gortex biking jacket, and gortex pants over them.

We do have dry suits and sometimes wear them instead.

If you recognize the hazard of cold water, listen to the weather reports, and stay close enough to shore to get out of the water quick in case of a mishap you should be Ok.

We always keep a change of clothes in a compartment, just in case.



In the northeast, the water still runs warm in November. The air does start to cool a bit though. Wool, fleece, or polyester are all fabrics that will insulate well even when wet. Cotton is a very poor choice for “wet insulation”. If you don’t want to blow for a full dry suit, perhaps a dry top will suffice if you are concerned about water temp. The greatest danger from cold water temp. is in spring, when the air begins to warm, but the water is still dangerously cold. I would recommend a dry top with layers underneath as needed for air temp.

Move to Florida
We can’t count votes down here but we paddle year round. Our Annual New Years day paddle this last year was in the 60’s.

Could go with dry top/dry pants
or a dry top wet suit combo. I use a semi dry top and dry pants and have swam in water that were pretty near the freezing point. My top is not as dry as it once was so I will get a true drysuit for the winter.

I wear a drysuit
with a sweatshirt and leggings underneath in winter and paddle all year long. But I still would not feel great dumping in cold water- even when it splashes on your drysuit it bites your skin! I use my Dagger in winter as it can take slashing from sharp ice alot better than my QCC kevlar can!

its always cool up here
in alaska and the water is cold so I wear a drysuit with varying thickness of layers insulation, but I paddle year round.

As it starts to get colder here…
I move to polypro top under a paddle jacket and neoprene shorts and booties. Next comes polypro top under a neoprene farmer john and paddle jacket or dry top. If necessary my final costume is fleece pants, multiple polypro tops, dry bib, and dry top. In this latter case I also have available a neoprene hood, Pogies, and ear plugs. Generally, if I need the warmest set of clothes I opt to sit around and drink instead of paddle. :slight_smile:

shush you
Don’t tell the whole world our little secret


"Short of a wetsuit or drysuit"
I agree; the comment about avoiding a wetsuit or drysuit means you are underdressing unless you live where both the air and water temps remain warm during fall, winter, and spring.

You might be able to get away with wearing tights and snug jerseys/jackets made of what Pearl Izumi calls stretch Thermafleece (bicycling wear). This material is not meant for immersion, but its smooth outer face and tiny looped inner face polyester–comfortably stretchy–stays close to your body. At least it’s a better bet than wearing normal baggy clothes, in case you capsize or get otherwise soaked. It also wicks and breathes well.

But I still would rate it well below immersion-specific clothing such as neoprene or fuzzy rubber. And nothing is as warm and dry as a Gore-tex drysuit with appropriate insulating underlayer(s).

There’s a big difference between…
…“insulating when wet” and “insulating when immersed”. Wool, fleece and polypro are virtually useless when you’re in the water, since water flows through it like a sieve. In order for them to provide any warmth, you have to restrict water flow through them. As you stated, a dry top will help, but it will eventually fill with water and become heavy and awkward. If you’re going to dress that way, you have to stay in your boat, which means having a reliable roll.

JackL and I differ on this subject

– Last Updated: Aug-23-04 11:45 AM EST –

His recommendations fine, PROVIDED that you are a skilled paddler and you NEVER casize or come out of your boat. Fleece and unsealed Gore-Tex are essentially worthless as immersion gear, since water will flush in and out of them as you move. Cold shock is a very real possibility and the soggy, heavy garments will make swimming and/or getting back into your boat much more difficult. Wearing such clothing is only an option if you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that you will NEVER capsize. Based on the question you asked, that doesn't seem too likely.

If you live in a northern climate, a waterproof/breathable dry suit is an excellent investment. In New England, I find that I wear mine at least 7 months out of the year. It gets far more use than any other paddling garment I own. It also allows me to paddle year-round, something that no other clothing will do.

This is going to sound a bit harsh, but if you're not willing to dress properly for the conditions (wetsuit or dry suit), do the paddling community a favor and stay off the water when it gets cool. We don't need more additions to the injury and fatality statitics. You're better off to wait if necessary and save up the money you need to do it safely.

How Cold?
I wear a 3mm farmer john and Mysterioso top down to about 55 degree water temps. Any colder than that, and you will need more protection.

I paddle year round
in Northern MI. After researching cold water effects got a wetsuit. Couldn’t find the thread but bottom line the colder the water air and older ya are the more likely you are to suffer a heart attack upon immmersion in cold water. Don’t know how cold of weather you plan on paddling in. Anyone with a link to this info please post it.

Please re-read my second paragraph
There is no need to stay off the water, if your close enough to shore to get in quickly.


Florida paddling sucks. It’s always hot and buggy and sunny and warm… If you’re a paddler, please don’t move to Florida. And if you’re not a paddler, don’t move here either. It sucks, in a big way.

One site…

can you really go year round?
I’m in NE Wisconsin so the temperature here is close to that of Michigan. You stated that you have been able to paddle year round with a wetsuit. I’m wondering if I’ll be able to do so as well. Currently I wear a 3mm farmer john, hydroskin shorts, hydroskin top, and a semi-drytop over all of that (gasketed wrists and neoprene neck with spray skirt tunnel). I’m wondering if all this plus maybe some dry pants could keep me on the water for most of the winter or do I need to invest immediately in a dry suit? I’m going to go all out with a drysuit when I get one so I’m not sure I want to make the $800 committment just yet. I have a decent roll and am wondering what is the limits of temperature with the clothes I have (or can get).

p.s. I was out this past weekend in some 50 degree water and was rolling all day and was reasonably warm with all my clothes on. Obviously I didn’t do any extended swims though to thoroughly test my body’s ability to retain heat.

When its really cold…
he converts his boat to an ice breaker. :slight_smile: I live in central lower Michigan and I stop paddling when the lakes freeze over.