Cool weather paddling

Michigan Winter paddling
As the colder season comes on, alot of us who are really geeked want to keep on paddling. Here in michigan, if you are really inventive you can keep paddling through till almost february when the ice comes in.

Doing this on open water, or the great lakes is great fun, and is some of the best time to paddle. Big waves, no people, and great scenery. It is however very hazardous. No offense to Northman, or anyone else, but paddling a flat creek in January in rec boats is a whole different ball of wax from paddling Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan Nov-Mar. A drysuit is a must for open water. I don’t know what type of paddling the original poster is thinking of doing, but neoprene at minimum come Nov is what I say for anyone in michigan no matter the water. And a drysuit will never steer you wrong for the great lakes.

If I were to paddle
the Big lake I would get a drysuit first. Right after I bought my sea yak. The point I was making was you can paddle with a wet suit depending on conditions. Alot depends on how much you personally can take of the cold too.

Good advice, try swimming for a few…
A wet suit with a dry top is good down to about 50 degree water for me. How long I could swim in polypro and wool in the same water is something I don’t intend to try. Colder water and air and you’d better limit yourself to waist deep water. I’ve done rescue practice in 3mm wetsuit and drytop in 40 deg water and all I can say is that you get dangerously cold fast. I wouldn’t want to do it very far from a hot shower. With a drysuit you can float comfortably in even colder water and be more comfortable in the boat as well.

You’ve given great advise on this thread for several years now. Either be absolutely positive that there is no way you will end up in cold water or dress for it!

Or paddle 10’ from shore :slight_smile:

usually less than
10’ from shore! try 6’-7’ average. Only thing open in Feb. is a few smaller rivers up here. And yes willing to give it a try Longshadow. Figure we can shove Coffee in first to test the waters. HA,Ha. Also anyone paddling in extreme conditions should get emergency medical training as well IMHO.

5-7 mm Wet Suit
that handles cold water conditions will not be easy to paddle with. Pretty restrictive in the arm area.

Earlier on, I had only a farmer john wetsuit, hydroskin top, and NRS neo jacket over that. Practicing in rescues in late November, water temps slightly under 50, I maxed out at around 20 minutes before feeling the chill settling into my body. I went to a drysuit after that.

I’ve paddled with folks in the winter – ww and surf – who only wear neo and drytops. But these folks don’t come out of their boats. So, skills, conditions and whether you’re with a group that can help you quickly reenter a boat make a difference in one’s decision about immersion gear. Since I paddle alone a lot, including the winter months, I think a drysuit was a relatively “cheap” investment for my life.


"Bicker and Banter"
Didn’t you know that Bryan loves to contradict whatever I say.

If I said something was black, he would come back and say it was white.

Incidently I am up in the cold mountains of NC, and as long as there is no ice on the lake where we usually paddle, we will be training there all winter for the B & B in Feb.

We will be in water where if we tipped we can wade into the beach and take a dry change of clothes out of our compartments.

I stand by my original post to the original question.

I would offer the same advice to my sons and daughters.



Wind Breaker
Having a light weight wind breaker will help keep you warm when not paddling.

There are times when you might consider storing the boat and breaking out the skis or snowshoes.

I paddle a sit-on-top in cold water when the temperatures get into the 50s along the Salmon River in ID. Water temps then are in the upper 30s. Since I do go into the water feet first dry bibs with a good paddling jacket work find for me. Even wearing a fleece top I’ve only gotten moisture on my forearms.

It’s not all about you, Jack.
In fact, it’s not about you at all. I disagree with what you said, but if someone else had said it, I’d still disagree. I know you like to feel special, but I can’t help you with that.

Fair enough
You’re right, I broke one of my own rules and didn’t get enough information up front. Shame on me!

However, the general principle still applies. Dress for the conditions or stay home.

Have paddled in your dive suit?
I tried to use the 6mm farmer John from mine and couldn’t even sit comfortably in the boat. While it’s not much of a problem to dive with 12mm of neoprene around your middle, you can’t kayak that way.

The entire discussion
should be more focused on expected possible time the water, rather than simply dressing for immersion. Dressing only for immersion can definatley lead to over heating which has its own safety issues. Risk factors such as water/air temp, real proficiency in self and assited rescue skills, sea state need to be factored in equally.


Agreed, but…

– Last Updated: Aug-29-04 12:49 PM EST –'s impossible to know these things from a post on a forum, even if the poster provides some of the information. People invariably overestimate their abilities. My personal feeling is that when dispensing advice, it's better to err on the side of caution and let the poster decide if they're willing to accept more risk.

I also think that people tend to grossly underestimate the amount of time they may end up in the water, again due to lack of real experience. When teaching rescues in real conditions (not on warm, flat water in a pool or pond), I've seen what should have been straightforward rescues take 20 minutes, due to the inexperience of the people involved and the difficulty of dealing with wind, waves, rocks, surf, panicked/injured victims, etc. Since I usually have "teabag" (aka "rescue bait") duty during these sessions, I've been in 40 degree water for that long and know exactly what it's like.

It's easy to say that "I'll be back in my boat in a couple of minutes" and it may well be correct, but planning on that definitely increases one's risk. I'm not willing to make that choice for someone by telling them not to dress for longer immersion. Once someone has some cold water paddling and rescue experience, they can make their own choices and won't be asking for advice here.