Cool Weather paddling


We’re doing a quick over-nighter on the Buffalo River in Arkansas the day after Thanksgiving. I’m reasonably experienced but my fiancee is one that runs a bit on the chilly side. Any tips or advice for keeping her warm? (um, I KNOW that one! Keep it nice)

Any tips or advice for me when I have to walking my boat through the shallow sections? I’ve done this same trip in October and just wore sandals and shorts but it might be a bit more cool now.

We’re looking at low sixties during the days and upper forties Friday night.



Long underwear helps
Really! No cotton, techwick-type fabrics, fleece, and dress in layers. Wear a hat (body heat escapes manily through the head). Bring gloves.

I highly recommend the NRS knee-high paddling boots – you can step in cold Lake Erie weather and you don’t get wet or cold. Worth every penny.

Good luck, be safe, and have fun.

If you don’t have too…

– Last Updated: Nov-22-06 11:36 AM EST –

If you don't have too; don't get in the water.

Wear wool socks & some type of pants that will dry quickly. No cotton; forget about it!

Carry some high energy snack food, in addition to your meals.

Carry a complete change of clothes; that would include shoes & socks.

A poly pro, or wool stocking hat, and poly pro longjohns will help her stay warm at night.
A pile jacket would also be nice; especially with some type of wind shell over the top of the pile jacket.

Have some fire starting material "readily" available.

All of the above will fit into a couple of medium sized dry bags, or a waterproof buckets.

A thermos of hot cocoa is really tasty; while sitting around a small fire, during a break, at lunch, or supper.

Keep the alcohol intake to a minimum.

Don't forget about yourself.

Have a good one; it's a pretty river, and I don't expect you'll see many "river dorks".


P.S. I agree with having a pair of NRS or Choata boots, if you do very much cool weather canoe paddling. They work.

Icebreaker Merino Wool
Based upon my experience with these products, for her, I recommend you check out Icebreaker Merino wool base-layer and other clothing. For you I recommend Chota QuickLace Mukluk boots with SmartWool socks.

I do not know the Buffalo River…
I’ve never been in Arkansas. I’ve never seen the Buffalo River. That said, I would recommend that you get some current info on water levels before you finish the pumpkin pie on Thursday.

River levels in this part of the world vary drastically. I can wade many parts of my river when the water level is normal. Within a day or so of normal pool, that same section of river may be well over my hips and moving tons of water downstream at high speed—much too strong for me to stand up in. I’m not trying to be a downer [OK, maybe I’m a little jealous that I can’t go out camping this weekend and you have trip planned], but you do want to be safe.

Have a great trip!


Have paddled the Buffalo…
Based on the 6:50 p.m., NOAA, weather forecast for Harrison, Arkansas (just north of the Buffalo), you are “good to go” for wednesday, thursday, or friday.

For future reference: On certain sections of the Buffalo, if you are out there when it is running above normal, you camp, and then get consistent, very heavy rainfall; you would not be the first, nor will you be the last, to spend part, or all of the night camped in a tree, or clinging to a rocky bluff.


That’s good stuff Chuck!
Used it on many a trip. Love wool.

BOB, and everyone else,

I’ve been fortunate to not have a tree experience yet. I’ve seen the Cossatot come up 5 feet in a few hours so we’re going to exercize caution in picking our camp site. That said, as you pointed out, the weather looks as perfect as late November can, and the water levels are looking good as well. I think we’ll have a good trip.

I’ve outfitted her over the last couple of years with Patagonia and wool so her clothing should be adequate. Sometimes when you fish for wisdom you pick up something extra. And, I did. I don’t have time to gather the boots this year but will get some for just such an occasion in the future. My hope will be I don’t have to walk many sections.

Thanks to all and may you have the most wonderful of Thanksgivings!


PS. I’ll still monitor if anyone else has any wisdom to share. I’m greedy for knowing what you know!

Wool schmull, I like Polar Tec
The old timers swear by wool, and it is better than most at maintaining heat when wet, but give me polar tec. I do not know that polar tec is any better than cheaper fleece products, but I pay the premium for polar tec because it has proven itself to me.

The polar tec fiber is waterproof and hollow. Waterproof means that the fiber itself WILL NOT absorb water. When the garment gets wet, water clings between the fibers, but as soon as it drains it is dry. I have put them on right out of the washing machine, and ten minutes later you never knew they were wet. Hollow fiber means that polar tec will retain heat even when the garment is soaking wet, which it will not be for long.

I have been out in pounding rain storms wearing only polar tec. I didn’t get cold and when it stopped raining, I was dry. I have capsized on cold days wearing polar tec under splash gear. The outfit becomes like a wet suit until the water drains out. I’ve been on trips where my wool-wearing comrades were constantly wet and cold and I was warm and dry (credit the outer layer of goretex as well as the polar tec). That’s why I say polar tec has proven itself to me.

So if you have it, dress your woman friend in polar tec and goretex. She will know the meaning of this expression: “There is no bad weather, just bad gear.”

BTW, there is some physical reason womens’ feet get colder than mens’. Womens’ sleeping bags compensate for this with more insulation around the feet. If her feet are cold, send her into the sleeping bag with the polar tec pants on. Once in the bag, push the pants down around the ankle and feet (um, if you are not that good of a friend, have her push them down). Presto, cozy feet.

Good luck, have fun, stay warm (fun and cold and wet seldom go together),

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD