Deep south winter wear?

I know “dress for immersion”, but what does that mean to those of us on the gulf coast? I need reasonable recommendations.

Wind chill

– Last Updated: Oct-20-13 9:04 PM EST –

Wear something to avoid getting chilled from wet spray
when the wind blows around a bit offshore.

Current temps

Spray/Splash wear

It depends on where you are paddling
But beyond that hypothermia is the same wherever you live. When water temps get low I stick to places where I know I will be able to exit the water if I need to. Carry a change of clothes in a dry bag with a dozen chemical hand warmers and another set in the truck at the takeout. Don’t wear cotton, Don’t wear jeans, Don’t wear a big hoodie that is going to drag you under, keep your PFD on and beware of how your body will react to sudden immersion in cold water.

I’ve been out in January in a swim trunk because I like to wade in the water when stopped at a sandbar. Stick to the creeks and bayous. Wear long sleeve nylon shirts and maybe a nylon jacket. If it gets colder than that it’s a good time to go hiking without having to worry so much about snakes.

If you plan on paddling where you may not be able to exit the water when it’s dangerously cold invest in dry gear.

It depends on the water temperature
and the air temperature.

I winter in the Florida Keys.

In November when we are heading down and in April when we are heading back up we paddle in north Florida.

Many times we use water proof light weight cycling pants over a thin pair of poly pro long johns. We will wear a long sleeve poly pro top with a Splash jacket over it, and lots of time we use our NRS "Boundary Shoes, (mukluks).

Down the Keys, it is almost always a bathing suit with a short sleeve poly top, and on cool days we might use a splash jacket over the top or even a long sleeve top with the splash jacket.

We found that lots of times we start out layered with cool weather clothes, and then by the afternoon start sheading the outer wear.

Jack L

“Dress for Immersion” can mean
dress for heat exhaustion.

Dress for short immersion and self-rescue, yes, that is possible. But if one dresses for prolonged immersion in cold water, there will be many days when one will be too damn hot to enjoy what one intended.

I agree with Pirate that I try not to get way out on cold winter water, preferring to be close enough to shore that I can get there in my drytop and wet suit shorts. I don’t paddle unless the temperature is forecast to get above 50 degrees. But there were times in my youth when I started on mornings when the temperature was only 13 degrees.
You can die almost instantly from the results of cold shock in water 50-60 degrees. Please read about it at

A few can, but I have survived that
and lower many times. The key to the shock factor is mental preparation, though I know of cases where the person was not prepared at all, yet lived.

Just as the NOAA puts out hysterical warnings about lightning, there are groups putting out calamitous stuff about cold water shock that has been gathered by studies that do not cover all conditions, especially some of the realistic ones.

Go watch the polar bear events on the Great Lakes. Very low casualty level.

That event was real

– Last Updated: Oct-22-13 11:57 AM EST –

but it wasn't proven the two died instantly. As a matter of fact, that requires a witness. And a witness would have pulled then out. I remember the news story.. they were first overdue.

Yes I paddle there and capsize in the same area and am aware of cold water dangers. Hypothermia does not set in instantly. An hour of being in the water..yes..

Lets talk about Gulf water temperature tables.

Instant death…

– Last Updated: Oct-22-13 11:46 AM EST –

I would have to question whether or not there were extenuating circumstances that were "really" the root cause of an instant death after a capsize into cold water. I would define instant in that scenario as a matter of seconds.

Not sure of the exact number of times I've capsized in cold water, or the temp. of the water. One time was one too many! I am absolutely positive that I have survived several instances of capsizing when the air temp was below freezing; once when air temp was in the high 20s.
Water temp unknown? On all occasions I had my canoe out of the river, and was in dry clothes within 30 minutes. Within 45 minutes I was back on the river headed downstream.

Staying close to shore in below freezing temps, and having a very well prepared "dump bag" are essential.
I would never paddle solo in those conditions; people that I would paddle with in those conditions would have to be very experienced paddlers.

I am still here; being a nuisance.



– Last Updated: Oct-23-13 4:10 PM EST –

as you can get in the Gulf. As noted above in a prior response, check out the Eastern Gulf water temps -go all the way to the bottom of the list for 1 Alabama & 2 Louisiana sites and review the winter water data. Mid-50s more or less, cold and possibly cautionary, but nowhere near arctic...

THAT'S likely what you'll need to deal with and be able to handle. There'll be colder days -those numbers are averages -so that's where you'll need to start.

That said, I'll echo previous suggestions to avoid cottons and blends, layer to avoid overheating if it warms up, and maybe even go for a mid-winter swim just to get a feel for what you might be up against if the stuff hits the fan and you end up in the water.

Then check the marine forecast, dress appropriately well, and safely get out there and


-Frank in Miami

When I said depends where you paddle
I was referring to the Gulfcoast, meaning creeks and bayous or out on the sound. I can count on one hand the number of nights we get below freezing in a year. Daytime highs in the upper fifties is considered the depths of winter.

Nylon is my generic term for all synthetic materials.

Lots of good info - I appreciate the responses. Nothing too crazy here; all perfectly doable without spending a lot.

so if I wanted to paddle
from Key Largo to Key West (one of my bucket list trips) in March, I wouldn’t need a wetsuit or drysuit?