Early spring paddle clothing

I know the right answer is “dry suit,” but I’m trying to figure out what I can get away with while I save up.

So the question: What do I wear for spring paddles?

The trips will be of short duration (2 hours), on lakes ranging from nearly small enough to spit across to, well, much bigger (Lake Coeur d’Alene and surroundings, if anyone’s familiar). Air temps 50-60, water dang cold but not icy.

If I can’t get away without a dry suit or if the only other option is a wetsuit, I’ll have to wait for warmer weather. Tell me I don’t have to wait…

Go jump in a lake
with your wetsuit or whatever you’re going to wear. See how long you can take the cold water. That should determine how far from shore you should paddle.

Wet suit it is…
Though you may not want to hear it, I’d say a wetsuit is your other option. For $100 or so, you can get a pretty good farmer john, though one with arms is safer. I put a dry or semi-dry top over it, with neoprene gloves and hood. For safety, you need to keep cold water from hitting much skin if you go in. Read up on gasp reflex.

The other safe option is to wait for warmer water temps, or go south far enough to find them (gee, Georgia and Florida paddling sure was nice last winter).


If it’s like here…
Didn’t drop a thermometer in this last weekend when we were out, but I would guess that our water is still under 40 degrees here and that northern Idaho is at least as cold. So personally I wouldn’t go near it without a drysuit.

That said, people exist who can manage this stuff in wetsuits plus additional layers like Mystery tops that efffectively pull the thickness up to 5 or so mill’s. The only way to find out if you are one of them is to take a swim. You’ll need a windproof shell up top after getting wet though - wet neoprene in the wind is quite chilling.

Safest way is with proper immersion gear
Check out http://www.sierratradingpost.com/ProdDisplayList.aspx?deptId=4293&page=1

Lots of wetsuits and dry gear on sale. You may want to call the stores in Wyoming. They may have Bombergear drysuits for about $125. The BomberGear owner is selling off his stock on ebay too http://stores.ebay.com/Bomber-Gear There is a full wetsuit for $64

what you can get away with…
only you know. I have a friend who wore fuzzy rubber in 47 degree water,brrrrrr. Basically it’s your judgement call. If you never capsize how about sweat pants and sweaters?

ok,ok,just kidding.

I’d start with your experience,have you been in that water with a wetsuit?

Whatever you get do you KNOW how long it’ll take to get back in? If you don’t then “what I can get away with” is academic since the judgement call on what’s adequate hinges on the time of immersion.

A wetsuit
would be the minimum you would need but don’t tempt fate. Don’t paddle alone, paddle with someone you have practiced assisted rescues with and don’t go if conditions look challenging for your experience level. I paddle in 30-40 degree water (Flathead, you know where:) but only under the above conditions.

Used gear the way to go!
I want to “second” tsunamichuck above, who recommends looking for bargains online. These abound, not only for new gear but for used. Check eBay, paddling.net, and local and regional kayaking bulletin boards. I’ve used this method to outfit my year-round kayaking habit in Northern NY at very modest cost. Examples from my wardrobe: goretex military surplus drysuit ($60 on eBay + $45 for new ankle gaskets); “like new” Chota Mukluks ($25 from paddling.net); neoprene diver’s hood ($15 from joediveramerica.com). Don’t compromise your safety. Be creative in your shopping.

That’s the best advice I’ve ever heard

great question, answers!
Check out this web site. They have done a remarkably fine non-elitist, personal way of informing you regarding effects of cold water on kayakers and how to consider dressing. This articel plus some safe experimenting for what works for you will get you out there in comfort and safely.




Some more…
Never eat yellow snow.

While you’rre “saving up” for a …
…drysuit, keep your eyes on eBay. I now have a military surplus drysuit made from breathable fabric that I picked up for $150. I didn’t get it from eBay, but the paddleshop that sold it to me did. I think I remember reading here that P-Net’s Magoo recently got two drysuits from eBay for even less. It lacks the extremely tight and durable gaskets of the name-brand suits, but it looks very well made, and since I’m not going so far from shore when it’s really cold, I think it’ll do the job for me if I ever fall in.

Don’t take wooden nickels.

– Last Updated: Apr-06-06 9:26 PM EST –

Don't bid on eBay item if seller has no feedback.

Don't shit where you eat.

Don't cry over spilled milk.

And don't ever even think about going paddling without boot cut Levis dungarees and a "Keep On Truckin" cotton t-shirt. You know, the one's with the guy with huge feet and a huge thumb like he's hitch hiking iron pressed on the front. Oh, and wear one of those Scandanavian winter hats with the knitted yarn danglers on each side so that you can tie them under your chin in a windstorm.

Neat link, Evans.
That woman figure with the changing clothes and thermometer is neat. But I do notice she keeps her sandals on until a lowly 45F. Ouch!

I know that water temps are what we dress for, and I can appreciate the fact thart getting out of the water rapidly is key to reducing risk of hypothermia. But with all this discussion of what to wear for spring paddling and water temps, I wonder about air temps once you dunk and get wet. For instance, I dumped in a flatwater lake and the air temp was 59-60F, water was who knows but it was cold, not terrible, and i was out in about four minutes… just long enough to drag my kayak to the side, secure my paddle, and whimper a little at the shame of it all. Anyhow, the air at first was warm, but with a little wind – not much, maybe 5mph-- and soon I was shivering my butt off. No way I could keep paddling (this was at Lake of the Woods, ChuckIL), so I shivered my way through a remount of my kayak on my truck and got the hell out of dodge, with the heater on full blast. Thoughts?

Sounds like having a set of spare…
…clothes is all you would have needed in that situation.

Dry clothes, yeah, that’s what you need

– Last Updated: Apr-07-06 6:53 PM EST –

Did you ever wet the bed when you were a kid? Did you notice how you just can't get comfortable again until you change into dry jammies and a clean sheet? That's pretty much the same with paddling in wet clothes in the cold air.

If you have a drysuit, it's a beautiful thing. No matter how many times you dunk, you're still dry. A wetsuit also offers protection, even after it gets wet, since the closed cell foam (neoprene) does not absorb water and retains it's ability to insulate. If your clothes can get soggy, you just have to bring extra clothes in a dry bag.

Just my two wooden cents.

Oh. Yeah. Dry Clothes. Good idea. Yes.

Hey, you DID ask for our thoughts regarding that situation! What did you think would happen?!

Seriously, I almost always carry spare clothes in a dry bag, except sometimes on short daytrips in the middle of summer, or more rarely, for very short trips when the water is a little cool (not cold) and I don’t care if I need to cut the trip short. My spare clothing always includes “warmer than necessary” stuff, with the idea that if I get chilled I’ll want to overdress to aid in getting warm again.

Also, using your raingear as a windshell adds tremendously to the warmth of whatever regular clothing you do have. One time I dumped on an October night when the wind was gusting to near 40 mph. This was at the very beginning of a little 2.5-hour trip as I was launching the boat, and I already had the raingear on for spray protection. With the raingear over wool and polypro, I never got the least bit chilled, so I waited to change clothes until I got back. I never could have done that wearing more “typical” clothing.

Okay, here’s more. I can’t say enough good things about wool. The rivertrip I took this weekend was my first time trying a pair of very thick, neoprene paddling gloves made for cold weather. I’ve always had trouble keeping my hands warm compared to most people, and I thought these would be the cat’s meow for cold, rainy weather (and this trip WAS cold and rainy). My hands got colder…and colder…and colder, and I thought “this really sucks.” So I ditched the neoprene and donned a pair of el-cheapo knitted wool gloves and put wind-shell mittens over the top. The windshell mitts were not waterproof, and my hands were totally soaked within ten minutes, but they quickly got toasty warm again. For me, a very thin layer of soaking-wet wool covered by a paper-thin wind shell was much, much warmer than a layer of neoprene that was nearly four times thicker (and a lot pricier!).

Last week’s paddle was cancelled (inclement weather) and it’s not looking good for this week either. By the time it quits raining maybe this won’t matter any more.

I’m still considering, and I appreciate everyone’s input, though I think I’ll pass on the weird T-shirt suggestion. :^ )