Outfitting for Extreme Cold Waters

Im moving to Kodiak Island in Alaska.

Not outfitted for that type of sea kayaking, I am looking for any advice anyone can give.

What type of clothing/gear will I be wanting to look at?



The first and most important thing will be an honest evaluation of your skill levels. No amount of the latest kit is going to keep you safe if you don’t have the skills to be on the water in the first place. I can’t reiterate that point enough. Get the training and experience you need before you try to tackle something you may later regret.

If you can tell us more about your paddling experience and what type of conditions (sea states, seasons, etc.) you plan to paddle in, I think people here could probably give you better advice. Paddling in Alaska can range from serene to suicide, so some indication of how ambitious you are would help.

My skill level…

– Last Updated: Apr-12-05 5:14 AM EST –

Well, my skill level is beginner. And how ambitious I get, I wont know till I get there I suppose. Ive never been to the Island before and really dont know what kind of kayking I will be mostly encountering. I do plan on taking some guided trips to get me started.
The other adventure I am considering on doing is: The Yukon River Quest Race. It is a long race beginning at Whitehorse, and ending at Dawson city. I have a kayaking partner that wants to try it in a tandem with me. I am giving it serious consideration.. sounds like a great challenge! I wont need the cold weather gear for this race as much, but for training leading up to the race, I will need some cold weather gear. The lake I propose to do a lot of training on for the race still has 2' of Ice on it. Breakup is expected first week in May, and the race is in June. Not much training time. But as soon as breakup hits, we should be on the water training. Water temps will be cold!

Most of my family thinks Im crazy for considering this race, but Ive never been one to shy away from a great challenge.


...Maybe I am crazy.... But it sure is fun!

Great spirit requires great knowledge
You have a great spirit. Such a spirit of adventure requires great knowedge and respect for the water, especially learning about the power of water and cold water on you. Water does not care if you are tired, a good person, need some food, have a cramp. There is no mother in mother nature.

Here are two articles that don’t dissuade you, but show you how to go about it from folks who are not dogmatic, don’t talk down to you! Wish you success in your endeavors. There are many fine people here on this forum who will help too!




ditto all of the above
fair amount of understatement here. Surviving worst case immersion scenarios is like surviving freeway car crashes,it can be done but not reliably with off the shelf items or self-teaching. But if you’re where there’s 2’ ice you must alread know that.

I’d be concerned that you and your friend would amplify any gaps in knowledge/skill as opposed to supporting each other.

Skills! Lessons! practice as if life

– Last Updated: Apr-12-05 10:15 PM EST –

depended on it, (it will at some time in those waters). companions of similar mind.

A waterproof breathable drysuit, Kokatat stohlquist are popular lots of west coast folks use os systems. Get attached booties and a relief zipper (some ladies use a men's zipper in a ladies suit with a female urinary device. some folks think breathable is BS but you'll be in that suit a lot, trust me you'll be happy. Polartec 100 and 200 weight suit liners or bibs are best, jackets and pants can tend to leave a cold spot in your back. If your suit has relief zippers you undergarments should too. Dry gloves from nordic blue (remove the liners and replace them with something less squishy) or homemade with atlas 495 gloves with conical gaskets glued on. See kokatat web site for repair instructions, they will help you make gloves. Henderson hyperstretch wetsuit hoods in 3 and 5 mm thickness, (cut the bibs off) and a rapidstyle survival hood for layering and emergencies, Even in summer the rapidstyle hood should always be in a pfd pocket.

Weather radio (always get the forecast within 15 minutes of going out, vhf radio (icom MIV or M88)

regular paddling gear: skirt pump paddle float, spare paddle repair equipment (duct tape at least). Bail out bag with dry clothes and some type of shelter, firestarter flashlight survival materials.

My suggestion are for general sea kayaking and not for racing about which I know little.

Best summary I have seen from you!
Nice! Concise, accurate, and gets it done.