Hello! I am fairly new to the paddling scene. I started doing most of my paddling last summer. I have a recreational kayak nothing fancy. I bought a fairly cheap one because I really didn’t have the extra funds. But to the point my sister and I are going to be doing some beginner paddling events etc. and they are going to be held in PA in the early spring. My biggest concern is how do I stay dry and warm? What are some suggestions on inexpensive gear to wear? Do I attempt using a spray skirt if I have no experience? I have dry bags for extra gear.How do I go about securing them well enough if I capsize? Any info will be appreciated.
First, there are good guides here on this site regarding what to wear in which weather conditions. In mild conditions I find that biking clothing that wicks works well; in moderate conditions you start needing at least a farmer john wetsuit and a paddling or semi-dry jacket; in really cold water (not just cold air) situations, such as in the oceans, you need to move closer to a drysuit. The general advice is to dress for immersion, as that’s what will nail you but good!
Second, make sure you have either closed and sealed bulkheads in your rec kayak (front and back) or for either side without a bulkhead get a float bag. Don’t skimp on doing this!
Third, you should learn how to do a wet exit and self-rescue before committing to a full skirt, IMHO. A half skirt is OK for some if you don’t know how to do those things, but learn them anyway.
Fourth, you can secure drybags usually with a cord attached to something permanent in your kayak. But cords do run the risk of entanglement in exactly the turned over situation you’re fearing, so you have to weigh the advantage of one thing with the danger of another. If you do have a skirt, odds are your stuff won’t just drop out of the boat so fast. There are kayak back seats and secure-able deck bags you can use instead that will stay in place even in a capsize.
I have a small rec boat too. It’s well outfitted, especially for safety. In that case I believe that overkill is better than turning over and being killed!
Where in PA?
I suspect that you might be able to get some apt advice by talking to the folks who are organizing these events, and have seen where the problems crop up.
If the Water’s Cold…
…you need thermal protection before anything else - ice cold water can and does incapacitate and kill in minutes. Judge it by the “Would I swim in this for fun?” test, then try it for real, dressed in your paddling clothes and pfd, in safe conditions. A wetsuit, with good hood, gloves and boots, is not quite good enough for me anymore, although it did serve for years…a good drysuit, dryer, warmer, far easier to put on, with layers of fleece and wool under it, is a major improvement on that, because I truly hate being either wet or cold…
Inexpensive? No, but thermal protection is, in my book, beyond a question of price, bacause it is essential safety equipment - I can no more paddle safely on cold water without it than I can paddle safely without a kayak. The wetsuit runs maybe $100 new, if you look around, 1/2 that if you find one used. If there’s a local paddle club, get in touch - they often have gear sales and swaps, as do outdoor retailers from time to time. If you get more seriously into the sport, there’s good deals around on used drysuits…
I always carry a small ‘ditch’ bag, with a full change of warm clothes (layers of poly, fleece, wool, nylon skin outerlayer, thin wool hat, gloves, small towel) for when all else fails me or another…
I disagree that a full spray skirt is a hazard of any kind if you are a beginner. A nylon waterproof “touring” skirt (as opposed to a snug neoprene whitewater skirt) will allow you to easily fall out of the boat if it capsizes without worries of panic or entrapment. And I feel that a skirt that keeps wind and paddle drip off your lap is a necessity in cooler weather. I would look for one of those before the event. Bargains can be found on Ebay and sometimes places like Sierra Trading Post (I got some nice discontinued Harmony skirts for my loaner kayaks for $10 each last year). For paddling clothes, if you are doing a flatwater event in one of PA’s smaller rivers or lakes in moderate weather, you could probably get away with polyester fleece insulation layers with good quality rain gear over them. You would probably want neoprene booties or wet suit socks of some kind for your feet and pogies or neoprene gloves for your hands. Glacier Gloves work very well and are inexpensive with online vendors.
One method I have used for some boats to keep the bow float bag in place is to bend a long foam pool noodle (the kids toy) into a curve and stuff it into the cockpit so the curve is under the paddlers thighs and the tips are jammed against the inflated float bag. It only works in certain designs and you still need to fish a rope through the noodle and tie it to something inside the kayak. You can order sets of “pad eyes” or buy them at outfitters that you can screw into/through your yak hull to provide tie off points inside to secure items. I believe the sets come with washer gaskets so the penetrations won’t leak, though you can also seal with Aquaseal (in a tube at outdoor and boating/diving shops).
Wet suits can be bought very cheaply, both used and new, on Ebay. I got a full 3/4 mm surfer’s wetsuit in like new conditions a couple of years ago for under $30 and it is comfortable for paddling in cool weather. Surfing suits are better than scuba diving wetsuits since they are generally more flexible. A wet suit under wind or rain gear is a pretty safe bet in water 55 and above.
Post some more details about the location, event duration and month and I might be able to offer more specific advice. I live in PA and paddle mostly in the southwest and north central regions.
I didn’t mean to say that a beginner cannot use a full skirt, only that it’s more important with a full skirt to know how to do a wet exit. Then you get out quickly, safely, and without any panic. Only sometimes can you simply fall out on your own.
Clothing for kayaking
can be found at thrift stores, ebay or discount retailers such as Sierra Trading Post. You have to be patient and keep looking for good deals. Shopping in the off season (sandals in Winter, fleece or neoprene in Summer) gets the best return for the money.
A Nylon sprayskirt will pop off before you hit the water so it’s not going to trap you in the boat.
Flotation bags need to be firmly attached to the kayak to be effective but dry bags should not be attached with ropes. The last thing you need is a bunch of bags and ropes sloshing around you when you flip the boat. Makes it difficult to recover.
Dry bags can be clipped to something inside the boat such as the nylon strap on the seatback. Dry bags will pop to the surface and are easy to recover if they come out of the boat.
also, Steep and cheap
Keep a close eye on Sierra Trading Post. When they offer additional30% off deals, things start looking pretty attractive. Also, steepandcheap has had loads of good cold weather gear as of late.
Take a class over the winter
Learn how to kayak correctly and meet local instructors.
They'll know how to get local deals, avoid shipping costs
Every dollar spent will increase your brain
and save your wallet in the long run
You'll paddle efficiently - go farther, see more
and return home peaceful and relaxed.
I am curious too as to what "event"
you will be participating in. The Sojourn I attend yearly (Connie-Alli-Kiski) sends out an equipment list.
Reading your post;
I strongly suggest that you start like almost every other newbie does, and wait till warmer weather and warmer water.
Then as the summer passes you will have learned the inns and outs of what to wear, and how to attach dry bags to your yak, how to do a self rescue, and the many other necessary things that a paddler should know.
.... your local paddlesports center. They might just have discontinued, used, consignment or other gear that you need at far less than the new price.
Additionally they'll hopefully experience and advice for your current and future paddling pursuits.
Hey, ya never know.
See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY
the hunting dept at Wal-Mart. Synthetics cost a lot less there and last every bit as long. I have some clothes from there that are over 10 years old and still good.
Agree, but he can start in the pool
Indoor pool with heated water provides a good place to learn how to do wet exits, deal with sprayskirt, and find out what a PITA a flooded rec kayak is! He can also learn to do a paddle-float re-entry in the pool.
But even in a heated pool, some neoprene is better than a bathing suit. Farmer John would be a good start for clothing. Heated pools are still 18 degree F below our body temperature.
A few more suggestions
See if there’s any sort of mailing list for paddlers in your area, and sign up if there is. Among other things, it can be a good way to find good deals on gear locally–maybe used gear, going-out-of-business sales, and so on.
In my area (the San Francisco east bay area) there are some other good sources for cheap gear: craigslist (which allowed me to get my second kayak for free), flea markets (four that I know of), a couple of exceptional junk stores (I’ve seen wetsuits, paddles, dry bags…), garage sales (my first kayak was a Stearn’s inflatable from a garage sale), the REI garage sales (when they sell off returned items cheap)…
I tend to get carried away–I’ve put a lot of time into obtaining and outfitting kayaks on a very small budget, although I’ve found that people who have spent a lot on their kayaks and gear really don’t want to hear about it.
Your best bet for inexpensive gear…
Join the Kayak club in your state that has monthly meetings and go to the meetings and talk to people in your area. In a short time people will lend you gear that you need to go on trips with them and help you find all the things you need.
You’ll have a whole team of people keeping an eye out for the good deals on gear for you and keeping their eyes on you while paddling.
It is worth it to drive a couple hours to meet other paddlers if that is what it takes. You will save money and time and learn much faster.
The ACA has a large list of clubs and their are even clubs on meetup.com.
start to look now
Begin to haunt the thrift stores NOW.
It takes some time but you can eventually find what you want in those places for a decent price.