Transition from Cold Weather Gear

Wondering at what water temps most folks transition out of their cold weather gear. Water temps here are in the 50s and air temps as high as 70.

My farmer john and dry top are trying to give me a heat stroke on a strenuous fitness paddle even with the occasional roll. I’m thinking of dropping the dry top in favor of a .5 mm neoprene shirt with the farmer john or maybe wear the dry top with some capilene bottoms?

Just talking about that…
in google groups. The person I was talking with said the 100 rule. If water and air temp combined is 100 or more your good. Said some people use it as a 110 rule. I guess that depends on you.

Transition to warmer water
How long does it take you to get back in your kayak after a wet exit?

Add a few minutes to this figure and then get out of your boat for a while and determine how long you can be reasonably comfortable in the water.

Unless you have actually tried out your clothing in actual water, everything else is just opinion.

no way!
That 100 rule doesn’t work, IMO, because when the water is very cold, air temperature is irrelevant.

Two days ago we had a warm day (61 degrees!), and I went for a paddle. The water temp is 39 degrees right now, so that adds up to 100. A swim without a drysuit or heavy wetsuit would have put me in serious trouble. Even at 60 degree water temps, I think it’s not safe to skip a wetsuit unless you’re right along a safe shore.

My rule of thumb is that I stop wearing a drysuit and thermals when I can comfortably take a swim in my shorty john wetsuit and hydroskin shirt or drytop. That might happen when the water’s 55 and it’s a really warm day, like in the 70s.

I agree…
…After thinking about it. If the water is 20 and air is 80 or 30 / 70…Your muscles will freeze up and you might not make it to the warmer air before it’s too late anyway.

60 / 70

– Last Updated: Mar-20-10 2:29 PM EST –

I wear wet suit or dry suit so long as water temperature is below 60. Usually no wet suit or dry suit when above 65 (assuming air is also warm).

Water temps in the low 60s, I take into account other conditions (air temp, possibility of trouble, etc.). Sometimes this means I switch to shorty 2mm, rather than the farmer john 3mm. Or use the regular colder weather gear. Or no immersion gear.

I agree with the prior posting about the 100/110 rule not being valid when water temperature is cold. If you are swimming, the air temperature means nothing. That is why they say "dress for immersion".

worst case
Plus, dressing for a best-case scenario is risky. If you only dress to survive as long as it takes you to do a self-rescue or roll in the pool, then you might be out of luck if your boat gets blown away from you in a gale, or you dislocate a shoulder and can’t self-rescue yourself. In those situations you’re swimming until you can summon help, and it arrives on scene.

Everyone’s analysis is going to be different depending on what they consider acceptable risk, what sort of paddling they do, and how far they are from help. Me? I like to dress conservatively since I sometimes paddle solo or mess around in rocks and surf. Our rescue resources are about 30 minutes to an hour away generally, so I try to dress for a swim of an hour or two, even though I can roll up in about 5 seconds.

50s is a broad range
If I am surfing I wear a 3/2 wets suit from about 56 degrees up until ~ 63, but for long distance paddling when the water is in the upper 50s, I wear a hydroskin farmer john and keep a hydroskin top with me and a semi dry top along for layering … I have some extra body fat so I don’t need a ton of insulation.

I agree with Nate and others expressing
caution. I have plenty of blubber and I drop the drysuit usually around upper 50’s of water and 65 plus air. I then use farmer john and dry top to 65 water and 70 air. Then shory and short sleeve dry top till summer. This is a rough estimation. The safety gear is not for everyday circumstances, it is for that one day. That one really bad day and you have to put up with it and all the uncomfortability to protect yourself from that one really bad day. I end up rolling more than I want to ,but it works out. I am going to try to not get myself in a position where I needed my gear and did not bring it. Bill

Welll, maybe
But if the water is only 20… how the heck do you get wet “in” it? :o) ICE HOCKEY!!!

Unless you plan
to stay very near to shore I would wait on the transition.

What I do is wade out in the water to my chest. If I can stay out there for 5 to 10 minutes in that cold water I probably have on enough. If not, I usually put on another or heavier insulating layer. I’d rather be hot than dead from hypothermia. Try a better wicking layer maybe?

1-10-1 Rule
I recently watched a good DVD called “Cold Water Boot Camp” that graphically showed how cold water temperatures affect your ability to function in the event you wind up in the water. Individuals vary, but some have a serious gasp reflex when they hit the cold water unexpectedly. The DVD talked about the 1-10-1 rule in cold water temps. You have 1 minute to get your breathing under control and 10 minutes of useful movement to rescue yourself. I’m a little hazy on the final one. It was 1 hour before hypothermia puts you in danger of death or something like that. Obviously, it’s going to depend on clothing, how cold the cold water is, etc. Good DVD to watch.

Rule of 100
is a decent guideline, I think. BUT when I’m paddling close to a combined temp of 100, and the water is cold and air warm, I stay within easy swimming distance of shore. If possible on lakes I plan my route to minimize paddling stretches with an off-shore wind in case I have to swim a boat in. In other words, I don’t put myself in a position where immersion times are likely to be very long. No long crossings without a dry suit. I’ve dumped in windy 37deg. air and 34 or 35 deg water: The take-home lesson for me was that speed in getting ashore is key.

Extra precautions now include always having a change of warm clothes in a dry bag lashed into the boat and having another dry bag containing a spare lighter in a ziplock and a medium sized DuraLog. Getting out is only half the story, getting dry and re-warmed quickly is the other. I sometimes paddle in winter at a power plant cooling lake where the water temp can be in the 60-80 range, but air is often below 10. I wouldn’t like to hike or paddle very far after a swim in those conditions - better to be prepared to dry and warm on the spot and then continue.

I’m also a scrupulous about having a painter attached when it’s cold. You can get to shore much faster swimming with just a rope and pulling the boat in when you have footing than you can trying to swim hauling a swamped boat or, worse yet, fiddling around trying to empty it in deep water. That’s a useful and fun exercise in warm water, but I wouldn’t count too much on doing it fast enough in cold water and perhaps big waves to bet my life on it.

Forget all those rules and wade in.

– Last Updated: Mar-22-10 3:21 PM EST –

Wading in with bare legs and hands will tell you what to wear. I just wear fuzzy rubber shorts for lake and sound paddling in groups this time of year. I pack the wetsuit incase I decide I want to do a big crossing or surf. For me when the water hits that magical 52 degrees things change a lot.

However I'm paddling calm waters with friends and can get help getting back into the boat quickly. Also I'm never more than five minutes of swimming from a shore on these paddles.

Like I said for surfing or crossings I'd need the entire cold weather kit. Then after a crossing I'd need to swim just to cool off.

The hood is still in my PFD too.

What I did

– Last Updated: Mar-22-10 8:18 PM EST –

When I went out on Sunday evening I opted to keep the farmer john on and take the dry top with me along with dry clothes to change if needed. I wore my .5mm neo shirt and it worked out great. Air temp about 65 and water temp 55.

I was much cooler than in the dry top, but stayed warm enough even when wet.

Thanks for all of the replies.

WE had an incident last week
One of our club members and his son were out kayaking last weekend. Water temps were around 55-57 deg F and the air was probably around 70.

The water was a bit choppy for this paddler and he capsized. He was wearing a splash top and “paddling pants” - not a wet suit and not dry.

The pants filled with water, he had a difficult time doing a T rescue with his son because they had only practiced in calm conditions.

After he got back in his boat, they started paddling back towards the harbor they launched from. Two more capsizes,and a great deal more difficulty doing the re-entries, convinced that paddler to go and buy a Kokatat Expedidtion Drysuit. After that experience, he wanted the best dry suit made.

I wear my dry suit until the water gets above 65 deg F.

What I am willing to swim in…
Puget Sound runs in the mid-50’s year-round. Most of the salt water from here to Alaska is similar. There are a few warmer pockets but I never see them.

I dress for the swim, always. Makes me warm on hot days but “comfortable” always.

Can’t count on having a boat to re-enter can we? Should we really count on having someone to assist us?


And don’t bother with drypants
Like some others, I first tried to go the 2-piece suit route (drytop and drypants).

It was OK when I got in the water and only leaked a little, UNTIL I actually swam in it. Then the water flooded in through the pants waist. That little bungie cord is not nearly secure enough to stop the inflow.

What happens when the pants legs are flooded is bizarre. Your legs want to float and don’t work as they should under water. Then when you get to shore it’s very difficult to walk: think of suddenly gaining, oh, about 30 lbs, all of it sloshy.

Someone should make a video of the above.

Water 20 or perhaps 30
swimming is not an issue, walk.

You were lucky
We had a paddler in a dry top and dry pants. They did not mate and he went over .

We thought he was in a dry suit so no rush.

When we got him ashore we had to get the coast guard to rescue him as mild hypothermia ruined his ballance.

A dry suit or a wet suit works.

In that case a tee shirt and jeans would have been better as we would have known we were in trouble.

I carry spare clothes, had they not been there it would have been worse.