Water temperature

I’m new to this, but I was wondering. People always talk about dressing for the water temperature. But how do you know what it is?

Can you find weather data on this or do you need to determine this yourself?

Also, this is our first year and we don’t have winter gear. How warm should the water be before you can go out on calm water without a wetsuit.

Or is that ever possible. I took a rescue lesson last Aug. and got pretty cold, even though the air temperatures were hot.

Thanks much, I’m learning a lot by reading the information here.

Where do you paddle?
If you dig around the NOAA sites you can find water temps for major bodies of water around here and major rivers like the Hudson. If you are near the ocean, the recordings of info including water temps from the buoys are available online (marine weather).

Another rather good source is serious fishing sites - the temps are sometimes tracked because it tells them when the fish will be more active and accessible.

But it’d be easier if you mentioned where you paddle - not sure what works around here inland works elsewher.

Two possibilities
If there is a fishing equipment store near you, go in and get a stream thermometer. Or go to a pet store and get an aquarium thermometer that is weighted on one end.

Use a thermometer!

– Last Updated: Apr-06-06 10:56 AM EST –

No, really! For example, a group of us thought we knew what the termperature was on Lake George, NY and were shocked, literally, by where we put in, in the middle of summer, when a spring ran into the lake near the put in! Instead of 70 degree water, its was 45! One person had a strong gasp reflex and near panic. Could have been a bad scene.

Moral: pays to measure. Temps in 60's synthetic wear, wind protection, spare dry clothes a must, some thin folks need fuzzy wear here. Beware long exposure to wind and water, eat and drink to keep you engine going. Temps in 50's fuzzy and wet suit range, temps in 40's wet suit with hood, neck and armpit protection at least, possible drysuit, 30's drysuit. 50's hypothermia and some possibility of gasp reflex, 40's things happen faster and more dramatically, 30's can be lethal and in a hurry, don't mess around.

The ability to tolerate/swim/survive in cold water varies among individuals. If you think the water is warm enough for paddling without immersion gear, try swimming in it. Stay in as long as you need to self-rescue, or try swimming at least the distance you plan to be from shore --but stay close to shore while you swim.

Advice is helpful, but there’s no substitute for experience. My first real data point(many years ago) was capsizing a Sunfish just couple of weeks after ice-out, wearing only cotton sweats. I’ve never forgotten it.

risk assessment
start with putting your hand in the water. If you can’t keep your hand in the water for a five minutes then it’s cold, if you can’t keep your hand in for one minute it’s very cold, if you can’t keep your hand in for 15seconds it’s really cold.

ok,ok,but the point is exactly what you experienced in your class,the number on the thermometer should have a reference to your experience in the water BEFORE you venture out alone.

So if you took a class in 65 degree water and found out what it’s like to self-rescue in those temps you KNOW what 65 degrees is when you read about it on a weather report. You won’t have to guess.

Don’t assume that 55degree water requires an extra piece of clothing or faster rescue. Get in the 55 degree water. Same with 45 degree water.

What happens as the water gets colder is more than “Survival at X temperature is Y minutes” or “wear this that and the other thing”.

Once you’ve experienced immersion for various times in various temps,put your head in the water. That’s an education.

On the other side of the scale
I paddle the Upper Delaware River. You would not believe that water temps on a river in North America could be in the 90s. They were.

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.




Whew! Thanks…
I was going to say the same. If you don’t have an access to NOAA bouy data in the waters paddled, just stick you darn hand in. The feel of the water on your hand can tell you a lot.


that is excellent
my $.02 is that anyone who’s in the 55-75 range should have some kind of head gear beanie/hood available in the pfd pocket. If the body needs immersion protection the head does too. Not that it has to be on all the time but it can be critical for long term heat retention in the water and afterwards.

well Bill Mason says…
the rule of 100: if water temp + air temp is less than 100 you should be wearing a wet or dry suit.

At least I think Mason said that, but he’s Canadian, and that dosen’t work out well in celsius.

Some quick misinformation

– Last Updated: Apr-06-06 10:03 PM EST –

1. "Below 45 drysuit required - no exceptions ...." WRONG
2. Below 32 degrees water freezes ... MAYBE
Fresh still water freezes at 32 degrees ... not true of moving water in special circumstances and salt water.

Just a

– Last Updated: Apr-07-06 1:05 AM EST –

friendly reminder that it would really help if folks created a public profile. Shoe size, driver's license number, spouses name or home address not needed. I understand not giving out too much info over the internet as there are many evil and nosey people out there. That being said, when you ask for information, advice and/or opinions, it's really hard to give any local knowledge insight when you don't even know what hemisphere the "askie" is located in.

An example? Resources for checking the water temp inland vice the ocean are a lot different. River? Ocean? Back yard creek? City pool? How about a little help here original poster? Thanks much. :)

Canada didn’t begin the conversion to Celsius scale until 1975.

I, too, remember his 100-degree rule from my whitewater kayaking days in the mid-1970s.

I think his rule predates 1975 and works well with Fahrenheit.


– Last Updated: Apr-07-06 2:12 AM EST –

while I appreciate you not "declaring" that I'm a troll, I have to disagree with your no profile opinion on this instance. The poster is asking how one would be able to determine water temperature. From where? The ocean perhaps? Then they might want to go to http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/ if they're along the Washington or Florida coast. If they're on an inland waterway such as a river in the PNW for instance, they would want to go here http://www.nwrfc.noaa.gov/.

Do you know how to read either one of these two links completely? Temps, currents, predicted ocean and river currents and how you get them, winds, tidal influences or lack thereof and SAR data???? Some of us do and enjoy sharing cool stuff like this with others. Not everyone has a political motive so you should really ice down those paranoia glands.


Cold Water Immersion & Survival

– Last Updated: Apr-07-06 11:45 AM EST –

At our last Maine Assoc. of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors meeting we had a speaker from the Wilderness Medicine Associates discuss cold water immersion. He presented an amazing video made by Dr. Geisbrecht. He immerses himself in a frozen lake and discusses each phase of his body's reaction and what to do if you're in the same situation. I found the link to the video at: http://www.yukonman.com/cold_water.asp

Click on the "streaming video" beneath the photo of him hanging onto the edge of the ice. It took a little while to load, but is worth the wait.

What about on flatwater
I’m just curious if everyone follows these guidelines regardless.

About a week back, I paddled down a tidal river. Don’t know what the exact temperature was, but I estimated it somewhere in the range of “damn cold”, so I dutifully put on my wetsuit. The outside temperature was about 60 degrees.

By the end of the trip, I was drenched in sweat from head to toe and very uncomfortable. Throughout the paddle, I was never more than about 30’ from the shoreline.

I want to take the proper precautions and everything, but given the choice, I probably would have chosen NOT to paddle rather than to go through that for much longer.

A good cooking tip
If it’s Thanksgiving day and you’re in a hurry to thaw out a frozen turkey, just put it in water. Water sucks the cold out of things as well as heat. Even cold water works well. Another good reason to wear a drysuit: don’t be a turkey.

big lake +65 deg air + 35 degree H20,
add paddler one mile from shore, whip in sudden big wind. No massive skills or immersion gear. Result: bad story.

Anything works on a pond

Must be adapted for kayakers
Yes this is a good video. However, it is ESSENTIAL to modify the information for kayakers, or anyone who will go in head first and who often do not have diving backgrounds, who wear farmer johns and janes and no hoods, who have no protection for armpits, neck and head. Cold shock is much more extensive and violent for them than the conditions in the video.

Otherwise very nice video, thanks for sharing it.