What changes Cooler Weather/Water

What do you change in habits, gear, setup, supplies, etc.

when the water cools down and the weather gets colder ?

Not too many changes
I start wearing a wetsuit and change from water booties to mukluks. If it gets cold enough, I might wear gloves.

Likely a slow winter for paddling but…
what we have done in the past reflects living in the northeast. By middle of winter water can be in the high 30’s, where it isn’t frozen, air 30’s to teens.

Drysuit, hood/wool cap, warmer gloves, I also usually switch to my thicker mukluks for footwear. Paddle with company. Stay on top of where launch points or stretches of quieter water are/are not blocked by ice.

Always carry cag (or two) in day hatch, jug of hot beverage, soup rather tan sandwiches for lunch, more chocolate or equivalent sugar shock.

Paddle from spots that leave you as close as possible to a good place for food and hot toddy when you get off the water. Like just up the street from the launch.

(We live inland, so we aren’t on the salty stuff when the snow flies.)

Head to a warmer area
and still dress the same


For lake paddling
I paddle until the lakes freeze, often on January 1. My system:

– Mukluks

– At least 2 pairs of gloves, often 3, in case one gets wet

– No long open-water crossings. Distance from shore proportional to air and water temperature.

– Emergency kit with shelter, fire, etc.

– Go out on calm days

– Choose best route to be out of wind and waves

– Don’t take any unnecessary chances

– Extra clothing

I don’t use a wet or dry suit, so I’m a shore hugger in the late fall/early winter. Typically literally within 20’ of shore. Yesterday returning from kayak camping there was a strong wind. I chose a route that was three times longer rather than make an open-water crossing.

More rubber, more surf.

Food sources

– Last Updated: Oct-20-12 12:39 PM EST –

I like a mixed assortment of dried fruit for fuel
and emergency backup when calories are crucial.


Not a fan of the examiner format anymore
- but the info still remains true

not so much here
Dried fruit when it freezes is most unpleasant.

Soup. A good mix of protein and carbs. Don’t skim the fat.

I try to remember to have a thick layer of clothing in the car as well as an extra thermos of hot liquid. Plus dry gloves.

Putting a boat on a car when the boat and straps are ice covered is not much fun.

We will fresh water paddle till freeze up. Watching fresh water freeze is really interesting. Yes dry suit and layers underneath. Even if we are close to shore…if our core is cold the blood will shunt quick and we will lose any hand and finger dexterity very quickly…that thirty feet could be too far.

What else changes for ocean paddling is that if we can access the shore its often across crusty snowbanks. Sometimes we have to use microspikes.

Several changes
Dry suit with polypropylene and merino wool underneath. Mittens plus a spare pair, plus liners. Dry bag with complete change of merino underwear and fleece outerwear including wool hat as well as several chemical warmer packets and large towel. Extra granola bars and chocolate. Very careful about length of open water crossings and weather conditions before any long crossing. Practice rolls close to shore and take-out as opposed to wherever, whenever when it’s warm out. Bottle of single malt in car for immediate access after paddle. Paddles usually shorter than warm water paddles (8-10 miles rather than 12-16 during warmer days.)

Truth is I am growing weary
of cold water paddling. For years and years we have taken all our local extended trips in spring and fall, mostly to avoid people, but also for water levels. Either that or summer trips in the arctic which can be warm at time but always seem to involve some tough days. Last time we took a fall trip in Maine we ended up pinned on a rocky steep emergency site for night on Chesuncook and got out a day late with everyone at home scared to death we were in trouble and it was one heck of a hard night. Cooking in the tent. Thermarest sprung a leak. Ugh. I long for a warm weather trip. Maybe next summer. Guess I’m getting soft in my old age.

Noticed the same thing this year
I hate the heat of summer, the crowded waters and campgrounds, and prices. So I take trips in the spring and fall (kayak, backpacking, car camping, etc.). As I get older I have to make more and more changes to make the experience tolerable. Exactly how much fun is it to have to light a fire at 4:30 p.m. and sit in the dark for the next 5 hours? Or go to bed at 7:00 and huddle in your tent in the cold for the next 12 hours?

But the alternative is even less appealing: to sit in your barcalounger getting old. So I keep doing it. I’ve come to realize that adventures and happiness involve some effort and hardship. When I get home I remember the adventure part and the beauty more than the hardship. So it’s worth it, and I think you should keep doing it as long as you can, until it’s really not fun anymore.

Get a SPOT

– Last Updated: Oct-20-12 10:34 PM EST –

the darn thing wont keep you warm but it will save the family from panic. I took SPOT and issued several OK messages which kept the computer geek at home happy.

I second the "what do I do with 13 hours of dark" when I am solo and it is raining.

I quickly ran out of books on Junior Lake in Maine a couple of weeks ago. But you see I had had three months of too much togetherness with the retired other of 44 years and I am still in good enough shape to escape. So I did.

The tent was warm enough..but I was bored. And you know how us old uns have to pee more than we want.

Have you paddled at Lake Powell?
Fall there is not too crowded, and the water is still warm, days warm to hot, nights pleasantly mild. You can sleep under the stars (no bugs). Call out for echoes in many alcoves. Go swimming and hiking. Relax. It is a place I know I’ll miss being (relatively) close to.

If paddling starts to seem like a chore with all the “kit” and need for planning, pick places that have more margin of safety if you don’t want to set alarms for your starting time. And avoid places with cold water when you’re in that frame of mind. You’ll still need to be careful about wind conditions in any body of water that is large.

thermos of hot water
to warm up my neoprene gloves as needed. Drysuit, half poly sweats underneath.Mukluks. Towel, some clif bars, spare shirt and sweat pants in the drybag. Baggie of lint and a lighter.

Plus it’s terrible for old joints to be lying down in a tent for 12 hours straight. The trick is to go to bed as late as possible, which involves some labor-intensive hunting for wood and maintaining a fire. I like to read and write by the fire at night and in the early morning.

Days are longer in the spring but then you’ve got bugs to contend with.

It’s all good. When you’re out on the water on a fabulous fall day you’re glad you went through that cold, long night.

Wetsuit…no more for me
My awakening to dry suit heaven came after hanging

my wetsuit in the sun only to wake up the next morning

with it covered in frost. A cold clammy yucky feeling.

bottle of hot water …
Pour inside wet suit. Put on wetsuit. Ah nice and warm.

Problem solved. Go get wet.

Mid 50’s Water Temp…
Still alternating between the 3/2 and 4/3. Don’t think I’ll switch to the 5/4/3 until after Thanksgiving.

Wetsuits are for higher octane action on/in the water. Drysuit is for lillydipping. (Anymore than lillydipping, I am soaked in my “drysuit”.)


I get out of bed later

thank you for saying that
I own both. Among my wetsuits I have a jacket, shorty, and 3mm farmers. Among my drysuits I have a top and full drysuit.

I probably wear the drysuit 20% of the time if that. If it’s warm but the water is cold, I usually wear a wetsuit combo because in my drysuit I sweat like a pig. (I challenge the “breatheable” myth).