what do you wear?

when its cold on the water what is it that you like to wear, paddling? i dont have much in the way of cold gear. just some warm thermals …and a wool vest… i would like to hear from others who paddle in colder weather to get some xmas ideas… thanks jack

Dry Suit
The single most valuable piece of clothing for cold is a dry suit. When paddling it is important to remember to dress for immersion - dress for the water temperature so that you will survive in decent condition should you end up in the water.

3mm farmer john with a wetsuit jacket
neo booties, gloves and a hood when it gets really bad

More info por favor
People are going to be asking you things like: where do you padding during colder weather? and, how long do you expect to be out on the water?

a lot of variables
There are a number of variables to take into consideration. I dress one way, you may dress another.

The Midwest–okay–but what kind of water (white water? flat lake?) are we talking about? And what season? Are you GOING to get wet, or just maybe?

I plan to get wet everytime I go paddling–that’s part of what makes it fun for me. On the ocean, that means wearing something warm enough to stave of hypothermia. A lot of people wear neoprene wet suits. I have a drysuit and under it wear a rash guard and long underwear. On my feet I wear neoprene socks and neoprene booties. If it’s cold out, I may put on a skull cap and neoprene gloves.

If you’re going to paddle in winter in the Midwest, I think you would want the things I just listed as a start. Of course all this stuff gets kind of pricey, but money is no object if you wind up out of your boat in 30-40 degree water.

Good luck!

Jack…please define cold
What paddlers in southern Florida and even here in Georgia call cold might be considered warm or hot to the northern paddlers although I have paddled in 23 degree weather here in Atlanta.

dry suit
but I like to be warm and I don’t mind rolling in cold water to cool off. Admittedly it is a bit extreme for where I live. I also like being able to take the dry suit off, be dry and ready to go.

more info
by cold im saying hi 30s to low, mid 40s typical winter day in south indiana with water in the hi 30s most likely…im out for 2 to 6 hrs at a time

Dry suit and/or Smartwool
Try ask for a dry suit first (from someone who must love you very much). If the hint failed, get some Smartwool long sleeves. I find wearing polypro is like wearing straws - very uncomfortable.

and try it out

walk out into the water and wade around a bit

if you’re not dressed warm enough for that, you’re not dressed warm enough to be out paddling

(two years winter paddling in Central IL experience speaking)

Definitely try it out
I used mine for the first time this year sunday, and the neck gasket leaked (Glue let go where it was bonded to the suit). Good thing I found that out in October, rather than in some tidal race or having to roll somewhere a bit offshore in the middle of December. A real easy fix, but not something you want to find when you need the suit.

I usually lay down in the river first thing. Squeezes the air out (by pulling on the neck gasket) a little, and also checks for leaks. Hate turning into the michelin man when the sun comes out, also stinks to be bobbing thru the rapids, unable to touch the bottom. Who knows what I mean :wink: ?

Water in the 30’s? (by then that’s the most important temp) I tried neoprene and wetsuits down to 50 degree water or so, but somewhere in the 40’s there wasn’t anything in wet wear that worked for me which was not also so layered it constricted my paddling. The folks from Alaska seem to be able to push it further but they probably have half ice in their veins anyway.

I find fleece works best under a drysuit to mitigate the (inevitable) sweating when the sun is warm and you are dressed for immersion, but that really varies by individual. Best to experiment with stuff on sale and see what works best for you.

If you look at the NRS web site they have an educational section and you can find information of ways to dress for cold temperature. Layering is recommended instead of bulky clothing. and definitely no cotton clothing. I don’t have a wet suit either its very expensive and haven’t done that step yet but I wear wet suit and my best expense so far as been to buy a pair of paddling boots that come up to my knees and are waterproof. They are awesome!! Mia

In similar weather and water temp.
I layer starting with light weight polar fleece long johns, and a light weight long sleeve poly pro top or light weight polar fleece top.

On top of them I use waterproof cycling pants, and a north face water proof winter jacket.

I use NRS boundary shoes, with smart wool socks.

I try not to get much farther than fifty feet from the shore on rough days.

I always take a dry bag with a change of clothing just in case, but have never had to use them yet.



It gets cold here in Buffalo
and we do paddle in winter when the water is not solid. Most of us wear wetsuits layered overtop with fleece and usually some sort of jacket like the NRS storm jackets. Fleece or lined nylon pants over the wetsuit on bottom. We use neoprene or fleece gloves, fleece caps, NRS Boundary neoprene boots, sometimes we may need a scarf too.

We are aware that drysuits would be better, but few here have them. As precautions, we stay close to shore in really cold weather, and carry drybags with full changes of clothing and firestarters.

I have the exact site for you to check www.nrsweb.com/cold_water_layering

I’m also in the Buffalo area and planning to continue paddling as long as possible!!


bottom line
if you can’t wade out and go swimming in it for a few minutes IN THE VERY SAME CONDITIONS YOU WILL BE PADDLING IN without getting cold, you’re not dressed warm enough

I get the impression that some people here are gambling with their life and have lucked out so far

30-40 degree water is very cold

Seal-skin speedo.

Sorry ladies, I’m taken…

Worry - No Worry
When i paddled in Neo & Hydroskin, I worried. Especially on the cold cloudy days. I can still remember days with three layers of cappaline, hydroskin and neo and still getting chilled. A swim would have meant at least a couple hours or more before takeout. The thought gave me the chills. Figuratively and literally.

Since the drysiut, I just don’t worry. I have swam in 30-40 degree water and paddled for hours afterwords and the most uncomfortable I ever became was a result of taking the suit off at the takeout and getting chilled from sweat.

It really comes down to priorities. If you can afford a drysuit and don’t, that is just foolish. If expense is an issue (and it can be a good reason not have a drysuit), then you really need to evaluate just how much you should be paddling in cold weather.