Winter Clothing

I have a set of vinyl waders and a long gortex coat. Any suggestions for what to wear with this stuff for winter kayaking? I need REASONABLY priced gear! Is the “under armor” gear good for this application? I can’t afford the expensive dry suits, etc. but want to not freeze! Thanks

Tell us more
What sort of water and air temps are you dealing with? What sort of lakes/rivers/ocean are you paddling?

I am afraid you are the poster child for
"what not to wear" for kayaking. The waders if they fill with water are not going to sink you but they will provide a great deal of resistance…like towing two hefty sandbags when swimming.

That long GoretTex coat seems to me to be an instrument of entanglement if you swim.

Now long underwear is one element of keeping warm. You might want to think of carrying a dry bag with spare clothing in case of dunking. I am hoping your winter adventures are not on whitewater…as this basic clothing layering is not at all designed for that.

You want to think base wicking layer, insulating layer (probably fleece) and a windblocking layer (but not long!)

Go get some wetsuit booties that really do give you a fighting chance to swim.

Don’t forget your hat!

How much do you swim?
In NC you may be able to get away with basic wet wear like the typical paddling wetsuits if you don’t do a lot of swimming. If you do, and don’t want to invest in new clothing, maybe best to wait until warmer weather.

The surfing wet suits can be more effective, but are pricier

As said above, the long goretex coat is a rotten idea. For top wear you want at least a good semi-dry top. Full dry top even better.

Depends on where you are and what waters you’ll be paddling on. If you are in the north and can’t afford winter paddling clothing you’ll have to wait till spring or longer to be safe. Dress for the water temperature. With what you’re wearing in most of the country this time of year if you end up in the water it’s not if you’ll die it’s how long it’ll be after you end up in the water before you die. Dumb idea. Either save up for the proper clothing or stay home.

Bill H.

For around $200
You can get a good farmer john wetsuit and good pair of thick neoprene boots. As long as you don’t rip or tear them they should last a lifetime. I wear generic under armor underneath. Unless you are always w/ another paddler you might want to consider a submersible VHS radio for under $100. These things may seem a little pricey but it’s your life. Please don’t wear waders kayaking!

NRS sells some great gear

Go to Wally World
Get light weight poly pro or some other synthetic long johns and long sleeve top for your base layer.

Then get heavier weight polar fleece pants and tops to go over them.

Wear a water proof splash jacket or if it is real cold a ski jacket over that.

If those waders won’t slide off very easily if you take a swim , get rid of them. If they do come off easy, wear some smart wool, (or equal) socks in them.

Jack L


– Last Updated: Jan-13-11 8:57 AM EST –

Waders are dangerous. I know a ex-worker friend who's son died in waders. He slipped and fell in a river fishing with a mild current and died. FORGET THE WADERS They do nothing for you in kayaking.

The common wisdom in paddle sports is to dress for the water. It's easy to stay warm like you are going fly fishing but if you capsize in deep water you will be in agony in minutes and incapacitated as far as swimming. .

always amazed me …

– Last Updated: Jan-13-11 10:56 AM EST –

....... about the cooling rate of a persons body that is "submerged" in water . I've read different averages but generally it's 25-27 times faster than being naked in the same air temps. .

Easy to grasp why skin feels colder with a bit of wind "when wet" ... the evaporation thing . Skin feels colder (as in windchill) w/o being wet due to rapid skin surface heat loss ... add that evaporation thing and ugggg it can get nasty uncomfortable .

But the skin feeling nasty uncomfortable (windchill + evaporation) seems very different than a submersion into cold water (no windchill) . I know the two are related because in the end it's about the body lossing heat and "guess" it has to start by escaping the skin layer in either case .

It just seems a different thing when you have a wet hand in the air on a cold day (let's say 26-F. degree windchill) ... than submerging your hand into 35-F. degree water .

The windchill (26-F.) bites at your skin and it's uncomfortable , but the submersion (35-F.) causes almost instant pain "to the bone" . That must be because of that 25-27 x's faster body heat loss when submerged .

The skin evaporation thing when wet in air/wind must have it's own numbers on the cooling scale but it doesn't seem like they are near as high as when fully submerged .

economical = ?
You give too little information. Here are two references;

The danger is from
temperature change due to the specific heat capacity of water. Immersion is a whole different enchilada than wind chill in air. Different substances, liquids, solids, or gases, require different energy inputs to raise a given mass of the substance by, say, 1 deg. Same applies to their capacity to give off energy and lose temperature. (For the geeks amongst us, and I too can get that way if pressed, the formula is Q = c X m X delta T; where Q is the thermal energy required usually in joules or kcals, c is the specific heat capacity of the substance, m is the mass of that substance, and delta T is the temperature change.)

Substances with a high specific heat capacity transfer and store thermal energy more efficiently than those with a lower specific heat capacity. Water has about the highest specific heat capacity of any substance in the universe. The next closest liquid substances listed in the info I have at hand are Glycerin and ethyl alcohol and they have a specific heat capacity of only half that of water. Water’s specific heat capacity is a major reason our planetary temperatures don’t fluctuate wildly between day and night as happens on some other planets we could name that lack oceans.

And that’s why a dry suit, a suit that really keeps you dry, is the best answer to the problem of staying warm when immersed by far.

But I’m in the same boat you are. I can’t afford a decent one, meaning one that is flexible enough to actually paddle in. (Several years ago I bought a survival suit cheap on Ebay - completely useless for paddling. Might as well try to paddle in a suit of armor. Wasted money.) So what I do is wear a wet suit over under armor type synthetic long johns. They can often be found at Goodwill for under $10. The wet suit I think cost about $80 but should last a lifetime. A wet suit hood is a good idea also. Over that I wear fleece or polypro long johns at about $20 each for top and bottom. Wool shirt and pants stay warm when wet also if you can find them at a decent price. And finally a wind-breaking nylon over layer that can also probably be found used at Goodwill or similar.

Then there’s a dry bag with a dry change of clothes that travels along with me attached to the boat. Don’t forget some spare gloves, socks, and a dry stocking cap.

I figure this gives me about ten minutes tops to get ashore and a few more to get into dry clothes in the event of a cold swim. Don’t paddle anywhere where you couldn’t do that in a worst case scenario. In the cold keep a painter tied on your boat - its faster to swim ashore with a rope and haul your boat in than it is to swim in dragging your boat. Of course wear a PFD. (They’re warm too, you know…) If its that cold and immersion is a possibility wear no cotton at all.

I also try to take a medium duraflame log along and (in a waterproof container) a means of lighting it so that I could rapidly start a fire, without searching for tinder or wood, even if my hands weren’t working very well - as they probably won’t following a cold swim. A thermos of hot chocolate, coffee, tea, or even jello mix in hot water isn’t a bad idea at all either.

But be aware you’re taking a risk - calculated maybe, but a risk nonetheless. Be extra careful when its cold. Don’t track water into the boat, paddle only with folks who you trust implicitly, stay closer together than you otherwise might, and especially don’t be afraid to back out of a paddle at the landing if you don’t like the looks of everything.

We here at Pnet have lost friends who took liberties with cold water, especially the early spring run off. Don’t let it happen to you. Be careful.

So those are my tricks for paddling in cold on the cheap. Its mostly about absolutely minimizing the chances I take in cold water. Thus far it has worked for me. I once swam in mid 30 deg. water and 37 deg air. It wasn’t at all comfortable but it was absolutly survivable. Still, I sure would like to get far enough ahead so I felt I could afford a decent dry suit. That’s the real ticket.

Waders, worn properly are not a dangerous as portrayed. Waders should be worn with a snug external belt around the waist. This will prevent water from filling up the waders and actually create trapped air that will float your legs. That along with a PFD will keep your body on the surface.

Still proper winder paddling gear is far better than waders.

Keeping warm and alive

– Last Updated: Jan-14-11 10:58 AM EST –

Let's go to the professionals--guys that work now and have all their lives, on cold waters. I just finished reading Time Bandit by Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand, of Deadliest Catch fame. Cold water and what it does to the body is a reality they live with every day. They don't deal with the theoretical;they have actually watched friends and coworkers as the life was sucked out of them. And it's not just Alaska. The same rules apply in Virginia or Missouri, or any time or place where the water gets cold. This is a quote from their book---"Every fisherman knows what kills. We understand that, for whatever reason, if we enter the water unprotected, we are dead. A crewman will be irretrievably wounded by hypothermia in four or five minutes....The cold will numb his extremities quickly as his body struggles to protect its central core; and he dies when his heart reaches 86-degrees F. WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF THE SEA; WE ARE TERRIFIED OF THE WATER." The rules for survival are simple, but they are nonnegotiable. Be prepared to survive in the water, or stay out of the water. Yes, proper gear can be mind-numbingly expensive, but look at it as an investment. First, most such gear will last a lifetime. Second, it's real life insurance, and not the kind of insurance payment you send off and never see any benefit from. This is insurance that pays a dividend every time you put it on.

What temps
What water temps, conditions and air temps?

Spend some time at

And check out my article

watch for used gear
You’ve gotten some pretty good advice here.

I will add that you can find reasonable deals on good protective clothing if you keep an eye out for them. I got my Kokatat Goretex paddle jacket for $35 on Sierra Traders, my full wetsuit (an unused top brand surfing suit) for $30 on Ebay and even my Goretex Kokatat drysuit used from a classified ad for $400 (less than half what it cost new). Wetsuits are very common on Ebay and I often see them going for less than $20. Same for neoprene booties and hoods.

I used to sell outdoor gear and am pretty dialed in to the quality and functionality of clothing – my opinion of the Underarmour brand is that it is overpriced and not all that effective compared to other brands. You can often find good polyester stretch fleece or wool base garments (Nike, Brooks, North Face, Columbia, Woolrich, Mountain Hard Wear) on the racks of workout wear in most off-price stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Yes, it requires some time and careful searching, but that’s the way you save $$.

The aforementioned Sierra Trading Post often has great closeout deals on paddle jackets – you need one of those and a wet suit (which they also have fairly reasonably) at minimum.

Do your homework…

– Last Updated: Jan-18-11 7:44 PM EST –

Drysuits are made by a wide variety of manufacturers.
You can get an economy drysuit for under $ 400

Figure you use it 10 times a year for next 5-10 years
and the price begins to make a lot of sense.

Check out Immersion Research Outlet Store as well
Often they have great deals, look around the site
Might go under the name Industrial River and Surf - same gear

it’s been about a week ,
… and we haven’t heard back from jsirwin67 in response to our replies .

I hope jsiewin67 hasn’t been drowned or perished of hypothermia with those waders and long coat .

So just in case you’re listening jsirwin67 , please do one of the following if able would ya … let us know what you have learned or concluded from the replies given you (out of respect for those that have given you thier time , attention and consideration - since you ask them to do that) … or don’t reply and don’t bother to ask for peoples time and attention in the future … or let us know who to send our condolences to if your waders and long coat are you demise in a future cold water paddling event .

one time posts
Don’t ya just love it when someone comes in and asks a question then never shows up again?

Bill H.

no griffin , I hate that …
… I feel it’s very rude and inconsiderate .

Although it happens quite frequently , seldom do I get too bent about it . This time I chose to address jsirwin67 about just that because I am hoping there is some valid reason for delayed or lack of response … I just had the impression this time that jsirwin67 was legite , asking about a serious topic with serious intentions of interacting with his/her audience … maybe I was wrong about jsirwin67 … we’ll see ??