What to wear kayaking and canoeing is important. What you should wear depends on the paddling environment and the likelihood of taking an unexpected swim.
When the air and water are warm, simply dress for a day at the beach. Keeping in mind to wear things that protect you from the sun and keep you cool. When the air is warm and the water is cold, you have to assess the conditions and your capabilities more carefully. Many prudent paddlers prepare for every trip assuming someone is going to get wet. It is sensible to pack an extra change of clothes.
How to Dress for Cold-Water Paddling
Spring and Fallare great times to paddle, but the cold water temperatures encountered during those seasons make paddling significantly more dangerous. Paddlers who are immersed in cold water lose body heat four to five times faster than when in air of the same temperature. Such rapid heat loss can lead to cold shock, cold incapacitation, hypothermia, and death.
The primary mechanism of heat loss in cold water is convection, where water constantly flowing over your skin carries heat away. Therefore, reducing the flow of cold water across the skin, by wearing appropriate clothing, reduces your risk.
Thereare three rulesto remember whendressing for cold weather: No cotton.
It soaks up water and holds it against your skin, leaving it worthless as an insulator and heavy as a layer. A worthless, worthless fabric in the water.
Layers help trap heat and fend off water. Remember "wick, warmth, and weather" as you arrange your layers: light wicking fabrics first, then warm insulating sweaters or fleeces, and finally an waterproof outer layer to protect you from the elements.
No cotton; seriously.
For more information on preparing for cold-water paddling (including life-saving tips and recommended skills practice), read Off-Season Boating, Cold Shock, and Hypothermia by Chuck Sutherland, Cold Water Paddling: Preparation and Outfitting by Daniel Smith of New England Sea Kayaker, or drop by our Paddling Store and speak to one of our dedicated paddlers.
How Cold is Cold?
When do you need to wear your cold-water gear?
We recommend the American Canoe Association's guidelines for cold-water paddling — always wear protective clothing when:
both the water temperature and the air temperature are below 60°F
you will be more than 1/4 mile from shore and the water temperature is below 60°F
you expect be repeatedly exposed to cool (65-70°F or less) water in cool or mild weather