Spring and Fall are 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.
There are three rules to remember when dressing for cold weather: No cotton.
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