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Kayak Clothing For Cold Weather: Dress to Impress 2024

The Best Way To Dress For Kayak Clothing For Cold Weather

The Best Way To Dress For Kayak Clothing For Cold Weather

Updated on 2/20/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
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During the spring and fall, paddling can be very enjoyable, but it is essential to remember that the cold water temperatures make paddling significantly more hazardous. Because paddlers are immersed in cold water, paddlers lose four to five times more body heat than in air of the same temperature. Rapid body heat loss may result in cold shock, incapacitation, hypothermia, and, in the worst cases, death.

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Cold water loses heat primarily through convection, which occurs when water constantly flows over the skin, carrying heat away from the body. As a result, if you know kayak clothing for cold Weather, you can reduce the flow of cold water across your skin, reducing your risk of chilling.

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To learn more about what gear you need for cold-water paddling, stop by our Paddling Store and talk to one of our dedicated paddlers.
Temperature of the waterRisk of HypothermiaDress appropriately
60°F and upLowClothing should be appropriate for the weather
55-59°F ModerateThe choice is between wetsuits and dry suits
45-54°FHighThe use of a dry suit is recommended
Below 45°FExtremeWe strongly recommend the use of a dry suit

Paddlers' Layering

Paddlers' Layering

Paddlers' Layering

 

Generally, dressing for paddling is similar to dressing for any other outdoor activities: layers can be added and removed throughout the day as the temperature changes. All the dress you choose should be able to shed very little water if it gets wet; otherwise, you will lose a significant amount of body heat due to the water in your clothes being heated by your body heat. This is why you should avoid cotton clothes.

A garment's inner layer, or the base layer, should contain wicking synthetic fabrics, such as polypropylene, that are highly breathable. Sweat and moisture are kept away from your skin, and allowing it to evaporate quickly is the function of this layer. 

Paddlers' Layering

Paddlers' Layering

 

It is best to wear a thin base layer since a thick base layer will prevent you from adjusting to warmer temperatures. It is recommended that even your underwear is made of wicking fabric - it is much more comfortable than anything else!

In the second layer, there will be an insulation layer, which can consist of either fleece, wool, or other materials that are insulating and non-absorbing. It is ideal for wearing one or two thin layers (unless it is freezing), so you can adjust to different weather conditions more easily.

It is the outer layer that protects the body from the elements. A paddling jacket, a dry suit for kayak, or whatever you need to protect yourself against rain, sun, wind, spray, waves, and whatever comes your way will be available here.

Paddlewear Made of Neoprene & Wetsuits

Paddlewear Made of Neoprene & Wetsuits

Paddlewear Made of Neoprene & Wetsuits

 

Wetsuits are neoprene garments that trap a thin layer of water between themselves and your skin and reduce the circulation of that water by reducing the contact between them and your skin. It will help if you fit the wetsuit tightly to protect the oar during submersion adequately. Because You must maintain a thin layer of water appropriately, the paddler should not wear any clothes underneath the wetsuit.

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Advantages of Wetsuits:

  • Affordably priced
  • Rugged and resistant to rough handling
  • It keeps you warm in cold weather

Disadvantages of Wetsuits:

  • When the weather is warm, it is hot
  • It doesn't keep you dry at all
  • Does not breathe (retains sweat as a result)
  • There is a limited range of protection (best in water that is 50°F and above)

The most popular type of wetsuit for kayakers is the Farmer John, which has full legs but no sleeves. When paddling, a Farmer John is more comfortable and less constricting than a wetsuit with full sleeves and a hood, although it does not provide as much protection as a wetsuit with full sleeves and a hood. The style of the suit doesn't matter; all you have to do is make sure that it has an available relief zipper so that if you need to answer Nature's call, you won't have to remove the entire suit.

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I want to emphasize that a wetsuit is not outerwear; it is a base layer - if you wear anything under your wetsuit (other than polypro underwear), you will compromise its ability to keep you warm. If you need to stay warm while wearing a wetsuit, consider layering clothes on top of it.

As an alternative, neoprene garments offer more flexibility than wetsuits. NRS Hydroski paddle wear, for instance, comes in both long- and short-sleeved tops and bottoms. If paddlers select the appropriate combination of clothing for the current weather conditions, they can adjust more quickly. As an example, on a warm day when you'll be repeatedly immersed in cooler water, you might decide to wear a neoprene short-sleeved top and shorts when there is a chance of getting wet.

Dry Suits & Paddling Suits

Dry Suits & Paddling Suits

Dry Suits & Paddling Suits

 

Dry suits are waterproof garments with latex gaskets at all openings (ankles, wrists, and necks) to keep water out. The insulating layers worn under the suit reduce the heat lost to the water by preventing water from passing across your skin during immersion.

As dry suits are made of breathable materials, they trap less sweat inside the garment than traditional, non-breathable fabrics, such as urethane-coated nylon, because they are also made of breathable materials. As a result, dry suits offer fantastic comfort regardless of the air temperature, especially if there is wind to keep you cool.

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Advantages OF Wearing A Dry Suit:

  • It is comfortable in a wide range of temperatures. It ranges from
  • Breathable (releases sweat from the body)
  • Protects against freezing water
  • Ensures that you stay dry during the day

Disadvantages of Dry Suits:

Disadvantages of Dry Suits

Disadvantages of Dry Suits

 

    InexpensiveThe tears you must be repaired as soon as possible

It is recommended that you layer under your dry suit as described above to maintain warmth. In this case, the danger lies in overdoing it and overheating. A single lightweight or midweight base layer can often be sufficient, and you should only consider a fleece layer if the weather is freezing.

Many waterproof/breathable fabrics are used in dry suits, like Gore-Tex or other brands' proprietary materials. As a rule of thumb. 

The Essential Qualities of Such A Fabric Are:

  • Its life span.
  • Abrasion resistance.
  • Ease of patching in the field.
  • Resistance to clogging in saltwater environments.

Several manufacturers have introduced less expensive waterproof/breathable fabrics, such as Tropos (by Kolkata). The price of Tropos is about 40% less than that of Gore-Tex, making dry suits more affordable for a wide range of paddlers. Tropos is not as durable as Gore-Tex, as it has a shorter life span and is not as durable as Gore-Tex; Kokatat guarantees Gore-Tex for life, while Tropos is guaranteed for two years.

With the proper care, the rubber gaskets used in dry suits can last for years; however, they eventually wear out and tear over time. The good news is that You can easily replace these gaskets.

With the proper care

With the proper care

 

As a means of increasing your comfort level, several dry-suit options are available. There will be a great deal of satisfaction among paddlers if their dry suit has a relief zipper or a drop seat. You can keep your feet warmer with attached socks (rather than ankle gaskets). An overskirt that seals against your sprayskirt can help prevent water from getting into the cockpit during Eskimo rolls by filling against the sprayskirt.

You can also choose Kokatat's SuperNova Paddling Suit as an option. With its construction of Tropos, this suit has wrist gaskets, attached socks, and a relief zipper or drop seat, but instead of a neck gasket, it utilizes an adjustable punch-through neoprene neck closure. This closure is not entirely waterproof, but it keeps out most of the water and is sufficient in most situations of brief immersion of the head in the water. Those who frequent challenging conditions, such as surfing or Eskimo rolls, are not recommended to use the SuperNova.

Paddling Jackets & Dry Tops

Paddling Jackets & Drytops

Paddling Jackets & Drytops

 

Dry tops are waterproof jackets with neck and wrist gaskets and an overskirt (usually) attached. You can also use waterproof dry suit fabrics in dry shirts, such as the H2No fabric (left image at right) and the Tropos fabric (center image at right).

Dry tops protect you from cold water as long as you do not wet-exit from your kayak; once you wet-exit, you are left with only the clothing on your legs and underneath the garment to keep you warm. Because dry tops are great for paddlers with bomb-proof Eskimo rolls, they are a great choice.

Advantages of Dry Tops:

  • A dry suit is less expensive than a wetsuit
  • In warmer temperatures, a wetsuit is more comfortable than a dry-suit
  • The material is breathable (releases sweat from the body)
  • As long as you don't wet exit, you will stay dry

Disadvantages of Dry Tops:

  • Inexpensive
  • Please fix the tears as soon as possible
  • If you wet-exit, you will not be protected from cold water

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A less expensive alternative is a paddling jacket with coated-Lycra wrist cuffs and a neck closure that keeps most water out of the coat. Paddling jackets don't usually seal at the waist, so when a paddler performs Eskimo rolls, they are likely to take on some water through the abdomen. Consequently, it would be best if you did not rely on paddling jackets to protect you from immersion in cold water if you get wet. However, a simple paddling jacket is ideal when the water is warmer since it protects from rain, spray, and waves.

In the same way that dry tops are available in Gore-Tex and other waterproof and breathable fabrics, paddling jackets are also available. The Tropos Super Breeze (right image above) is a reasonably priced product that will help you stay cool in less-than-ideal weather conditions since it is designed to keep you cool.

Warming Up Your Hands

Warming Up Your Hands

Warming Up Your Hands

 

In cold weather or cold water, it's easy to get cold hands due to the cold water. They are exposed to wind and spray and often end up in the water due to the exposure. Hands can be kept warm in the cold can be easy if you have the right gear.

As far as keeping your hands warm is concerned, there are two main options that you can choose from neoprene pogies or gloves. In addition to protecting your fingertips from abrasions, neoprene gloves can also catch water and make it harder for you to grip the paddle shaft, so wear them at your own risk since they can also hold water. The problem is that when you wear gloves, you don't have the advantage of being able to eliminate the feeling of "my hands are wet.".

Pogies, on the other hand, are not quite as good at retaining heat, but they drain quickly and allow for direct contact between your hand and the paddle, which is quite desirable. It is straightforward to put them on, too - you attach them to your paddle shaft before sliding your hands in and out as you need to.

In the end, the choice between gloves and pogies comes down to a matter of personal preference. See which works best for you by trying both.

The Best Way to Keep Your Head Warm

The Best Way to Keep Your Head Warm in Kayak

The Best Way to Keep Your Head Warm in Kayak

 

A paddler keeps their head warm, making for a more comfortable and happy experience on the water. If it rains or sprays, waterproof hats will keep your head warm and dry, making them some of the best pieces of paddling equipment.

For colder days, or if you will be immersed in cold water for some time, NRS makes their Sea Hood out of their Mystery fabric. It is lightweight and dries very quickly while also holding in your body heat, making Mystery an excellent option for immersion since it does not absorb water and dries quickly. During April Guide Training weekend, when our staff hones their skills and practice rescues in the 40-degree waters of the Atlantic Ocean, this hood is a favorite of our team.

Warming Up Your Feet

Warming Up Your Feet

Warming Up Your Feet

 

Lastly, let's talk about shoes designed to keep your feet warm. It's a fact that your feet will get wet when you're paddling, and they don't do much work while in the boat, so you'd better make sure you wear something to keep them warm while you're out paddling.

When the water is cold, it is recommended that you wear booties made of neoprene. Right now, a wide variety of booties are available, most of which have a thick rubber sole that will provide you with grip and protection on rocks as you walk. Booties will help keep your feet warm even when you wear a dry suit with socks and protect your dry suit from damage if you wear them with socks.

There are two types of booties: high-top, over-the-ankle types and low-top, exposed-ankle types (see the image above for an example). As a result, over-the-ankle booties are much better at preventing water infiltration so that you can stay warm even in cold water more effectively. The sole and heel of your foot are protected when you wear low-top booties in warmer weather or water. If the water is warm and the weather is nice, sandals are a good choice, but some kayakers complain of heel pain due to their heels rubbing on the inside of the boat while paddling.

How To Care & Maintain Your Cold-Water Gear

Cold-Water Gear Care & Feeding

Cold-Water Gear Care & Feeding

 

To get the most out of your cold-water paddling gear, you must ensure that it lasts for as long as possible. To keep your equipment performing like new, here are a few simple instructions you can follow.

Upon returning from your trip, hang your gear to dry as quickly as possible. The product should be rinsed thoroughly with fresh water if used in saltwater. Putting latex gaskets or neoprene in the dryer is never a good idea!

Protect your gear from ultraviolet light! Direct sunlight is not a good place to store equipment. Treat your gear, such as wetsuits and latex gaskets, regularly with 303 UV Protectant to extend the life of your gear.

It is essential to be careful about zippers on dry suits. Make sure that all dirt is kept out of your teeth. If you want to store your kayak clothing in a dry place for cold weather, ensure the zipper is open and unkinked.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Wear For Winter Kayaking?

It is recommended that you wear a dry suit when the water (and air) is colder. This jacket is made of waterproof material, and it has gaskets that seal the openings to ensure that you will remain dry throughout the entire coat. To adjust the level of warmth, you should wear long underwear or another insulating layer underneath it. You will still need a wetsuit if the air is warm but the water is cold.

How Do I Keep My Feet Warm While Kayaking?

I keep my feet warm while kayaking by wearing a pair of wool socks, neoprene socks, or fleece socks under my booties or shoes to keep my feet warm.

What Should I Wear If I Don't Have A Wetsuit?

When I do not have a wetsuit, what should I wear instead? A thermocline suit is an excellent alternative to a wetsuit if you are allergic to neoprene. Wear it by itself or underneath your existing wetsuit to prevent chafing when you are in the water. Its design is built with a full range of motion by default, so it is suitable for all types of water sports.

Can I Wear Slippers To Kayak?

You should also bring a pair of waterproof shoes; sandals are delicate. Wear comfortable sportswear that allows you to move freely when kayaking. If you wish to avoid getting those tanned lines at undesirable places, it is highly recommended that you wear either long exercise pants or shorts.