Cold Water
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Cold Water Survival

Cold Water Gear

Cold weather paddling might seem like it's just about enduring misery. But with the right gear, you can be warm and get to explore winter time only phenomena like ice floes.

Cold Water Paddling

Cold water padding isn't much different from warm water paddling except of course that you're wearing a lot more gear and so you are more encumbered. Going out to paddle becomes a bigger deal, not so much because it's cold but because it takes so long to get all that gear on.

But if the air is cold as well as the water, then paddling starts becoming a new experience. The coldest weather I've paddled in was maybe 10 degrees fahrenheit. That's actually a little too cold. Fifteen degrees Fahrenheit and above is a more reasonable temperature. The problem with extreme cold is that everything ices up in a hurry. The boat builds up ice on the deck, your paddling jacket builds up ice and starts to feel like it's made out of cardboard. But worst of all, the paddle builds up ice everywhere except right where your hands are. And if you move your hands, that part of the paddle ices up too. So you need some sort of scraper with you to keep the ice off the paddle.

When it's cold out, it usually helps to paddle on a sunny day. Then the deck of the boat absorbs enough heat to stay ice free as does your paddling jacket.

Knowing how to roll is also essential when going out in cold weather. Not only does it minimize the time you have to spend in cold water, there's no guarantee that your pump won't ice up. Getting your sprayskirt back on might also be difficult since the cockpit coaming will build up ice as soon as it gets wet. If the coaming has a good lip on it, then the ice won't be so much of a problem. But if your coaming doesn't have a very pronounced lip on it as a faithful reproduction of a native kayak might not have, then getting your sprayskirt to stay on might be a struggle.

All content copyright © 2004 Wolfgang Brinck. Personal non-commercial use permitted.