How to prepare properly for winter paddling

Posted on: November 29, 2016

Group of Kayakers on the Silver River

Living here in the Sunshine State we enjoy the outdoors year round. But despite the pleasant air temperature during our “winter” in Florida, the water in our rivers, lakes and the Gulf of Mexico does chill quite a bit. You can suffer from hypothermia if you don’t outfit yourself properly.

So here are some tips to enjoy your next winter paddling excursion, whether that is an eco-tour on a stand-up paddleboard or a fishing adventure in a kayak.

Clothing

The layering system is your friend once again. Add and subtract layers to regulate your core temperature in relation to your activity level and the environment. For winter paddling, your layers don’t necessarily have to be waterproof, just water resistant enough to withstand splashing.
Start with a light, wicking base layer next to your skin. Over that will be an insulating layer, such as a fleece jacket or a neoprene paddling jacket. You’ll want to have full range of movement, so try on all your layers and make sure you can move freely.
For pants, go with lightweight base layer under a garment that can withstand a splash. Rainproof pants aren’t necessary, although some paddlers opt for neoprene pants, or even breathable fishing waders.

When it comes to footwear, options vary. While many paddlers wear neoprene booties (much like what scuba divers wear), others wear sandals, or wading boots over their stockingfoot waders.
Too prevent heat loss through your head, wear a beanie or some sort of insulating headgear. A pair of gloves will keep the hands from going numb.

Equipment

Now that you are insulated against the chill, it’s time to think about staying dry.

– Scupper plugs: These plugs insert into the holes in the bottom of your sit-on-top kayak and prevent water from soaking your bottom.
– Bilge pump: If you have a sit-inside kayak, you’ll want a way to get rid of the water that splashes into your cockpit. A little pumping will get you warmed up a bit, too.
– Sponge: Don’t want to carry a pump? The inexpensive but still effective way to bail water is to use a big sponge to sop it up. Just wring it out over the side.
– Insulated bottle: Out for a long time? Pour some hot soup or coffee into an insulated bottle and partake when you need to warm your core.
– Flask: Fill with your favorite beverage and take a nip when needed.

Visit a reputable outdoor retailer who can show you all the options.

 

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