While it may not appeal to all, kayaking can be a winter as well as spring/summer sport. If you have unfrozen water near you during the winter season, you can technically still take your boat out. This is appealing to those who enjoy the exercise and fishing, as well as those who enjoy the challenge of the different terrain.
How To Do Winter Kayaking Safely
Even if your region has reportedly mild winters, chances are that the water temperatures can still dip into the low 40’s or upper 30’s. Between that and increased winds, you run higher risks of hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold-weather ailments if you aren’t properly protected against the elements.
Especially if your area experiences harsher winters, it’s recommended that you have expert paddling technique, quality gear, and ideally a partner or group before embarking. While it may seem trivial given your skill level, put in the extra time planning, even if it’s a spot you’ve been to before. Check weather reports, plan your route, and double check that everything’s charged and properly working before heading out. Conditions can change and the last thing you want is to be caught unprepared and run the risk of getting stranded.
Proper Winter Kayaking Gear
Since you usually aren’t planning to take a full dip while out kayaking, a dry suit that focuses on keeping water out and allows room for layering underneath for warmth is the way to go. While they can be pricier, these are lifesavers when it comes to keeping your energy up and staying comfortable out on the water.
Because a dry suit isn’t as insulated as a wetsuit, it’s up to your under, mid, and outer layers to provide that warmth. Long underwear, vests, fleeces, and other lightweight, waterwicking, and thermal pieces around your core give you the best chance at keeping your body temp up on and off the water. Find a combination that allows you ideal mobility and maximized heat retention. Don’t skimp on headwear either--hats in addition to hoods are very helpful in trapping warmth that would otherwise escape.
Neoprene Everything (gloves, boots, hood, & spray skirt)
Neoprene is a synthetic rubber material that maintains flexibility in a wide range of temperatures. It has the benefit of being waterproof and insulating as well. Because of these characteristics, it is a great material for areas you want to keep extra dry or mobile.
Protecting your hands is key to maintaining endurance and mobility, and it doesn’t hurt to keep it around your head to protect from damp, icy winds either. Having a neoprene spray skirt ensures that you won’t get drafty while paddling and that the deck won’t ice over as quickly. As for footwear, in case you have to make a wet entrance or exit, it helps to have your feet properly protected.
Tow Ropes, Lifevest, & Rescue Stirrups
In the event of an accident or wet exit, you should be prepared to combat the shock of going into freezing waters. Be sure that you’ve mounted them appropriately to combat icy winds, as many zipper closures will freeze closed due to the wind and anything on the boat deck might freeze over. These pieces make it easier to come back from extensive water exposure, and you’ll be thankful you made it easier on yourself since such an experience can quickly drain your energy.
Don’t underestimate travelling with a friend or two for such occurrences either. With proper communication and first aid tools available, you’re best set up for a successful adventure if you travel in greater numbers.
Depending on how long you’re planning to be out, packing something that’s easily warmed if you’re planning to stop along the way or quickly boosts your energy on the water is a welcomed addition to any travel kit. In addition to being a pick-me-up, these treats also help stave off hypothermia and give your body the fuel to continue paddling!
For those experienced kayak enthusiasts or anglers that are going to winter kayak, regardless of the temperature or elements, the most important take-away here is BE PREPARED and BE SAFE.