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Layering for Winter Paddling

Posted: 23.12.2016 BY Kim Hardin

winter kayaking

As it starts to get cold in many parts of the country, we start to think about layering for winter paddling. Here's a few tips to help ease the transition into the cold and snow.

"What did I wear last winter?" 

"Should I add an extra layer?"

"Thick wool socks or normal socks?"

1. No cotton! Cotton absorbs water and holds it close to your skin. Brrrr!

2. Layers: When you're layering, start off with a wicking layer closest to the skin (merino/synthetic), followed by an insulating layer (fleece), and finally a waterproof layer (dry top/drysuit). Feel free to add more than one insulating layer if it's really cold. I use the Kokatat Power Dry Liner, a fleece onsie. 

**Try to find the balance between wearing too much (sweating out and getting cold), and not wearing enough (Starting cold and staying cold).**

3. Head cozy. As soon as your head gets cold, you start to shut down. Even if you choose not to wear it, keeping one in the front zip of your PFD can save you on a really cold day. Check out Kokatat's Surf Skin Skull cap.


4. Pack a thermos of tea or hot cocoa for a quick riverside warmup or a go-to handwarmer.

5. Extra layer, fleece gloves and hat: No matter whether I'm play boating or creeking, I always toss in a dry bag with an extra layer, some fleece gloves and a fleece hat. You never know when you want to hang out at a play spot for awhile, or you're faced with an extended portage. Always be prepared -- especially in winter!

6. Drysuit: Some people prefer a wetsuit, while others prefer a drysuit. I highly recommend investing in a drysuit, as it keeps you significantly drier (and warmer!), than a wetsuit. A wetsuit, while cheaper, does somewhat absorb the water, and allows under layers to get wet. Not to mention, it's as easy as wearing your PJ's under your drysuit sometimes (NO COTTON!). If you're looking for the most bang for your buck, check out Kokatat's Idol drysuit. It zips at the waist and the top can be worn solo as a dry top. 2 in 1! 


Note: A drysuit w/ goretex booties let's you keep your feet fully dry and warm -- key to surviving the winter weather!


Stay warm out there!

Kim Hardin