Things to Consider for Cold Water Paddling

When the weather turns cold there is more to think about when you head down to the water.

Below are important things to consider and questions to ask yourself to make sure you are prepared for cold weather paddling.

Things to Consider

What do you need to consider when kayaking in cold water and cold wet weather?

  • Count on the water being cold and count on getting wet. Consider how you would fair if you happened to be submerged in water. Dress for the worst case scenario and bring clothing you can layer for added protection to changing weather conditions.
  • Bring your PFD. Obviously this is something you want to have with you when you are kayaking no matter what the weather. However in cold conditions it will also act as an insulating layer as well as keeping you afloat if you should capsize and need to swim.
  • Practice your self-rescue techniques. You don’t want to be trying out your self-rescue techniques for the first time in freezing cold water and bad weather. Practice them before hand and make sure you are clear on what you need to do in different emergency situations.
  • Bring hot liquid and good snacks along with you. I love enjoying a hot cup of tea from my thermos while kayaking in cold weather, it is a great feeling. Snacks will be important to keep your energy up in cold temperatures.
  • If paddling an inflatable make sure to have your air pump along with you. In cold weather the air pressure of your kayak will decrease. If you are paddling for several hours you may need to stop and add more air around lunch time.
Questions to Ask Yourself
  • How good is your cold weather apparel? If you are not sure or if your gear is old it would be wise to test it out by taking a swim before you ever have to rely on it for warmth and survival.
  • Does anyone know where you are going and when you expect to be back? Make sure someone you can trust knows exactly where you will be kayaking and what time you expect to be back. Bring a cell phone along with you if you have one.
  • How cold will the temperatures be? Do you know if you have been comfortable with those cold temperatures in the past. Plan according to the weather and bring layers for extra protection.
  • How experienced are you and your companions at cold weather paddling? If none of you have much experience then keep reading the tips and advice section and learn all you need to know about kayaking in freezing cold weather.
  • Have you mapped your route out properly? It is important to know how easily you can get to land if you should need a break, need to warm up, or have an issue that requires you to dock. Know your route before you leave so you know what you are dealing with.
  • How good are your rescue skills? If they are rusty then practice them before you ever leave on a cold weather kayaking trip
  • Do you have proper protection for your extremities? You will lose the most heat from your head, hands and feet. Make sure you have a toque, gloves and proper cold water shoes either made of neoprene or synthetic fibers to keep your extremities warm and protected. This will make all the difference in your comfort level in cold weather and in cold water. It would be wise to bring extra socks, gloves, glove liners and toques and keep them in a dry bag in case you need them.

Paddling in cold weather can be a lot of fun as long as you are well protected, well prepared and informed on the weather conditions. Consider the above important points and questions and enjoy the cool ride.

For more information on kayaking and paddling see our essential paddling tips.