Although this buyers guide is directed at students in reality it will apply to anyone thinking about taking up the sport. Over the next few weeks many students will be starting Uni and will be looking at joining a club.
In most cases the Kayak/Canoe club in a university will be the best club to join. That can pretty much be guaranteed.
My winter paddling gear is as follows – PFD, helmet, boots/shoes and spraydeck don’t real change through the seasons, although if it is really cold I might wear a Playboater Titanium Earwig. The Earwig helps take the edge off that sensation you get when your head hits cold water.
Staying both warm and dry makes any kayaking adventure that much more pleasant. I’ve been kayaking for over 25 years now and am amazed how much the kit has moved on during that time. Way back then getting soaked to the bone was pretty much a standard feature of paddling even if you didn’t swim. Even though staying dry is much easier and therefore makes keeping warm itself so much easier it’s important to get your insulation layers right.
I tend not to feel the cold as most folk but I still pick my insulation layers really carefully to make sure that I not only stay nice and warm but that I do not over heat. I personally find overheating way worse than being too cold.
Keeping warm is often difficult when you paddle whitewater during the winter. The one area that is always difficult to keep one and can often lead to a great deal of pain is cold hands. Cold hands can turn a good trip into an absolutely terrible one and can leave you with damage to your hands if it occurs time and time again.
Making sure the rest of me is nice and warm does help but quite often the after the initial 30 mins on the water with super cold hands I get a surge of heat in conjunction with a super amount of pain as my hands begin to warm up. The pain is pretty unique!
I’ve tried neoprene gloves (which work once warmed up), the woollen/washing up glove combo and various other bits/bobs but prefer using pogies. One of the biggest benefits of any pogie or glove system is the fact they help keep the wind off your hands. This simple fact goes a long way to ensure that your hands remain warm.
Keeping warm is often difficult when you paddle whitewater during the winter. I find that the one area that is difficult to keep warm are my hands. I’ve tried neoprene gloves (which work once warmed up), the woollen/washing up glove combo and various other bits/bobs.
Many years ago I owned a pair of pogies (aka paddle mitts), I can’t remember the brand but they were blue/fluorescent yellow. They did a good job of keeping the wind off until they got wet, which meant my hands got wet and cold. Roll on ten years or so and I picked up a pair of Palm Rivertec Pogies. The ones pictured below are still used and must be well over 10 years old. Palm do a modern take on the Rivertec Pogies called River Tec Paddle Mitts.
Pogies are designed to be fastened onto paddle shaft. Your hands go inside of the pogies and grip the paddle shaft as normal. Compared to wearing neoprene gloves or indeed any gloves at all improves the general feel and control. Some paddlers do find them restrictive as your hands need to be removed to access pockets, pull your spraydecks rip cord etc. In addition some designs can be difficult to get your “last” hand into.