We’ve just about hit that time of the year in the UK when it gets darker earlier and earlier, the weather has begun to turn and the water is that little bit colder – Winter Is Coming. Last week on the water was very cold and today the rivers are up and snow has hit the UK.
Being cold is not just uncomfortable it can also be life threatening. Having the right gear for the right conditions is key at any time of the year but the margin for error during the colder seasons is much tighter.
It’s defintely a good time to start to look at your cold weather paddling gear and assess whether it is going to be up to the job.
The Palm Zenith pants are designed to be combined with any dry or semi dry top to create a flexible system for year round use. I’ve been using these with the Palm Fuse and Zenith range of jackets.
Although a two piece combination will find it hard to be beat a drysuit I have used a number of two piece systems in the past that have been super dry. The big advantage is that you can mix and match tops and bottoms to create a system that is best matched for the conditions you are going out in.
The Nookie Turbo jacket is designed to be a performance led premium whitewater kayak jacket utilising the same high quality materials as the Nookie Charger Drysuit. This thing is tough with double sals (neoprene outer/latex inner) on the neck and arms. What makes this jacket stand out is that it is also made at Nookie’s HQ here in the UK. There are very few UK based paddling firms that actually still make their gear in the UK. Top marks to Nookie.
The nights are drawing in. The temperature is dropping, and the rain is falling. I should be excited; the Scottish paddling season is kicking off. Months of blustery days, where the heavens open and you go paddling almost every weekend.
This year however my drysuit is stranded in Canada. Summer boating plans got kiboshed due to the pandemic and I’m back in Scotland without my trusted latex companion. The long john wetsuit drafted in as a reserve haunts my hallway. It was great in the summer. Warm weather days, and a laugh at the retro styling meant I was happy in it. Now it hangs in the hallway, dripping, like a form of psychological torture. Reminding me of what lies ahead. Cold. Wet. Miserable.
I’ve paddled for many years, mostly on the river Tay where I honed my skills with help of some pretty handy people from Perth canoe club. With a solid base I gradually progressed to local Perthshire runs, opening my eyes to what was possible in a kayak. I now regularly enjoy pushing the grade of my paddling to class 4/5 and tend to get out twice a week to keep me sane. Paddling has brought me all over the world, from India to Iceland, and over time I have come to appreciate quality equipment.
Even though I’ve paddled for a long time, my slalom experience meant that semi dry cags and neoprene shorts were initially the norm. I only recently experienced the luxury of a dry suit when five years ago I bought my first dry suit with the prospect of a brief visit to Iceland that October. I pushed aside the slalomer’s stigma against dry suits and got a new Immersion Research Arch Rival front entry dry suit. My first dry suit was a revelation! It opened my kayaking up to harder grades on cold, mind numbing Scottish winter days (when the paddling here is at its best).
I swithered for while between a L and XL with my tall skinny stature. I found I would be too tall for the L yet too skinny for the XL. With help from the Immersion Research customer service team I decided on the XL size (although if you have more time and money to spare, you can get sleeve and leg lengths modified). I received the XL dry suit which I found to be a good fit apart from the seals. I told this to Immersion Research and they happily put smaller seals on it which made a huge difference. I very quickly put a hole in the knee after running and tripping on the bank during a spate of carnage on a tree infested, fence interspersed Scottish ditch. This was expertly fixed by Immersion research and remains one of the toughest parts of the suit.
I have owned numerous cags, semi-dry cags, dry cags and dry suits over the years. Neoprene seals, latex seals – all have been tried and tested for years and in reality none have ever been 100% dry.
At the end of the day I believe that it’s all relative, if the cag fits right and the seals are constructed or even trimmed to give a good water tight seal you will only ever minimise the chance of water finding its way inside. In some cases the amount of water entering the cag is so small it is virtually dry, but will never be totally dry.
Living in Fort William as a kayaker means one thing – a good, comfy and durable dry suit is a must! Lochaber has rain even in the driest months. In fact, we have an average annual rainfall of approximately 1777mm or 70 inches; a kayakers paradise. However, for those of us who feel the cold, a mean annual temperature of only 8.6 °C can be a enthusiasm-killer if you’re body isn’t guaranteed to be warm and dry whilst paddling, even in the summer months when you’re catching post-work Moriston laps until 10pm.
Immersion Research have a new dry suit landing in stores very shortly. The Aphrodite dry suit is specially designed for female paddlers. Check it out.
Our new women’s dry suit, The Aphrodite, is coming soon! The innovative, clam shell style zipper functions as both the entry point and drop seat. Featuring polyester shell fabric made from recycled water bottles, high wear areas reinforced with heavy duty, abrasion resistant nylon fabric and adjustable waist belt that keeps the suit sitting perfectly on your hips. For all you ladies waiting for us to make a suit with a drop seat, here it is. Limited amount available next week with more to come in February. (Comes in Quetzal Green, not the Blue shown in the video).
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