We’ve been using a Palm Equipment Seti top here at Unsponsored HQ for over 12 months. It has been put to use both on and off the water.
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. It’s a great time to start to look at your cold weather paddling gear and assess whether it is going to be up to the job.
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.
A posse of the Asheville home team went out for a mission to find some good kayak sledding. Max Patch outside of Asheville turned out to be just the place.
1. A good dry top/trouser combo or dry suit. Keeping dry inside makes keeping warm that much easier. Even some of the two piece systems (dry top and dry trousers) available are getting close to being as good as a dry suit. Price is some much better as is the flexibility of the system.
2. Solid footwear. Wet river banks and slippery rocks are not a great combination if you have dodgy footwear. A good pair of river shoes or boots are worth there weight in gold. Currently using Five Ten Water Tennies or the new Astral Rassler.
3. Good socks. Conventional socks only really work if you have a dry suit with built in dry socks. However various manufacturers make thin 3 and 4mm thick neoprene socks that can help keep your feet warm even when wet.
4. Base layers. I love merino kit – it’s warm when wet and doesn’t smell! But any good, thin base layer will do the job. Colder = more layers. Polartec fleece also works really wet in cold/wet conditions.
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.
The frosty mornings are definitely here and keeping warm whilst on the water is the key. Therefore I thought I’d do a quick run down of the kit I would typically wear to keep warm whilst on the river. The key to keeping warm is to use layers of clothing and to keep as dry as possible.
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.
My dry kit does change, as I tend to move away from using Dry Tops/Shorts to full suits.
To keep me dry I like to wear a dry suit. I have owned the Palm Spark Surface Immersion Suit and Immersion Research Double D Drysuit in the past and now use a Sweet Protection Intergalactic Dry Suit. Continue reading
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.