The last few days here in the North East (UK) have been pretty cold. A couple of mornings have even included getting rid of some pretty thick ice from the car windscreen.
Keeping dry and warm becomes really important as it gets colder. Part of this is making sure the gear I am using does its job well.
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 my Sweet Protection Intergalactic Drysuit. But it’s still important to get the laying right underneath. Wool or sythetic thermals are best. Anything cotton based will become cold if it gets wet.
I have avoided wearing wetsuits for years as they only really offer any decent level of warmth when they are wet. I tend to spend most of my time avoiding getting fully immersed in the water so a wet suit has little value to me.
Under the drysuit I wear 2 x light weight long sleeved merino tops (Howies or Icebreaker) and a 3/4 pair of Icebreaker 260 leggings combined with a pair of long ski socks. This seems to cover all the bases for me and I have never found that I get cold, although I am built for colder climates as I don’t seem to be affected by the cold too much. Many folk now wear some sort of fleece onesie (sp?) which is a one piece suit similar to a baby grow! This helps prevent and cold spots particularly around your back were a top/pants system might come “untucked”. The onesie from Immersion Research – the K2 Union suit is very good. No zips to worry about and fits really well.
If I was to wear a synthetic base layer I’d probably dig out one of my Helly Hansen thermals. The simple fact is they work and are super tough, but retain a certain special smell after a while.
To help keep my hands dry and therefore warm I sometimes use my Palm Rivertec Pogies. I usually find that once my hands have warmed up that I can do with out the pogies. Gloves are another option but I tend to find them more restrictive than even pogies.
Keeping your feet warm can be as tough as keeping your hands warm. I make sure that I wear a good pair of shoes/boots. The sole needs to be thick enough to help insulate yet still have little bulk to minimise hassle getting in and out of my boat. So far the Five Ten water tennies are hard to beat. However I do have a pair of thick typhoon wetsuit boots if I know that I am going to spend quite a lot of time standing in the water.