I have to say that I’m not a hardcore winter paddler, obviously, since I run winter trips in Ecuador! So, I can relate to those of you who hang up the paddle for other, dryer, sports in the winter. However, I do know paddlers who still motivate even with snow on the ground and icicles hanging from the brims of their helmets. And, I admit that when I do drag myself out when it’s 40 degrees or colder (what I consider cold weather paddling) I have a lot of fun. So, if you’re planning on getting out this winter, or spring here are my top five must-have accessories for staying warm on the river.
1. Drysuit — not just any drysuit, but a really, really good quality drysuit! Trust me, it’s worth the money to invest in a drysuit that actually keeps you dry, especially if you’re going to do a lot of winter paddling. A good drysuit will totally transform your attitude toward paddling in the cold, at least it did mine. There’s nothing better than unzipping the suit at the end of the day with dry clothes underneath… especially a dry sports bra, socks and underwear! All of your wet, cold friends sans drysuits will be very jealous! My personal recommendation: The Kokatat Meridian Gore-Tex drysuit
2. A fleece union suit. Yes, the fleece union/bunny suit is my newest favorite paddling accessory! I can’t believe that I only started wearing one this year. It makes you feel snug as a bug like a kid in pajamas. And, yes, it’s still easy to pee after you’ve got both your bunny suit and your drysuit on if you have relief zippers that match up. My preference is the back relief zipper for both. Some women have been skeptical in the past about the back relief zipper, but it doesn’t interfere with the seat of your kayak and is very comfortable. I don’t even notice it except when I need it! Kokatat makes awesome union suits to go with their awesome drysuits. Check out their Outercore Habanero Liner.
3. Pogies and/or gloves. Ahh, the feeling of not being able to unbuckle your helmet or lifejacket because your hands are too cold. I think this is my very least favorite part about winter paddling. I remember some years ago experimenting with dishwashing gloves under my pogies, a desperate move to try to keep my hands from freezing off! I have to say that I’m really happy that companies like Kokatat and Glacier Glove are now making comfortable neoprene gloves and pogies that keep my hands warm. I suggest wearing both gloves and pogies at the same time, especially if it’s a windy day.
4. Skull Cap. Since large amounts of heat escape quickly through the head it’s obvious why you want to have a skull cap for winter paddling. Look for one that fits snuggly and that has a chin strap so it doesn’t move around.
5. Hot chocolate at the take-out. It’s a good feeling for thawing hands to hold a warm cup of hot chocolate once you’re changed into your regular clothes. And, it takes me back to fond memories of my childhood winter days coming inside after playing in the snow for hours. You can always spike it with your favorite adult addition to make it more interesting and yummy 🙂
So these are my top five winter paddling accessories. And, if you don’t consider yourself much of a winter paddler I’ll add this sixth important accessory: A plane ticket to a warm paddling destination! Stay safe, stay warm and happy winter paddling!