Ah, the Autumn time. It can be one of the most beautiful periods to head out on the water kayaking. The trees are turning and the water mirrors the bankside with shades of red, orange, and yellow. However, one thing that coincides with the autumn beauty is the rain…
Undoubtedly, the autumn, winter, and spring months can be absolutely stunning but they can also be brutal on the kayaker if they aren’t prepared for the weather.
Nobody likes the rain but if you embrace the weather getting out on the water can be enjoyable. It’s all about being prepared with the right gear and the right frame of mind before a trip kayaking. If you head out prepared mentally and psychically, kayaking in the worst weather can be great for the mind, body, and soul.
Kayaking in the rain builds character at the very least. And, if you’re mad enough to head out in the worst of it, you’ll find yourself at peace alone on the water without anyone around. There’s nothing better than enduring a heavy rain storm, for it to clear up leaving you surrounded with clean air and a fantastic view of a fresh calm landscape.
In this article, we’ll be looking at why you should consider kayaking in the rain this year. We’ll also be delving into how you can stay safe, dry, and warm while you venture out in the worst of weathers.
Why Bother Kayaking in the Rain?
You may be asking yourself whether it’s even worth heading out kayaking in the rain. After all, there are always better days and more enjoyable weather conditions to put paddle-to-water in, right?
Personally, I love kayaking in the rain. In fact, I love being out in nature in all weather. There’s something about being out in the rain that’s really grounding. Of course, I love a good summertime paddle but being out in the rain really makes you appreciate the power of nature. It makes me feel more connected to my surroundings in some way.
The fact that you have to be somewhat crazy to go out kayaking in torrential rain also means that there are considerably fewer people out on the water. This provides you with time to yourself to embrace the beauty of the landscape in front of you without anyone else around.
Quite often, you’ll also find yourself with a break in the weather where the sun shines through the clouds casting a rainbow on the horizon — when this happens, it makes all the hard work and determination more than worth it.
Chances are if you’re thinking about paddling in the rain, there's already a fire inside you that burns for the outdoors. This fire doesn’t care about the weather and makes you long for the water and the beauty of the outdoors, no matter the time of the year.
If you’re here and aren’t sure if kayaking in the rain is for you, just get out there, you’ll love it. Provided you have some good wet-weather gear that’ll keep you warm and dry, you’ll have no problems.
You Can’t Always Wait for Better Weather
Regardless of whether you enjoy being out in the rain or not, it’s not always possible to avoid it. Sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got, and unfortunately, what we’ve got is a lot of wet weather…
It’s not always possible to wait for better weather to head out kayaking. Here in Ireland, we’re faced with 150 to 200 wet days per year. If we were to wait for fair weather, we could be waiting all year.
Not all of us are particularly blessed with time either. Unless you’re a retired kayaker, you likely work a nine-to-five job, have a home life to keep up with, and potentially have children to take care of. If you want to work kayaking in and around your life, you’re going to have to head out paddling in the rain every now and then.
This is where it pays to be prepared for the weather. This way if that opportunity to paddle comes after work and you look out of the office window and it’s raining, you’re still able to get out and unwind without getting soaked through.
So, what kit do you need to be comfortable out on the water in wet weather?
What Kit Do You Need to Go Kayaking in Foul Weather?
If you're going to venture out in the rain on your kayak, you're going to want to be prepared. "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing."
Having a decent set of wet-weather clothes will make a huge difference. Having a good waterproof jacket and trousers or heading out without the right gear will make or break your trip. Trust me, clothes are worth the investment if you're planning on spending a lot of time in nature during the rainy period, regardless of whether you're kayaking or not.
You can never spend too much on outdoor clothing. Personally, I love kit from Fjällräven and Bergan — these two Scandinavian companies (one from Sweden and one from Norway) make some of the best wet-weather gear in the world. A jacket and pants from either of these companies will last a lifetime. However, it comes at a pretty substantial cost.
We understand that not everyone has heaps of cash to spend on outdoor clothing. Don't worry, you don't have to spend a lot of money to be comfortable in the rain while kayaking. Outdoor gear from Trespass, Mountain Warehouse, or Columbia will definitely serve you well and keep you warm and dry while kayaking in the rain. These companies are also a lot easier on your bank balance.
Wherever you decide to purchase your wet-weather gear from, you have to ensure it's fit for the purpose, in this case, kayaking.
Of course, being waterproof is the number one factor to consider. However, there are a few other design factors that'll make your life more enjoyable while out paddling in the rain.
Seeing as kayaking is an active sport and you'll be moving around a lot, you want to make sure you purchase clothing that's designed to move freely with you.
Breathability is also important — you want to make sure the rain repels off the fabric as efficiently as possible while still allowing moisture to pass through from within. This will ensure you don't sweat and hold moisture underneath your clothes while out on a demanding paddle in the rain.
Another handy feature is inside pockets. Don't overlook this as it'll make your life ten times easier. Having a place close to you that's protected from the weather to keep your phone, keys, and a cereal bar or two is very convenient.
Here's what to look for in a waterproof jacket for kayaking:
- Waterproof rating of 6,000mm or more
- Lightweight and non-absorbent
- Flexible or roomy for ease-of-movement
- Inside pockets are a plus
- Adjustable hood and collar to keep water out
Here's what to look for in a pair of waterproof trousers for kayaking:
- Waterproof rating of 6,000mm or more
- Lightweight and non-absorbent
- Flexible or roomy for ease of movement
- Braces to keep your trouser up
- Adjustable ankles to keep your trousers watertight at the foot
How Can You Stay Safe When Kayaking in the Rain?
Of course, there are always safety considerations to make when you are kayaking in any weather but things can be a little more dangerous when the weather is foul.
The biggest risk when you’re kayaking at any time of the year is capsizing. This risk isn’t necessarily increased when you’re paddling in the rain, but it may be easier to make a mistake when the rain is hammering down.
Visibility can be an issue when you’re kayaking in the rain. When the rain hits the water it can hide underwater obstacles such as rocks and disorientate the depth of the water. This makes it easier to bottom out or hit something unexpectedly which can lead to a capsize in the worst cases.
To ensure you stand the best chance of avoiding these situations, you should aim to paddle in waters that you know. Knowing where potential hazards are and the depths of your local lake or river will allow you to mitigate the risks of capsizing in rain.
Of course, it should also go without saying that you should always wear a buoyancy aid — this way if the worst does happen you have the best chance of recovery.
Another factor related to visibility. Just as your visibility will be poorer in bad weather conditions, other water users will also have limited sight. Make sure to wear a high-visibility life vest or jacket to ensure you can be seen in low-visibility conditions.
The next point leads on from the capsize risk and touches on the last section — clothing. It’s important that you have waterproof clothing that’s warm and dry to prevent the risk of hyperthermia in the colder months. It’s also important that your waterproof kit is lightweight and doesn’t absorb water and become heavy if you do capsize.
Wearing thick sweaters, fleeces, or hoodies while kayaking may keep you warm but they can become death traps if you fall in the drink. As soon as you fall in, thick insulative clothing will become extremely heavy making it difficult to get back on your kayak or swim to land — regardless of whether you’re wearing a life jacket or not.
Another factor to consider is the weather. Although I love getting out into nature regardless of how much it’s raining, I draw the line with kayaking if the rain is truly torrential. You definitely shouldn’t get out on the water during a thunderstorm — you’ll literally be a sitting duck waiting to get struck by lightning.
You should also look at wind speeds. Heavy rain isn’t a problem if the wind is relatively calm but if you’ve got gusts of 30 miles per hour or more, you’re asking for trouble. Check the weather prior to heading out, if it looks like a storm is on its way or the wind is going to pick up past the point it’s safe, just stay at home.
It’s important to have a balance. There’s no problem getting out on the kayak in the rain or light wind but if things get too rough, there’s a chop on the water, an encroaching storm, or the wind picks up it’s not worth it.
Finally, you should do this whenever you head out on the water, but seeing as the risk is higher when the weather is unstable, it’s even more important — to notify someone when you head out.
Give a friend or family member a call and tell them where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how long you’ll be gone for. Then, give them a call when you’re back on dry land. If something goes wrong while you’re out, your contact person can try to get in contact with you and in the worst case call the authorities and send help.
Things to keep in mind for safe kayaking in poor weather:
- Always wear a life jacket
- Wear waterproof but lightweight clothing
- Always notify someone when you head out on the water
- Check the weather
- Stay at home if the conditions are really bad
- Wear a high-visibility vest
A Final Word: Why Go Kayaking in the Rain?
Kayaking in the rain can be a rewarding experience. Provided you have some decent waterproof outdoor clothing, you’ll be comfortable paddling in wet conditions.
Now, as the temperatures drop and the weather takes a turn for the worse, it can be all too easy to pack away your kayak for the winter. This time of the year can be extremely rewarding and you don’t have to call it quits with kayaking just yet. Get yourself some waterproofs and get out on the water.
Make sure to watch the weather and ensure it’s safe to get out kayaking. You should also prepare yourself before getting out on the water. The weather can be unpredictable at this time of the year so it’s always good to have a set of wet-weather clothes and a dry set in the car, regardless of whether it’s raining when you get out on the water.
Hopefully, this article has confirmed what some of you may have already been planning and convinced you others to keep the kayak wet and get out paddling in the rain this season. There's still a lot to see from the water this year, don't let a bit of rain stop you. Thanks for reading!