What Kit do You Need to Kayak During The Winter?



If you love kayaking as much as we do then the encroaching winter may get you a bit down. The thought of packing away your kayaking gear for the colder months is enough to give anyone the winter blues. But, what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Winter can be one of the best times to get out in your kayak to enjoy nature, but you need to be prepared. Of course, it’s much colder at this time of year and you will need to make some preparations to make life more comfortable, but it’s not impossible to get out paddling once the days darken and the temperature drops. 

Have you heard the expression “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing?”

This expression is completely true, and unless your local water has a layer of ice on it there’s nothing stopping you from getting out enjoying the outdoors — providing you have the right kit. In this article, we’ll be looking at some essential items you need to continue your kayaking ventures through the colder months and into spring. 

Is It Even Possible to Kayak in The Depths of WInter?

It’s definitely possible to continue kayaking through the depths of winter. Here in Ireland, we’re lucky enough to have beautifully calm and crisp winters that aren’t so cold they prevent you from putting paddle to water. Gone are the days of the lakes freezing up and although it’s sad that we don’t experience such brutal winters now, it provides us with an amazing opportunity to get out on the kayak exploring crisp, cool, white winter landscapes.

Unless we see temperatures in the minus digits for several weeks it is unlikely we’ll see any of our popular kayaking waters freezing up. However, it can still get pretty cold in our country so there are some preparations and safety concerns to consider before dragging your yak back out of the shed and into the water…

What Are the Dangers Of Kayaking In the Winter?

Kayaking in the winter is a beautiful experience. Especially on those cold frosty mornings where the sunrise lights up the landscape with glistening shades of yellow, orange, and red. However, the cold brings certain risks that weren’t around a few months back in the heights of summer. 

Dropping air and water temperatures can make things a little more dangerous for the passionate kayaker that wants to experience life on the water during winter. The main risks are frostbite and hyperthermia. These are serious risks but don’t let them scare you. We’re far from the polar North and although the drop in temperature is a definite risk, with the right gear you’ll stay safe and be able to enjoy the Irish winter from the comfort of your kayak. 

How Can You Stay Safe in Your Kayak During The Winter?

The main thing you’ll need to adjust for winter kayaking is your protection from the elements around you. The right clothes are essential if you want to mitigate the risks that winter kayaking brings. 

Wearing insulative clothes is going to keep you much warmer while you’re kayaking on those crisp winter mornings. Having well-insulated outdoor gear on will reduce your risk of hyperthermia. However, it’s not as simple as throwing on a pair of ski pants and your favourite thick winter jacket. In fact, doing this can put you at more risk on the water. 

Putting on heavy water-absorbent clothing and jumping in your kayak isn’t the smartest move. You always have to think of the worst-case scenario when playing with nature. If you capsize or fall out of your vessel you want to have maximum movement and weigh the least to ensure you get back in the kayak or on shore safely. 

If you fall in the water wearing a thick coat and trousers those clothes are going to soak up water, making you far heavier. This will put pressure on your floatation aid and make you less buoyant in the water. Thick padded clothes also restrict your movement which makes it harder to tread water, swim, and correct your kayak. 

So, how can you stay warm and safe on the water during the colder months without wearing heavy winter clothing?

What Kit Will You Need for Winter Kayaking?

As we’ve mentioned, the correct clothing is essential for winter kayaking. Wearing insulative clothes that don’t absorb water will make life on the water much warmer and safer. In this section, we’ll be looking at what kind of clothing is needed for winter kayaking. We will also be looking at a few other essential items that will make winter kayaking more comfortable and enjoyable. 

1. A Drysuit

A drysuit is a number one item for winter kayaking. We understand that drysuits may be out of some of your price ranges but they’re the best investment if you plan on coldwater kayaking regularly. 

Drysuits provide protection from the elements by keeping out water. They have thermal qualities and will prevent cold water from reaching your skin if you fall in the water. They provide excellent movement in the water as they were initially designed for divers and they are comfortable to wear. You can also wear insulative clothing underneath a drysuit without your clothes getting wet or absorbing water if you end up going overboard. 

A dry suit is by far the best way to stay safe and warm on the water during winter. They are essential if you’re taking on particularly ambitious journeys or are venturing into complex water systems during the winter months. However, they are definitely not within everyone’s budget. Don’t worry though, there are alternatives that although not as effective will suffice for casual winter paddling...

2. Insulative Layers

Warm insulative layers are essential if you are planning on kayaking during the colder months. A good set of thermals and thin fleeces can be worn underneath a dry suit to provide an extra layer of protection from the cold. 

If a dry suit is out of your budget, it’s here you will want to spend some time and money to select suitable, warm, and safe clothing for winter paddling. If you can’t afford a dry suit, then, of course, you can wear warm clothes while out kayaking. However, you must make sure that the clothes you wear aren’t bulky and water absorbent. 

Wearing skin-tight thermals with tightly fitting clothes over the top is the best way to stay warm and safe in the winter without a wet suit. Find thermals that are comfortable to move around in and fleeces or jackets that are on the thinner side. You can also wear a well-fitted raincoat if the weather outside is poor.  When selecting clothing for winter kayaking imagine how these clothes will react if you go overboard. You must ensure that you will be able to move freely, swim, correct your kayak, and not be too disabled when the clothes get wet.

3. A Well-Fitted Floatation Aid

At any time of the year, you should have a floatation aid or life vest. However, during the winter it’s important that your aid fits over your extra layers properly. A well-fitted floatation aid or life vest should allow natural free movement but also fit snuggly. A snug-fitting vest ensures safety but will also keep you warmer on those frosty winter mornings.

It’s also important to ensure your floatation aid will keep you buoyant with the extra weight of your wet clothing. You can make sure of this by soaking or hand washing all of your kayaking clothes and weighing them in a bag using fishing or luggage scales. Add this number to your body weight and check this against the recommended weight on your life jacket or buoyancy aid.

4. A Leak-Proof Spray Skirt

A decent spray skirt is also another essential kayaking item for the winter. Spray skirts prevent splashback and rain from entering the cockpit of your kayak — keeping your legs dry. Spray skirts are a great bit of kit for year-round use but they come into their own during the colder months.

Keeping dry during the winter is a major factor that will ensure you stay warm and dry. Getting even slightly wet when it’s cold can be extremely uncomfortable.  A good spray skirt that will keep the water and weather out will without a doubt keep you warmer, more comfortable, and safer in your kayak during the winter.

5. A Spare Set of Dry Clothes

It’s wise to have a spare set of dry clothes if you plan on kayaking through the winter months. You can store these clothes in a dry bag or leave them in your car for after your paddle.

If you’re wearing a drysuit, the clothes can be kept in your vehicle to change into after your session. If you don’t have a drysuit it’s best to keep them in a dry bag on your kayak in case you get wet while out on the water. No one wants to drive home in a soggy set of clothes, so a spare dry set will ensure you keep yourself and your vehicle fresh and dry.


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