We begin with the Thou Shalt Nots, the cold-weather taboos that will make a cold kayaker colder still. The no-nos number three.
What not to wear kayaking in Cold Weather
1) Cotton is not your friend, not between forty-five and, say, thirty degrees Fahrenheit. (The Hughes Brothers, mellow to a man, choose not to even consider temperatures much below freezing, not with the fireside reading of James Lee Burke’s latest novel as a warmish option.)
Cotton soaks water like the sponge-like material it is. Therefore, cotton will not serve as an insulator, nor as a layer in the one great positive rule to follow.
2) No cotton.
3) No cotton.
What to Wear Kayaking in Cold Weather
The Hughes Brothers Three Rules for Cold-Weather Kayak Clothing
1) Layers, layers, layers upon layers. Shirts and pants advertised to “wick” are worth the money, wicking being that wondrous ability to move sweat out and away from your skin. Next comes the heat, the insulating sweaters or fleeces that retain your body heat, your now dry body heat. And finally, a shell of some sort, waterproof and wind-resistant. Young lady, you’re ready to row.
2) Layers, layers, layers upon layers.
What to Wear on Your Feet Kayaking in Cold Weather
Feets, don’t freeze me now.
Ah, the joys of the lower extremities, now that the oldest of the Hughes Brothers are happily ensconced in late middle-age. As John Howard’s, James’, and Joel’s blood circulation finds itself slow in reaching their toes, we’ve found dozens of tricks for keeping our tootsies warm on dry land. In a kayak, the logic changes. What with the possibility always of taking an unexpected swim, the boots and thermal socks lose their appeal in a cold kayak.
The paddling press speaks often of “wet suit booties”as the go-to frigid-weather footgear. Reasons being: a stay-put effect, traction in case of capsize, the best alternative currently available. The booties do their job by trapping a thin layer of water — no fooling! — and then holding it against the skin. A wetsuit for the feet.
Be readily for less-than-perfect performance from your booties. But, their shortcomings aside, they remain the best option on the market.
What to Wear on Your Hands Kayaking in Cold Weather
Cold hands down.
The word is “Pogies.”
Kayak Paddle Mitts or “Pogies”are mitts of a sort, made of neoprene, designed to wrap over the fingers and around the shaft of the paddle. The results: some warmth but also that contact with the paddle that’s almost necessary in whitewater situations.
Or, on those outings on calmer waters, go for neoprene wetsuit gloves. Total warmth, but less feel for the paddle.
For the Hughes boys as for most non-Millenial, non-rapids athletes, the full neoprene gloves are the onliest choice.
A head-start on warmth.
Also, be sure to weatherize your Kayak for the winter.