Kayaking in Cold Weather. What to wear.

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.

3) Ditto.

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.

For now.

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.

Three words.

Synthetic ski cap.

Also, be sure to weatherize your Kayak for the winter.

Enough said.

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Should I take my dog kayaking? Here are some guidelines.


Those of you lucky enough to live near a dog who loves the water can double the fun for both of you with a safe lake or stream outing involving the two of you. Old Smoke will love you even more if you take him out on the water under the following, quite strict conditions.

Follow these 5 rules if you take your dog kayaking:

1. Know that your dog obeys, that she jumps at “Come,” sits dog-solid at “Stay.”

2. Stay current with your dog’s health. Certain ailments and advancing age mean that your best friend stays home: arthritis is a potential killer, as are cardiac problems, vision or hearing issues, even general anxiety; a nervous dog will neither enjoy nor be enjoyable. (James Hughes’ dog, Roxie, throws herself into barking backflips at the arrival of the mailman. She will not be joining him on his new Predator.)

3. Concern yourself with your dog’s breed and size, ensuring that your yak can handle the increased weight and motion.

4. Bring along all the appropriate gear, including a doggie flotation device. The Hughes dogs (Smokey, Roxie, Frank, Larry, and that idiotic Otis) report that their safety meeting of last Monday recommends these four can’t-sink solutions to dog danger on the water, in ascending order of preference: Puffwear K, Pawz Pet Products PPP, Outward Hound, and Ezy Dog DFD. (Our dogs enjoy wordplay too, it seems.)

5. The gear introduced in #4 should go on to include water, food, towels, a blanket, bags for poop, and a leash for shore use – never, ever leash your dog on the water!

Read these additional Kayak Safety tips.

If you find that your dog is going with you on a significant number of yak outings, you might consider adding traction pads, thereby giving her a non-slip surface to grip. The pads will also prevent damage from those long nails of hers.

Waggy tail, four-legged friends. We’re going pedaling.

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Here are 11 short and basic kayak safety tips

Kayak Safety: A Short, Quite Basic Lesson

Safety on the water continues the common-sense practices we learned as kids, and the simple advice we offer here can best be capitalized in a kayaking safety or skills-development course. On-water instruction from a practiced paddler will go a long watery way in ensuring your safe enjoyment of this invigorating, healthful sport.

Safety on a Kayak

Skill means safety on a Kayak


1. Be proficient in proper kayaking technique. Know how to steer.

2. Learn to read the water.

3. Take on only challenges on the water for which you are physically and mentally prepare.

4. Learn the rescue skills necessary to assisting fellow boaters in trouble.

5. Four of five fatalities in paddling involve people not wearing a lifejacket. Alcohol contributed to a death in one case in five. Weather, we learn, factors in about forty percent of deadly paddlesport accidents. See a pattern here? Big trouble happens most often in the breaking of three rules the rawest beginner can easily followed.
Wear a personal flotation device, properly fitted to your torso.

6. Don’t drink alcohol before or during your hours on the water. Don’t do drugs.

7. Watch the weather, the weather above cold water in particular.

8. Study your route in advance, identifying as many potential hazards as possible. Know where to bail out in case of an emergency.

9. If you must paddle alone, inform family or friends of your likely whereabouts, a trip plan if you have one.
Bring sufficient food and water.

10. Don’t stand up in a kayak. Yep, this is our message, and we’re –as they say – sticking to it.

11. Avoid low-head submerged dams, fallen trees, and other underwater obstructions.

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Kayak etiquette and ethics on and off the water

Kayak Nautical Etiquette, Natural Ethics

The tranquility that almost always ensues on the water – whether in a long, lazy paddle or after an adrenalized sprint from here to there – lies at the heart of our sport. Its popularity arises in large part from this peaceful, easy feeling, but as more and more people discover this joy in pedaling across a beautiful stretch of river, we must be more and more careful to practice the rules of etiquette and operation that prevent conflict among various boaters. The growing number of recreational users of our nation’s waterways mandate adherence to the rules of movement hereabouts.

Kayak with Purpose

Above all, be vigilant. Keep a wide, purposeful look out for other boats on the water with the humble understanding that ours is going to be, wherever or whenever, the smallest craft out there.

The thoughts below apply to larger bodies of water where commercial and military vessels pass in the night.
Wear bright clothing. Stripe your paddle blades with reflective tape. Wear a whistle. At night and during low-light conditions, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic.

Learn the channels and the meaning of the buoys which mark them. Facing downstream or leaving a harbor, green lights indicate starboard (right) and red lights indicate port (left). When returning to a harbor or pedaling upstream, the lights reverse – the red light belongs on your starboard side. The old sailor’s mnemonic aid “Red Right Returning” encapsulates the procedures. Since these lights and buoys have been placed for the safe movement of larger boats and ships, we kayakers need only pedal or paddle happily between the appropriate light or buoy and the shore, safely away from those lumbering giants.

Be aware of any restricted areas on the body of water you’re yakking. Bridge abutments. Dams. Land-based facilities such as power plants and drinking water facilities. The threat of terror, Islamic and otherwise, has changed the world, and not even the peace of the waterborne is totally secure. Always cooperate with law-enforcement officers, and respect the boundaries imposed by the military services. You may not, for instance, approach within one hundred yards of a vessel of the U.S. Navy.

Always cross powerboats of any size astern. If you’re traveling in a group of yaks, operate as a group. Do not straggle.

This thought more about safety than about etiquette: if motorized craft are operating nearby, take the wake from their propulsion head-on; you will be far less likely to capsize if you don’t absorb the wave motion broadside.
Stay current with your navigational charts. The lanes of travel in busy waterways change now and then.
Give fishermen a wide, considerate berth.

Kayak Etiquette on the Shore

Follow the same rules that apply to hiking. Your arrival by boat does not in any way relieve you of responsibility for maintaining natural habitat.

Never litter, and always pack out trash.

Conduct all toilet activity at least two hundred feet from any body of water. Pack out all human waste in environmentally sensitive areas or where heavy use presents a problem.

Minimize your impact, leave no trace during launch, portage, scouting, or taking out.

Do not disturb wildlife.

No campfires, except in established fire rings or in case of emergency.

Respect private property. Use only public lands and access points.

It’s all so simple really. So easy and natural and good. Enjoy.

And pedal on.

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