With the recent Fall Equinox cooler weather has abruptly come, but that does not mean your paddling season has to come to an end just yet, if at all. With all that has gone on in 2020 many recreationists are looking to avoid hibernation, disconnect, and get back to the basics for as long as possible. For those wanting to extend your paddling days on the water or even put in miles for an overnight trip on your desired waterway; with the right protective gear and apparel you can. Modern technology has made it tried and true to paddle year round, if one is prepared to do so. So keep those cockpit covers stored away at least for now, pull out your finest synthetic layers, and gear up for your next paddling adventure.
Offseason paddling can offer for a more tranquil experience with less crowds, meaning more quiet time and more chance to experience wildlife. Also it can be more pleasant along waterways with less pestie bugs and mosquitos, which can allow for more enjoyable overnight paddle camping along riverbanks. With offseason paddling there are some prime safety factors to consider before getting out on the water, the biggest factor being exposure to cold air and worst case potentially cold water. Cold air itself can cause onset of hypothermia, but when also combined with being wet can lead to even greater risk of severe hypothermia. It is important to dress for potential immersion even if you do not plan on getting wet. It is also always best practice to plan for the worst and hope for the best in all scenarios. Most importantly being prepared to minimize exposure to cold, or for the worst case treating symptoms of hypothermia.
It is important to dress appropriately for cold weather paddling, which absolutely means avoid cotton clothing all together. Cotton materials such as t-shirts and jeans, retain water and accelerate cooling of the body when wet. This combination being a recipe for disaster can cause severe hypothermia, because the average human body loses heat about 25x faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry. It is important to consider that everyone reacts to cold at different rates, so remember to properly dress or have warm layers for everyone in your group. However children and smaller adults will typically lose heat faster. While gearing up and picking out your off season paddling gear and apparel there are a few tips to think about before plunging into your next adventure on the water.
Layering from head-to-toe is a prime concept to think of firsthand to keep comfortable in even unexpected situations. Taking the time to think of the function and order of your layers by following the trusty “Three W’s”; wicking, warmth, and of course weather. The wicking layer, also known as base layer, is designed to wear next to the skin. This layer provides breathable materials and moisture management by removing moisture away from the skin. The warmth layer, also known as insulation layer, is also breathable and allows moisture to move through the materials. The weather layer, also known as outer layer, offers protection from elements such as wind, rain, and water to repel away from your body. Layering provides great advantage to staying comfortable, since you can add on or take off as the weather or your body temperature changes. In events of change in temperature, weather, or an unexpected swim, it is best to bring additional layers and a change of clothes for afterwards that is kept in a dry bag.
Modern apparel and gear specifically made for paddling uses high-tech fabrics and technology to keep warm and even dry, which means longer comfort while out on the water or for situations in the water. There are a variety of fabrics designed specifically for paddling by various manufacturers, which offer different functionality and performance of garments. Before you set out on your next paddling adventure, ask your local paddling shop or outfitter to recommend gear and apparel for the conditions you plan to paddle in.