Guide to Cold Weather Paddling

Winter is here but that doesn’t mean you have to stop paddling! With the right skills and equipment you can paddle even after the snow starts to fall. Read our Guide to Cold Weather Paddling to find out how to stay safe and warm while you enjoy the rivers and lakes of Minnesota during the coldest months of the year!

Cold Weather Paddling Clothes

Paddling in cold weather can be very enjoyable if you are wearing the right clothes. Here are a few options to consider.

Wetsuits – Neoprene wetsuits are designed to heat the layer of water between your skin and the suit and are ideal for paddling in early fall and late spring or on cool summer days. The Farmer John and Farmer Jane wetsuits are a popular design for paddlers as they allow for the shoulders and arms to move freely. Wetsuits can be worn in water as cold as 50 degrees when combined with a drytop or a paddling jacket.

Drysuits – When water temperatures dip below 50 degrees it is best to paddle in a drysuit. Drysuits are designed to keep water out of the suit and away from your skin. They range from $500 to $1,200 and come in a variety of waterproof materials. In Minnesota, drysuits can extend your paddling season anywhere from four to five months and are an essential item for cold weather or winter paddling if there is any chance of immersion.

Layering – Merino wool and fleece are popular choices for layers to wear underneath a drysuit. When the air and water temperatures dip below 40 degrees, try who layers of merino wool with a fleece sweater or vest as a mid layer.

Neoprene Hoodies – Neoprene hoodies keep your head and neck warm on cold weather days. Some helmets, like the Sweet Rocker helmet, offer additional insulation as well.

Neoprene Gloves and Pogies – Keeping your hands warm is essential to paddling in colder temperatures. Try neoprene gloves combined with pogies when the air temperature and water temperature are in the 30s and 40s. Neoprene mittens are another popular choice.

Cold weather paddling presents some dangers and challenges. For this reason, it is important to know the risks and exercise caution while on the water! Here are a few safety pointers to keep in mind if you are considering paddling when the weather is cold.

Ice – When temperatures dip below freezing, ice will begin to form on your clothes and can cause your sprayskirt or other items to freeze to your kayak. Zippers will also freeze, making it difficult to unzip your lifejacket and drysuit. For this reason, make sure there is a warm place or car near shore where you can thaw out your clothes and paddling gear!

Hypothermia – Know the signs of hypothermia before you go cold weather paddling. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothermia, tell a friend and head back to shore immediately. If you are paddling downriver, bring an extra dry bag of warm layers and fire starters in case of an emergency.

Paddle With a Friend – Never paddle alone, especially in cold weather! Before heading out, make sure each person is dressed appropriately and have a safety plan in place.

Cold weather paddling can be fun if you are well prepared. Interested in paddling this winter? Come talk to our expert staff in the Paddlesports and Ski Department and we will help you get started! Ask us. We’ve been there.

Stay warm and see you on the water!

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