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Everything You Need To Know About Winter Kayaking

Who says fun aquatic activities are only for the summer season? With winter kayaking, you can enjoy the invigorating fresh air and the relaxing sounds of the water, even after the temperatures have dropped. And because most kayakers put their paddles into hibernation for the winter, you can experience the peaceful and serene atmosphere of having the water all to yourself! So if you’re looking for a challenging new hobby to fill up your free time after the snow starts to fall, here’s everything you need to know about winter kayaking!

Getting The Right Gear Is Essential

They say that there isn’t bad weather for winter kayaking, only the wrong gear, so don’t let cold temperatures be a viable excuse for discomfort. You have to take into consideration the fact that cold water will account for a much greater loss of body heat than cold air, so you’ll need to protect your body accordingly. Wearing the proper apparel isn’t just a matter of being comfortable or not. In the event that you capsize, it becomes a matter of life or death. So consider the following gear as mandatory for winter kayaking, not optional.

Well-Insulated Dry Suit - Works to trap in radiant heat while reducing evaporative heat loss
Personal Flotation Device - Works to keep you afloat if you suffer cold shock or swim failure
Neoprene Hood/Skull Cap - Works to reduce radiant heat loss and convection from your head
Neoprene Gloves/Pogies - Work to keep your hands functioning properly in the bitter cold
Layering Fleece - Works to provide added insulation beneath your dry suit
Neoprene Booties - Work to keep your feet nice and toasty as you paddle
Thermos & Warm Beverage - Works to warm up your insides for a more comfortable trip

*Avoid cotton fabrics, and bring a spare change of clothes in a dry bag just in case

It’s Not For Novices

Perhaps you’ve drifted carelessly down the river in a kayak during the summer months, or maybe you’ve braved the waves of the lake when the weather's been warm. But if you’ve never been kayaking in cold temperatures, don’t expect an easy transition from casual summer kayaking to intense winter kayaking. The sport becomes an entirely different beast depending on the weather conditions, so if you’re not already somewhat skilled and experienced, take the time to get properly trained and work on refining your technique before heading out on the water.

Be Ready To Roll

One of the most essential skills to learn before going winter kayaking is how to roll. The roll is essentially the act of correcting a capsized kayak through the use of body motion, often with the assistance of a paddle. While this maneuver might look simple, it’s much easier said than done. With limited visibility, cold shock, and loss of direction, rolling a kayak becomes much more complicated, so practice in less- intense conditions before taking on the real thing. Knowing how to roll your kayak is crucial because the longer you stay submerged in the water, the greater your chances of developing hypothermia. Learning other rescue techniques can also be smart, even if you never have to use them.

Stay Smart And Keep Safe

There is an added element of danger with winter kayaking, so you should take proper precautions and make smart decisions when you’re out on the water. To start, you should never go out winter kayaking alone. Always have at least one partner with you and use the buddy system to keep each other safe. Also, make sure that someone on dry land knows where you are going just in case you do not return at your intended time. Watch the weather before heading out so that you can avoid dangerous conditions and take advantage of ideal days. When you’re out on the water, try to stay close to the shoreline so you reduce your swimming distance if you happen to tip overboard. And lastly, always wear your personal flotation device!

Best Locations For Winter Kayaking

Ready to start planning your winter kayaking trip? Check out some of these destinations that offer peaceful, picturesque waterways perfect for cold-weather paddling!

  • Glacier Bay | Alaska

  • Lake Superior | Michigan

  • Grand Teton National Park | Wyoming

  • Chetco River | Oregon

  • Algonquin Provincial Park | Canada

Are you an avid cold-weather paddler? What else do we need to know before going winter kayaking? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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