Kayak in Cold Weather – Tips to Keep Safe and Warm

Can you kayak in cold weather? Absolutely!!

However, there are some precautions you will want to take to ensure a safe and warm paddle. Here are some things to keep in mind when venturing out to kayak in the cold weather!

Kayak Choice

Probably the all-time easiest, simplest way to avoid getting wet is choosing a sit-in kayak as opposed to a sit on top. The reasoning should be self-explanatory so I won’t delve into this too much.

Not only will you limit your exposure to the water, having a sit-in kayak adds the benefit of utilizing a kayak skirt. Keep reading to see what they are.

Always be aware of leaks, holes, or water breaching the top when using a sit-in kayak.

Although they provide a great way to stay relatively dry, if your kayak fills up with water, you’re facing a very dangerous situation. Not only will the kayak be difficult to maneuver, but you also risk sinking and exposing yourself to hypothermia.

This is something to be aware of while kayaking in the summer months too, but awareness in the winter is paramount!

Dressing the Part

I don’t know about you, but hypothermia does not sound like fun to me. Shivering, shallow breathing, slow pulse, slurred speech, and memory loss are just a few symptoms. Then there’s the whole part about dying that gets to me too.

Getting and staying dry throughout your day(s) will make your trip so much more enjoyable as well as keep you safe from the elements. When preparing for a paddle, be sure to wear cold weather kayaking gear like a drysuit.

Now I’m assuming you’d like to keep all 10 fingers, right? OK, then you’ll definitely want to pick up some cold weather kayaking gloves. If you’re accustomed to kayaking glove-free, it will take a little getting used to, but after a few miles downriver, you’ll get your feel.

Whether you plan on camping out or just taking a day trip, bringing a dry change of clothes is extremely important. It may sound like overkill, but be sure to include the following.

  • Pants
  • Shirt
  • Sweater/Sweatshirt
  • Socks
  • Undergarments
  • Shoes / Boots / Some sort of footwear if possible
  • Wool Cap / Beanie

Ideally, you’d like a complete change of warm, dry clothes. In the worst-case scenario, you find yourself overturned and fully soaked, getting dry and warm as quickly as possible is key to survival.

If carrying all this is not possible, you’ll at the bare minimum need dry pants, shirt, and socks. And be sure you use a dry bag to ensure your spare clothes don’t end up drenched too.

Wear a Skirt!

Kayak Skirt

Wait, didn’t I just say to wear warm, waterproof clothing? No, I’m not drunk, and No, I don’t want you to wear a woman’s skirt to kayak in cold weather. But, I do want you to use a kayak skirt.

Using a skirt not only keeps splash water from entering your boat and getting you wet, but it creates a nice warm and cozy area for your legs and lower body. Kayak spray skirts are one of the most effective ways to keep dry.

You’ll need to search for your model and size, but this is an extremely effective way to ensure you stay dry. A skirt will prevent water from entering your kayak by forming a barrier from you to your kayak.

Always Use Protection!

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always follow this rule in the warm season, but I 100% do in the winter. Wear your life jacket!!

In the summer I typically paddle on calm lakes and slow-moving rivers. I fancy myself a decent swimmer so although I bring it with me, my life jacket rarely gets worn. However, even the best of swimmers will succumb to hypothermia rather quickly in the right (or wrong) conditions.

So, when you kayak in cold weather, Always Wear Your Life Jacket!!

Light it Up!

I don’t condone using someone’s land or resources without permission, but in a life and death situation, all rules are off. If starting a fire for fun, or to roast marshmallows, be sure you’re allowed to do so on the land you are on.

When it comes to fire building to survive symptoms of hypothermia, be sure you are considerate of the land. Use only dead, fallen wood and control the size of your fire. Apply the same rules as hikers; Leave no trace.

That being said, you’ll want to bring along either waterproof matches at a minimum or as I do, a dry bag filled with fire-starting equipment. Lighters, lint, fire starting stick, etc.

First Aid is Up to You

Camping, kayaking, hiking, whatever you do outdoors comes with risks. Typically when outdoors, help isn’t as readily available as to when you’re sitting at home. Depending on your location and environment, help could be hours away so you need to be prepared.

Even carrying a smaller, simple first aid kit when you kayak in cold weather would help a lot. In my EDC, I keep a first aid kit that consists of band-aids, gauze, antiseptic, Tylenol, tweezers, small scissors, etc. I also always carry a tourniquet and large gauze for large wounds.

Be sure whatever size first aid kit you have, you store it in a dry bag. Band-aids won’t stick if they’re wet. 😉

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Jamie Wilkinson

I'm a fervent lover of the great outdoors, having spent countless hours soaking in the tranquility and beauty that nature offers. My passion for kayaking and camping has led me to explore numerous waterways and campgrounds, each journey adding to my treasure trove of experiences. Through KayakCampingWorld.com, I aim to share these adventures and insights with you. My hope is to inspire fellow outdoor enthusiasts and provide valuable guidance, whether you're paddling your first kayak or setting up camp for the hundredth time. Dive into my articles, and let's embark on this outdoor journey together!

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