Fall and winter can be the best time to be out on the water paddling! The trick is to prepare and dress appropriately.
is a big no-no during cold weather paddling. Cotton takes a very long time to dry, and loses all of is warming properties when it is wet, resulting in the wet shirt or bottoms sucking all of the heat from your body.
Wool and fleece clothing
has, and always will be a great layer out on the water. Both wool and fleece keep their heat retentive properties while they are wet. What this means is that even wet, these garments will keep you warm. They also dry quickly, and some fleece and wool garments will pack down very well, making that comfy fleece sweater a great item to bring along with you as an extra piece of clothing just in case!
is another material that can help keep you warm out on the water. Neoprene works by trapping water close to your body, which warms that water, which in turn keeps you warm. Neoprene works best when you are actually in the water, which is why surfers and divers almost always wear a wet suit. Neoprene is better than nothing while paddling, but since you probably won’t be in the water often while paddling (hopefully!) neoprene can be a little much while out on your fall or winter excursions.
Ultimately, if you can stay dry you will be warmer. Dry tops, dry pants, and dry suits will all help keep you and your clothing dry, which will make for a much more comfortable trip on the water. A good dry suit will keep you completely dry even when submerged in water. The only big downside to dry gear is the price, but if you plan to do a lot of cool/cold weather paddling it is definitely worth the investment!
You should always wear your life vest out on the water, but this is especially important in cold water environments. When you get cold, you lose a lot of your motor skills in your extremities, making it very difficult to swim. Your life vest is also keeping your core well insulated. So keep that life vest on!
Having a way to make a fire can also come in handy if you get too cold. Pack some kindling in a dry box or dry bag, along with a lighter or flint to start it with. You can also bring along some instant coffee or tea, that way you can enjoy a nice hot beverage on the bank if you choose!
Finally, staying well hydrated and nourished can go a long way in keeping you warm. If you feel yourself starting to shiver, take a break on the shore and snack on a power bar or some nuts. You will be shocked at how much this will warm you up!
So pack a dry bag with some snacks and a few extra articles of clothing, and you will be able to get on the water to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and the wilderness feel of a winter paddle!