Cold
water gear can be a pretty intimidating subject for a new paddler. A
complete winter wardrobe includes multiple garments, and retails for
somewhere north of $2000. My suggestion is to approach the problem a
month at a time, quitting for the season when paddling prospects for
the next month don’t justify the further investment. EARLY FALL


The
water is still warm, but the weather can be changeable, so it’s
advisable to carry a windproof jacket of some sort on longer trips,
even if the day starts out warm and sunny. Now is a good time to pick
up a paddling jacket for about $90. No need for Goretex, as the
Velcro neck closure can be opened for ventilation. LATE FALL


As
the water cools into the mid-60’s(F), some neoprene protection is
highly advisable. There are many choices here, but for kayaking most
peoples’ first choice would be a 3 mm singlet with a “farmer
john” top for maximum freedom of arm movement, and ankle length
legs. At about the same time you’re going to need an insulating layer
to wear under the jacket, preferable a bulky synthetic fleece like
Polartec.


By
late fall you may also be wishing for something to keep your hands
warm. The choices include pogies, which are surprisingly effective in
keeping the wind and splashing water off your hands, but offer no
immersion protection, and various sorts of neoprene gloves and
mittens. My first choice would be neoprene paddling gloves, cut with
a slight curve in the fingers to facilitate gripping a paddle, and a
strap with Velcro at the wrist to reduce water penetration. In my
experience, it is also highly desirable to be able put the gloves on
when your hands are already wet, and the fingers are becoming numb
with cold. Finding your best hand protection can be a multi-year
quest. EARLY WINTER


A
lot of paddlers quit for the season in late November. At this point,
the water will be the low 50s or high 40s, and the financial
investment necessary to continue paddling is considerable. There
should be no compromising on the need for a dry suit. Unless your
paddling style is slow and leisurely, Goretex or other breathable
fabric is strongly recommended. The optional built-in neoprene
booties and male relief zipper are generally considered well worth
the cost.


You
will also need at least one fleecy insulating layer for the legs, and
a second layer for the top, along with bulky socks and neoprene shoes
or boots. And at some point you will thank yourself for making a
modest investment in a neoprene cap to insulate your head.

Whew,
done!

by
Michael Vandamm
Adapted from a posting on the Chesapeake Paddlers Association email list.m

FromThe Eddy Line, December 2004