Preparing for Cold Weather Adventures: Paddling

There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing." - Alfred Wainwright


There’s plenty of fall left but in New England, we know just how quickly winter can sneak up on us.

At Adventure East we value our opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature, all year round. Meaning, that the adventures don’t stop when the snow starts! Cold weather outdoor experiences, while invigorating, can be a little intimidating as well. There can be so many questions about how best to prepare for the conditions. (What do I wear? What should I bring?) With that in mind, we've put together a couple of guides to help you feel safe, warm, and comfortable when you join us for a cold weather outing, on and off the water.

Paddling Tips:

It’s official: we now consider each paddling excursion to be a “cold weather” adventure. We’d love to extend an invitation to experienced kayakers to keep their boats out of storage (or use one of ours) and join us as we continue to enjoy paddling along the Connecticut River Valley. We get it: your regular paddling partners may be more inclined to hit the slopes or stay warm by the fire with a good book. Though not for the timid, the only thing “crazier” than cold weather paddling, is cold weather paddling alone! Our guides are excited to make your acquaintance as the local lakes and rivers begin their winter transformation into wondrous, icy realms of exploration.

Does the idea of cold weather kayaking excite you as much as it does us? Awesome! Here are a few things to know before grabbing your boots and meeting us out on the river:

  • Don’t actually grab your boots - The expression in the paddling community is to “dress for the swim” and we’ve noticed that boots aren’t exactly ideal for swimming in any weather. Neoprene or other insulated water-specific footwear is a must as even the most experienced paddlers will often find their feet in contact with cold water at some point. Remember to bring footwear at least one size larger to accommodate thicker socks and the material from the built-in booties and allow for proper circulation.
  • Remember: swimming in November is drastically different from swimming in August – From now on, every day is either a wetsuit or a dry suit day on the river. Unless you’re a part of a cold-water swim club and doing open water swims throughout the year, don’t kid yourself (or us – we won’t be fooled!) into believing that you can capsize your boat and swim to shore easily.
  • A wetsuit is the minimum gear you want to be wearing right now – Even if you don’t dunk into the water, a wetsuit will keep your core warm and goes a long way to conserving energy. Additionally, it will buffer some of the cold shock you could experience with even just a little tip-over getting in/out of your boat.
  • A dry suit is the best choice as the temps dip further and for those who are more acclimated to warmer weather – We suggest a comfortable base layer (more about that later) and two thicknesses of fleece and wool socks to have on-hand. It’s often a riverside decision as to what you will wear that day. Much like hiking, the amount of gear you take can depend on where you paddle and different acclimations. Don’t forget a knit hat!
  • Have a cold weather kit prepared – When you’re traveling with Adventure East, we will have a bunch of backup gear handy, but it’s nice to have your own kit ready. We recommend items such as: hand warmers, dry mittens, an extra fleece, windbreaker, swim cap (put it on under the knit hat that you remembered to wear!), a thermos with your favorite hot, non-alcoholic beverage, snacks (ideally, you’ve eaten a good, high-carb meal a few hours prior and a carb + protein snack as you’re getting ready to head out), and a tarp. See you on the river!

Not really your cup of tea? That’s okay, we’ll see you on the river, too…in the spring!

In the meantime, if you have your own boats and gear, we suggest a thorough washing and drying of everything.

  • Check care instructions for neoprene and latex parts. Many suggest rolling rather than folding, use of cold water only, and storage away from vehicle exhaust.
  • This is also a great time to inspect your PFD (life jacket) and other gear to determine if it is worth storing or if you should toss it and get a new one so that you’re ready to go in the spring. Pro tip: be on the lookout for post-season sales! You are likely to find some great deals this time of year.
  • Boat storage is best indoors. Each kayak and canoe are different as far as how best to position while storing. Canoes are generally best stored upside down with the gunwales resting on sawhorses or bars (leaving the bow and stern free) while long kayaks should be supported at their strongest points, such as where the bulkheads are loaded. The most important considerations of boat storage are maintaining dryness, protection from sun exposure, and protection from rodent and bee/wasp habitation.

Keep these tips in mind and you'll be set to join us for a safe cold weather excursion in the coming season.

Stay tuned for our next post filled with great layering tips and advice for adventurers who prefer trekking to paddling!


*all tips courtesy of Brad Walker, AE Paddling Coordinator

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