Cold Weather Paddling

January 2006 Club Meeting Recap By Roger Huff

On behalf of the Atlanta Whitewater Club family I would like to express a sincere thank you to Wayner Dickert for his presentation on winter paddling and gear. His talk was both very informational and entertaining. In the next few paragraphs I hope to summarize the highlights of the meeting on January 3rd, 2006. Hopefully, you will find this information useful to stay warm while paddling this winter.

Wayner started the meeting off with a few ways to enjoy paddling during the winter without being cold. One way is to book a trip during the winter to one of the more warmer climates during the season like Costa Rica, Mexico, and others. These trips can be scheduled with the Nantahala Outdoor Center as well as other local outfitters. Another way to enjoy winter paddling without getting cold is to watch a paddling DVD. If these two options are not your fancy then so cold weather gear may be needed. Wayner discussed the following categories: Head, Torso, Legs, Hands, Feet, Dry Suit, and Food.

Head - The head is the quickest loss of body temperature in cold weather. It is very important to minimize this loss as best as possible. Helmets without air holes are the best helmet to retain the heat to the head; however, for helmets that do have holes in them duct tape can be used to help keep the heat in. To add another layer simply buy a neoprene skull cap or a fuzzy rubber. An inexpensive solution might be to use a swim cap. Using nose plugs are great protection to keep from being cold as well which keep the cold water from going up your nose. Another important asset is ear plugs. If cold water is exposed to the ear drums for a long time hearing loss can occur where the only way to restore hearing is through surgery.

Torso - The first item that was discussed was an Immersion Research Thick Skin long sleeve shirt. A shirt like this is designed to wick moisture away from the skin and away from the body. Three thinner layers will generally keep you warmer than one thicker layer. Another item discussed was a MountainSurf Aquashell with Polartec shirt. This material is considered the most high tech. One the inside there is a fleece wicking material while the outside layer is the same as a wet suit material. Also, titanium is woven into the material which is designed to reflect body heat back towards the body. The final item discussed for the torso is a Dry Top. This item resembles a paddle jacket but has rubber gaskets at the wrists and either a rubber gasket or a neoprene gasket at the neck. The rubber gaskets can be trimmed back for a better fit or they can be stretched out using tennis balls for the wrists and a coffee can for the neck. If your skin is being irritated from the rubber gaskets then you might try putting baby powder on them.

Legs - For the legs a wicking material leggings are recommended, and the same applies for the multiple thin layers as with the torso. Again, Polartec material is considered the high tech material. For an example Wayner had NRS Sticky Buns which also have a fleece inner layer and a wetsuit neoprene outer layer. The final item discussed for the legs was Dry Pants. Dry Pants have gaskets on the waist and at each leg to keep the lower extremities dry. It is important to release any excess air in the legs of the Dry Pants to keep from floating heads down downriver.

Hands, Feet, and Dry Suit - For the hands neoprene gloves can be worn. The options that exist are 1 millimeter, 2 millimeter, and 3 millimeter in thickness of neoprene material. Another option is pogies. Ppogies attach to you paddle and keep you hands warm while allowing you to grip the paddle with your bare hands. One thing to consider with pogies is that they get wet often from constant splashing of whitewater. For the feet wear neoprene socks. The expensive solution to staying warm while paddling in the winter is the Dry Suit. The Dry Suit is guaranteed to keep you dry by protecting almost every inch of your body. The Dry Suit covers your entire body with a waterproof rubber suit that has gaskets on the neck, wrists, and legs. Some have booties for the feet. A Dry Suit can cost over a $1000 dollars.

Food - For food it is important to bring along high carbohydrate quick energy items like chocolate or a snickers bar. By bringing a thermos that has soup, tea, or cider you might be the highlight of the lunch break as well. It is important to stay hydrated because the body temperature can react strangely to cold weather when not hydrated.

In conclusion, I intended to catch the highlights of Wayner Dickert's presentation on cold weather padding. Wayner discussed the different options available for the head; torso; legs; hands, feet, and Dry Suit; and food to bring along.

Paddle safe, stay warm this winter, and SYATR!

Roger Huff

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PO Box 11714
Atlanta GA, 30355-1714

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