Kayaking in Winter: 12 Tips You Need to Know

Kayaking in winter can be, put it mildly, unattractive. Going kayaking in the winter is not the most pleasant thing to do. But I assure you that winter kayaking is beautiful and can be very healthy. There are a few tips or rules you should consider before you go rafting on a river, lake, or sea. Here are the top 12 tips and things you should consider before you face the cold and go rafting.

Kayaking in Winter pin

Clothing for kayaks in wintertime

Let’s talk about what you wear. Consider the places where you are most likely to lose heat in the winter. Consider wearing a hat or buying waterproof gloves. Also, consider wearing thicker waterproof boots. Well-fitting clothing on the human body is essential for comfort and safety when winter kayaking.

Warning! Learn how to layer clothes

Make sure your kayak is in good shape

Repair a crack that you noticed last time. Carefully inspect the appearance of your entire kayak to make sure it won’t soak up water.

Warning! Check your kayak and accessories for damage

Think about using foam blocks and sheets

Foam blocks are great for areas where your skin may come in contact with the kayak. They create an extra layer of insulation, which is important if you’re in a cold-water environment for an extended period of time.

Warning! Keep your extremities (head, arms, legs) warm

120-Degree Rule

Water and air temperatures below 120° Fahrenheit require you to wear a wetsuit or a drysuit if you are out on the water.

Even the best-trained bodies can be shocked when they fall into icy cold water. A person who is not appropriately dressed for submersion will have no chance of escaping. The primary method of preventing hypothermia for kayakers is to dress according to the temperature of the water.

The table shows when you should wear a wetsuit and when you should wear a dry suit for winter kayaking:

WATER TEMPRISK OF HYPOTHERMIACLOTHING
70 °F (ca. 21 °C) <Low3 mm wetsuit or shorty
60 – 70 °FModerate5 mm wetsuit
50 – 60 °FHighDrysuit or 7 mm wetsuit, or wetsuit with dry-top
> 50 °F (ca. 10 °C)ExtremeDrysuit

Winter kayaking: Is it too cold?

The water temperature does not have to be a certain range to be safe for kayaking. As long as your lake hasn’t frozen over and you wear proper clothing, you can go kayaking in freezing waters. Weather permitting of course.

Warning! Learn the 120-degree rule

Prepare a dry, waterproof bag

You should always pack your belongings in a waterproof bag for kayaking. This is especially important in winter kayaking because of the greater possibility of things getting wet, if only due to rain and snow.

Warning! Keep dry clothes in a waterproof bag

Warm-up before you reach for the paddle

You can warm up on or off the water. Get your blood pumping well throughout your body and your muscles well warmed up before you exert yourself. This will help prevent injuries and also make winter kayaking a little more fun.

Attention! Exercise, warm up your muscles

Plan ahead

Plan the entire float sensibly. Pack energy foods, fruits, and/or nuts. You can also pack a thermos for a warm drink. Also, think about bringing a set of dry clothes and a coat if necessary (especially if you’re getting out of the water for a while). Remember to always take care of your feet when you stop, keep them warm, and change your socks if necessary.

Attention! Plan the location and route beforehand

Adjust the length of the trip to your possibilities

Remember that winter kayaking is definitely different from summer ones. Don’t plan long escapades. Always consider the length of the trip and your abilities.

Attention! Watch the time

Check the weather before you set off

Winter, as we know, can be unpredictable (as can most months in some states of America). By checking the weather forecast before you descend, you can avoid various weather troubles that may suddenly strike you. It is also worth checking the water levels in the rivers. Heavy precipitation in the fall and winter can drastically change the riverbed. Always check the current before you go to a river, or better yet, ask a local. Also, be prepared for snowstorms and don’t plan to go kayaking in such conditions.

Warning! Check the weather report

Stay close to shore

Winter weather conditions can change quickly and you should always be prepared to return to land safely.

Sudden winds blowing against you can prevent you from returning to shore if you are too tired, so make sure you always have enough energy for the return trip.
Time flies in the winter when you’re passionately kayaking, so it’s easy to lose track of how far you’ve come and what’s next.

Warning! Do not swim too far from the shore

Always carry the means to call for help

A dry-case phone should suffice, but if you’re planning multiple trips, a GPS tracker might be a good investment. If you are planning a solo rafting trip, be sure to let those on shore know the expected duration and route.

Warning! Let others know that you are going kayaking

Shorter days

Remember how much daylight we have during the winter… The days may be shorter than you think, especially if the weather is already cloudy. Planning is key. Never kayak after dark. For winter kayaking, especially at the beginning, it is important to use a professional organizer who is prepared for winter requirements. A well-organized winter kayaking trip is a guarantee of safety and a great adventure.

Warning! The days are shorter in winter

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