Author Topic: Keeping warm on the water  (Read 12613 times)

Offline Maryanne

  • Captain 12/13
  • Posts: 3,120
Keeping warm on the water
« on: October 18, 2011, 23:26:30 »
A fresher's guide to keeping warm on the water
by Maryanne Doyle
With credit to Deividas Rainys for finding a copy of this after an accidental deletion!

I've carried my boat to a get on to the sound of the frozen grass crunching underfoot and seen my breath fog so thickly in front of me it I had to wait for it to clear to see the go sign at the top of a weir. I've seen a wetsuit hung out to dry freeze as stiff as a prawn cracker and chipped ice out from the nose of a boat with a rock so I could adjust the footplates, but stayed warm myself through it all.

Being cold is one of the things I hate most in the world. I catch colds and chest infections easily and the slightest chill can give me the sniffles. But I'm not alone, no one likes to be cold! It's no fun at all, it wastes energy, distracts focus and generally dampens the mood.

Given that ours is an outdoor, water based  sport and we're living in Ireland it can come as no surprise that the weather conspires against us from time to time.

Well known for my love of layers and fervent belief in their ability to keep me toasty and sheltered from all that is sub-cosy in the world, I would like to share a few tips on keeping warm as we approach the colder months of the year.

Be kind to yourself, your health and your wallet. Stay warm, have more paddling fun for longer without spending the year's budget on paddling gear (as tempting as that is).

Learn how to choose the best club gear, invest in a few inexpensive extras and be aware of the gear options available for after you decide to commit financially to the sport.

I love kayaking almost as much as I hate being cold and see no reason for the two of them to have anything to do with each other. Be prepared and equipped and enjoy all the paddling you can get your hands on all year round!

Head - it has your brain in it!

Choosing club helmets
They'll all protect you from knocks, which is the most important thing, but due to drainage holes and slots and a lack of padding, some do not contribute to the thermal wellbeing of your noggin. The more snug the fit the better all round.

Quick fix
Throughout my fresher year I wore club helmets exclusively but kept toasty warm by wearing a fleece hat underneath. My new ability to avoid brain freeze on contact with water meant it was easier to keep it together and attempt a t-rescue or roll after a capsize.
Also an option are neoprene skull caps, these are aimed at playboaters, surfers, swimmers and snorkelers and shouldn't set you back too much.

One day
Buying a helmet of your own means you can keep track of exactly how many knocks it's had, when it may need to be replaced and allows you to pad it out to suit the shape of your head as snuggly as possible.

Neck to ankle - a lot in one go!

Choosing club wetsuits
The wetsuits available in the boathouse have been donated, meaning that many of them are a bit the worse for wear. The obvious ones to avoid are those that look like they've been attacked by a shark or worn by a werewolf at full moon, and just when you think you've found a good one it is inexplicably zipless or has a burst seam in an indecent location... So the more you wear underneath the better!

Quick fix
Onesies are absolutely fabulous, I think everyone should have at least four! It looks like they're set to be popular in shops again this winter, so stock up! Added bonus: we'll look like a cartoon getting changed in the carpark.

One day
Although not seen often amongst paddlers, wetsuits are a good purchase if you're interested in water sports and the irish outdoors. Purchasing a wetsuit could be seen as an investment in many sports all at once, and if you're fully grown, you should get many years' use out of it.
Drysuits, they keep you dry, but it takes a while to save up for one, better to spend a few smart euro on basics now than shiver away for months in anticipation.

Torso - keep it warm or your heart will freeze!

Choosing club cags
The newest cags in stock are the red Palm ones, but even they are at best "splash cags". Look out for cags with intact neck and wrist seals and the more waterproof the fabric the better. As a rule of thumb: if it looks like a tribute to the 80s, that's when we got it.

Quick fix
Go through your wardrobe and identify all tops not made from cotton that you don't mind using for sport. Things starting with "poly" are good to go and fleeces are a personal favourite of mine. It's definitely worth investing in a few layers: Dunnes, Pennys, Lidl etc all stock inexpensive fleeces coming into winter (for as little as €5) and you'll feel the difference they make immediately!

One day
Getting a cag all of your own is a good move if you see yourself in the sport longterm. Full dry cags have latex neck and wrist seals that stop water getting in if you capsize, they have a double layer around the tummy (one layer on either side of the funnel of the spray deck) which minimises the amount of water let in from the waist.
Semi-dry cags tend to have neoprene seals instead of latex. This means they don't squeeze as tightly which some wearers prefer, but the downside is they will let in water leaving you semi-dry (aka wet).

Legs - they help paddle too!

Choosing club waders
The club was recently donated a few pairs of waders/dry pants. I haven't test driven any of these myself, but if you didn't manage to get your hands on a club wetsuit, I'm sure they're better than nothing!

Quick fix
Fleece pyjama bottoms are readily available in many shops, or you could look out for other "poly"anything leg layers. For girls (and guys!) tights are great value for money here; reuse old pairs that have holes or ladders, layer them up easily, experiment with bold colours you wouldn't wear otherwise...there's so much fun to be had!

One day
Dry pants are available in a variety of designs, some stop above the ankle and at the waist like normal trousers, some have footsie extensions, and some have "sallopets" that go up over your shoulders (imagine dungarees and you've got the picture).

Feet - when cold are tortuous to behold!

Choosing club footwear
It's quite rare to find a full pair booties or runners in the boathouse, and rarer still to find a pair to fit you, so it is much wiser to come with your own.
Kayaking barefoot is very unwise as it is easy to injure yourself on the bank when walking in or out, or on the inside of the boat while kayaking. Typically beginners tend to not move their legs or feet much so bare feet will get very cold very fast.

Quick fix
You might already be covered on the warmth front by tights or a onesie, if not get some fleecy socks, or maybe even neoprene (wetsuit material) socks.
NB: Grab an old pair of runners too, most places we go involve some sort of walk to the get on or from the get off so bare feet are no good. Bulky shoes can be difficult to fit into boats (so no heelies!) and loose shoes may come off if you swim. Having a decent sole is a big help for walking, especially when you're carrying a boat or climbing up the bank to have another go on a weir.

One day
Wetsuit booties are made from neoprene, have toughened soles and fit snuggly. These are very popular with freestyle kayakers as they add very little bulk to feet which have to fit into a small space.
River shoes have more sophisticated designs; they have tough soles like hill walking boots, plenty of mesh to let water drain out, or a waterproof design to stop it getting in in the first place.

Boat - keep the water on the outside!

Choosing club decks
The club owns a few neoprene decks, which are more waterproof than the rest, but be careful when choosing since some of them are designed for boats with much smaller cockpits.
If you can't get a neoprene deck, try for a fabric one that is toughened (stiff to touch) or laminated (shiny/plastic looking) as these will keep more water out. Decks that have the texture of umbrella material are most likely ancient and will let in the most water.
NB: Always check your deck fits your boat at the boathouse!

Quick fix
Choose a good deck! You could spend a few euro on a sponge to empty your boat from within, or let a rescue paddler/instructor know you've taken some water on board, we can help you empty it with one of ours.

One day
Buying a deck for yourself means choosing one that fits well around the waist and around the cockpit of the boat(s) you paddle the most often. Some decks have reinforced portions around the cockpit to minimise wear and tear caused by dragging boats up onto them to be emptied and some have what's called a "rand" essentially a giant rubber band around the edge that folds under the lip of the cockpit and makes them harder to pop accidentally.

Accessories - other measures to keep warm!

Fuel for you body's own heating system! Small, individually wrapped energy/chocolate bars are the business. You can put them in the pocket of a BA or cag (if you don't have your own an instructor or rescue paddler can help) and their wrappers keep them protected against the river cooties.
NB: make sure you keep the wrappers to put in the bin after!

Thermos flask
It is hard to describe the joy of pouring yourself a big cup of steaming hot blackcurrant, orange or even soup on a misty winter's day halfway down a river. Great for keeping warm from the inside out, tastes great, and puts a smile on your face! If you're new and might swim, one of the instructors or rescue paddlers can keep your flask in their boat for you (both to stop it floating off down the river and from getting coated in river water).

Extra clothes
Having some extra warm clothes to wear when you get off is a fabulous thing to look forward to! Some paddlers bring extras with them in drybags in their boats in case they get chilly. If you're interested talk to instructors/rescue paddlers who'll often have drybags you could throw a fleece in.

Warm ups
Important before a river trip to get you stretched and ready for some kayaking, warm ups are a great idea for any other time you find yourself on the bank (after a swim, on your way to run something again). A few jumping jacks or a short run up and down the bank goes a long way towards getting the blood pumping. On the river you should be able to keep up the heat by how awesomely you're paddling!
« Last Edit: September 06, 2013, 15:30:26 by Maryanne »

Offline Aoife S

  • Safety 15/16
  • Posts: 1,820
Re: Keeping warm on the water
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2014, 21:50:19 »
This post is one that has seen it's fair share of use in the last year and is definitely worth the read!!

Having used this so much for myself and to pass on the knowledge to Freshers, I'm just going to throw up a few extra cheap cheats that have appeared since Maryanne wrote this mini gospel!

'Head - it has your brain in it!'
If you can't get your hands on a neoprene cap and/or you're one of the unfortunate big headed people who can't squeeze their head into a helmet with a fleece cap try a silicone swim cap! They're not a head shaped hot water bottle but they certainly do help!

If you're looking at buying a helmet any time soon, Shred Ready do a sound 'Standard' helmet that doesn't cost an arm and a leg!

'Torso - keep it warm or your heart will freeze!'
Fleeces and thermal tops will be you're saviour!!!! If you follow everything that Maryanne has written you should stay toasty warm! 

Penneys do some great thermals around winter time, some of these are made from Polyester, which are fab!!! Girls who've bought endless amounts of fleece pyjamas, the top that you got is ideal for the water! Pull out all those compression tops you've collected over the years too!

'Legs - they help paddle too!'
Everything goes here!!!
Fleecy pyjama bottoms will be your saviour! (for all the men out there, go raid your mothers/sisters/girlfriends wardrobe)
Penneys (and Dunnes too I think) have amazing fleece lined thermal tights! These are brilliant! They are also great for wearing on top of the rest of your layers to make it easier to squeeze into that wetsuit!

'Feet - when cold are tortuous to behold!'
Fleecy socks (Penneys do great thermal ones) are a must...they even sell men's versions for all you blokes, so no excuses!!!