One after another, cold fronts keep knocking on our front doors. For many, the doors are already wide open, but don’t let the cooler temperatures keep you from kayaking this fall – just be sure to do it with care.
One of the most common emergencies you may face when paddling during the colder months of the year is hypothermia. This occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Your normal body temperature is 98.6 F. Hypothermia, a dangerous condition that should not be taken lightly, occurs when your body temperature drops below 95 F.
It’s recommended that you take precautionary measures when the temperature of the air and water add up to 120 degrees.
Hypothermia doesn’t only occur after you have been submerged in water. It can even happen if the outside temperature is relatively warm and you’ve only experienced a few splashes of water. Reason is, several variables can play a role leading to hypothermia including air and water temperature, wind speed, exposure and the combination thereof.
The basic combination of cool air and water temperatures alone can be extremely dangerous. It’s recommended that you take precautionary measures when the temperature of the air and water add up to 120 degrees.
Minimize the threat by keeping yourself warm and dry. Here are 5 tips to consider before you head out onto the water:
1. Wear Proper Apparel
It’s simple: Wear attire that is suited for cold weather paddling. Even a few splashes of water from a boat wake or a light shower can make a dramatic difference. Stay away from sweaters made of cotton and other materials that aren’t water resistant and instead opt for cold weather apparel designed specifically for paddling. From dry suits for the most extreme conditions to base layers for the more mild days to gloves and face wear that will help minimize your exposure.
Tip: Take an extra set of clothes in a dry bag for emergency use. If space is an issue, use a compression sack to try and fit it all into a small corner of your kayak, even if inside the hull.
2. Use a Sit Inside Kayak With a Skirt
If you have access to a sit inside kayak, use it. Combined with a kayak skirt, your lower body will be protected from the outside elements. Planning to fish? No problem, sit inside kayaks an be easily outfitted for kayak fishing with a few simple modifications like adding rod holders, deck bags and other gear.
Tip: Using a standard recreational sit inside kayak can be just as stable as a sit on top kayak, but it’s always good to practice getting out of the boat if you happen to flip it. Do this in a controlled environment.
3. Avoid Getting Your Hands and Legs Wet
It’s not just about gloves and skirts, but making sure your paddle doesn’t leave you soaking wet. If you removed them, be sure to utilize your paddle drip rings. They are designed to keep water from flowing down to your hands. A pair of waterproof gloves will ensure optimal dryness.
Tip: Optimize your paddling technique to avoid over splash when paddling and keep your paddle at a lower angle.
4. Keep Water Out of Your Kayak
If you’re using a sit on top kayak, be sure to plug your scupper holes with a set of scupper plugs, especially around the seat. Additional, it’s always a good idea to carry a bilge pump to remove any water that may accidentally get into your sit on top or sit inside kayak.
Tip: If you’re using a sit on top kayak and your feet are protected, keep the scupper plugs closest to your feet open. This will allow any water that enters your cockpit to drain.
5. Bring an Emergency Kit
The idea here is that you don’t get wet and avoid hypothermia all together, but it won’t hurt to pack an emergency kit, just in case. This can double as a kit you simply keep in our vehicle as well. Pack an extra set of clothes (as mentioned above), a fire starter kit, first aid kit, signal kit, headlamp, whistle, emergency blanket, backup paddle, snacks, extra water and a paddle float.
Tip: Avoid losing your paddle with a paddle leash. Last thing you want to do is reach out to grab your paddle and flip into the water.
The list can go on, but this gives you a baseline for where to start. If you have questions, or not sure about what specific apparel items you should be using, don’t hesitate to contact our outdoor adventure experts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 888-828-3828.
We look forward to Outfitting Your Adventure!