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As a lot of you might know, our family loves the water, and we love to be on it year round! We started our daughter Sage in an old duo kayak when she was 2, and she was in a Fun 1 by the age of 5. As she progressed in the sport (learning to roll at 7 etc.) we spent A LOT of time trying to find gear that would help her in her boating growth.

Now that it is winter and the temperatures have dropped, a common question we receive when kayaking is “Where do you find warm gear small enough to fit?” Well, we have tried lots of products, both off the shelf and custom made, and we are going to give you a breakdown of what we have found that worked the best for our kid. We truly believe that the best experience on the water is when you have the appropriate gear-after all, as parents, we always said “A warm baby is a happy baby!” Keep in mind, kid’s get colder faster than adults, so a good rule of thumb is to dress them in one or more layers than you are wearing.

1. Layers! Lots of them! Sage usually has a base layer of Capilene (long sleeve top and pants) from Patagonia followed by a fleece layer (once again, top and bottom) to stay toasty warm. She would occasionally wear a third layer of heavier fleece when she was younger. Before she had a roll, we carried a dry bag full of another set of all her base layers in case she swam, so she could change into all dry gear. Warm socks are a must also! We recently discovered the Kokatat Polar Tech Power Dry Liner unisuit and have been VERY warm, even while paddling in 40 degree weather! Before that, we had a unisuit made for her in Salida by a local seamstress called J2 -, and a drysuit by OS Systems-, which took a lot of emails, convincing and negotiating!

2. It wasn’t a struggle to find a dry top, and most companies make women’s small or even extra small. We used a variety of sources and manufactures along the way, but were thrilled when Sage, at age 9 (about 4’7 and 80+ pounds) could fit in the Kokatat small! Keep in mind, you want some extra room for layering and growth, so if it looks a little big, it shouldn’t be a problem, and when you buy a Kokatat product, you can send it back to them to re-build at anytime to extend the life of the dry top. The same goes for drysuits, and Kokatat made a GMER suit for Sage that was a women’s size small, but without the rear relief zipper so she could comfortably sit in her boat and stay dry as a bone.

Love My Kokatat GMER–full of air!

3. Gloves were another issue, as we kept buying fingered gloves that were either to cold or the fingers were odd lengths, but when covered with a pogie, Sage’s hands stayed fairly warm. Then we discovered mittens! Both Kokatat and NRS make mittens and both are VERY good at keeping your hands warm.

4. Feet were probably the hardest part to keep warm. We tried warm socks and shoes, but if they got wet, her feet became frozen. It wasn’t until we bought the Kokatat drysuit with built in feet which allowed Sage to wear a warm sock in her drysuit, and a water shoe over her drysuit while keeping her feet completely dry, that she quit complaining about cold toes.

5. Sadly, Sage’s first helmet was from a company called Happy2Be which closed shop a few years ago. She is currently wearing a WRSI Trident which is very comfortable and extremely safe. We have had several women approach Sage asking about her helmet because they can not find one small enough, and the WRSI S/M has fit everyone of them perfectly. WRSI is one of the few companies that makes several helmet sizes for easier fit, and even the full face fits Sage well! The Wanderer by Sweet also fits well, and is worth looking into for safety and protection. We also use skullcaps (Kokatat and NRS make great ones!) for extra warmth on our heads, so an easily adjusting helmet is important if you are taking your skullcap on and off as the temperatures fluctuate.

6. Luckily, there are a lot of companies making PFD’s for kids, including Astral and NRS. It is easy to fit these vest and they are very reasonably priced. Sage is using the Kokatat Orbit Tour which has lots of pockets for supplies, provides great flotation, and is comfortable to wear.

7. Let’s not forget a srayskirt, and Snapdragon does them all! They make every size possible, for every boat. Sage recently bought a C1 slalom boat, and Snapdragon had her make a “template” of her cockpit, and made a perfect skirt for her boat! They will custom make any waist size to any cockpit size, with a super fast turn around!

C1 Snapdragon

8. Remember: Gear can be expensive, but if you buy quality gear, it will last for years, be easily handed down to siblings or friends, and have a good re-sale value.

When it comes to kayaks, Jackson Kayak was the first to make a kids boat, and they used their own children as models… we are biased! Just make sure you buy a boat that is the appropriate size for your kid, after all, would you buy shoes to big for a sport so they can “grow” into them?

Sage, Age 7, Colorado River, Grand Canyon section

Please check your local kayak shops for the products we have mentioned. Most of them are fairly common or can be easily ordered and you get to support your local merchants!

Here are some links to some of the gear:








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Gear to Help Get Your Kid’s on the Water