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One of the most underrated skills in kayaking is knowing how to manage energy levels and body temperature to maximize performance and energy on the river. Everyone struggles to know what to wear and how to layer for a long day on the river. One thing I have learned about myself is that I get cold easily, and when I get cold, I paddle poorly. After a few un-enjoyable and potentially dangerous missions, I have a newfound respect for the importance of dressing properly. With the changing seasons I thought I would share a few layering items I consider to be indispensable pieces of gear to help me maximize comfort and warmth.

#1. Lace Panties
Yep. Ladies, paddle in lingerie. Not only does it feel good, but the boys will appreciate it. I am kidding. Sort of. I started wearing lace underwear because I was because I was too lazy to change, but I quickly realized it is the best. The main reasons I love wearing lace on the river are because it is comfortable, it breathes, and it dries quickly. This is ideal because drying off quickly keeps you warmer, but it also reduces the chance of some lady funk that can happen when we sit in wet bottoms all day long. Bathing suits weren’t meant to be worn all day! Ladies, try it.

#2 Wool Tank Top
This is a piece of gear I purchased at a discount ski store years ago and has become invaluable to me whether I am paddling or skiing. The key concept here is keeping the core warm. All of your vital organs live in your core, and the warmer you keep your core, the less hard it works, which means the more energy you have to keep the rest of your body warm and run the gnar. I layer this under my thermals and love to tuck it in to my shorts to prevent my lower back being exposed.

#3 Neoprene Shirt

Rocking a neoprene shirt for warmth while racing.

I won a neoprene shirt as a prize at a festival a few years ago and originally dismissed it. Who would wear this? I thought. It’s so sweaty. Which is exactly why you should wear it! Never underestimate the power of Neoprene for warmth, especially if you are going to get wet. This is a great layer to wear under a shortie on days you just don’t want a dry top. Seriously. This shirt is a fantastic addition to my gear bag that I don’t leave home without.

#3a Sweet Shambala Shorts- These follow the concept of the Neoprene shirt. Neoprene is warm. Especially when it is wet, whether in shirt, ¾ pant or wetsuit form.

#4 Polyfill Jacket. Last spring I inadvertently discovered the warmest layer ever. When we left for the river it was sunny, and when we got to the river, it was raining and the water was COLD. While we waited for shuttle, I kept my Patagonia NanoPuff jacket on over my union suit, and then decided to zip my drysuit up around my jacket rather than stash it in the car. I have never been so cozy and warm! If you get cold easily, find an old Patagonia jacket or pullover at a thrift store and try it under a drysuit/drytop. #AMAZING #toasty

#5 Union Suit
Not to product rep – but IR does make an incredible onesie that has been a life changing piece of gear for me. I’m not sure why, but somehow a one-piece fleece suit is warmer than fleece leggings and fleece shirt. This is an especially great item to wear under a drysuit. Layer with #2 #4, and #6 and you will be a sweaty beast. Disadvantages: When a union suit gets wet, they take forever to dry. Also, sometimes it’s nice to have thinner leg layers and warmer top layers, or vice versa.

#6 Drysuit
Certain parts of the world see no need for this piece of gear, and if this is where you paddle, please disregard #6. I had owned a drysuit previously, and was un-impressed. However, when I moved to the Pacific North West to work for World Class Academy, the first thing I did was invest in a good drysuit that fit me. I went for a Kokatat Women’s Meridian with a drop-seat, and have never looked back. It was truly a life-changing piece of gear, and life saver. Swimming in cold water can be difficult and dangerous. Swimming with wet, heavy layers can also be dangerous if they weigh you down. Even if you aren’t swimming, staying dry all day- especially on multi-days- increases your comfort level and decreases when you need do laundry.

#7 Skull Cap
This is another piece of gear I originally ignored when my mother gave it to me. This was a mistake. I have since apologized and realized that when it comes to a small, portable, keep in your life-jacket layer to quickly make a difference when you are cold, there is nothing better than a skull cap. I stash mine in my lifejacket pocket, and if I am getting cold on a river, I throw it on. I notice an almost immediate difference in my body temperature. I especially love wearing mine on rivers where I know the water is cold, especially if I think I might flip over. (Cold water playboating anyone?) The skullcap is a pro at preventing brainfreeze, and it helps protect your ears. Remember that you may need to re-adjust your helmet to fit properly.

#8 Mini-Snickers/Cosmic Brownies.

Rocking the drysuit and packing snacks

While these aren’t a layering item, the number one way to help boost your body temperature is through calories. Your body needs fuel to paddle and to keep you warm. I am notorious for always having a few goodies in my life jacket pocket to snack on when I get cold or my energy levels crash.

Happy Padding! Stay warm, stay classy and go get wet!