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That time of year folks, the inevitable freeze! But that shouldn’t stop you from getting after it in your kayak. Especially since the last few winters haven’t even been that good for snow sports but it is still cold enough to want to be prepared because cold water can add in a whole other element. A few simple tips can make a world of difference for safety and fun while paddling in the winter and keep you tuned in for spring.

Mental Prep
First things first, mental preparation is key. Know that the coldest part is getting from dry clothes, dressed in gear, into your boat, unloading and loading boats and getting undressed; the kayaking usually isn’t as cold because its easy to stay moving and if you are cold, MOVE MORE! Eddy catching, unnecessary farries, and “race training” aka paddling as hard as possible will keep you warm and is also good training as always. Also when you don’t feel like braving the cold and you do, it feels really good to know you can stick out the elements. Lastly on the mental side, it may not seem worth it but winter kayaking scenery is all time beautiful and rare. I can say from that alone I have never regretted a winter paddle no matter how froze I got.

Gear Prep
Most importantly, the physical gear aspect. A drysuit is a large investment but is an absolute necessity for kayaking in near freezing waters and pays off quickly from the new possibilities and exceptional comfort a drysuit brings. As a disclaimer, I would not recommend winter kayaking unless you have a drysuit because hypothermia can happen really quickly in fridged waters. Along with the essentials a few other non-essentials can actually be essential, including:
• Winter hat, gloves, neck gator in drybag
• Coat/jacket in drybag
• Small blanket/towel in drybag if room
• Poggies AND neoprene gloves- I personally am on the side of liking poggies over gloves for padding but in the scenario or anything happening in which you must put down your paddle and use your hands, they will be useless without warm, waterproof gloves. Having both is a good idea.
• Ear plugs- cold water and high pressure is horrible for your ears. I use mini cell fome, hand carved because its easily replaceable and doesn’t take away hearing as much as regular ear plugs.
• Very thick, multiple layers of socks AND/OR toe warmers- because your feet dont move much, numb toes are common and alot of sock and toe warmers become lifesavers
• Water matiral headcap- your head loses most of the heat and I cringe when I see people paddling in the cold with exposed ears and head
Winter kayaking is cold and not ideal but very rewarding and refreshing to step up to. You have to want it and you need the proper gear but when that happens you can become an all year paddler no matter what conditions. Be safe out there, have fun and enjoy the amazing scenery!