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Winter paddling is always more complicated than summer paddling. You have to have and wear more gear, the days are shorter, and the water is colder. To make things even more complicated, this year, I was pregnant.
Now, there is of course a huge industry of maternity clothes. However, the industry for specialized sporting equipment maternity wear is much smaller. It’s hard to find maternity clothes for thermals and under layers, and even more challenging to find outerwear paddling gear that fits.

As winter began, I still fit in my own gear. However, as the days got colder, my clothing got tighter. The first piece of gear that no longer fit was my union suit that I wear underneath my dry suit. At first, I could still wear the fleece, it just wouldn’t zip. Temporarily that was fine. I simply wore an additional fleece layer overtop to keep in the warmth. A fleece vest would have worked excellent for this as it would have kept in the warmth without adding a bulky additional layer to the arms and shoulders.

The next piece of gear I grew out of was my PFD and spray skirt. Luckily for me, my husband also paddles and is several sizes larger than me. Fortunately, he has some old gear that is still in great condition that I was able to start using. If you’re not this fortunate, ask around to see if larger sized friends have extra pieces of equipment you can borrow for the season and mix and match it together to find a set that works. PFDs tend to have lots of room to loosen them as you grow and some spray skirt brands have a stretchier fabric than others. Try to find one that will stretch as you grow to ease the discomfort of tight fitting clothes.

The last major piece of equipment that I grew out of was my dry suit. It was a sad day when I realized that my discomfort on the river was due to the tight fit of the fabric around me. Again, fortunately, my husband has an old backup drysuit that I was able to transition to. I realize this is not true for most people as even owning one drysuit is an expensive investment. The hardest part of this switch was my drysuit has a female drop seat, and my husbands has a front pee zipper. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you will know that one of the most fun side effects is having to pee more often. The thought of being trapped in a drysuit all day without being able to pee was quite simply terrifying. After interviewing some women paddling friends who use front pee zippers, I was able to find a $10 device on Amazon to help with the situation, and after a few practice sessions was ready to go!

Overall, winter paddling has some of my favorite river trips. Living in the Southeast, winter rains tend to bring in some super fun, beautiful whitewater that isn’t always accessible in the summer. However, dressing warmly and being prepared is imperative. By following some of the suggestions above, I hope other women are able to take advantage of the winter season, even when pregnant! This summer, we’ll have the new challenge of learning how to take turns paddling while caring for a newborn! Hope to see you all out on the river soon! ~Diane Brasuell (Gaydos)