When Jenny and I were paddling recently in the warm waters of Vanuatu, we began pondering the differences between cold and warm water paddling. There is the obvious, more clothes vs less clothes, sun protection in hot climates, but below I’ll talk about a few little secrets I’ve picked up along the way, including looking after you, your gear and your paddling friends.
So let’s start with some of the gear and uses for it.
The humble beanie for cold weather is so obvious that quite a few people forget about it. I run the two beanie system - one for paddling and one for off water. While paddling I play the on/off game to regulate my temperate.
The other great piece of clothing gear for cold weather paddling is just a pair of cheap waterproof overpants. These can be worn on water or put on when you get out of the kayak to stop the effects of evaporative cooling when the wind blows onto you.
But my single most loved piece of gear are pogies. Spending time on the ocean and white water rivers here in Tassie in winter has taken its toll on my fingers so I go early and often to these toastie little pieces of equipment. Think of them as mittens for paddling.
Out on those tropical waters though it’s a very different game. Like the West Indian Cricket team, think cool and relaxed.
Again headwear is where it is at. The full wrap-around style cap to fully cover the neck is a must as it allows you to soak the material at the back of the neck to turn on the air conditioning of the hat.
Spare sunglasses. Have seen too many sunglasses lost, broken and blown off the head than I care to remember with trips almost ruined after sun glare for long days on the water.
AHHH the hammock. It allows the cool sea breeze to blow around your body. For use in very hot environments there are netted hammocks that are perfect to use instead of a tent. Don’t leave the beach without one.
Change as soon as you can when reaching camp on a multi day trip. The temptation to put up camp in wet paddling clothes is very strong but a sure fire way to get cold quickly. Get into those camp clothes and layers even if it is cold and raining.
Eat more. Sort of. Eat more often but maybe smaller amounts. The first layer of warmth is always food / fuel, just watch how it interacts with your tummy while paddling.
Minimize the time out of the kayak. It’s your warm and happy place so plan your day and trip around that strategy. Maybe one less coffee in the morning will take an extra break out of the paddling for the day.
They say that hydration is happiness. This is pretty simple but some strategy around this goes a long way. Drinking plenty when you first get up gives your body plenty of time to process its hydration need prior to getting on the water. Whilst paddling I tend not to drink heaps but have built in numerous stops for the day. About half hour before the planned break I hydrate up knowing that a toilet will be available. Same goes for the end of the day when approaching camp. Drinking plenty when arriving at camp allows for a good night’s sleep and not too many midnight pit stops.
Finger blisters and hot spots. These are more common in the warm weather with increased heat and friction. Two words – electrical tape. Carry it in your life jacket and get it on early. It sticks to itself when wet so can be applied on the water and is easy to remove to allow the area to breath. And did I mention it’s cheap?!
Lastly those little cuts and nicks that you get on your hands, feet, shins, etc. Wash regularly with fresh clean water as repeated washing or cleaning in tropical salt water can lead to some serious infections.
When paddling in a group on cold water, small incidents can turn big quite easily. Nearly all major incidents start with one common thing – group and paddle partner separation. So paddle as a team, a group. Plan the stops around wind direction to ensure you’re out of the wind and not experiencing evaporative cooling and be prepared to change the location if required by conditions.
And lastly, if I’m cold, they’re cold and as a group we need to fix it. More layers, camp for the day, shorten the trip etc.
Plan camping spots that are going to have a little bit of breeze. This is mainly to keep those bugs away in the early evening for a more pleasant campsite.
Learn to get in and out of your kayak easily and efficiently in deep water. The enjoyment level goes up dramatically when you or paddle partners are happy to pop in for a swim.
Getting sharp at the GSD (Group Shade Device - Tarp) efficiency when putting up a tarp means you’ll get it up quickly to create that all important shady spot, even for lunch.
Roaring 40s Kayaking