School has started, there's a chill in the morning air, and some of you I am sure are thinking about putting your boats away. This however would be a HUGE mistake; fall paddling can offer some of the best paddling. The big crowds are gone, but more importantly so are all those pesky bugs! Your biggest concern will be how to keep warm and comfortable through the dropping fall temperatures.
One of the most important principles for cold water paddling is to dress for immersion. We have two best friends when it comes to staying warm: wetsuits and drysuits.
Wetsuits work by trapping a small amount of water between your body and the suit. In addition to the thickness of the suit, your body heat warms up the water and helps insulate you. The fit of the suit is extremely important in this respect. When too large, the suit will allow water to flow through, not retaining water, and not allowing you to warm it up. Your wetsuit should be snug while not restricting your movements.
While wetsuits excel when in the water, you will want to consider supplementing your suit with a paddling jacket to protect against wind and rain while you are paddling.
Wetsuits are the more economical option, and their durability is certainly an asset. Even with a small hole or tear in your suit it will still be very effective at keeping you warm.
Drysuits excel in and out of the water, offering superior protection from the elements while paddling and reducing cold shock if you do actually go for a swim. Many paddlers will opt to wear their drysuit on a cool rainy day even though water temps do not actually call for immersion wear because they know they will be more comfortable.
As the name suggests this suit will keep you dry, it does not however insulate you from the cold water. Under your drysuit you need to add appropriate layers for the water temps. Drysuits also tend to be easier to put on, especially if your wetsuit didn't have time to dry out overnight.
If you want to paddle all year round, a drysuit is your best solution.
Given the right skills and clothing system you'll be able to paddle year round – assuming you're willing to search out open water. If you're not sure what you should be wearing, we encourage you to visit us and we can help you put together a cold weather clothing system that will keep you warm and paddling for as far into the 'off' season as you would like!