You can feel it. It’s coming! Fall is a great time to get out on the water. In fact, it is my favorite time of the year to paddle. The crisp cool air combined with changing light and colors places your paddling environment in a different perspective. Along with this change in perspective though is a change in the gear you need in order to safely enjoy paddling at this time of year. Extend your paddle season by following the few essentials for Midwest fall paddling that will help you enjoy the fall colors and beyond!
Layers. Layers. Layers.
The first thing a paddler must do to extend their season is to come up with a good layering system. A good place to start is with a good pair of synthetic long underwear. It is very important to avoid cotton as it does not insulate when wet and will only weigh you down. Terramar and Polar Max are a couple of good brands we carry that we’ve put to the test. For your next layer, once again you will need to avoid cotton. Your options here depend on the weather. You can finish with a splash top or other water repellent layer, or for colder temps can have a fleece piece under your splash top or rain gear. For pants the degree to which you insulate depends on the type of kayak…. sit in vs sit on top kayaks. When in a sit on top, extra protection is required due to your legs being exposed to the elements. Something like the NRS Endurance Pants or similar will protect your legs.
Neoprene Pogies, Gloves or Mittens??
Pogies can be easily removed or put on should the need arise. Think of them as a safety blanket for your hands. When buying any type of glove or mitten, it is important to leave a slight gap in the finger tips between the tip of the finger and glove to ensure proper circulation. If not the protection could suffer. Plus tight fitting gloves or mittens restrict blood circulation. Remember when trying on gloves or mittens in the store that condensing cold temps combined with wet swelling hands can cause the perfect fitting glove in a store be not so perfect on the water. Can’t decide on which one? Stop in and have a chat with us and we will make sure you get the right protection.
As summer turns to fall, it time to change your sandals and rivers shoes for booties. NRS and others make great paddling booties with thick rubber soles and added support for portaging. Also, if you are interested in extending the paddling season as long as there is open water, consider buying a extra pair in a larger size for those days when you need some extra protection underneath. We recommend when trying on a pair you also wear a wool sock. Just like hand protection if it is too cramped or tight it can feel as cold as if you had nothing on at all. Size does matter.
Remember to always dress for the water temperature not the air. Dry outerwear comes in two forms, top/pants combo or full dry suit. With the combo you can choose to just wear the top on those days when the air is warm but the water is not. Full suits are nice especially for those moments when stopping for lunch and taking a break as most dry suits allow you to unzip the top and breathe without too much hassle. Dry suits or combo typically make you run warm but when paired with the right base and mid layer are what lets you paddle year round….or as long as there is open water!
PFD……PFD…..PFD and in case you missed it, PFD.
A friendly reminder…… as the water temperature drops the risk of hypothermia increases. A personal flotation device can add much needed time when capsized to get out and get warm. Do yourself a favor and invest in a comfortable PFD. There are many to choose from and many that will enhance your experience on the water based on your paddling needs. Make sure when you purchase one you try it on with any outerwear you may use during fall paddling to ensure a comfortable fit. What feels good in a t-shirt or single layer can become a little snug when combined with a splash top.
The temperature of the water can change or be colder than expected on both rivers and lakes. A lake’s temperature primarily depends on its depth and sun light exposure, as thermoclines can change rapidly as you paddle over a deeper part of a lake. River temperatures have a lot to do with what feeds its flow. Marsh or swamp fed rivers tend to be warmer then creek fed rain runoff or deep reservoir dam released water.
Hopefully these Fall Paddling Essentials will let you extend your paddling season in comfort and style. Oh crap, I forgot one! A good thermos filled with your favorite warm drink of choice! And maybe some cups to share?