How to Choose Cold-Water Apparel
It’s early October. We’re past the autumnal equinox, and fall is officially here. At NRS, we’re already getting the phone calls and emails…”"I want to start boating in the colder months of the year. What kind of gear do I need?”
Hmm, that’s a darn good question. But you know what? It’s hard to give you a darn good answer.
It would be a lot different if you told us, “I have an NRS 14’ Otter. What kind of frame should I get that would allow me to carry a cooler and a dry box and a set-up for a friend fishing in the front of the raft?” With that much info, we can dial in your needs very easily.
So why can’t we easily do the same for the protective apparel you need to wear when boating in the colder months? Because the question is much more complex, and it involves your safety – something we take a very personal interest in. Here are some of the factors, in no particular order, that figure into what you need to wear:
The bottom line is: cold water kills. As internationally recognized water safety expert Charlie Walbridge points out in Cold Water Protection and Hypothermia, as the body’s internal temperature drops, automatic responses begin in the attempt to keep the major organs and functions protected. These responses rapidly lead to loss of manual dexterity, uncontrollable shivering and diminished mental facilities. These inhibit your ability to self-rescue and make the decisions necessary for your survival.
Guy, Retail Sales, sporting a Farmer John Wetsuit and HydroSkin Shirt on a Salmon River raft trip.
© Ashley Niles
And while a cold-water swim is probably the worst case scenario, you don’t have to go in the drink to suffer hypothermia. If you get wet from splash or rain and don’t have on the proper clothing, evaporative cooling can also rapidly draw heat from your body.
In addition to protective clothing, proper nutrition and hydration play an important role in keeping you warm and safe. Fueling the Fires Within lays out guidelines for the food and beverage needs your body has.
Okay, so at this point you’re probably saying, “Alright, I hear all that, but my original question still stands. What kind of gear do I need for cold water boating?” If you call or email us with the question, we’ll do our best to help you get outfitted.
Here’s some “homework” you can do that will also help you make the best choices in gear and at the same time possibly lead to some new boating buddies!
First read Layering for Cold Water Boating. It describes the various types of apparel that you need to consider: base layers, insulating layers and protective outer layers.
Next, become informed about local conditions. Talk to your local boating shop, you can find them by using our Dealer Locator feature. They’re familiar with conditions in your area and have our apparel in their store that you can try on and purchase.
Talk to other boaters. Look for a boating club in your area. Go to boating forums like BoaterTalk. Paddling.Net, MountainBuzz and Playak.com to find other boaters. Find out what other boaters are wearing.
If there’s no boating shop in your area, give us a call, 877.677.4327, and we’ll help you get outfitted for safe and enjoyable boating. Help us out by having answers to the questions we posed earlier: local water temperatures, boating conditions, etc.
For a day of paddling in the frigid waters of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Brinton, Wholesale Coordinator, chooses an Inversion Drysuit for protection.
© David Blue
Here are some hints to assist you:
Boating apparel has come a long way in the past few years. We have a wide range of excellent choices to outfit you, no matter where and when you’re boating. Don’t go out on the water without the proper protective gear; it’s not safe and it won’t be as enjoyable.
Boat Often and Boat Safe!