NRS - Cold Water Layering
Year-round boating is the ideal for many of us. For most areas of the country, this means we will be boating at least part of the year in cold-water conditions. Boating is a water sport – let’s face it, getting wet happens and water is approximately 25-times more efficient than air at drawing heat away from your body. This means once you get wet, your body is more prone to excessive heat loss. This condition, known as hypothermia, causes more cold-water boating deaths each year than drowning. Check out Cold Water Protection & Hypothermia for more information on the effects of cold water heat loss.
The key to protecting yourself from that heat loss is the simple concept of wearing multiple layers that will retain your body heat when you get wet. Layering lets you add or remove pieces as the day’s conditions change, helping your body maintain a safe, comfortable temperature. Typically there are three main components of an efficient layering system – the base layers, insulating layers and the outer layers.
The Base Layer
Another consideration for wool is that it’s a natural fiber that is renewable. Merino has the advantage over traditional wool of being a very fine fiber that does not prickle or itch when worn against the skin. And, it doesn’t hold odor, no stink! Any of the merino wool garments found in the Base Layer section can work well in your layering system.
Neoprene is a closed cell rubber material that is an excellent insulator. It also offers impact protection as well as extra body flotation. Thicker neoprene will be warmer but more restrictive to your body movements. If warmth is your main concern, you’ll be well covered in our NRS Men’s and Women’s wetsuits. Thinner neoprene will stretch much more easily, but won’t be quite as warm. If your priority is mobility, check out our NRS HydroSkin, a line of thin (0.5-mm) neoprene garments that give considerable warmth with the comfort and mobility of thinner layers. All NRS neoprene garments are made with a glue layer between the inner nylon fabric and the neoprene foam that contains tiny particles of titanium metal. These shiny metal particles reflect back your body’s heat and significantly increase warmth.
Wind and waterproof outer garments round out your body core protection system. An outer layer made with a fabric featuring a breathable coating or laminate is definitely preferable. This will allow perspiration moisture to pass out of the garment, keeping the inner layers drier and significantly increasing your comfort and warmth levels.
Outer layers come in many shapes and sizes, but there are three main types: splash wear, dry wear and semi-dry wear. Splash wear is simply any waterproof outer layer that is designed to keep your under layers dry if you get splashed or rained on. If you’re using neoprene as your insulation layer, wearing a waterproof garment over it will cut down on evaporative cooling from the wet outer fabric of the wetsuit. If you go for a swim in splash wear, your inner layers will get wet.
Semi-dry wear splits the difference between the other two styles. There are semi-dry tops and some semi-dry suits on the market. Typically, they will feature latex gaskets at the wrists (and ankles, on a suit) only. The neck usually features a punch through neoprene “gasket” or an adjustable neoprene cuff of some sort. Semi-dry wear is a great option for touring and recreational kayakers and rafters, who want to prevent water entering their inner layers at the wrist and ankle and don’t need quite such a water-tight seal at the neck.
Don’t Forget the Extremities
Questions to ask yourself before boating on cold water:
Things to consider when boating on cold water: