Rain, snow, early nights and limited amounts of daylight. Paddling through winter can be very beautiful and rewarding. You need to consider a few more things before you hit the water.
Here are our tips and things to think about before you brave the cold and head out for that paddling.
1. Clothing and PFD. Let’s start with what you wear. Consider wearing a hat, investing in some gloves, and wear some thicker wet boots. A PFD(Personal floatation device) is also an important piece of kit in winter. It will help keep you warm and also keep you afloat, if all goes wrong.
2. Make sure your boat is as watertight as possible. Repair that crack you noticed last time you went out. Double check the bolts around your boat and tighten if you need to. Its worth carrying a sponge around in your boat to get rid of any excess water.
3. Think about using a Foam mat, where your knees might touch your boat can really help add an extra layer of insulation.
4. Always carry a dry bag. This should be used all year round. A dry bag helps keep things dry. It’s a great place to store keys and your phone, but also snacks for the paddle and spare warm kit.
5. Warm up before you go for your paddle! You can do your warm up either on or off the water. Get the blood pumping. It will help prevent injury.
6. Plan ahead. Always sensible. Pack some energy foods, fruit and/or nuts. You might also want to pack a flask for a warm drink too. Also think about taking a set of dry clothes and coat if necessary. A changing mat or a tarp is also a top piece of kit if there is no changing area where you are going. It keeps your feet warm while you change and stops heat escaping.
7. Think about the length of your session. Be sensible about the journey length and your abilities.
8. Check the weather. Winter can be notoriously unpredictable. Checking the forecast can stop you getting into trouble. It’s also worth checking water levels too. Heavy rainfall through autumn and winter can change river patterns dramatically. Always check the flow before heading out on a river.
9. Always carry a means to call for help. Important for every paddle. A phone in a dry pouch should suffice, but if you plan on many trips a GPS transmitter might be a good investment.
10. Remember how much daylight we get… the days can be shorter than you think especially if the weather is overcast.
Cold water shock can happen at any time of the year (not just winter!) and is the body’s reaction to a sudden change in temperature. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of this condition before heading out for a paddle, especially if you’re new to paddling.
I hope this has not put you off thinking about planning that winter paddling trip.
Go and embrace the refreshing climate.