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Staying Warm in the Fall


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I did the fall multiclub paddle with Conyak and had a great time. As we neared the lunch stop I started to get a bit cold. I had been munching on some snacks but was slowly going downhill, even while paddling hard. With land ahead I knew things were fine. However, if we had to paddle another 20 minutes I would have been colder than I think would have been good.

Some caveats before my question:

1) I am an experienced winter climber/camper so I understand all about modern clothing, food, layering, temperature control when it is -10 F and I am out for multiple days.

2) While buying a dry suit is something I will do, my question involves situations where I might not be wearing one.

Conditions and Clothing:

I was wearing a farmer john (that went to just above my knees), paddle boots, polypro long sleeve undershirt, and paddle jacket. Even had a poly hat near the end. I am a big guy and sweat easily. There were strong high winds, some spray.


Given these conditions, would most people have another fleece layer on their upper body? This is what I would do if I was hiking. Without one, the moisture in the poly underwear layer really does not have air space to wick to. Or am I missing another solution.




Eddyline Nighthawk


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I'm going to take a stab at this one; although there will be better advice from more experienced paddlers coming to this posting, I'm sure.

Sounds like you have good experience with layering choices for terra firma. The difference with the wetsuit is in its (lack-of) breathability. I have been paddling up until Thursday morning in wetsuit, and for Thursday wore my long poly underwear under my Goretex Kokatat drysuit. What a difference!

Although the drysuit takes a little more time to get into, the overall comfort was surprising, after being out of it for 6+ months. While you can still get cold in a drysuit, there isn't the moisture build-up that you get with the wetsuit, that can be chilling. And for our leisurely paddle before Thanksgiving dinner - no chilling affect I might have had taking off a wetsuit & changing into street clothes after the paddle.

I find that fleece breathes so well, that wind penetrates it; and I'd expect that fleece over neoprene on a cool breezy day could be an invitation for a chill. Hope I've been helpful.

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Hi Al,

I get hot easily also. I'm assuming that your paddling jacket was made of something breathable. Putting fleece under it might have made you too warm. I often paddle with two or even 3 layers of thin polypro. I don't get overheated like I would with heavy fleece, but the perspiration has someplace to move to. You might try that. (Bring the heavy fleece for the beach.)

If you were getting colder as you paddled, you were definitely underdressed. A neoprene cap would have kept your head warmer than what you had on, which let the wind through. Also, I like pogies for my hands because it is an easy way to regulate my temperature. Sometimes I paddle with one on and one off. I only wear gloves if the water temperature is VERY cold. It was not in CT that day. (Don't ask how I know. :-)) )

Liz N.

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>Hi Al,


>I get hot easily also. I'm assuming that your paddling

>jacket was made of something breathable.

>Liz N.

Liz - thanks for the response. Actually, my paddle jacket is from 1972 and it is not breathable. Obviously (now that I read your response) modern ones are and that would make all the difference!

Anyone interested in a 1972 paddle jacket: wide red, white, and blue vertical strips...finally back in style? Will give it away for the patriotic price of $3000.


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Most shorty farmer johns are less than 3mm thick. I don't believe I need to mention the benefits of a thicker wetsuit. Since some water sloshes around inside your cockpit, a longer farmer john can keep your legs and feet warmer, I know it does for me.

You might want to consider a breathable drytop. Also, some midweight long underwear bottoms under the wetsuit adds insulation and slows flushing water. This combination with a 100 weight fleece will keep me warm while paddling well into the fall.

My biggest problem is keeping warm on shore, so I switch to my drysuit pretty early to minimize evaporative cooling.

Dee Hall

Impex Currituck, Blue over Smoky Ivory

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Hi Al,

I'm still paddling up hear in the Northwest in a wetsuit. The water here is 50 degrees year round althought the air temps this time of year average high 30s in the morning to low 50s in the afternoon.

As for me, I found that if I keep a layer of polypro(Capaline)between my upper body and my wetsuit and then a layer of fleece over the wetsuit, and a paddling jacket over all, I am very comfortable for the conditions. It's when I don't layer the polypro against my skin that I do get chilled due to persperation.

The points others have made about headwear, a full length wetsuit, and gloves are all great. A Breathable Drysuit is the most comfotable way to go. Just remember, the drysuit itself doesn't offer any insulation. It's just a shell. The layaring you do under it will take some experimentation to get right for your needs.

Hydration or the lack of hydration might also be something to think about. I do get cold if I'm not properly hydrated.


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Now,the only reason Liz knew the water temps on the CONNYAK trip was because she moved right in to help a "swimmer" in challenging conditions. Unfortunately,she had a lot of "spectators",and no assistance after she committed to the other boat,and the conditions pulled the boat from her grasp. A terrific effort-unassisted!

I was amazed to see how many "intermediate" paddlers just watched instead of moving in.

I guess what I want to say is-if your rescue trained,and you're there-your it! Waiting for the other guy to help is not an option.

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