Trail News

Dress the Part When You Paddle in Cooler Weather

September 29, 2022

Just because the temperatures are falling doesn’t mean you have to drop your paddles.

Paddling on the Middle Peninsula during the fall and winter makes for spectacular scenery as long as you’re prepared.

Some tips to make sure your cooler-weather paddle is a safe one:


Don’t underestimate the weather. While a 60-degree autumn day feels glorious when you launch, it’s not warm enough for paddling in a short-sleeved shirt. The rule of thumb is if the water temperature and air temperature add up to less than 120 degrees, wear protective gear. Dress for the water temperature.


Don’t kayak alone. It’s always best to kayak in pairs or as part of a group.


Check weather conditions before you begin. Temperatures, winds and tides can shift quickly.


If you’re cold just a few minutes into your paddle, turn around and return to shore. You’re not prepared.


It’s always a good idea to wear layers no matter what the weather is like when you’re paddling. Even the most seasoned paddler will prepare for a spill by bringing extra clothes in a waterproof pouch. If it’s below 45 degrees, you should dress in a drysuit with layers beneath; a drysuit keeps you dry and warm. One or two layers beneath the drysuit should suffice.


A warm waterproof jacket is essential. Consider a paddling cag.


Don’t wear cotton, which acts as a sponge. Stick with wool, fleece or synthetic materials for your layers on both your upper and lower body. Leave the denim at home, too.


Don’t forget to cover your head with a hat. Make sure you have a way to keep your ears warm with either earmuffs or ear flaps. A ballcap is not enough.


Personal Floatation Devices, as always, are a must.


Invest in a pair of gloves that will keep your hands warm. Neoprene gloves are ideal for protecting your hands from both cold and heat. Another option is pogies that attach to the paddle shaft. They keep your hands dry and allow you to operate the paddles easily.


Stay warm by having hot beverages onboard.


Don’t forget your feet. Wear wool socks and insulated paddling boots. Two pairs of socks is best.


Know the signs of hypothermia and if you are experiencing any of them, return to shore immediately.


Make sure your cell phone is charged and kept in a waterproof pouch in the event of emergency. Also, have a whistle and flare for backup communication.


Have warm clothes waiting and a blanket for when you return to shore.