Safety First: Dress for Immersion When Paddling

 kayak angler dressed for immersion

(photo courtesy of Laurent Dupré)

Paddling safety includes what you wear. The paddling rule of thumb is: dress for immersion, or: dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature.

Why? Because there’s always a chance of capsize when you’re on the water.

Watch this short video from the US Coast Guard:

Wet Clothes Can Get Cold Fast

You’ll rapidly lose body heat in wet clothes. That feels great when it’s 80 and sunny, and the water temps are refreshing. But when there’s a stiff wind, when the air is chilly—not so great.

One of the most important rules for dressing for paddling is: don’t wear cotton! Cotton not only gets wet fast, it stay wet for a long time.

Wear clothes on both top and bottom made of quick-dry materials like nylon and polyester. It’s not just submersion that can get you wet, but paddle drip and spray from waves. Be smart and stay dry.

Heavy Clothes Don’t Dry

Remember the lined jean jacket in the video? That’ll stay wet for days! Instead of something designed for street wear, bring along clothes designed for water sports.

There are dry tops with latex gaskets around your wrists and neck. There are splash jackets—much like a rain jacket, but designed for paddlers. NRS carries a line of splash jackets, dry suits and paddling tops for men and women.

kayak angler dressed for immersion

(photo courtesy of @yak_girl_chasball)

You can even wear a full dry suit. These are really nice for paddlers like kayak anglers who use a sit-on-top kayak, without the option of a paddle skirt to keep water out of the boat.

Hypothermia Hits Quick

The Rule of 120 says: If the combination of the air and water temperatures is less than 120º F you need to take precautions with how you dress.

And in water that’s below 60º F (15.5º C) hypothermia is a very real danger, no matter what the air temperature, and even with your life jacket on. The colder the water, the more your body will make it harder for you to swim, react and even think clearly.

It’s never overkill to wear a wetsuit or even a drysuit under other layers in these kinds of temperatures. They’ll help you retain your body heat in case you end up in the water.

Dress to Get Dry

Besides wearing the right clothing and layers, it never hurts to have along an extra change of clothes just in case. This is especially a good idea if you’re on an all-day paddling or fishing trip and/or you’re going to be far from the launch.

Dry bags are ideal for packing extra clothes. You can also include some fire starter and a lighter, a small first aid kit, a whistle and other safety items in the dry bags for an emergency kit.

What paddle questions can we help you with? Contact our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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