Winter Kayaking – 20 Tips For Winter Kayak

Winter kayaking

Many kayakers enjoy winter kayaking since there are few people on the water and the vistas are almost always different from those in the other months of the year. Winter kayaking demands more preparation and sensitivity to the environment than summer kayaking, which is more about being outside in cold weather.

There is no justification for keeping your kayak in storage all winter just because the nightly lows are below freezing. If you’re new to the sport, you should be aware of the top 10 winter kayaking tips & tactics for beginners. You’ll be well on your way to seeing the stunning landscapes from your boat all year long if you follow these pointers and methods.

Winter Kayaking Advice For Beginners

Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or new to the sport, we’ve put together a top 10 winter kayaking tips & tactics for beginners below to help you have a safe and fun winter paddling experience.

Layer your clothing

As temperatures in the morning will make you wrap up, as the day goes on, they often turn considerably more pleasant. You may leave during the “heat” of a winter day and return after the sun has set. To be ready for these shifting temperatures in any scenario, you’ll need to pack or wear layers of clothing.

During winter kayaking, you should wear a drysuit as your top layer, but you may layer underneath that just like you would for cold-weather hiking. A synthetic, non-cotton material should be used for the layer that is the closest to your body. While synthetic fabrics are better at wicking moisture away from your body and drying rapidly, cotton is still excellent at keeping you warm.

Synthetics are excellent for winter kayaking as they won’t keep moisture against your skin. It’s also a good idea to carry a few dry layers in case any of the ones you’re wearing end up becoming wet. If you’re just planning a quick paddle, you may choose to leave these layers in your kayak. But we advise always packing a few additional layers.

Be Prepared For Immersion

A drysuit designed specifically for paddlesports offers a far higher degree of comfort and weather protection. They include waterproof booties that keep your feet dry as you launch and land. Although they are pricey, they are durable and extend your paddling season to 365 days.

Purchase a Drysuit

The nature of winter kayaking entails cold air and (sometimes) even icier water. Purchasing a quality kayaking drysuit is the best method to stay warm and dry when kayaking in the winter. With the aid of drysuit technology, you are able to wear your ordinary winter clothing over a barrier layer that keeps you dry and warm.

Most wetsuits are cumbersome to remove when you need to empty your bladder while kayaking. To enable using the toilet without completely removing the drysuit, the majority of drysuits have a front or back zipper. Get a dependable drysuit to keep you warm and dry while paddling, then, as our first winter kayaking advice for beginners. Visit our post on the top kayak drysuits for additional drysuit recommendations.

Be proactive When Paddling

Choose a route you are familiar with that has several safe landing choices. Big water challenges are not appropriate at this time. I search for sunny, south-facing shores when winds are at a minimum. The crucial variables of wind speed and direction and ice coverage are included in NOAA’s excellent online graphical forecast for the Great Lakes.

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Warm Your Core

A dry suit merely keeps you dry, similar to rain gear. You keep warm by wearing layers below it. For cold conditions, many winter kayakers like one-piece outfits. Wool is fantastic, but it doesn’t hold up as well to the abrasion of paddling as it does to hiking and skiing. Feather it is.

Dress Respectfully

Two-piece drysuits are made feasible by pairing Kokatat’s Whirlpool bib with its Rogue dry top. The warmest pair of shoes you can fit in your boat should be chosen – for me, that’s a pair of Chota Mukluks. Packing two pairs of gloves, such as pogies and mitts, will ensure you have a dry pair to change onto after lunch.

Wear a PFD at all times

The safest approach to keep afloat and make it simpler to get back into your kayak if you capsize is to equip yourself with one of the finest kayak life jackets (or PFDs). PFD, which stands for “personal flotation device,” is an acronym for individuals who are not acquainted with the phrase. The paddling community is moving away from the phrase “life jackets,” despite the fact that most of us grew up with that word.

PFDs are generally rated for five to ten pounds more than the weight of your body which has to be kept afloat. For instance, a 200-pound individual has to maintain roughly 10 pounds of bone and muscle mass following a wet departure.

Protect Your Hands

Paddlers seem to fall into two opposing groups when it comes to how to keep warm. Neoprene gloves are used by one (the one I’m in) and pogies attach to the shaft of the paddle. Although they’re a little warmer, they make it harder to get your hands in and out and impact how you hold your paddle.

Go, Pyro!

Learn how to gather dry wood; in Lake Superior, there is plenty of driftwood. Bring a foldable saw that can cut wrist-thick logs into manageable pieces. In cold temperatures, white gas stoves like Whisperlite operate better than canister burners. I like cooking over an open flame because it’s simple to make a pot support structure.

Watch The Stars!

There are often fewer daylight hours in the winter than there are in the summer, so take advantage of this and go outside to take in the night sky from your sit-inside touring kayak. The most important thing to remember during winter kayaking is to have fun and not stress out about any potential problems.

The best thing about kayaking during and after sunset is that winds often subside as soon as the sun sets. Wear a headlamp or mount one of the finest kayak lights to the bow or stern of your kayak. Remember to pack a thermos of hot water so you may drink your preferred winter beverage while you’re out on the water.

Use A Kayak With A Seat

A sit-on-top kayak is the most user-friendly kind of kayak to learn in for beginners. The drawback of this design element for winter kayaking is that these holes also let a little bit of water into your kayak’s cockpit. They are designed for shorter paddle excursions and less storage capacity. It’s much more crucial to have room aboard while kayaking in the winter to carry everything you need.

We advise picking one of the top sit-inside touring kayaks for winter kayaking. These kayaks will give you a drier paddle and plenty of room to store your winter gear safely. Compared to sit-on-top kayaks, these kayaks might be a little less stable. Therefore, we advise finding a site where you can take a few lessons in warmer waters.

Cold Camping

An inside candle lantern emits a pleasant light and feels surprisingly warm. The interior of the tent seems colder when set up on snow – the best option is dry ground. If you must pitch your tent on snow, pack it down and let it set for at least 30 minutes.

Protect Your Head When Paddling

What I wear on my head controls my body temperature the most when I’m on the water. I keep fleece hats, waterproof ball caps for flat water, and several thicknesses of neoprene hoods that fit underneath helmets in my pack. On the water, switching them around helps me stay in my comfort zone.

Examine (Twice) The Weather Prediction

The combined temperature of the water and air must be above 120 degrees for kayaking without a wetsuit or dry suit to be safe. This is a basic paddling rule of thumb, but if you don’t prepare for bad weather while paddling in the winter, the results might be more severe. Most kayakers should eventually acquire used to the 120-degree rule.

In addition to that, several locations see stronger-than-usual winds in the winter. As these winds intensify, they may cause enormous waves to break on a lake that you are used to seeing quiet and tranquil in the summer. Adherence to this guideline all year long will significantly lower your risk of hypothermia and other cold-related disorders.

It’s impossible to monitor the weather too often. Therefore, it is essential to consult anybody who has prior knowledge of winter kayaking in your region before making your travel arrangements. To check the wind and weather prediction in your location, we advise utilizing many weather apps. One of our favorite applications, Ventusky, tracks wind patterns and forecasts which direction you should paddle in the beginning to take advantage of favorable winds on the way back.

Include a spray skirt

Having access to one of the finest kayak spray skirts is another significant advantage of purchasing a sit-inside touring kayak for winter kayaking. Spray skirts keep the bottom part of your body shielded from wind and other weather factors and fasten around the edge of the cockpit. If you’ve never worn a spray skirt for a kayak, you’ll be astonished by how much warmer your lower body will keep after they’re on.

You may add dry storage space inside your sit-inside kayak by attaching a spray skirt. Most kayak spray skirts work with a variety of kayak models. But it’s advisable to start by measuring the cockpit measurements of your kayak. Since inches are the most widely used measurement unit, most kayak manufacturers should happily publicly disclose the cockpit dimensions of their kayaks.

Spray skis are a great addition to a sit-on-top kayak, but only if you have the ability to get out of the kayak if it flips over. Not everyone has a natural aptitude for this and you should practice it in a secure setting before trying it out in the winter. One of the major risks of winter kayaking is extended exposure to cold water. Find safe, supervised conditions where you can practice taking off the spray skirt.

Stay Warm By The Shore

As soon as you stop paddling, cover your drysuit with a warm jacket, don a cap and halt the loss of heat. Another approach is to simply drape a small, temporary shelter over your party to trap their body heat. Your body will generate heat while you are paddling. It’s like carrying a comfortable, warm environment with you.

Be Patient With Water

If you’re paddling at high-intensity intervals, you’ll see less and perspire more, which is a major issue. Enjoy being the lone boat on the water and take your time. High-performance fitness paddling is a fantastic off-season activity, but if you’re cranking intervals while on a daylong or longer trip, don’t push it too hard.

Keep Your Hands Warm

When kayaking in the winter, your hands must do the bulk of the effort. You’ll need to find a thick pair of gloves for kayaking to protect your hands from the cold. Some kayaking gloves contain fingers, while others resemble mittens more. The thickness of paddling gloves is measured in millimeters, just as it was for Kayaking shoes.

Fingered gloves provide an additional level of dexterity that kayaking mitts just cannot match, and many seasoned kayakers prefer them. Other people swear by mitts since they don’t separate your fingers; rather, they keep them all together. Ultimately, you should go with what you personally like. Your hands will keep warmer overall and be more comfortable on the water as a result.

Some kayaking mitts have straps that enable you to permanently attach the gloves to your kayak paddle. This lessens the force you must use to hold your paddle and is frequently most helpful during longer winter kayaking excursions. The capacity to accomplish any little or big chores that need you to pinch or squeeze anything between one or two fingers will be all but eliminated by wearing mittens.

Put Booties on Your Feet

When kayaking in the winter, you should always wear a pair of insulated kayaking booties. Depending on the specific weather conditions in your location, these booties are available in different thicknesses. In the Alps, we often wear three-millimeter booties while going for sunset paddles. For winter kayaking, we advise looking for booties that are five to seven millimeters thick.

If any water does get into the booties, it will rapidly warm up to body temperature since they aren’t designed to completely keep your feet dry. When you need to climb out into a rough coastline, they’ll keep your toes warm while shielding your feet and providing you with traction. Check out our post on the best shoes for kayaking if you’re searching for a new pair of kayaking boots.

When diving into the chilly waters of winter kayaking, novices often neglect the importance of proper shoes. Imagine suiting up in warm attire but forgetting your feet – they’re prone to the cold, especially when they’re stationary during a paddle.

The best kayaking shoes aren’t just about fashion; they’re about function. Picture a shoe that grips on icy launch points, shields from the biting cold, and dries in a blink. The value of such footwear isn’t just in comfort, but also in protection. After all, a cold foot can quickly lead to missteps and mishaps. So, as you gear up for a frosty voyage, prioritize those unsung heroes – your shoes.

The Creature Companions

You can keep warm on the shuttle if you leave a change of warm clothing in the vehicle at the take-out. A person who becomes severely chilly may swiftly regain body energy with the use of rapid-energy meals. Hot beverages or a hot meal may be made with a rapid-boil burner or a thermos of hot water. Winter in my region of the country is when bald eagles line the rivers and whitewater flows are great.

Be Sure To Keep Warm

When it’s cold outside, we lose a lot of body heat via the tops of our heads. You must shield your ears from the chilly air outdoors in addition to preventing heat loss from the top of your head. As a result, if you go kayaking in the winter, you may need to mix many different types of headgear.

Your outermost paddling layer will already be equipped with the ideal rainproof head protection if you pick a dry suit that includes a hood. You’ll definitely need to wear a winter beanie or insulated hat below, and you could decide to layer an insulated Buff or neck warmer over a classic baseball hat.

A full-brimmed hat will keep your eyes from the winter sun while keeping your head warm. A good wetsuit hood might also be the best option for kayaking in the winter. There is a higher chance that the wearer may completely submerge throughout the course of the paddle, this piece of headgear is more often used while whitewater kayaking.


Following these suggestions will enable you to enjoy your favorite paddling locations during a time of year when most others have their kayaks stored away and are getting ready for winter. We really hope that our list of the top winter kayaking tips & tactics for beginners was helpful, and we wish you success on all of your next winter excursions.

Read more: Do you wear socks with water shoes?

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